More people seem to be weighing in on the issue of net neutrality, citing this or that source as the appropriate reference standard. First, let’s look at the title… Net Neutrality, wow who could be against that? That’s like saying I’m for apple pie and moms. If however, you are a person that wants the government to control apple pie output, flavor and along with that, how your mother should dress, you have a good idea how the heavy hand of government regulates and ultimately taxes, then claims various ways to fix the problems it created.
The definition of “reasonable network management” is problematically vague. Who will manage this neutrality and how? What will be the costs associated with this management? Why do we think we need it?
Let’s start this out by attempting to answer the straw-man proposal, as to why some people think we need it. The straw-man repeatedly used by advocates of Internet government regulation state the following case as justification. Evidently, Comcast, the Internet Service Provider or ISP, decided they weren’t receiving enough revenue in their contract with Netflix, a Content Provider. The netizens example went on to say that Comcast throttled down the Netflix content into subscribers homes until Netflix relented and signed a contract paying higher content delivery fees to Comcast. As far as supporters of Net Neutrality is concerned, this demonstrates the need to pass new laws and provide further government oversight into arbitrating who gets what content at what speed.
So far, without getting a bit technical here, we’ve managed to examine the entire concept and can clearly see there’s a problem, and the government will solve it.
Wait a moment!! Is this another one of those not so clever rehashed debate concepts? The data is in, the debate is over, proceed with more government control? It’s fairly simple, you make the intended party pay more through squeeze tactics of some type until the cost of doing business with you is less expensive than the alternative. Heck, even the mafia did that with the protection racket, something our own politico’s have been doing to us for years. See, the problem is really a limited problem, meaning it affects 1 ISP and 1 Content Provider. If we think that somehow things will get a lot better if we turn over the keys to network management to a single organization (federal government), and it affects all aspects of the Internet, then how is this better? The conceptual idea proposed by some is to have the FCC assert authority over all broadband. The problem is never with simple concepts, it’s in the execution and so far, our government doesn’t seem to know how to execute without serious negative consequences.
Here’s where I believe the advocates of ‘Net Neutrality’ have gone down the wrong path to seek remedies for specific issues. If Comcast or AT&T or another service provider is tampering with bandwidth allocation, then maybe it’s time to assess why they have this power and what should be done different. It started out wrong as any centralized authority will do once it has a lot of power, it abuses that power. Here’s what I mean. Local communities permitted the government to control which service provider connected to your home or business. These contracts were often awarded to those who could ply the regulators with the best perks. This meant, there wasn’t any real competition. You got cable, Internet and phone services through whom they dictated and if the Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, AT&T, Charter service provider isn’t doing a good job, you can’t fire them and still get your service. These service area monopolies have been setup by the politico’s in the first place. Now, somehow we are supposed to believe the Federal government will regulate with total neutral authority that will benefit all and harm none? You’re dreaming.
I want to make another point about why this isn’t a good idea, but I have to discuss it from a more technical point. You see, the Internet is a mystery to most people, they expect services like water plumbed into your home, however there’s much more to it than that. The Internet isn’t just about the above mentioned service providers, it’s far more comprehensive.
The Internet started as a combined supported effort of university and government defense work. Communication of what became the Internet was between government and university labs. The private sector wasn’t a part of it at the earliest stage. To this day, traditional commercial service providers only handle a portion of the Internet traffic. Whenever a data packet leaves its source, the destination is tagged within that packet. Unlike a fish that must go up one stream, the packet lives on through many streams controlled and managed by many providers through many routers. These routers are the traffic managers of any wide area network and are managed by IT professionals working for a company, educational institution, government facility. Typically the management portion of any network is to eliminate bottle necks while providing the fastest route between equipment. The server you connect to may not be in the same state or even the same country and for a government to oversee all of this requires tremendous resources and costs which are individually shared.
Ultimately there is little to be gained by an ISP limiting bandwidth on specific content. The example used describing Comcast, was resolved without the heavy hand of government. Interesting to note, if local competition wasn’t already stifled by government, the service provider would have lost some of its customers to a competitor and this would have altered the behavior. Supporters have cited the increased cost Netflix paid to Comcast but all I see was the service is now $8.99 instead of $7.99 per month, at least for HD. You can still obtain standard definition at the $7.99 per month rate.
Just imagine how much more costly the Internet would be if the government steps in with ‘stewardship’ of the Net. This is being proposed at a time when the majority of people don’t approve of their government leaders, and now some want to turn over more authority to the people we already complain about their lies & catering to special interests? At least with the private sector, there are limits to their control, with government, they get elected and do what they want.
A bad idea wrapped in a pretty package is still a bad idea.
- Obama Asks F.C.C. to Adopt Tough Net Neutrality Rules – New York Times 10 November 2014
- Google, Verizon Outline Internet Policy Proposal – Huffington Post 9 August 2010
- FCC’s Broadband Regulation Push: Pros and Cons – PC World 6 May 2010