Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Net Neutrality is Important & the Great Internet Slowdown

Today, September 10th, is the Great Internet Slowdown, a multi-site protest against the concept of "fast lanes" on the internet.  The FCC is considering this suggestion from Internet Service Providers and this week marks the last days of comments from the public.  This is all part of the broader conversation of "Net Neutrality".

But why is any of this important?  What is Net Neutrality and why are fast lanes bad?

Net Neutrality is the concept that all content is delivered as fast as possible regardless of source, message, or size.

In a world of Net Neutrality, when all hardware is equal, Netflix movies are delivered just as fast as Amazon movies which are as fast as Youtube videos, which are as fast as a Torrent download, which are as fast as any web page download.  The reality is, of course, that different businesses have different infrastructure and deliver content a varying speeds.  The key piece here is that the ISP (Verizon, Comcast, LevelOne, etc) do not discriminate and deliver content as fast as they receive it from the content provider, like Netflix.

Fast Lanes are the concept that content providers can pay a fee to have their content delivered quicker.

Verizon, Comcast, and others have a different vision.  They want to charge content providers, like Netflix or my own company, an additional fee so that our content can be delivered "faster".  In order to have a "fast" lane, you have to have a "slow" lane.  Right now, all the lanes are moving at the same speed, understood to be as fast as possible already.  In practice, anyone not paying the fast lane fee is going to be operating in a more congested, possibly intentionally slow infrastructure.

Verizon would have you believe that they building the internet infrastructure is expensive and to have Netflix or Google, or other sites pay these fees would only be fair so they can offset the costs of delivering their content.

Understand that Verizon, Comcast, and others already have two groups paying for service.  You and I, we pay a monthly bill to pay for cable and internet access, which are essentially the same thing.  We're one group.  If you pay for both, your bill is likely around $100 per month.  There are 279,834,232 users online in the United States.

That's possibly $27,983,423,200 / month spent by Americans for online access.  $27 BILLION.   PER MONTH.  Verizon alone made $60 BILLION last year, after expenses.  Total sales were $120 BILLION.
Sorry, Verizon.  It's tough for me to believe you can't afford to deliver Netflix content and expand the web.

So what's the second group paying for the web already?  Businesses have to pay for internet access to deliver content to the web.  We already pay a fee.  It's not a cheap fee and it increases for every gigabyte of content delivered.  This fee is paid to your pipelines to the web, of which most content providers have at least two.  (For redundancy)

This concept of Fast Lanes mean that not only would my company pay two ISPs, we would then have to add every other ISP to the list of who we pay.  Why?  Because if we want our content delivered quickly on their networks, we would need to pay the Fast Lane fee.

I am highly concerned the impact that would have on my company's bottom line.  Money that is going to ISPs around the country is not being reinvested in the employees or used to add jobs.

Nevermind the impact this could have to small business start ups.  Fast Lanes create a money divider between start up and large corporation.  If you can't deliver your content as quick as your competition, you are already battling from a significant disadvantage.  Especially in a world where speedy delivery is expected.

You need to help
Go here: Sign the letter to your lawmakers. Call your Reps. Call your Senators. We have stopped the government from making bone-headed decisions in the past with the SOPA & PIPA protests.  We can do this again.  We will have to keep doing it until we elect people that understand the web & what the technology means.

Last Thoughts
We wouldn't be having this conversation if competition actually existed in the ISP market.  Unfortunately, most of us live in a location that only has one, maybe two options for internet access.  This lack of competition allows the ISPs to push agendas like this from virtually unassailable positions, forcing anyone that wants access to pay whatever fees demanded.  That the major ISPs are all acting in concert is worrisome as well.  What's more, the motivation is greed, pure and simple.

It's not about providing a better service or building new infrastructure.  It's just about more money going into stake holders hands.  From ours to theirs.  Away from businesses that need to be moving that money into raises or more workers and into theirs.  If their income statements weren't so blatantly fat, maybe there would be argument to be made by the ISPs.  But they're very fat, with nearly 50% margins.  If you have 50% margins, you're not reinvesting your money.

And now they want more.