For those of you unfamiliar with the issue, the FCC has removed protections that kept the phone companies (and others) from creating a so-called "tiered" internet. What this means is that Verizon, for example, could charge Google so that end-users would receive Google content at a faster rate, or cripple their speed if Google decided not to pay. This is an issue going before the House now, and it's important for everyone to understand the issues and contact their representatives. Here's an article by Lawrence Lessig:
F the telcos!
As a reminder, start being aware of all the news stories of the "evil internet" bombarding the airwaves lately. This is all interrelated as an excuse to regulate and censor the internet.
It becomes very obvious once you start noticing -- I heard someone the other day on CNN I believe, say that the internet was "the next Afghanistan".
Internet may have played role in bomb plot
June 6, 2006
Police believe the suspects in the alleged bomb plot in Toronto may have been part of a growing trend of cyber-jihadism.
Canadian authorities estimate there are as many as 4,500 jihadist websites, and they've become the main networking tool for radicals.
It is uncensored terrain and authorities say it is growing fast.
There are calls to arms, even step-by-step instructions, from how to make an explosive to where a suicide bomber should stand in a crowded bus for maximum impact.
Wiesenthal Center official: Internet co-opted by terrorist groups
Jun. 4, 2006
The Internet has emerged as "the virtual university of terrorism," the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Abraham Cooper told a high-level international conference in Brussels last week.
"Without any doubt, the Internet today has been co-opted by terrorist groups who present to all of us existential threats," he said, "and I believe we are only at the very beginning in civil society of grasping the enormity of that challenge."
The world's goin' ta HELL in a HANDBASKET I tells ya...
Maybe 20 years from now kids will read about the "wild-west" days of the internet.
"Yes Mr. Telco, this is your local senator, wait, you want to donate HOW MUCH to my campaign? Excellent! Net Neutrality? No such thing my good boy, rip my constituents off as much as you want!"
Looks to be a failed cause.
Hopefully the market will sort it out, although it is difficult for market forces to work in a government-enforced monopoly.
I want to steal this from Tyler Cowen:
I favor net neutrality in the current environment. Without neutrality, Comcast and Verizon would use differential pricing schemes to extract more revenue and thus diminish some forms of Net output, including Google, Amazon, ebay, and possibly blogs.
If the cable and telecom companies had no legally-backed monopoly powers, I would not favor legally enforced net neutrality. "Let the market decide" would be a good answer.
Those powers are eroding with time but still the market for high-speed connections is far from contestable. Municipal wireless would matter a great deal but that is not a pure market solution either.
Ex ante, it is hard to predict what will "stick" on the Net. I see positive and uninternalized social value in the level of experimentation which we currently enjoy. Profit-maximizing pricing from Verizon and Comcast would choke this off to some degree.
Bandwidth might become so scarce that differential pricing is needed to give companies the incentive to create more of it. Then net neutrality could be a bad idea, even in spite of #1-4. But we are not there now and maybe we will never be. Municipal wireless, or some related idea, probably will arrive first. In the meantime stop watching those silly videos.
A related question is this: we all know that road pricing can make economic sense. But should we favor differential and profit-maximizing pricing on non-contestable roads? At low levels of congestion, probably not. It is better to let people get to work.
Good points BB, wanted to comment on this 1. Bandwidth will only become scarce because the Telcos WANT it to. Fiber Optic cable can net you speeds at 100mb/s easily, and this is using just a few strands of optic cable.
An interesting article with opposing viewpoints:
That's not entirely true. If you and I both want to download a file at the same time, and we're using the same bandwidth pool, each of us can now only download at 50mb/s. With the rise of filesharing and other bandwidth intensive technologies, QoS tiering has become absolutely necessary. It is not trivial (or inexpensive) to give each customer his own bandwidth pool of 100mb/s.
Microsoft are opposing this. They have more cash and more clout than anyone so jopefully they'll manage to squash it. Bill Gates and his mates are always a target but sometimes he's not too bad.
Will it become a problem?
Bandwidth will never become the problem that the telocs want us to believe. The problem is that many services that use bandwidth try to take advantage of the seemingly endless supply of it by over utilizing high bandwidth protocols. But really we have come so far from the days of simple HTTP. Are we really going the notice the difference between .5 and .65 sec response times compared to the days when it took up to 30 seconds to download a simple 30K webpage?
As far as net neutrality goes, can't we have something free and independent from corporate sponsorship? Remember the days when Google only displayed ads in the right hand pane of the browsers? Now we get advertising in the form of returned searches. If net neutrality goes away you will never have free (independent) media again. Who ever can pay the most for search optimization will reign supreme on the net. Damn Google and their search optimization algorithms!
Another interesting angle to the whole thing is that Google has been purchasing a lot of dark fiber (optic fiber that has been laid, but not used) these past years. They might be able to counteract any "fee" imposed upon them by becoming the ISP themselves.
You'd sign up with them; they'd wire up your house to their "googlenet" and you'd do all your surfing thru them. If enough companies and web sites decided to join the googlenet instead of paying for the tiered internet, eventually the whole infrastructure of the internet would be owned by Google. How different they'd remain from AT&T and other telcos remains to be seen. They are still a nimble company, relatively unencumbered by the stifling bureaucracy present pretty much everywhere else.
They have loads of cash and very smart people; not a good combination to fuck with.
The other interesting aspect of that is that the same fiber that gives you net access can also give you phone and TV...