Monday, December 29, 2008

Net Neutrality ... huh?

I know Corrupt is all about laws to protect the people ... so he should be all about this one, but we will have to wait to find out I guess. Net Neutrality.

Whenever net neutrality comes up in the news I just end up pissed off ... because some ISP is just stepping all over the rights of the internet.  Anyway, what got me thinking about this time was a post a few weeks ago on Google's main blog about the concept of edge caching, and a WSJ article basically saying that Google was trying to control and lock down the internet through doing so.  Edge caching is something employed by ISPs to bring frequently accessed data closer to the end users, so for instance - the top 10 YouTube videos would be edge cached on an ISPs servers, so they ISP could utilize less traffic across the whole internet (and speed up the time it gets to the end user), by just sending the user to the copy on the ISPs server.  Google asserts that their openness in regards to setting up Edge server does not violate net neutrality and I tend to agree with them.

That said ... I think net neutrality is an increasingly important issue - as we see ISPs (cough, Comcast, cough) increasingly trying to regulate the amount of data a user can access.   The assertion from ISPs is that only a handful of users account for a majority of their network traffic - which raises their costs and makes the connection slower for all users - so there solution is to throttle back connection speeds for users who exceed a data limit.  I understand these companies need to make a profit, but I also don't think we need to be entering a time when we are paying per kb of data sent over our connections.  ISPs are definitely within ther purview to charge different prices for different speeds (most already do), but the idea of a data cap is something that bothers me.  The internet is about openness - it is why it has become so prevalent - because anything and everything is on it.

It is certainly scary to think that the 'last mile' of the internet is controlled by companies that have shown time and time again that they do not care about consumers and just want to make a dime.  I feel this applies to almost every consumer-ISP with the exception of Verizon, who I just like to think is  better than everyone else -- because FiOS, just is.  But even Verizon is not pro-net neutrality.

This was a small issue when it first came about in the early 2000s, but is slowly growing.  At the rate that the internet continues to expand, and our appetite for data continues to expand - network neutrality will certainly be an issue within our lifetimes and likely very soon.  And it is a very scary thought ... that access could be cut off - and there aren't too many laws protecting us.  So far the FCC has sided with consumers, ruling that it was illegal for Comcast to cut off users access to certain file sharing servers.  We can only hope that the FCC continues to side with consumers and Congress acts soon, though I'm sure any law they pass will be weak and virtually not enforceable.

Personally, I feel that most of the ISPs and hardware manufacturers are not just looking for a quick profit, they are making sure that they are not getting screwed.  These companies can't continue to support the Internet without making sure their own business survive.  In that sense a company like Comcast is out to make a profit and has no concern for the consumers - they have shown time and time again they have no concern for the common good.  Cablevision is the same way.  As for the rest of the ISPs ... I have hope.

The wikipedia article regarding Net Neutrality is here.

Do you have any thoughts?

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