Written by Mark Norton Monday, 26 April 2010 13:04
This is the fourth of a five part article on Net Neutrality. Previous Article - Part 3: Legislation
The Three Scenarios: This is my opinion of a look ahead and three very different scenarios, each with their own drawbacks. We'll most likely see a mixture of the first two.
Scenario 1 - Net Neutrality: This is essentially keeping things the way they are now. You take the good with the bad. When you connect to the Internet, your ISP has more than one plan for you to choose from which limits only one thing, bandwidth to and from the Internet. Some ISPs will offer you additional services, or access to web sites, but with the staggering amount of information that is available online, you won't normally choose one plan over another based on add-ons. For the operators, the bad part is the percentage of consumers out there that are using a greater chunk of bandwidth than the operator had planned. What's bad about this for the consumer? Possibly the worst part is the individual who tries to manipulate the Internet illegally for profit, sport or notoriety. SPAM or unsolicited commercial email you are most likely familiar with. What you may not know is how much spam is out there. At the time of this writing 8 out of every 10 messages sent over the Internet were spam. Other threats include individuals who control vast armies of computers known as botnets and also those who are looking to access information that they do not legally have access to. If you ask the operators what's bad about Net Neutrality they are likely to talk about their poster child for network management: P2P networks.
Depending upon the legislation you are talking about, the bad part about Scenario 1 is that the operators would not be able to control any threats via network management.
The horror of Net Neutrality is that once it is signed into law, getting anything changed would take, well, an act of congress. Let's face it, technology changes quickly and our government does not. Use your imagination, what if suddenly, there was a new threat brought about by a technology change, and your ISP was bound by law to take no action against it?
Scenario 2 - No Neutrality: A lot of people, including the operators are calling for this. If we could all play fairly, and just do things as they have always been done, this might be ideal. However, we live in a capitalistic society so everything is fair unless it's illegal, and legal is not always right.
This scenario might allow operators to do all kinds of things. For instance, what if you got an advertisement from your ISP tomorrow offering "Internet Version II"? If you're like me, you would probably ask questions like; "What's new?", "How much extra does it cost?", and "What did you do to my old Internet?".
How likely is it that you will hear things like:
"You want the web surfer special? That's 69.95 a month, would you like email with that?"
"Search? Oh, search is extra. This week if you sign up for two years, you get "the Google" at 50% off."
Under this scenario, operators might re-create the Internet with tiered services, regulating who has access to what. This would fracture the digital society into haves and have-nots. Do you want to create a middle-class Internet?
It's been decades, so why haven't the operators drastically changed the Internet yet? Drastic change like tiered services would require the operators to work together, because changing their pricing or services drastically might push users to the competition. This would have to be an all or nothing change. This is unlikely to happen any time soon, but never underestimate greed.
The horror of No Neutrality is that operators might be allowed to inspect and manipulate your data. As with the Comcast case, this was allegedly being done to prevent P2P users from unfairly soaking up too much bandwidth, but bandwidth they had paid for nonetheless.
Scenario 3 - Self Regulation - So has it dawned on you yet that one solution to this whole mess, is one where the net is actually regulated by the people who use it? Why not let the collective set the rules? In many cases, we have leaders because historically, it has been almost impossible to make a decision as a group. The Internet is a great way to manage projects and collaborate, so why not use it to manage itself? This is really the only way that we can be sure that nothing is done for the wrong reason or out of greed.
What if there were a certain number of individuals who after proving that they understand the technology AND the issues, were given a term as an Internet Representative. Individuals could be chosen around major population centers and voted on by local network users. I am not talking about giving people jobs, like most traditional open source projects, this would be done in the "Spirit of the Net". This Internet Consortium, for lack of a better term, could create the rules as the FCC does for TV and Radio today, those rules would be enforceable and anyone connected to the Internet would have to comply.
Let's face it, our government and the FCC are two slow to make good decisions, we need a system that is flexible, and representatives that take the interests of the end user and the Internet as a whole as a priority. This collaboration would allow the group to handle threats and technology changes in a timely manner. Issues like spam and threat management could be tackled intelligently, and one at a time.
The horror of Self Regulation - While there could be a large number of regulators under this plan, greed and self interest still might be a threat. The worst part of Self Regulation is that it will probably never happen.
In the last post on this series, I'll give my opinion.
TelStrong Business Communications
Older Posts from this series:
Part 5: Opinion