Sunday, June 11, 2006

Net Neutrality

It’s rare for me to post on here about something that I think is truly important, but today I’m going to do just that.

What does the term ‘Net Neutrality’ mean to you?

Let me explain this concept.

As of right now, it is illegal for a telecommunications company that offers internet service to give preferential treatment to any one particular website or company.

In simplest terms, whether you visit google, blogger or any other website, the telecommunications company has to treat them all in the same way. They have to provide the same level and speed of access to a website run by a 12 year old in his basement, as they do to a website owned by a billion-dollar multinational.

In case you haven’t grasped it yet, this is a good thing. It’s the reasons why people can make a hell of a lot of money selling stuff on ebay. It’s net neutrality that allows a ‘two guys in a basement’ business to compete with multinationals. It’s net neutrality that makes sure that the internet is a level playing field.

However, the telecom people want this to stop. Their idea is that because they own the actual infrastructure (basically all the hardware the internet is ‘transmitted’ across), they want the right to control exactly what information travels through their network.

At first, this doesn’t sound too terrible. They own the network, why can’t they be allowed to control exactly what information passes through it?

Well, because we’re paying them huge amounts of money for access to that information, and with hosting costs, the information provider is also paying for the privilege of putting that information on their network.

So what does this mean?

It means they’re holding the internet hostage. It means the telecom companies will have the ability to slow down, restrict or simply deny access to particular sites. (Read : Sites that aren’t lining their pockets.)

For example, the telecom companies decide that Google should have to pay them in order to be on their ‘preferred customer’ list. If Google refuses to pay this, it could mean that the next time you put Google’s address into your browser, you’re either treated to a ‘throttled service’ (In other words, everything takes much longer), or you’re simply directed to another search engine that’s paid the telecom’s ransom.

Essentially, the telecom companies don’t think they’re making enough money, so they want to double dip.

You see, we already pay for internet service. Website owners already pay to have their websites hosted.

The telecom companies are already getting paid on both ends. Now they want to charge extra, so that all those websites that are already paying them have to pay again in order for us to actually see their sites.

The best way I can describe it is this: Imagine the internet is a huge shopping mall. The store owners already pay by renting their store space from the mall owner. Also imagine that we’re charged an entrance fee just to get into that mall.

This is what the internet is like now. We pay our monthly subscription, and the site owners pay to have their site hosted.

If net neutrality ends, imagine that same scenario, only now the mall owner has security posted outside every single store. If the store owner is willing to pay the mall extra, you’re allowed in that store (In fact, you’re openly encouraged to visit that store).

However, if the store owner is unwilling or unable to pay the extra, the security guards either don’t let you in at all, only allow one person in at a time, meaning huge wait times…or what is more likely, you are frog-marched to a competing store that has paid the extra.

Oh, and that competing store’s prices are much higher, because they’re passing on the extra cost to us.

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but if net neutrality ends, so will the internet as we know it. Not only is this totally unfair, the website owners simply aren’t going to swallow the extra costs themselves, it’s going to be passed on to us.

Basically, if this passes, it won’t be long before you have to pay for every email you send and things like ‘pay-per-search’ search engines will become the norm.

Also, forgetting the financial costs for a moment, this also amounts to censorship. These companies want to control what we can and can’t see online.

In conclusion, since its creation the internet has stood for free and unrestricted sharing of information. This is all going to end, simply because the greedy telecom companies don’t think they’re earning enough money.

Visit and get involved.


OzzyC said...

Great analogy!

MC Etcher said...

I've very surprised this didn't happen 5 years or more ago - as soon as the internet proved itself as a big business marketplace.

It's inevitable, but it's a good thing to fight.

Paulius said...

I disagree that it's inevitable.

It's bad news, it's essentially putting a huge stranglehold on the growth of the 'internet economy'. Quite simply, people will refuse to pay for things they've got for free for the past ten years.

Unfortunately, the telecom people are getting away with this right now because they're lying to the people in charge. The story they're putting across is that internet users are already paying too much for internet service because 'evil corporations' like google and microsoft are refusing to 'pay their way.'

If enough people express their displeasure at this idea, we could stop it.

Basically, no politician wants to piss off a vast majority of their voters. Telecom kick-backs only work when you actually hold onto your office.

Like I said, visit the website, email your congressman or woman and let them know you don't like it. I already have.

MC Etcher said...

I know a lot of people who swore they'd never pay $2 a gallon for gas.

"I'll walk first!" they cried.