Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Give Me Net Neutrality or Give Me Blue Screen of Death

     It’s funny before this week’s readings I had no idea what “net neutrality” even was.  I live it every day but the term was unfamiliar. I think the average Internet user is also unfamiliar with net neutrality.  The problem with that is now clearly visible.  We take for granted this wonderful technology.  The ability to acquire information a light speeds for close to free.  I couldn’t imagine opening my browser and having Google blocked!  I couldn’t fathom the idea of being forced to use BING as a search engine.  Isn’t that fascist?  Organizing us (the user), according to corporate perspectives, values, and ideas is what will happen if net neutrality is eliminated! 
     It seems as though the FCC is moving in the right direction.  At the commission meeting in Washington, Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said the steps were historic. “For the first time,” he said, “we’ll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness.”  I am not that concerned with browsing via a cell phone.  I have an I PHONE and my provider is AT&T.  Am I scared to lose net neutrality in this form of media?  No!  I rarely surf the Internet from my cell phone, so as of now this a non-issue.  I do realize the world does not revolve around me, and that people rely on their cell phones to conduct business via the Internet.  At this point I will remain selfish and not care!    
     But it's worth calling out the tech industry's passion for the latest cause, "net neutrality," for what it is: self-interest. Tech folks are up in arms at the thought that new laws might allow Internet Service Providers to charge more to deliver some bits than others--including offering "premium" tiers in which some folks can pay to have their bits delivered faster than other bits. Such a practice, tech folks say, will lead to favoritism and will stifle innovation, as the ISPs cut sweetheart deals with rich companies and penalize poor ones.  
     See if this comparison makes sense.  You are issued a debit card from your particular bank.  If you choose to withdraw money from your banks ATM, it’s free (no service charge).  If you take that card to a different ATM, another bank, gas station, mall, chances are you are going to pay an outrageous service charge.  Yes, a charge to withdraw your money! So why would you do the later?  Why would you perform an action that is normally free, and then suddenly switch to an action that requires payment? I wouldn’t, and the same applies to the Internet.  We should preserve net neutrality! 
     When I think of America, certain words come to mind: freedom, choice, free-will, and option. 
The choices should be left to the consumer with a series of options provided by their ISP, and it should be the consumer’s freedom to act on these choices and options.  Sound confusing? Offers for more bandwith, faster rates, and access to certain websites could be presented as option, but not mandatory for the consumer.  Ultimately, the consumer (user) should not be required to pay more for certain perks!


  1. Great example about the ATM card. It is so annoying when I am somewhere traveling, and I have to drive around searching for my bank just so I am not charged a fee for taking money out of the bank. You are right, why would I want to pay for something that I always get for free? Excellent point, we do need to preserve net neutrality!

  2. I also agree - great parallel with the ATM card. It makes the concept a bit easier to understand. But on the flip side, if banks are allowed to do it, why couldn't ISPs?? If you can only use your Bank of America card at certain ATMs because they are partnered with BoA, why can't Comcast say only Google is free (or faster) on their service? The ISPs shouldn't charge you more to get faster connection to their parnters, but they could charge you more to get faster connection to other sites, just like "foreign" ATMs.

  3. "Yes, a charge to withdraw your money!"

    It's known also known as a "convenience fee". You are paying for the convenience of using a different bank, avoiding a likely longer drive to your bank. Wrapped up in this fee are the fees banks charge each other for services, the costs of connecting banks to perform those services and the costs a bank absorbs to provide its customers (whose money they can lend to make more money) a free service.

    "Ultimately, the consumer (user) should not be required to pay more for certain perks!"

    You are only "required" to pay if you want to enjoy those perks. That is commerce.

  4. I also like the ATM example. However, the ATM example brings up another point: why would somebody pay to withdraw money when they can do it for free? Convenience. If the nearest free withdrawl place is 10 miles away, but the pay for place is just a couple blocks away, most people would probably pay the fee (as long as it wasn't an exorbitant amount of money). If most major ISPs stopped maintaining net neutrality, it might be less convenient to sign with a less-known ISP, which could potentially put n.n. at risk.