21st Century problems: Net Neutrality

In this crazy new century, we’ve seen such a leap in technology and progress that its almost hard to not stop and think: “Wow, we’ve come a long way”

From Wikileaks to Bitcoins, its hard to imagine any of this stuff being around only 10 years ago but here it is, in our faces, penetrating the social fabric of our existence. Nowadays you have phones that are miniature computers that you touch or talk to and it does your every whim. There’s a global network that is slowly but surely uniting the world under one giant cyber roof and its only going to get bigger. No one can say for sure what direction we are headed in but judging from how far we’ve come, I think its safe to say that the future holds many things for us as a species, both good and bad.

As we become more connected, it becomes paramount that we all realize that everything becomes more connected. What you do online will effect someone else somewhere in the world, which in turn will do something to effect another person and cause this to happen and stop that from happening. If our good man Edward Snowden hadn’t blown the lid off of the NSA’s horribly wrong spying activities, we might not never have payed attention enough to see that the world’s elite desire ever more power and control. Now I’m not saying that we actually do pay attention because judging by the average person’s response (at least in good old America), we really don’t give a damn. The apathy of the citizens of the United States is utterly deplorable but it is just one side effect of our growing modern age.

It is perfectly acceptable to live life day by day enjoying your existence, but if you never stop and think where the hell you are and what the hell is happening around you then you’ll forever be stuck in your tunnel vision, not able to grasp the concept of the bigger picture. But that’s why blogs like this were created for, to expand the consciousness of your average person and make them realize what is going on around them. In that sense I feel like I am doing a service to my species in letting them know what is up with the world and what side they should be on, because lets face it, if you aren’t informed you’re ignorant and ignorance breeds stupidity.

Don’t be like this guy. Get informed 🙂

This leads me to the topic of this page, which is Net Neutrality.

Most of us don’t know what ‘net neutrality’ is, but we’ll be sorry when we lose it

Imagine a scenario in which the road network was owned and operated by private companies. There would need to be some sort of road charging system to raise the necessary revenues, which would be fine – as long as acceptable standards of quality and affordability were achieved.

But what if the operating companies decided to restrict access to the road network for commercial reasons? For instance, by doing a deal with one of the big supermarkets to give its fleet of delivery vehicles priority over those of its competitors. This might involve banning the competitor vehicles altogether or merely imposing a lower speed limit upon them – either way the favoured supermarket would have bought itself an advantage without doing anything for its customers.

Most people would be horrified by such a development. It would rightly be seen as a rent-seeking threat to free competition and the consumer interest. There’d be intense pressure on government to legislate for equal and non-discriminatory access to the road network.

Now, instead of the roads, apply the same concepts to the underlying infrastructure of the internet. Here, the principle of equal and non-discriminatory access is known as ‘net neutrality’ – and in a report for Wired, Marvin Ammori warns that we’re in danger of losing it:

“…the second most powerful court in [America] behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010… Despite eight years of public and political activism by multitudes fighting for freedom on the internet, a court decision may soon take it away.”

According to Ammori, some of the companies that own the physical substance of the internet are pushing for an end to net neutrality so that they can make money out of ‘net partiality’:

“…AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others [have] declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be ‘neutral’ and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.”

Both technologically and legally, this is a highly complicated area. There are all sorts of ways in which the internet companies can advantage or disadvantage those who use their networks. A simple regulatory ban on blocking particular users (as proposed by Congress) would still provide plenty of scope for discrimination:

“…we know internet users tend to quit using a website or application if it loads even just a few seconds slower than a competitor’s version, this no-blocking rule would essentially have enabled the phone and cable companies to discriminate by picking website/app/platform winners and losers.”

This is why it’s so important to maintain a comprehensive anti-discriminatory principle in law – which, by the way, is under threat in the European Union as well as in the United States.

Of course, there are arguments for relaxing the rules on net neutrality. For instance, if providers of online services like Google and Facebook are allowed to pick and choose between their customers (by privileging certain search results, for example), then why can’t the providers of the underlying physical infrastructure do the same?

The answer is that if consumers feel that Google or Facebook are acting against their interests then they can switch to a different search engine or social network. Things are different, though, when comes to the physical infrastructure of the internet. At this level the net is more like a utility, with competition and choice constrained by natural monopolies and oligopolies: hence the need for tougher regulation in the consumer interest.

Ultimately, the most powerful monopoly of them all is government – and in a democracy this gives the general public a trump card. If utility companies insist upon exploiting their position of strength, they shouldn’t complain if we, as ordinary consumers and voters, respond by exploiting ours.

Original Post found here: http://www.conservativehome.com/the-deep-end/2013/11/most-of-us-dont-know-what-net-neutrality-is-but-well-be-sorry-when-we-lose-it.html

How do I keep the NSA out? I downloaded the safer alternative cloud storage system that lets me keep my files away from the NSA found on the top right of this page.

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