“Net neutrality” is the new buzzphrase which means “keep the Internet free”, and costs be damned.
Net neutrality is a concept embodied as part of the “Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006”, recently introduced in Congress by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Put simply, “net neutrality” means that telephone and cable companies and other Internet traffic providers would be legally required to turn a blind eye to the fact that Internet content providers and other huge Internet-based businesses, such as Yahoo and Google, consume an enormous amount of costly bandwidth. They would not be allowed to charge them for the Internet bandwidth that they eat. At least, they would not be allowed to charge them differently.
Which means either the cable and traffic providers would be required to allow all of this expensive traffic to continue for free, to, in some cases, their own financial loss, or, well, all users are going to have to end up being charged for the Internet.
Of course, this latter is not contemplated by Senator Wyden’s “Internet Nondiscrimination Act”, but any person with two braincells to rub together can figure out that if the providers are losing money due to the heavy use of such Internet biggies as Google and Yahoo’s content load, and they are not allowed to charge them differently (that’s the “neutrality” part) from their charges to individuals and small businesses, then they will have to start charging individuals and small businesses more. And if they are prohibited from doing so – or otherwise will be prohibited from recouping their expenses based on high bandwidth use – then what happens?
The underlying issue here is that people have gotten used to a free Internet, where they serve up whatever they want, at little or no charge. Even if that something which they are serving up or providing is commercial content or a commercial service on which they make money. On which, sometimes, they make a whole lot of money. And which may eat up a whole lot of bandwidth.
The problem here is the assumption of a “free Internet”, and the belief of a “right” to that “free Internet”, for individuals, and for commerce.
But guess what? The Internet was not designed to be an engine of commerce. And the Internet was not designed for individuals to use for free, or otherwise. In fact, the Internet was not designed to be used by individuals or commercial businesses at all.
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Now, many creative and bright people have taken that Internet, and done lots of interesting and creative things with it. And they did it while that Internet structure was still available at little to no charge.
And they have changed and adulterated the original purpose of the Internet.
And with that change has come a great deal of cost.
You know what this is like? Here’s what it’s like:
Four of my neighbors and I get together and complain about how it takes 6 hours to drive from the start of the first property to the start of the last of the five properties, because of the way the county has laid out the roads. If we could just cut across our five properties, it would take much less time. So by agreement we create a property owner’s association, and the association has a contractor blaze a trail across our adjoining lands to allow all of us to quickly traverse the length of our properties. Now, instead of it taking 6 hours to go from point A to point B using county roads, with our trail it takes only 1 hour.
Now, this turns out to be great for us, saving us hours and hours every week. And so we let some of our friends use it. Pretty soon they are telling others, and their friends are using the trail across our properties. And now the trail has widened due to the addtional use, and it has cut further into our properties than we had wanted it to. And then potholes and ruts start to develop along the trail, which we have to fill in and fix or else the trail becomes unusable for our own use.
Next, an enterprising cab company starts offering to drive people across our trail for $20.00 a trip. Hey, that’s great, you can save 5 hours just by paying that cab company $20.00.
Then Starbucks sets up a small Starbucks drive-through on some property which borders the trail. Now those people paying $20.00 for a trip along our trail can also get a $3.00 latte along the way.
Restaurants crop up at either end of the trail to service the traffic, along with a couple of convenience stores, some at either end of the trail, some on property which borders our trail. These have the effect of encouraging even more traffic to use our trail.
Guess what our trail looks like now? We’ve had to pave it and put up retaining walls to handle all the traffic and the resulting stress on the trail.
And all these businesses are making money on our little trail.
But we are not allowed to recoupe our expenses because our state has passed a law, the “Too Bad Sucker Act of 2006” which says that if you create something for a small, informal use, and it evolves and turns into an enormous engine of commerce, too bad, you’re stuck with the bill, and you can’t ask those creating the burden to help pay that bill if you aren’t also charging your friends for using the trail.
And that is net neutrality.
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