Net Neutrality

So, have you noticed that the news brought to us by the News and Observer is really just little more than Associated Press clippings or “posts” from the NY Times?  Gross.  And they wonder why people aren’t paying to have this crap delivered to our doors.  Heck, I don’t even like it when they deliver the free stuff anymore.


So, the News and Observer had an article the other day talking about “Net Neutrality”.  In the opening statement, the author describes what the Chairman of the FCC wants to do:

prohibit Internet service providers from interfering with the free flow of information and certain applications over their networks

Who wouldn’t?  I mean, can you imagine an internet where things were not flowing freely or certain applications were prevented from, umm, being free?  Not me, and certainly not anyone if you believe this article.  But here’s the rub.

There are a lot of things that the ISPs do that we would kinda want and expect them to do.  For example, I live on a residential street that is fairly mature.  We have very very few high school kids, many older folks and some young parents with young children.  I kinda expect the internet in our neck of the woods to be used to browse.  During the day, probably to work from home kinda stuff.  But I doubt that we have serious kids “gaming” on their computers.  And so I think that I am getting what I pay for from my internet provider.  Namely, reliable consistent access to the internet.  But now let’s say that Petey and Mikey and Johnny move in down the street and start playin’ games, downloadin’ songs and movies and whoo knows what else, all of a sudden, that connection I had to the internet is not so available.  It’s full.  You see, internet connectivity is a lot like plumbing…there’s only so much water you can fit in the pipes.

Additionally, not only are the pipes constrained by “internet traffic”, those pipes can be built with filters that allow some traffic to move faster than other traffic.  And this is as we want it.  You see, data that is sent over the internet is like, well, lets see…., it’s like a letter that is broken into multiple postcards.  So, when you are sending grandma that 3 page letter, the internet is taking it apart and creating many many smaller postcards.  And THOSE postcards are being sent through the internet.  Now, if what you are sending grandma is really just a letter [email] and not a phone call then you are fine.  Cause the internet can handle the fact that post cards may not arrive in the same order in which they are sent.  And because of that, an email may take an extra 2-3 seconds to hit your inbox.  Big deal right?  Right.  But when you are streaming live video chat to grandma, those two extra seconds DO matter.  It becomes critical that those postcards arrive in order and quickly.

How do the carriers handle this?  They have built in technology that allows for specific applications to have their traffic delivered first–and fast.  Slower applications, like email or web browsing, can have their data sent later, a bit slower.  The result?  Internet chat works and no one notices that emails takes an extra second to get to you.

And finally, we get to the last part.  Providers are beginning to see the amount of data being sent across their networks rise, and rise fast.  In fact, it is to the point that they are having to build out additional infrastructure to handle the traffic.  And that’s not cheap; they wanna be able to recoup their money.  And how are they going to do that?  Well, by charging more of course.  But, you say, is that fair?  Should grandma have to pay more to send her email once and week while the boys up the street are gaming to the tune of gigs of data a night?  No.  Soo the providers would set up tiers in pricing.  Just like in cable.  You use this, you pay that.  You use that, you pay this.

But no, the “Net Neutrality” folks come along and claim foul.  You can’t do that!  The net should be free and open and all data should be equal!  Damn it!

And if they win..well, then grandma doesn’t get to send her emails, video quits working and we simply have to live with crappy old technology that doesn’t work.

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