Saturday, January 18, 2014

Random Thoughts: Net Neutrality, Yes it is important to you.

Net Neutrality is important to you even if you don't know it.

My goal is present a simple explanation of Net Neutrality.

What does net neutrality mean?
Net neutrality means that you can go to any website you want to on the internet. It also means that if you run a business or create a website your customers can get to your site as easily as they can Google or Netflix.

What the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want?
What they want is to charge popular websites for the traffic they generate. They want to end the "free ride" that they say Google, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon are getting. Or as an option they want to charge those services so that you can get to those sites faster.

Why it is not a free ride. 
You as the customer are paying for your Internet access from your Internet Service Provider. Isn't the reason you are paying for the internet is so that you can access those websites and services?  Those websites pay to connect to the internet just as the ISPs pay to connect to the internet, the free ride is a myth.

Why not let the free market decide?
Simple, there isn't a free market. How many choices do you have for high speed internet access? Most people only have one or if they are lucky two choices for internet access. It is not like you have ten choices. When a utility is a de-facto monopoly then it must be regulated. 

How bad could it get?
How would you like it if your internet service provider treated the internet like it does cable TV? Imagine that you had to pay for websites like you do for TV channels? Sorry but you can not have Netflix unless you pay for a package that includes Golf.com and Vegancooking.com. You want to watch YouTube in HD? Okay that will be an extra $20 a month for the HD version of the website. Want to go to BBC.com? Oh I am sorry but we don't "carry" that website.  Your customers can not get to your companies' website? Well that is because you are not paying the ISP to "carry" your website.
If you think this could never happen, I have one question for you. How much do you trust your cable TV company? Comcast, Time Warner and CableVision are the largest ISPs in the US. Doesn't that little fact make you feel good about a world with out net neutrality? I can honestly say that it scares the daylights out of me. At some point I really need to write a post about how deeply messed up the Cable TV industry and TV in general are but that would be a book.

We have to keep the Internet from being broken.
The Internet has changed the world faster than any technology in history. It is as important as the printing press. Freedom of the press was so important to freedom that the founding fathers put protections for the press and free speech in the constitution so shouldn't we put some regulation in place to keep the internet working the way it has been?

You are just a left wing liberal that wants to kill free enterprise with regulations. 
Well that is funny since I probably lean a bit to conservative side. The issue here is that ISPs have been granted "franchises", access to right of way, and even government funds to build out their infrastructures, they are, for all practical purposes government supported monopolies. Take a look at the massive profits the cable companies/ISPs make and then ask yourself this question. If this business is so profitable why are there so few companies competing?  Simple answer is that they can not compete. Is there any more clear sign of a monopoly than a market with extremely high profit margins and few companies competing?  There is no free market working here. 

For more information
I have just given a quick overview of net neutrality. It may even be over simplified so here are links that go in greater detail so you can read them and decide for yourself.

Read all you can and then make up your own mind. 


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