On Net Neutrality and Stupidity

by Rob Kitson

While trying to catchup on some work tonight, I happened to notice a quote equating net neutrality to the Obamacare of the Internet. As a diabetic, I think Obamacare is great but I'm having a hard time equating the two; honestly, Net Neutrality is about protecting consumers, startups, established businesses, and data (in general), from the predatory practices of a few monopolistic companies.

By now you probably know which jackass politician said this; if you don't you can Google it (or read my first quote below), I'm not going to do him any favors by linking to him/it.

This sparked a couple of relatively-heated Facebook posts from me. The first being:

What's on my mind? What a fucking idiot Ted Cruz is. How many times does he have to PROVE it?

How can the cable companies proposal to create a 'fast lane' on the Internet be seen as ANYTHING less than anti-competitive? Disruptive startups would find themselves priced out of the market before they could even get started because their established competitors would already have negotiated bulk discounts for 'fast lane' access, and would have the means to pay for the access. Net Neutrality is the only way to keep the Internet fast for everyone and to force new and existing services to innovate to keep/gain our business.

Honestly. How can any consumer of content on the Internet think this is a good idea?

I'm actually (kinda) at a loss for words.

Followed by:

Need a way to explain why Net Neutrality is good for you? Listen up, I've got a couple of scenarios that may help when talking to the uninformed (or misinformed).

SCENARIO 1: CableTown decides that they don't like that their customers will be able to get HBO GO directly from HBO because they will miss out on their cut, so they slow HBO GO streaming down to the point where it takes twice as long to load a video as it does to watch it. Forcing you to re-subscribe to HBO through the cable company so they get PAID.

SCENARIO 2: CableTown has inked a 'fast lane' deal with streaming video provider Netflix, but you prefer the selection at Flics'R'Us (who is either too new, or unwilling, to pay CableTown's exorbitant fast lane fees). Prepare for a life of watching the 'buffering' wheel because the only company you can buy Internet access from has decided that Netflix is a better choice for you.

I'm scared for our future as Internet users.

  • The role of CableTown is played by AT&T, ComCast, Cox, TimeWarner, Verizon, or any other relatively large customer-despising cable/internet provider.

I think that the scenarios that I present in the second post are what should scare everyone about the potential future of our Internet because they demonstrate the conflict of interest that IS being a content provider and a data provider at the same time. These companies have a vested interest in making your paid video streaming service experience worse than the equivalent service that they provide because (duh!) they make money from theirs and lose money when they're simply pumping bits around for other companies (Netflix, HBO GO, etc.).

Over the past 20+ years we have become accustomed to, and relatively comfortable with, the restrictions around which companies can provide us with Internet service (it can get pretty complicated, and I'm not going to go into the details here, so I'll just refer to these companies as ISPs). But that comfort has come from the fact that we've been able to decide who is providing our content (music, images, videos, IMs, websites, etc.) and have been confident that we've had unfettered and unthrottled access to that content because we paid good money to our ISPs for that Internet access. Knowing that our ISPs may soon have the ability to make back-room deals with other companies which will guide (nay force) me to make decisions about which other companies I give my money to, well that is simply an untenable situation which we cannot allow.