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2009/10/21

A Few Words on Net Neutrality

I am a user of an ISP. I'm sure you heard of it. I feed my TV through the same wire I feed my home network with. I get 10mbps down and 3 up, more or less, but I share a local network with those people in my neighborhood, so if lots of folks are running some tools (BitTorrent, for example), that could tend to hinder my network usage. This makes me unhappy with my ISP, and this makes my ISP unhappy, so they throttle back the network traffic associated with those tools.

This capability is built into the high-level switches that ISPs use. There's an acronym, QoC for "quality of service", that's all about this kind of thing.

I used to use a service, and I did like it, called Vonage. This provides VoIP, or Voice over IP. My ISP, which also does cable TV, is becoming a competitor to Vonage, handling their own VoIP. It seems like it would be relatively simple to throttle network going to and from Vonage just like they throttle traffic handling BitTorrent packets. This would be technologically easy for them — we've established that they have the technology — but if you, like me, have decided that Vonage is the way you want to go, you get tired of an ISP that sucks like that and move on to one that doesn't suck like that.

This is what I understood Net Neutrality to be about.

But I'm thinking I might be getting to be wrong about that.

I think my statements so far shows my biases. To a certain extent, shaping the traffic of a network to make it more usable is the business of an ISP. But there are points where that is illegitimate. My feeling is that Networks should have Neutrality, but that, with an acceptable level of competition, ISPs that don't mess with you have a competitive advantage over those who do. But, ultimately, that's an issue between the people who provide the network to my house and the people who have things running on their servers. As a programmer, I can see myself eventually working for a start-up, but beyond that, really, there's little direct effect this would have on me personally, and for most people.



Glenn Beck is Glenn Beck. Like him or not. I'm not going to try to argue into accepting him. Skip ahead to 3:55 and you see Van Jones talking about Net Neutrality. Or something that's unrelated to Net Neutrality as I understand it, but going by that name. Net Neutrality meaning free internet to everybody, that doesn't seem ... well, forget "right" or "wrong". It doesn't seem related to the subject at hand.

Let us step back and look sideways. Let us assume that this graph is right. Phones these days have more powerful chips than any computer I had before 2002. And that's Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile — lots of companies that are ISPs. I'm not seeing the problem Van Jones sees, but I can see that Net Neutrality having a generally neutral effect on the population at large.

But what, if anything, am I missing?