What is Net Neutrality?

Put simply it is “all data is equal.” As per usual it’s more complicated than that and I hope to make it more clear.

Not all data is equal?

No. Provisions need to be made for malicious data or data that is meant to harm servers, computers or other components of the Internet. This data is not helpful and a true “net neutrality” would make blocking it illegal.

What about everything else?

One type data should not be respected over another. Whether the data coming to your computer is from streaming movies, websites, or your latest antivirus download, it shouldn’t matter.

But Netflix uses all the things!

Netflix already pays for its access to the Internet. It pays for it’s servers and colocation facilities. What’s more, upload speeds are 10x more expensive than download speeds. They are already paying a premium to get you content. Having to pay a third party “protection” money to go through a network they don’t have a contract with is silly.

Won’t competition fix this?

As I’ve said before, Comcast and other provider networks are actually owned by Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs). ILECs have a natural monopoly on fiber-optic in the ground. If an ILEC is allowed to differentiate what it charges for what data, their monopoly ensures there is no competition to correct for this. An ISP can’t go to another company to provide a connection to your house. No matter how many company’s say they can provide Internet to your house, your data will always come to you on the same fiberoptic cable owned by your local ILEC.

Wasn’t it working before?

It was and like everything else on the Internet, the market is changing, fast. Over the last 15 years larger telcos have been buying up smaller telcos. In the last 5 years CenturyLink purchased five Tier 1 service providers, Verizon purchased two Tier 1 providers, and GTT also purchased two Tier 1 providers. When the Internet was “working before” we had upwards of 30 Tier 1 providers and now we’re down to 7.

What makes you think they’ll do bad things?

“Give us the ability to do bad things and we won’t. We promise.” This will not end well for the average Internet user. They don’t owe us anything and they’ve done it before:

  • Comcast was blocking P2P services in 2005 [1]
  • AT&T blocked VOIP services (their competitors) in 2007-2009 [2]
  • MetroPCS tried to block all streaming except YouTube in 2011 [3]
  • AT&T, Spring & Verizon blocked access to Google Wallet 2011-2013 because it competed with their billpay systems. [4]
  • Verizon was fined $1.25m for trying to block tethering APPs in 2012 because they bypassed their $20 tethering fee. [5]
  • AT&T tried to charge customers for using FaceTime in 2012. [6]
  • Verizon said net neutrality is what is stopping them from favoring some content providers over other providers in 2013. [7]

There must be other reasons to drop net-neutrality.

There are none that benefit the consumer. Slowing down a service provider unless they pay extra to use a network they are not connected to is extortion. Charging users an extra fee to be able to use a third party service is also extortion. Charging more for Streaming Media or Social Media is a way for ILECs to shut down competitors of their non-ISP services.

So Net Neutrality is good?

Yes, and here here is a recap in the points I’ve covered:

  • ILECs are natural monopolies.
  • ISPs have become ILECs through consolidation.
  • ISPs want to charge for other people’s services.
  • ISPs intend to violate net-neutrality.
  • ILECs use their monopolies to shut down competition.

Net Neutrality is a side effect of the consolidation of ILECs and the assertion of ISPs that Internet connectivity should be stratified. It is in the public interest that all non-malicious data be treated as the same. To choose otherwise will stifle competition and violate free exchange of ideas that the Internet allows.