Wednesday, April 21, 2010

why you don't want network neutrality

It's nice to go down to the grocery store and buy a loaf of fancy whole-grain organic unbleached homeopathic artisan bread.  But sitting a couple shelves lower is the wonder bread, at a fraction of the price.

Advocates of "network neutrality" want you to believe that wonder bread will kill you, and want to make everything but the fancy whole-grain bread illegal.  That means fifth-grade kids will have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on 'ferrari bread'.

Let me explain the difference between the breads.  See, about 90% of the bandwidth on a network like Comcast's is used by something like 1% of their customers.  Those customers are almost certainly using bittorrent to exchange  huge media files, much of it (though not all) illegal copying.  The other 99% of customers are paying for all the extra infrastructure needed to support this.

Comcast (or any other high-speed ISP) would love to segregate those customers out, and offer a cheaper product to the masses.  Right now they achieve this partially by filtering or slowing down the traffic used by the gluttons.  But if 'network neutrality' laws are passed,  Comcast won't have that option.  They'll be forced to feed the gluttons from everyone else's wallet.

Yes, I hear ya.  I know, yeah... big bad corporations are going to block protocols that they don't like.  They'll likely censor data, spy on you, etc.  They'll likely sell cheaper access to their networks to their corporate friends and co-sponsors.  Oh, the horror.  It might even one day lead to free network access for the non-porn-sharing majority.

My solution: let them.  As long as you give me the choice to pick another provider, one that doesn't filter or tarpit my data, then I'm fine with it.  I'll be happy to pay the premium.

What you should watch out for: when they make network neutrality illegal.  When the government starts filtering or blocking anything that looks encrypted.  Stop lobbying on Google's behalf, and lobby on your own: it's the government you need to fear, not 'corporations'.  Because every Comcast will have an AT&T breathing down its neck.  But there's only one Big Brother.

1 comment:

  1. I see what you're saying, and for the most part, I agree.

    However, not all houses have two good ISP options. Even two ISPs is hardly a diverse market. People that bought Verizon FIOS find their old telco copper to the road was ripped out even if it could have been left alone, so a fallback isn't so easy.

    So really, the solution is to find ways to make it easier to establish more competition. There are still major natural barriers, laying wire or lofting radio towers is simply costly even if getting the permission to do so costs nothing.