In China, and other nations, the government decides what can and cannot be accessed on the Internet. Government censors work very hard to make sure citizens are not exposed to any information that the government deems to be inappropriate. Sure, clever hackers can and do get around the censors, but it’s a bit like whack-a-mole.
Recently, a U.S. government-funded medical information repository had the word “abortion” removed from search results. Meaning, if a medical professional used that word — no matter what the context — zero results were returned. Now, for some “abortion” is a political standard to bear; for medical professionals, it carries many different meanings, some of which require, oh, immediate and scientifically sound results.
Comcast had a bit of a brouhaha when it was discovered to be putting the brakes on traffic coming via BitTorrent. Comcast backed off from this practice in the face of legislative attention, but still retains the right to decide the speed of traffic that travels over its network.
It is anticipated that consumers — people who pay for products and services — will increase their demands on the Internet’s infrastructure. Companies like Comcast want us to increase our demands. Time Warner, even if it spins off the cable unit, wants us to increase our demands. So does Cox. So does ATT. So does [fill in the name of your mega-corporation service provider here].
These entities are very often affiliated with entertainment companies with media to sell to hungry consumers. They don’t want Net Neutrality rules because they, naturally, want to prove their value by feeding their branded content to their customers at a faster rate than someone else’s branded content. Your Internet service provider wants to be the entity that decides what you get via the Internet and how quickly you get it.
Like the Chinese government. Like the U.S. government.
Did you know that, in most locations, cable is a franchise negotiated between the cable company and local government? Setting aside the fact that the “franchise fee” is passed on to consumers on their monthly bills (and consumers should be very angry about this!), these agreements provide the cable companies with the exclusive right to provide cable in that region. Cable users do not have a choice when it comes to this service. Man, talk about skating on the edge of anti-trust.
Should those same consumers then be forced to live with the “you get this, you don’t get this” decisions made by that same cable company? Maybe you have the option of DSL or some other broadband service, so maybe you have choice. Of course, like any savvy consumer, you know full well that the costs of building the cable or telephone or whatever infrastructure has been passed back to you or your home-owning predecessors.
It’s a false argument to suggest that legislating Net Neutrality will slow the development of broadband — even in the face of this potential law, companies like Google and Sprint, and Time Warner Cable are proceeding with WiMAX technology. Since the future of cable and certain phone services is all about serving data to customers in a faster, more efficient manner than the competition, you can bet your sweet bippy that these companies will invest in new technology or die.
Those who want the market to set the rules of fairness know full well that once the practice of throttling some traffic over other traffic is entrenched, it will be near-impossible to reverse the trend. Pretending that major corporations “will do the right thing” shows either a financial stake in that entity or a willful ignorance about the world. Companies that already hold monopolies in jurisdictions have no incentive to do the right thing.
Heck, as we all know, the service and commensurate consumer satisfaction levels for cable companies is horrific. Any other industry — bar the airlines — would be working overtime to improve these results. Cable companies? They have those lovely franchise deals that all them to operate without a care for their customers.
You might think that Net Neutrality doesn’t matter to you, but if you don’t make your voice heard about current legislation, then you might find yourself the victim of a company that will use its power to slice and dice the Internet to its advantage, not yours.
Remember, you’re paying these companies for access to the breadth and depth of the Internet…not “their” content.