Thursday, March 06, 2008

Net Neutrality

I'm not an especially political person, but Net Neutrality is an important idea that deserves all of our attention. Essentially since the Internet was recently deregulated, broadband providers are now allowed to prioritize and block traffic. Imagine if suddenly you were unable to Skype your best friend in another country, or if Google became inaccessible to you. What if the online community in a message forum you came to know and love was destroyed because access to it was now impractical to certain key members? What if an online business was suddenly destroyed because they no longer received the visitor traffic they once did?

Net Neutrality is a movement to protect free and unhindered access to Internet resources.

Ethan Poole wrote an excellent article about it here:


Unknown said...

I agree. I can see some limits on overall bandwidth to keep some people from hogging all the bandwidth (or charge more for unlimited bandwidth), but I cannot agree with blocking certain types of traffic. One of things groups like the phone company want to do is block Vonage due to its competition effect. They fear it would make their phone service unnecessary. Similarly, cable companies want to block IP TV that competes against its main service. That is totally inappropriate. Like you say, this is a very dangerous, slippery slope.

David den Haring said...

The main link is

Tom Nally said...

We tend to think of the internet as an interstate highway: a pathway that is owned by the public, and on which we can go wherever we please, limited only be the incoveniences caused by the volume of traffic.

But that's not a good analogy. I think it's more correct to see the internet as a series of private roads through private forests. I say this because the public does not own the servers, nor do they own the communications lines nor the towers over which internet packets are transmitted. These facilities are owned by private entities. (I expect that there are a few exceptions to this...)

The internet has the "feel" of something publicly owned because these private entities have always believed that their interests were advanced by placing as few restrictions on the use of their pathways as possible. These restrictions have been so minimal -- microscopic even -- that the average internet user mistakenly sees his access rights as unlimited.

Apparently, the "net neutrality" issue anticipates that some of these private entities will start placing restrictions on the flow of internet traffic, messages, and communications.

I personally think that a private entity that owns and markets a "service" can dispense that service in whatever manner achieves his or her business objectives, provided that the owner obeys all federal, state and local laws.

Then, if customers find disfavor with the way this business is operated, other competing business will see this as an opportunity, and offer an alternate service that fills the gap.

I guarantee this: if one provider blocked traffic, other providers would come up with ingenious ways of getting internet surfers to their destinations. Because if there is a dollar to be earned, there is an entrepreneur out there -- thousands of ravenous entrepreneurs, really -- who will risk their resources to earn it. They will develop innovations that are so breathtakingly creative that we cannot even imagine them at this time.

Begging the government to regulate these private pathways under the banner of "net neutrality" -- pathways that we mistakenly believe are owned and operated by the public -- will open up Pandora's Box. Once the federal government has its foot in the door, the tide of regulation will become a Tsunami. Eventually, the "Internet Code" will become like the "Tax Code": it will be 3,000 pages long, indecipherable to the average human, and it will spawn a whole new legal industry whose job it will be just to interpret the regulations.

I say let providers block traffic. If these providers no longer meet the needs of their customers, then the customers will flow to other providers so quickly that it will create global windstorms.

Meanwhile the orignal provider, the one who established blocks as a business decision, will probably block himself into business oblivion.

---Tom Nally, New Orleans