I cannot have a tech blog and not mention a word about Net Neutrality. There is a time that also I have to bring up the important things that are going on in the world of technology and especially web technology.
In short, Net Neutrality describes that every bit of data on the Internet should be treated exactly the same. So there is no preferred handling of one bit of data over the other. Which is of course the way how is should be. And then the description of the danger against it is how cable and internet access providers in the US are now lobbying to be allowed to charge content providers extra to have their data treated with more priority (and speed and reliability) over content providers that don’t.
And of course they have such good descriptions for it that make total sense. A company like NetFlix or Amazon, that burden the internet traffic especially in the evening hours where NetFlix and YouTube are adding up to more than 50% of all internet bandwidth used. Thinking about that, it might sound reasonable; the big users of the internet paying to keep the little ones free. It makes absolute sense…
Or does it?
Let’s be very clear. The internet does not have a bandwidth problem on its own. Explain to me otherwise how it can be that on exactly the same optical cable I have coming in my house I can have 25MBps download, and it recently has been upgraded without cost to 50MBps. And optical speeds can be much faster than that, as Verizon FiOS currently sells up to 300MBps over exactly the same line with just the push of a button. Sure, maintaining the internet data structure and improving it is extremely costly. But be very sure that the cable and access companies do not lose anything on it if even they would open up the whole bandwidth to your connection.
But, charging you as a customer more for getting more speed? Fine. I mean, even if it is a bit of weird practice and greedy practice to give you a glass filled with only one sip of wine, if you want more, you pay more is not that weird. It is now about them charging the content providers huge sums of money.
So, why should you care about this? What would you care if one multi-billion-dollar corporation is charging another multi-billion-dollar corporation and multi-billion-dollar fee to get their information across to your television or computer without buffering or hiccups?
Simple. It is the Neutrality in Net Neutrality. It works simple. If you are a small company, a start-up, creating content. Right now, you can start it. You build it, put it online, and I hope for you it becomes a huge hit. But, as I more or less described in my previous posting, we are using a lot of web resources without getting anything in return. And don’t expect people willing to pay for your content service before really knowing what you do. So most likely, you have to start with some free content to get people started. Well, heaven forbid you get lucky in that, and get a lot of attention! Because Time Warner, Comcast or Verizon might get you some nice priced bill that would take you out of business right away.
There is something to say for the fact that a company like NetFlix who takes up about 34% of all internet traffic in the evening hours has to chip in. But that would only work if the infrastructure of the internet was government regulated and it was a kind of use tax that immediately would be invested only in maintenance and expanding the infrastructure. Not a company, and not paying for access to only the users of one access provider. And it should then be only about the percentage of the maximum capacity of the infrastructure. Not of what access providers think. But, even this would maybe be a better and more honest scenario, there are still a lot of pitfalls here as well.
Let’s be honest. Sure, NetFlix uses up 34% of the internet bandwidth in the evening hours. That is huge. But, what would be the maximum amount of internet bandwidth be in the US? Maybe that 34% is only 1% of the capacity. Maybe even less. The fact they have that big share of the total usage of the internet doesn’t mean that it is in any way endangering the ‘speed of the internet’ at all.
But there are also the issues of Apple partnering up with Comcast to allow people buying their Apple TV device to have a better streaming experience than, for example, your TiVo that uses the same connection in your house. And NetFlix is already paying these upfront fees to guarantee speed to all their customers and make sure we, as loyal watchers of House of Cards or Orange is the new Black, don’t experience any interferrance.
And of course the access providers are seeing it in a way where the web will always be as fast as it is now, but it would only get faster for some others who pay. Ehm…. isn’t that the same thought as me paying a chunck of money using both the New Jersey TurnPike and the Garden State Parkway each day for almost 3 hours and still ending up in traffic jams? Sorry, I do not buy that.
The question is even; is there actually even any grounds for thinking about something like an internet bandwidth usage tax? Or is this something just made up by greedy minds?
To be very honest, I do not know. I know the maintenance of the infrastructure is extremely expensive, but that is covered by the charges made to the connection subscriptions sold to customers like you and I.
There is simply no valid reason, in any way, why access providers should be even allowed to ask for a priority fee.
If you agree, don’t forget to visit the FCC’s website that is taking your comments on this issue in document 14-28 right now.