Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
Why I believe in Net Neutrality

05/15/2014 16:29:25

Let's face the facts, most of the people coming to this site either already support Net Neutrality or they have no idea what that term means and are now supremely annoyed that accessing my resume is such a pain in the ass. I apologize to the first group for wasting your time by telling you something that you already know and to the second for well... actually I don't apologize. As a fellow internet denizen, you are probably not new here. You've probably been using the internet for years now and even though we likely don't frequent the same places our internet experiences both have something in common: Net Neutrality makes it all work. That's right and please don't try to look so surprised.

What is Net Neutrality? That's simple. Net Neutrality is the guarantee that users such as ourselves have an equal opportunity to access any content that we want to access. Now that doesn't mean that all content is universally accessible or that every piece of media can be obtained without waiting, but it does mean that your internet provider is supposed to do their damnedest to make sure that if there is a problem, it isn't on their end. However despite an unofficial adherence to this way of doing things for decades, several of the larger ISPs have now decided to break away (Comcast, Verizon and AT&T) and start extorting content providers.

Content providers? Yes, content providers. Well this is the part where most people tune out, because they figure that it does not apply to them. That is where you couldn't be more wrong. Let's take the recent case of Netflix versus Verizon and Comcast and examine the effect that has on the consumer. For years now while Netflix streaming has been less than optimal with several ISPs, it was bearable. However that all changed recently when Comcast and Verizon decided to take things to the next level. At some point in this process, it became virtually impossible for paying customers to use Netflix if they had Verizon or Comcast as their Internet Service Provider. Whereas customers like myself using Charter Communications and various other ISPs had no problems at all during the same period of time. The problems were the result of Comcast and Verizon arbitrarily limiting the amount of bandwidth/connections that Netflix could use to service customers on their networks at any given time.

Why would they do that? Well to make a long story short, they are greedy bastards and the ultimate goal was to get Netflix to begin paying them directly. They succeeded. Netflix is now paying Comcast and Verizon for the privilege of serving their customers on those networks. Now here is where the problem comes into play. Netflix was already paying their own provider for their own bandwidth. The customers of Verizon and Comcast were already paying their providers for their bandwidth. The customers were then also paying Netflix to access to their library of content. In addition all of the ISPs between Verizon/Comcast and Netflix were paying each other for their bandwidth. So why does Netflix now need to pay Verizon and Comcast directly? There is no legitimate reason for this.

So how does this affect you the consumer? Well if you are a Verizon or Comcast subscriber you've now got much better access to Netflix (note: the previous article only measures Netflix bandwidth rather than availability, so we'll assume for the purposes of this discussion that Verizon isn't incompetent and has met the terms of their agreement with Netflix). However because of these agreements, Netflix is now raising their prices. The money had to come from somewhere, didn't it? And guess what? It's coming from you. So in the end the ISPs extortion scheme will only serve to cost you more money. Of course in the case of Netflix, it's really not so bad, but consider the wide ranging effects such extortion would have on popular bandwidth heavy services that are essentially "free" ala YouTube and the like. The whole spectrum of possible endings leave a bad taste in my mouth. In any event you can be sure that one way or another this new income stream that the ISPs want to create out of thin air for absolutely no reason at all, will ultimately hit you where it hurts: In your wallet.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I believe in Net Neutrality. Everybody is already getting paid. The actions of Comcast and Verizon in these examples are akin to mafia-like Sicilian extortion rather than free market capitalism. In the case of Comcast it is made even more egregious as their ownership of NBC means that they are not only extorting their customers, but that they are also hobbling a legitimate competitor. In addition, you can feel free to thank our current illustriously ineffective commander and chief, Barack Obama for all of this. He appointed the current chairman of the FCC, who was once a lobbyist for the Telecom industry, and decided after having been appointed to throw out the pro-Net Neutrality stance of his predecessors.

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