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Net neutrality - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Net neutrality
Picked up a link to this video elsewhere. It's just kind of... odd.

As much as I'd like net neutrality to be simple and definitely support making it simple by law, the truth that it isn't as simple an issue as people make out. The internet was government-designed, but the pipes are owned by private companies. They probably shouldn't be using them to promote one business over another, but given the fact that they do charge more for long-distance and so on, there's certainly precedence for pricing-by-use. The "hey, keep up the sidewalk and it's none of your business where people walk on it" doesn't quite work, because unlike the sidewalks and roads, the communication lines are generally corporate owned and maintained (and are thus most likely better maintained, honestly... have you seen the state of the sidewalks?).

On the other hand, the internet community is a new and precious thing in the world, a unique new turn in history, and I don't think it's proper to treat it like some random business. It operates more like a city than like a customer-base, and functionally, those conduits really are like sidewalks and roads, or even more accurately, like halls in the world's biggest apartment complex. We all pay our "rent" to live in the complex via our ISP fees--which are more and more prohibitive, the better the connection is--and all it really goes to is ensuring that we can all use the halls to visit each other, so it's really a minimal expectation that management keep the corporate panhandlers out of the halls. I wouldn't want to have my landlady tell me which brand of furniture I can buy, after all.

So I think it's a case of two groups of people looking at the same thing and seeing entirely different entities. And truth is... my sympathy is with the community people. The internet is a wonder of the world, and a great equalizer. Let's keep it that way. My ISP fees (especially since I switched to cable) are quite high enough that I should be able to go where I want, when I want.
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Comments
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 19th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, every "grassroots" thing I've seen supporting changing the model in favor of charging the pipelines has turned out to be astroturf created by a public relations company. Haven't met an actual 'net user yet who understands the issue and supports the idea.

The video cracks me up. It's like a game of "spot the reference!"
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Spot the reference" combined with, "Oh, my. It's a woman with a mullet in gold pants and a grown man in a Peter Pan costume singing about Neverland... and they are the internet."

And the funny part is, yeah. I'm right there were them. Yup--this is totally where you can indulge any oddball thing you want to do.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 19th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the guy in the Tron outfit and the Winged Avenger, myself...
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess it would depend on how the ISP providers view the issue. AOL would almost certainly love to make money that way, and I can definitely see Comcast giving priority to the cable network stations and so on. And now that it's out of the sole domain of the phone lines, there's more competition, but it's still of concern. People who are looking at it and seeing nothing but dollar signs would value, say, Lucasfilm's easy-to-pay $1500/mo priority access payment would find that a much more valuable customer than my difficult-to-pay $99/mo, you know?
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leeflower From: leeflower Date: August 19th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel like the long-distance thing isn't a good analogy. Phone companies can't sell people service plans that say "Your calls are garanteed to go through even if we have to drop other calls to make sure that they do." They can't say "Your calls will dial faster even if it means other people have to wait." But that's exactly what they're saying when they say they should be allowed to offer 'premium packages.' They're saying "Big companies/organizations and wealthy people's voices are more important than everyone else's, and we will drop other people's information and slow down their web service to give preference to people who can pay us more."

What makes the internet so cool is that it's an arena where anyone with a message can get it out, and anyone who wants to learn something can find resources on it. Destroying net neutrality would kill that. Balanced viewpoints would fade as large sites with money strangled out small sites without.

When I pay for the internet, I pay for the whole internet. I don't pay for Livejournal to load while A Larger World stalls as if it's on dialup. If they want to charge me more because it costs more to provide me the whole internet, fine. But I want to be the one to choose what will load on my machine and what won't--not a bunch of telecom execs who are double-charging websites for bandwidth I've already paid for.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I pay for the internet, I pay for the whole internet.

Exactly. Users see their payments as passage to the whole shebang, maybe expecting to pay a little extra for perks (like Hyperspace at sw.com, or getting a paid account on LJ). Your ISP fee is the key to it all--it's getting into the museum. If you then want to see the show at the Omni theater and pick up something at the gift shop, that's your little red wagon, but you can see all the regular stuff at your leisure, and skip whatever you want. You could even think of it as a theater, where maybe if you pay less, you have a worse view of things. It may be frustrating, but you're not forced to accept a particular interpretation of the play, you know? They see it from a user-based standpoint, an audience/consumer position.

The priority-access people, on the other hand, appear to be looking at it as owners of real estate looking at potential businesses who want to rent their properties. If they pay more, they get a storefront and maybe a display window, whereas if they don't, they get the back flat on the second floor with, if they're lucky, a hand-painted sign indicating that they're there. What concerns me is that this is a fair point of view if that's the model you're viewing it as.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 19th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, that's not a fair analogy. If you pay more you get a storefront window and a neon billboard that completely obscures the hand painted sign on the second floor shop until everyone's already driven past. People don't wait for slow-loading sites now, what makes anyone think they'd change their habits if the model changed?
leeflower From: leeflower Date: August 19th, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose I can sort of see that, except that people don't pay entrance fees to get into malls. I can sort of see the real-estate argument, but I just don't buy it.

I agree with the commentor above, though, that the market will probably regulate it to at least some extent. Kind of like the whole Firefox vs IE debate: people that really don't know or care about the benefits of better browsers are going to stick with IE. People for whom such things matter are going to grab Firefox (or Opera, or Safari, etc). People who care about being able to get to the whole internet are going to pick an ISP that's willing to stay neutral. People who just use the internet for email and stuff probably aren't going to even notice the difference.

The only trouble is that not all ISPs are available in all places, and those who live in limited-service areas will be pretty much screwed.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 19th, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's that, plus the issue with majority vs. "power majority." The "power majority" may well shop for new internet uses, but looking at sheer numbers, you'll get the IE example every time. I proposed at work that Firefox be adopted, and got a weary, "Yeah, what all the anti-IE proselytizers forget is that there are a whole lot of programs out there who look at the numbers and design themselves to work only with IE, and if we didn't use that as the default, we'd be screwed."
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: August 19th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
unlike the sidewalks and roads, the communication lines are generally corporate owned and maintained (and are thus most likely better maintained, honestly... have you seen the state of the sidewalks?).

You obviously haven't been dealing with British ISPs. Not that I'm at all cross with BT and their general uselessness....
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: August 20th, 2006 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Mmhm. Especially for people like me who live in places where our ISPs probably won't pay for the better service--I could pay for cable like I do now and still get dialup-quality internet.
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