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Archive for June, 2010

2
Jun

Net Neutrality, Coconut Metaphors, and You

Finally, another tech post. Yeah, for a blog called “Talk Tech. And Other Stuff,” I haven’t exactly been talking a whole lot of tech lately. But stay with me here.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a few people approach me and ask, “Tristan, what is best in life? Also, what’s this ‘net neutrality’ thing I’ve been hearing about?” Allow me to get the first question out of the way, quickly and plainly:

Net Neutrality – What the Deuce?

The concept is simple. Internet service providers (the companies that deliver the magic of the interwebs to you, the user, their customer) want to be able to prioritize certain traffic over others, and charge more to customers who use more. These may be customers who host certain web sites (anything from a simple blog to a large online store), or even search engines such as Google.

And why not, right? These ISPs are running businesses. They’re in it to make money. So why wouldn’t they want to be able to make more?

The argument for net neutrality states that this shouldn’t be allowed. ISPs should treat all data as equal. No traffic should receive any special priority, making the magic of the interwebs available and accessible to all. Equal opportunity, and all that.

So Why Should I Give a Crap?

Support Net Neutrality

Image courtesy of Megan Koss.

Think about it for a second. You really love coconuts. You decide you want to create a blog about coconuts, and eventually expand into selling coconuts and coconut-related merchandise online. Right now, all things being neutral, you can do that, and you’ll have just as much chance at success as even the biggest online web site. Best of all, you can do so at relatively little up-front cost. Bonus.

Suddenly, the net stops being neutral. Your ISP starts charging you extra for running your coconut blog. Your startup costs have just gone up. Worse yet, there are thousands of other sites that will likely get traffic to and from them prioritized over yours. And what if your ISP decides it doesn’t like coconuts anymore? Do the math. The online playing field is no longer level.

What makes this scenario particularly frightening is that if this happens, all those little independent web sites you love, your favourite blogs, the small independent merchants you frequent… They all become much harder for their operators to keep up.

Eventually, the internet becomes nothing more than a gigantic field of billboards controlled by the corporations and businesses who have the most money. The little guy steps onto the field to play, but gets crushed by a bunch of 746lb behemoths. And then he gets kicked in the testicles.

Who’s On Our Team?

Thankfully, there are some pretty big players that are all for net neutrality. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, just to name a few. And it makes sense. After all, they stand to lose a lot of profit, should the net lose its neutrality. They have huge online presences, generating a lot of traffic, and would feel the underboot of the ISP the hardest.

Selfish corporations? Of course. But in this case, it serves the little guy well. So there it is. Comments are more than welcome, especially if you have anything to add, or corrections to point out. Because I don’t claim to be perfect. I just think coconuts are cool.

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