As part of Media Democracy Day, Dave Olson and I thought that we should rally the troops here in Vancouver to talk about media democracy.
The post that spawned this idea is Dave’s post on net neutrality that he just published on the Raincity Blog:
At first glance, one could think that the Telcos/cable companies have a right to "protect" – meaning shape, mold, direct the bits traveling via "their" network – however they choose. Also, one can assume that the policies of traffic shaping only affect a small, rogue-ish segment of Internet users. I find both of these assumptions to be misleading and beneficial to the conglomerates who seek to control the public’s Internet access patterns. Source: Net Neutrality – What does it mean for you? | Raincity Studios
I told Dave that I would riff off his post to get into this complex issue a little deeper for my part of the discussion.
Before I dig into this a bit I want to make sure that we’ve got some basic premises covered:
- The Internet was designed that all packets of information are equal in importance
- The Internet was designed so that data should pass from network to network unhindered and unfettered.
- Most of the Internet runs on a backbone of private data carriers
- The volume of data being carried right now is truly mind blowing, and increasing
So here is the inherent issue. The data carriers are saying, OMG this is costing a fortune, we need more money for this! Consumers are saying, I don’t want to pay much more for Internet access.
What net neutrality would ensure is that we don’t have “rich people’s internet” where because you pay a premium fee your email is delivered instantly and your traffic is uncontrolled versus a “poor person’s Internet” where a company will decide when traffic passes through its network and how.
In a tiered Internet a telco could prevent you from getting to site that aren’t paying fees to them (imagine typing in google.com and getting to yahoo.con instead because Google didn’t pay that telco a traffic surcharge) or squelch free speech by blocking websites that are critical of them.
Don’t think this is possible? Bell Canada and Comcast are both guilty of throttling traffic from P2P clients. Don’t you think that could be done with email? Can’t redirect your traffic? Telus did that during a strike. Telus subscribers, using the Telus DNS I assume, couldn’t get access to an anti-Telus site put up by the union. Why don’t you think that if Yahoo paid Rogers a hefty “market fee” that traffic to Google or MSN search engines wouldn’t get re-routed?
The assertion that it’s only a “fringe” or “rogue” (hey, I like being a rogue) part of the Internet uses P2P is just dead wrong. Skype, a Web 2.0 darling, is heavily based in P2P. Not to mention we are demanding more bandwidth intensive tasks like streaming video. A carrier could make sure a competitor’s videos are slowed down and suck while theirs are just ducky.
Solutions? Should the government buy up the lines? Should we all just get used to paying more and more? Should there be an “industry consortium” to pay into a fund for the telcos?
I don’t know, but I do know that a free, open, single-tier Internet is not only critical for businesses, but critical to us using the Internet in a free and open manner.