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Reflective Look at Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality comments to be submitted to the FCC website, among others, have come to a close (9/15) with over 1.4 million comments and web heavyweights such as Tumblr, Netflix, and many others rallying behind the idea that the Internet should be kept open, and that all traffic should be created equal.

While I am an advocate for it, I had a conversation the other day that really made me think about these data streams and how they are treated from the other side of the fence.

We were discussing issues such as network congestion, the cost of servicing, repairs, etc, as well as a myriad of other difficulties that internet service providers face every day, and while yes, some have increased prices it has become more difficult (and costly) for them to keep up with even the average internet user in terms of the amount of data they are using these days.

This is where I find it interesting to be advocating against Net Neutrality instead of for it. As people increasingly use more and more data and more people access the Internet (according to a 2012 consensus 74.8% of households have Internet) these costs have risen exponentially and become a balancing act for ISPs to keep up, and while it may be sustainable for now as technology advances down the road who is to say it will still stay that way without some form of change?

When an ISP can charge a website, such as Netflix, so that they have priority access on their network this money would go back to the ISP and contribute to further improving, deploying, and maintaining their systems. This in turn would allow better speeds, stability, latency and help with congestion issues for their customers.

While many problems do exist with the current regulations and rules under the proposed laws in regards to this now, I’d like to caution readers to simply take a moment and think about it from the other side of the fence.

I am in no way saying let us all suddenly change our minds and run off to support this but I do believe that certain parts of these radically proposed changes for the industry could in fact be a good thing. Perhaps in its current iteration it leaves a lot to be desired, and definitely needs to be smoothed over for the betterment of what these laws are attempting to do and how it impacts us in the Internet age.

I also think it is interesting that some of most extreme supporters of Net Neutrality do in fact take part in the exact same thing they are fighting so hard against: Data prioritization on a network. Most routers these days have a feature called Quality of Service (QoS) which delegates traffic into lanes, such as fast and slow, per the user needs. For example you may want to be able to download the newest expansion pack for a game, while not having your Netflix marathon paused because the network can’t quite handle it. Is this not a form of exactly the type of data manipulation that the most hardcore Internet activist are fighting against?

Obviously this example is at the most basest of forms but it isn’t meant to verify this articles theme but to supplement the idea that perhaps all of net neutrality isn’t a bad thing, and could in fact be a necessary evil for the sustainability of services (in this case the internet) offered by companies that customers are using more and more of, and as technology progresses I am positive will only become worse in terms of network quality unless we do something about it.

6 comments

  1. Wow, Im starting to wonder who is paying your bills. “ISP’s are struggling to keep up with consumer needs now, so who knows what the future will hold?” The only reason they struggle is because their main concerns are ever increasing profits. If comcast and others didn’t want to own the world, they could spend a small portion of their profits on network upgrades to keep up with customer needs. Instead they spend millions upon millions trying to bribe politicians into letting them have a monopoly. I guarantee if there were more competition allowed among ISP’s we the consumers would get top notch service at all times. Instead were stuck with half a dozen companies that care more about their CEO’s bonuses than their customers service.

    • Agreed. Nothing to add :S

    • I never said ISPs were struggling, only that it has become something of a balancing act for them given how many people are signing up and using their services across many devices based off of statistical data from different companies and consumer usages.

      According to a NPD group study last year 500 million devices are now internet connected and the average amount of devices was 5 per home in a more than 4,000 consumer consensus. That’s a lot of devices and a lot of bandwidth usage, most of that is streaming alone I’m sure.

      I agree that IF more competition existed we wouldn’t be in the slump we are now, but the bottom line is this article was posted with a current view as it stands now, and as of now and in the future I can easily see over congestion becoming even more of a problem unless something is done, which was the point of my article.

      Whatever exactly those changes may need to be is up to the FCC and associated bodies.

      I appreciate the input.

      • Having worked at a high level in Comcast (not necessary though any systems tech or analyst should know) that the increase in devices hasn’t resulted in the devices exponentially increasing the bandwidth.

        Comcast simply provides a pipe and load balances that pipe. It has PLENTY of backbone fiber and can easily peer more or place more but is too greedy and monopolistic to do so.

        What I am saying is that although more devices are being added to home networks, the usage patterns stay in the same range. You don’t Bittorent UP/DOWN on your TAB, Computer, NAS, etc all at the same time. You tend to migrate between devices which keeps the NET usage similar. More streaming T.V. services the pull Netflicks/Amazon promise some possibility of increases but the problem is conflict with “On Demand” services provided by comcast that wish to compete (using the same bandwidth for those presently available and soon to be announced). The bandwidth is there but it is used “in network (like AOL used to be for internet), Comcast wants you on their “Intranet” using and consuming their services or services that are brought in via Comcast “toll”/fees.

        They are established, killing the monopoly protections or allowing community/municipal services would be the solution. Secondarily, OpenMesh networks with gateways to the regular net. The software and hardware is here now for multiGigabit 20-100km jump between towns/cities for a few hundred dollars.

        1H7pJA35dWSfNZRyoT2LDdT4SEXYtsN4eF tips…or drop some real coin and I will build it myself.

  2. Good point about the proponents using the feature themselves!
    Of course you’re right.
    What’s needed isn’t the government telling people (investors) what to do, but to stop the corrupt government from doing that (we need to completely deregulate the market) in order to create more competition with better and cheaper services.

  3. This piece is amazingly shallow. Perhaps that’s because you’ve been hypnotized by that shiny thing swinging in front of your eyes. It’s a locket. Stop it and open it up. That’s Milton Friedman. You know; the supply-side guy. The net neutrality argument isn’t about bastardizing the web to double-down on the bastardization already in place; it’s about slowing down and making some basic decisions about what it should be. Are we in a hurry here? Are we going to be late for our appointment for extinction?
    You provide the example: “…. For example you may want to be able to download the newest expansion pack for a game, while not having your Netflix marathon paused because the network can’t quite handle it. Is this not a form of exactly the type of data manipulation that the most hardcore Inroad rallyternet activist are fighting against?” Well yes, it is. Exactly. Your proposition is that a feature that very,very few people use (and even then for personal convenience… your movie and your game pack… think about it) should serve to justify that we hand that capability over to ISPs to use on a wholesale basis. Do you have some amazing notion that the folks who brought you derivatives, TARP, the mortgage crisis, traffic shaping, data caps, and (Comcast) a law suit to make the point that the FCC (which is us) can’t tell them what to do… are actually going to use that capability to your best benefit? Really?
    And what of those movies? 1080p right? Most likely, as with most people, that resolution exceeds your temporal acuity. We humans kinda hit the wall around 720p, smaller on handheld. So why this passion to move 2.25 times the data around for movies when we can’t see the difference? Might we have given that some thought before we started pushing 1080p up online everywhere? We have compression so it’s not so data intensive, right? But the ratio still remains about the same. Is it lossy compression? Sure, because that’s even more efficient. Is it still 1080p? Well technically not but you can’t tell the difference so who cares? What? Who makes those decisions? How exactly would you know if it wasn’t truly 1080p?
    Point is: One technology is marketed hard even though it’s only a marginal improvement over existing technology. Purpose was to sell TVs. That tech is purposely dragged onto the net to justify a need for “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”. All of it done by “manufacturing” consumer demand.
    Next you’ll be arguing that capacity wouldn’t be a problem if those freaking pirates would stop stealing. Keep your eyes on the locket…. you’re starting to get sleepy….

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