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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Net Neutrality

While it won't be as exciting as a Blog Co-ed Showdown match-up, this will probably be the most important post you read this year on the MZone. It deals with the subject of "net neutrality" and the attempt of some companies who control the "highway" part of the "information super highway," better known as the Internet, to charge "tolls."

Here's the skinny (much of the info culled from an excellent recent LA Times article on the subject)...

As the Internet traffic starts to clog, the cable and telephone companies that control the nation's telecommunications networks want to charge companies such as Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc. extra to make sure their data transmission gets special treatment - moving along faster and more reliably than anybody else's. Sort of like the Internet version of "protection money" that the mob "asks" of businesses to make sure "nothing goes wrong."

To quote the Times article, "Right now, data on the Internet are generally treated equally, like cars outside the carpool lane on a freeway. But like a freeway, the Internet can get congested, particularly as data-heavy applications such as movies and music gain popularity.

You see that congestion when streaming video stops streaming or when the download bar on your computer slows down. So phone companies, which have limited capacity on copper lines, are proposing special tolls on Internet companies to, in effect, set aside a special lane of fast-moving traffic. Cable companies also would benefit. For instance, online film sites like CinemaNow Inc. might have to pay a premium to send movies uninterrupted, or Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store might tack an extra fee on a song download to guarantee instant delivery."

So why should this concern you or us here at the MZone? Such "tolls" could open up a Pandora's Box of added fees which Google, YouTube, etc. would naturally have to pass on to the consumer. There could be surcharges for uploading pictures, or video clips, or blogging. Charges which, in the end, could make it financially unfeasible for some of your favorite sites such as this one, EDSBS, Burnt Orange Nation, MGoBlog, Deadspin, DawgSports, the OZone, Buckeye Commentary, Heisman Pundit, Bruins Nation and on and on, to continue.

At the bottom of such a "fee added" slippery slope, college football fans could be left with with just the "big media" outlets for their college football news and/or humor, not unlike TV and radio today.

How big of a deal is this? Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has said network neutrality is the most contentious issue in Congress' overall effort to amend federal communications laws. And while the Senate recently issued a draft bill to protect net neutrality, the House shot down such provisions which are championed by Google, Yahoo, EBay and Amazon among others.

"Consumers embraced the Internet because innovation was rapid and anyone could provide lawful content without interference or permission from those companies that control the networks. This policy has been hallmark feature of the Internet and is a principal reason why our companies and the U.S. Internet industry are global leaders today," said the chief executives of those companies.

So what can you do?

Visit SaveTheInternet.com and read about the SaveTheInternet.com Coalition, "an alliance of organizations, citizens, businesses and bloggers that have banded together to protect Internet freedom." The Coalition is made up of "groups from across the political spectrum that have banded together to save the First Amendment of the Internet: network neutrality. No corporation or political party is funding our efforts."

At the site you can find the latest info on the subject and sign a petition as well as find out where to contact your representative. And when they say this coalition is from "across the political spectrum," they aren't kidding - it's not often one sees the Gun Owners of America and MoveOn.org on the same side of a political debate.

Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled MZone shenanigans which we hope to be doing for a long, long time. Please help that continue. Not just for our site, but for all the others you - and we - enjoy. And if you get a chance, please pass this on to anybody who appreciates all the content put out, not by those with deep pockets, but by the little guys with just a keyboard and a lot of passion.

9 comments:

COWolverine said...

I understand it made sense to list the Ozone since plenty of Buckeyes venture over to your site, but c'mon, is Heisman Pundit really anyone's favorite site?

cottoncandy said...

I completely agree with your post. Again, the forces of Corporate Power Mongers have fraudulently misnamed an issue to completely cloak the real intent of the legislation. We know that many US legislators who are in the pockets of these corporate bastards will go along with the evil forces. Hopefully enough legislators will stand up and do what is right to defeat this power and treasure grab.

jeffiepan said...

"Corporate Power Mongers?" Internet bandwidth consumption has been increasing exponentially every year, and the broadband capacity will have to be 100 times what it is now. Somebody (Verizon, Comcast) is going to have to put down tens of billions of dollars of fiberoptics, and without additional fees, they have no incentive to do so. You can argue for net neutrality all you want, but answer one question - "who's going to pay for all the additional infrastructure that's needed over the next decade?"

Yost said...

Jeff,

Good to see a shill for the telecos stopping by.

In answer to who's gonna pay? Gee, I dunno, maybe the 50 million or so folks who pay $50-$75 a month for their DSL or cable service from Comcast, Verizon and the other telecos.

t-towngradstudent said...

Net Neutrality: A bad solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Not a single ISP has charged a fee to a major website yet. They may want to, but as of yet they have not been able to do this. Also the internet has flourished in the last 10 years WITHOUT government intervention so why start now? Also this legislation will cause a redistribution of profits in the industry and the effects could be unexpected. Almost all regulation has unintended consequences. This type of law could inhibit ISP innovation. For instance would you like to have free internet access if it could be subsidized by eBay? ISPs could make a deal with eBay to offer better connections between eBay and the ISP's customers. The ISP's profits then could come from this agreement and not from customers pockets. Where is the harm in that? Market place choice is the key not gov't regulation. Consumers should decide what type of access they want, not government regulation.

The problem that "net neutrality" is supposed to fix does not exist today. Also, this "two-tier" system is unlikely to happen anyway. Markets have never rewarded firms that decrease the value of thier product. If ISPs start slowing down internet traffic the value of their product decreases. Name another instance of a company making its product less valuable and in doing so becoming more profitable?

Interesting topic for sure.

Frankenstein said...

Actually, t-towngradstudent should do a little research--the Internet has been pretty damn regulated for most of its existence.... and it's exactly that regulation that made the Internet what it is.

t-towngradstudent said...

Sorry dude, but that is laughable untrue. Internet service is defined as a "data service" by the US Federal Gov't and is therefore free of the myraid telecommunications rules that confine the phone system. Protocols and systems for number and name assignment are not regulation. The government does not tell the Telcos how to run thier long distance technology but nonetheless the industry is heavly regulated. Regulation != innovation

Kanu said...

Another great article on this subject here:

http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/04/17/toll/index_np.html

Jeremie said...

Very ecumenical of you to include the Ozone and Buckeye Comm in the list of your reader's favorite sites. I knew I liked you guys for a reason.