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June 2, 2010


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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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 3 2013


    The image in your article was actually made by me. If you could adjust your appropriation to my name and link, that would be awesome. I don’t mind if people use the image, and in fact encourage it, but I do prefer that they at least give me a credit and a link back.


    • Jan 4 2013

      No problem Megan. Thanks for letting me know! I’ve corrected the mistake. Great graphic, by the way.

  2. Sep 8 2010

    Every time the little man starts to find a little equality, these big corporations come with their control and take it all away from us. They don’t want anyone talking unless it’s about them, and they don’t want anyone going to any website other than theirs. It’s unfortunate and while I do understand why they would want it, I think there’s a bigger ethical picture that they’re totally missing the point on. Forcing people into situations isn’t good for the brand.

    • Sep 8 2010

      Absolutely, Nate. Forcing people into situations? Disgusting. When you do that, you challenge others to compete with and beat you. And when that happens, all those who you forced into that situation will turn on you and jump ship as quickly as they can.

      Those big corporations need to offer a choice, and then work hard to build a quality, useful product that consumers will use because it’s GOOD, not because they have have to.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Jun 2 2010

    And it makes it oh-so-easy for a company (with sufficient resources) to ask the backbone provider (whoever they may be) to prioritize their traffic so far over their competitors’ that they’re practically exclusive. Bidding wars over who gets to sell me coconuts? Indie coconutters are out of luck.

    • Sep 8 2010

      It’s true. And we need those indie coconutters. Without them, we’re left with the same coconuts all the time, devoid of fresh coconuts and coconut-related ideas. Everyone loses.

  4. Dhanan Bhim
    Jun 2 2010

    What if ISPs start to favour coconuts? I’d think they would charge a premium for increasing priority to your content. It seems like a lose-lose situation for your average blogger. Especially one that does not want to use ad revenue to subsidize their ‘premium’ status. The thought of losing net neutrality leaves quite the bad taste in my mouth.


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