Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the issue that will never die. Lately we have been hearing a lot about what has been going on with Net Neutrality with the recent decisions to allow ISPs to charge companies that deliver online services extra money to be able to deliver those services to customers who are paying the ISPs to provide Internet services that they can choose how to use. Today I saw a video posted by Felicia Day created by YouTuber ViHart explaining the history of Net Neutrality and what they see as the problem with what is being presented.

Bad Business

The biggest thing that doesn’t make sense to me about this is that it is bad business. I doubt the online services appreciate what the ISPs are trying to do and if there is another option people will take it. It just makes customers resentful and begging for something else to come along or to have the government create more regulations. I really liked ViHart’s comparison of ordering a book and paying for the two day delivery, but the delivery truck deciding it has too much business so will only deliver one book instead of two in the time agreed upon. It just doesn’t make sense. In some ways why are the ISPs not trying to make what they can offer better? Could it be because they have a monopoly and that there is not a good way for anyone to come into the playing field?

ISPs as Common Carriers

One of the big questions that I think needs to be answered is, “are ISPs common carriers?” In the video ViHart mentions bus service, airplanes, and telephones as common carriers. This also includes public utilities. I had never really known what the term common carrier meant, I just knew that if I wanted utilities for example I had to find out who serviced the area and call them up to get the various services turned on. I am also pretty sure that they cannot refuse me service, they have to charge at a rate as specified under certain regulations and that they cannot make arbitrary changes to charges in their service. Now the regulations and changes to the service are more with utilities and telecommunications than other common carriers. In many ways we have viewed ISPs as a common carrier and the problem is that the way our world functions is based on this assumption. If this idea is no longer true then everything that has been built around this idea could fade away.

Internet as Place of Ideas

I think one of the biggest arguments for ISPs as common carriers is the access to knowledge. I understand that books exist, but how many people are making encyclopedias anymore? So much of our collective knowledge is being digitized and being made available online. What happens when that knowledge becomes less accessible or if ISPs can choose which knowledge is more accessible than others? I think this is what scares me the most about what has been happening around getting rid of Net Neutrality. The freedom of information is a blessing and a curse that the Internet has provided. Everyone has a voice online and has the ability to reach an audience. Think of all of the movements that we have had in the last decade that have happened because of the Internet. I just think it would be sad if the open forum ability gets stunted.

Conclusion

Honestly I am not 100% sure of anything. Nothing is simple and there is so much baggage with all of it. The problem is the history of the situation I think just keeps compounding the problems. It also can feel like there is nothing that we can do, I think that is also seen in our voting statistics. There is a lot more I could say on this and the problem is there is so much more you can say. It is not an easy issue to understand, but I think it is important to keep the dialogue going.

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8 responses to “Net Neutrality

  1. That video is the most lucid explanation I’ve seen of this problem yet. I’m dealing with the monopoly issue right now. A while back I tried to switch my internet service from Comcast to AT&T, go with a Roku to replace my cable TV, and use a digital antenna to get the local station.

    The problem: The AT&T fiber network isn’t available where I live, and the DSL box that serves my complex is capped. AT&T told me to check back every three weeks to see if they have an opening.

    This is in a city of 50K that sits at the intersection of three major highways.

    I agree, it’s bad business. Just not sure what can be done about it.

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    • Wow, that is crazy. It just seems that if you got enough calls saying we want to switch there would be some incentive to invest in more lines or upgrades.

      I actually am pretty sure we could switch to DSL if we wanted to and have thought about it from time to time. We used to do full cable but now do basic and HBO plus Hulu and then buy digital copies of other shows. Saved like 600 a year from doing full cable, HBO, and internet.

      Internet has become such an important part to really being able to engage in society or even get a job. There are plenty of government jobs that only accept online applications. It is just crazy how much it is used for pretty important things.

      One of the things that the video revealed was the other problem with the DMCA. I thought it was about protecting digital content. I did not know that it spoke specifically to ISPs. Which just shows another problem with that law. The US Government does not know how to keep up with technology and it ends up with bad decisions.

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  2. I agree about the Internet being so important to engaging in society. We talk offline about internet access and learning computer skills from an early age being a human right. We don’t blog about it because we’ve always thought it would just get us a lot of “First World Problems” feedback. But we see the consequences of not having your own internet access or learning how to use a computer until you’re able to get a student loan frequently. It puts people at a real disadvantage. There are class implications, and you know how Americans hate to acknowledge that class is a thing 🙂

    I’m hoping AT&T eventually brings their fiber network in. That, and a Roku would cut my internet/cable in half. And it would get me away from Comcast, which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I think I’m to the point now where DSL just isn’t sufficient.

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