Net Neutrality And The Google/Verizon Deal

First off, what is Net Neutrality. Whew! That’s a heck of a question. It is somewhat simple to answer. Imagine a city. While driving around, you find that different roads have different speed limits. We all know that. Now, imagine that city is the Internet. Certain parts are intentionally faster than others. Now, what if we took away all the speed limits. Wait, you say that is a bad idea? It should be 25 in residential areas, and you even want those speed bumps? Goodness!

Here’s a little bit of fluff from net neutrality proponents

On the surface, this sounds great. You’re paying for a service, so why should a provider block access to what you want to see, or even reduce the access speed? That’s where it starts to get a bit more in depth. Providers may reduce the speed of some sites due to their massive use of bandwidth. That is just one issue. There are way more out there. The biggest one is, do we really want the government in full control? Do we want them dictating policy on what is good and what is bad? Do we really need partisan rangling? Do we want them setting prices? While some regulation would certainly not be a bad thing, asking today’s federal government to enact legislation is like a girl saying she is just a little bit pregnant. Given time, she is no longer able to fit in those svelte jeans.

Let’s jump in to the latest big proposal, coming from Google and Verizon. What they are asking for is

  1. An open net, not blocking, no speed reductions, but, with an understanding that some content may be allowed at higher speeds, as long as it doesn’t affect consumers (I would assume at the speed they are paying for)
  2. Net neutrality will NOT apply to wireless services

Quite frankly, these are rules I can live with. If that is all that happens. But, then we are back to the girl who is just a little pregnant. What happens when one person complains about Company X to the FCC, and, instead of telling Consumer A to pick another provider, they slap some restrictions, and maybe fines, on Company X, then pass some regulations. Regulations increase costs. Consider, the incredible spread of the Internet happened without government regulation. OK, so 98% seems to be adult sites. I remember it going from dial up with a Tandy website with a little bit of stuff, to AOL (when they were cool), to the ability for a consumer to sign up with 24mbs with Uverse (not in my neighborhood. Yet) for a reasonable cost. Providers have spent vast sums to build the networks out. And that is where government intervention and regulation can hurt.

All those lines and servers and help desks and maintenance folks, among others, not too mention innovations, cost $$$. If the government goes simple, and accepts the Google/Verizon offering, and stays hands off (yeah, right), fine. Should not stifle progress. The last thing we need is government interfering with the buildout of wireless. Consider, less than 10 years ago, wireless web was pretty much a non-entity. Yes, it was around. I remember using a 3 watt bag phone hooked to a fax to send in contracts. It was dirt slow. Less than 10 years ago, the mobile web was still pretty much unavailable (I’m talking about here in the USA.) If you could get it, actual through put was about 9.9 kilobytes per second, maxed at 14.4kbs (never happen.) It moved up in speed as error correct and capabilities increased. Now we have broadband speeds. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T are looking to roll at 4G speeds within the next few years, mostly aimed at laptops, netbooks, and tablets first. This costs money, and regulations cost money. Consider that it takes generally a year to two years to put a new tower up. Regulations. It can take 6 months to a year to modify a tower. Regulation. And all those regulations and hearings and such cost money. Money that could be used to expand networks. Now imagine this applied to innovation in wireless.

Quite frankly, most carriers will not block access to most content. It happens, though. I know of one consumer who switched wireless carriers because access to streaming porn sites was slowed down. Getting beyond the porn, those videos waxed the bandwidth available on the towers, degrading the wireless web access of other consumers.

Overall, the Google/Verizon deal is a good one. It would be better if the government would stay out of it, and that the major players in content (such as Yahoo and MSN) and access (such as AT&T and Comcast) would get together and make agreements.

Regulation is a slippery slope, and the outcomes with government intervention never seem to match the original intent. Just consider that, if you search for the pros and cons on the issue, you will find more and more and more, till you are confused about what the actual issue was. If they really want the best for the consumer, they would make it so virtually any provider could offer broadband in an area, instead of just a few players each.

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4 Responses to “Net Neutrality And The Google/Verizon Deal”

  1. gitarcarver says:

    Your analogy to the roads in a city is a fairly good one.

    The problem is that the roads aren’t owned by the companies. They are owned by us. Land was seized in right of way agreements under eminent domain so lines, poles, and towers can be built.

    Thus, the argument comes down to “do we want one company to control the speed limits on roads we paid for?”

    The threat of ISP’s blocking content or throttling speed is as real as the government wanting to control the internet. We already saw Comcast throttle speeds of people who download files.

    Imagine, if you will, making a phone call to some place in the US and a lag time suddenly started to occur. You complain, and are told that your friend on the other end of the line has Verizon, and you are making the call via AT$T. Sorry! Verizon doesn’t like you calling from a non-Verizon line, so they slow the response times down.

    We would all agree that would be wrong, and yet that is what net neutrality is all about.

    It is fine to let the companies fight it out. That is a good thing in the market. But unfortunately, they are fighting it out using our land, and our airwaves. When they own the land and the airwaves, then they can talk about making the rules. Until then…….

    …… not so much.

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