Why Nobody Cares About Network Neutrality.

Monday, 21. July 2014

Why nobody cares about Network Neutrality.

In the circles I run in, you can’t go 15 minutes into a conversation without someone bring up Network Neutrality. In my world, it’s a huge deal. And, in my world, there are people on both sides of the issue. If you don’t know what Network Neutrality is, then just pop open your favorite search engine, and type in ‘network neutrality’. You’ll find tons of articles and videos about the subject. All of them asking you to write your elected official, or sign a digital petition. The problem is, for the most part, no one really cares. Sure, there’s a small group of technology people that consider Network Neutrality as one of the most pressing issues of our age, but for the most part, regular folks aren’t getting the message. With so much info available about Network Neutrality from both sides of the issue, you would think people would be all over it.

A quick primer on Network Neutrality.

So, what is Network Neutrality? It seems to mean different things to different people. If you are a Comcast or Verizon, defeating Network Neutrality is a way to create new income sources. Think of it this way:

Today when you order Cable TV, You have many choices. You can have ‘basic service’, which only includes local broadcast and public TV, all the way up to the ‘super duper elite’ package with all the movie and pay channels. Right, wrong, fair or unfair, this is the way cable TV is delivered by the cable providers. Now, there are certain regulations requiring the cable providers to provide subsidized services to areas that do not have the ability to pickup news and public TV. But these packages only include limited channel access.

In contrast, broadband internet operates on the basis that every website has the same ability to reach your PC or portable device. This means that if a new company comes up with the next Facebook or YouTube, they have just the same ability to reach your PC as Facebook and YouTube. This is the basis of Network Neutrality.

ISPs are lobbying the FCC to allow them to create a ‘premium internet’ and sell premium connectivity for certain sites and services. This would allow them to approach providers and charge them for ‘preferred delivery’ of their services. And if that wasn’t enough, they could actually restrict your access to services like YouTube or Facebook unless you pay for their premium service!

But wait! how could that happen? If they do something like that I’ll just switch to another provider. Well, that would be great, but most subscribers in the US only have one choice for broadband! And actually, there are still large areas of the country that don’t have any broadband internet at all.

This could effect everyone in the US. So why doesn’t anyone care?

Well, sadly, regardless of all the cute little videos, and all the funny little comic strips, the average internet user can not see the problem. And, right now, the problem doesn’t exist. Let’s face it, it has to be broken before we react! We didn’t bother trying to clean up the air in LA until our kids couldn’t breath! These users aren’t being charged for special access to certain sites. They are for the most part, getting all the things they want from their internet connect. So unfortunately, the average user doesn’t care.

In Closing…

I think this is an important issue and I think there are valid arguments on both sides. I am a bit torn though. I am for Network Neutrality, but I’m against any kind of government regulation. After all, the best way to screw up a good thing is to let the government take it over.

— Stu


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