If it’s the 10th of September 2014, one might notice a spinning banner whirligig up on the top right of the page. Why’d I go an stick that up there, you ask? Engaging some Internet activist hippy type keyboard warrior thing, am I? Well, to answer the latter question, not entirely because that’s the rather unobtrusive banner option. As for the former, I like the idea of unbiased treatment of packet data and I’ll try to explain why after the jump.
Whew, got through the intro without bandying the “Net Neutrality” phrase around. (I don’t know why I dislike the term, but I guess it’s because it rhymes too well and too intentionally to be a proper technical term that I can put myself behind.) Wasn’t sure I’d make it, but I rather like the unbiased packet data thing (of course I might be biased…).
Anyway. To explain it as I (don’t) know it, big cable companies in America-land have always enjoyed having utter control over how they toll what runs over their cables, traditionally being their video content but that’s expanded to include internet access too (I guess, we don’t have “cable” in SA so the idea is muddy to me). Now, they want to apply tolling to data packets too, based on who sends and receives them, no longer content with charging for just plain internet access at a given speed and/or data cap. Put like that I suppose it’s not all that unreasonable-sounding, since they’re their cables, right? Well, that would be a reasonable argument if it were cheap and easy for other companies to lay their own cables to sell their services over. However, other companies can’t just go lay their own cables around because legislation, price, and “duh” (it’d be stupid to be laying cables upon cables atop each other, not to mention the inconvenience to customers who’d then need to connect to myriad cables for what we now get with one). So, competition can’t arise (I know bugger-all about economonomonomics but I know enough that competition is a thing that’s needed for good things) because unless the competition pays the monolithic company that “owns” the cables (which are installed in public places…), their services will be rubbish over those cables in comparison to the services of the companies who paid (the man). And can one really consider oneself “competition” when you’re paying your “competitor” for the ability to do business over their property? And we’re not just talking physical-medium competition here, these cable companies have their own media and content services on offer which of course would be right quick on their cables (I bet without “extra” cost to the customer, too). Consider: would competitor-to-the-throne Robb Stark have payed tolls to that little twit (Joffrey) to march the streets of Kings’ Landing (y’know, if that wedding business hadn- … oh, err…)? See, it’s not competing when you’re propping the competition up by paying their tolls. Or something. I may have derailed myself…
And if I were the man and this tolling thing actually happens, eventually I’d start adding costs for packet priority by geography because clearly the lube I’m using is really good, and probably a numbing agent too.
So, what’re we to do now that competition in the physical-medium space isn’t possible? Well, from what I can tell, a significant part of the solution, particularly in the current context of what’s happening with the cable companies over yonder at the moment, is that America’s Federal Communications Commission should class cable companies as “Title 2” companies (or something). This roughly means those companies would be treated as providing a public infrastructure service, the pricing and operation of which would be regulated and would not be allowed to discriminate traffic by type or source or destination (I may have that wrong, but I think I’ve got the gist of it). At the moment, the companies are not considered as such by the FCC and the FCC are playing silly buggers about reclassifying the companies, despite many people and companies agreeing that Title 2 is what these cable companies need to be, because the FCC’s management are bought and paid for (being former cable company lobbyists; that is, people who coddle policy makers and bend their ears and throw money at them so they’ll vote in the direction their companies want).
This guy talks a lot of good words in a funny way to explain this thing probably more succinctly than all that salad up there.
And finally we end up at why that bloody whirligig banner is up there: it’s part of a campaign (specifically this one) by various people/groups/companies/internet-activist-types/etc. to spread awareness of the current climate surrounding this whole unbiased packet treatment thing, and draw attention to projects and petitions that are working toward getting the FCC to stop being stupid and reclassify those companies like it should have (and was advised to) years ago. Internet access in the world we have today is akin to as vital a service as electricity to the home. Yes, we can live without it, but damn it that’s where I hang out and I want it to be a place that all and sundry can go derp around in like I’ve enjoyed doing for much of my life. It should be easy, fast, and unfettered for user and provider alike, and proposals to implement what amounts to data fastlanes will only serve to stifle the development of healthy competition and innovation that has flourished so, not to mention the interconnectivity that we as a species have never enjoyed to such a degree before and I for one would like to enjoy more of in the future. Go ahead and click the whirligig (or here) and have a read through the official words about what this whole thing is about, and I’m sure that if you’re from the internet like I am you’ll be hard pressed to not find a worthy cause there. As for why I, some African, have any interest here: America tends to be followed by many developing nations looking for examples to emulate, and I would rather the majority of the world’s population enjoy the open nature of the internet as we’ve been fortunate enough to have it.
And to top it all off, a video! It contains various information and waffle about this whole deal in a different, longer form.