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Net Neutrality Doesn't Go Far Enough

by nobody Sunday, Sep. 05, 2010 at 5:58 AM

A latecomer to this "debate" chimes in.

I'm a supporter of Net Neutrality, but Net Neutrality doesn't go far enough. This "debate" is reminiscent of the "fight" for health care reform. The "left" demanded a "public option" for the difficult-to-insure, and got jack shit.

A REAL LEFT would have been demanding, at the very least, a public option that was available to all because it was mandatory for all employers to offer it. It would have demanded the expansion of public hospitals to compete with private. The HCR advocates, with the notable exception of CNA/NNOC and single-payer advocates, didn't go far enough.

Getting back to Net Neutrality - the NN folks don't push for real reform. They talk about the speed of your access to some odd website's videos, but they don't bring up the policy-wonky issue of classifying internet service as a utility, which, right now, it is not.

In fact, the imply that the internet we have today is "free", or that there's some public aspect to it, when there isn't. The internet is nearly fully privatized space -- but it feels like public space because it carries on the legacy of a publicly funded, government developed network, which in one decade utterly destroyed the private online networks like AOL, Compuserve, GEnie, Delphi, Prodigy, and latecomers MSN and eWorld.

Yes, MSN and AOL used to be private online networks, not websites. Nobody under the age of 20 remembers those failed private online services.

So telecoms are not messing with a good thing - and what amounts to the only game in online services anyway. But all this will change with video, for both technical and social reasons.

Technically, video consumes more bandwidth and data than any other kind of communications. Socially, video has more advertising value than any other type of media, particularly for the average person (who does not like to read -- the average person has already quit reading this article because it's so long). Socially, video's also the most expensive form of communication to produce - equipment, bandwidth, and production costs are high.

Today, the current technology to transmit data is fiber optic cable, which is the only technology that has the capacity to deliver internet video to the masses.

(Copper wire is adequate to service individual homes and even apartment buildings, but on the street, they will need to connect to a fiber object line.)

If telcos were to build out their fiber optic networks, it would create a severe surplus of bandwidth. That would, in turn, lower the market value of data transmission, making it difficult to recoup the cost of laying the wire and providing equipment.

This is why AT&T is holding back on deploying fiber to communities, and Verizon announced that they would stop expanding their fiber optic network, and concentrate on selling service to the existing communities with fiber. The telcos need to maintain a shortage of bandwidth to maintain profits.

The problem is, as telcos create these shortages, the US broadband situation declines, and we fall farther and farther behind other countries. People in Seoul and Tokyo have better broadband. People in Bucharest and in several other former Eastern Bloc cities have better broadband.

These poor countries have leapfrogged us by recognizing that it's economically impossible for private companies to provide high-speed internet at speeds that are possible with existing, cheap technology. Government intervention and participation in municipal broadband initiatives created high speed networks.

A different, non-government spread of internet happened years ago in the Bay Area, when The LIttle Garden introduced a new type of internet - an internet connection you could re-sell to your friends. This was not only technically feasible - it was technically "natural" because that's how the internet works - it's a big network.

The TLG network competed with a larger rival called UUNet, which did not allow anyone to resell their internet connection. (That's the typical contract you have with your ISP.) According to Wired, TLG dominated the Bay Area market for small ISPs, because they allowed reselling.

Given these two historical and contemporary facts, it's obvious what would be best for internet users: government sponsored build-out of high speed broadband, reclassification of internet service as a regulated utility, and a standard network neutral contract that allows all internet customers to string wires to their neighbors or to resell wireless access.

Net Neutrality doesn't go far enough, because it only deals with reclassification and net neutrality between ISPs.

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