Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't Judge a Concept by its Title

There has been discussion on the topic of "net neutrality". Some internet service providers (ISP's) have a propensity for judging web content and determining an "appropriate" speed at which you can access it. Some in Congress want to bar this practice. What this proposal is is essentially banning a book based on its partiality (no-it's not a radio fairness doctrine matter- read on). What is more disturbing is that people who like the sound of "neutrality" but do not understand the heart of the matter are passing judgement- this is Congress.

You may like a lesson in IP jargon:
Key people:
ISP--Utility Co.--Data Transmission--You-- The Fed

For those who don't understand the technicalities, there is a difference between ISP and "The Internet". An ISP is an internet service provider that provides your portal to the internet. Your ISP provides the software and a home modem and DSLAM (server) that get bits and bytes over the phone or cable line (but does not necessarily set you up with a browser). Think of the internet as a fancier way of talking over the phone. More often than not, the ISP will foot the data transmission bill (read on); if you get a flat rate bill for internet service regardless of how much time you spent online, this is you. Think AOL or NetServe. As a limited-supply utility, the utility company is required by law to allow any ISP to operate on its phone lines- and give a good bulk rate for data transmission to the ISP. In fact, this applies to any ISP who asks. Essentially,ISP's can start up when they want, like a private business in a unregulated sector. While Congress is not proposing a Control Board, this proposal demonstrates either the lack of technical awareness or the desire to strongarm private endeavors. If you are offended that your ISP prioritizes web traffic you're not a part of, switch to another provider. Or take the can-do American approach- build your own system!

Caveat- If you happen to be somewhere that there is only one ISP, your rights to impartial service may be ensured by antitrust/monopoly policy. Check US and Sate code to determine if this applies to you.

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