In another attempt to educate the American people on what that vague-sounding term "net neutrality" means—and how people will be impacted if Trump's FCC gets its way by abolishing the vital standard which has governed the Internet since the beginning—an enterprising activist named Rob Bliss this week attempted to "liberate" drivers by forcing them to pay so that he would get hell out of the way of their cars.
These are really creative actions that illustrate the point.
Having Net Neutrality is one of the biggest issues of today. It is foundational to the kinds of networking needed for a huge swath of other activism.
Good analogy! Net neutrality is anathema to the people that want to control the traffic for their own nefarious purposes.
Internet neutrality does not go far enough
We also need access point neutrality once again.
Access point neutrality is what we had in the days of dial-up. Back then the telephone companies were the carriers. From any phone we could dial-up any internet provider that we wanted. The telephone company had no say on the content, they just provided the conduit and billed it as a telephone call.
Today we need to have similar access point neutrality when using broadband and WiFi. This can be done using VPN (virtual private network) companies as the internet providers. We would connect to a VPN to access the internet. The conduits, which today are the broadband and cellular telephone providers, would be required to allow us unimpeded access to any VPN that we want access to, and the VPN would pay the conduit at a regulated rate for the transmission of the encrypted data to us. We pay the VPN for the internet access, possibly flat rate, possibly by bandwidth, possibly pay in advance, possibly pay as you go, possibly monthly or yearly contract.
Note that the key components of this system are: 1) The conduits must allow us to connect to any VPN from any access point. 2) The VPN pays the conduit for the bandwidth used at a regulated rate. 3) We pay the VPN for the access to the internet. 4) The conduits carry the encrypted data and are completely neutral as to its content. 5) The Conduits are regulated as common carriers, just as are the telephone companies.
What this would mean in practice is that you would be able to connect to your VPN from your friend’s broadband line or Wifi. You may have contracts for access to the internet with more than one VPN. We would be able to shop for the VPN that provides the type of service that we need. Netflicks could have its own VPN.
We would also be able to have a national public service VPN paid for by the government, where all people have equal and adequate and unimpeded access to the information needed by citizens. This would include information on elections, candidates, election debates, and all election advertising at all levels of government. Plus public information, library catalogues, information on local, state, and national government departments and programs, and all other information that should be freely available to all citizens. How much information that is made available would depend on how democratic we wish to be, but in essence a homeless person with a cellphone or a tablet would be able to access this public information where ever there is a WiFi signal even though he could not afford a cellphone plan or an internet account. Also, I think a strong argument can be made that everyone in democracies, including the homeless, should have free access to encypted texting and at the very least encrypted text emails on public service VPNs.
Public libraries (a threatened species, not coincidentally) are already used by low- or no-income people to access the internet. Otherwise agreed, and very informative, thanks.
It is a perfect analogy. If you’re familiar with the DC area, it is impossible to get to DC proper without encountering the express lanes on i-495 and I-66 inbound to the city. If you want to pay the rather steep tolls you can move along at a nice clip. Otherwise, you sit in traffic for a couple of hours as you inch your way toward your destination. Same way with the Dulles Toll Road and the Greenway. You can pay the toll to drive along smooth and relatively unobstructed roadway, or you can enjoy the stop and go traffic and stoplights along the surface roads. But it is the driver’s choice. You want to go fast, pay up. If you’re happy going slow (or to cheap or unable to pay the tolls) then slog along with the rest of humanity.
We are so used to paying extra to get a package delivered overnight rather than in a week or so, and paying a little extra for a plane ticket to get expedited boarding, and paying tolls for express lanes on the freeway or bridges. Why is it that the expectation we’ll have to pay a bit more to stream HD videos without pixellation or lags to outrageous?
I wonder how these cops would have reacted if the guy was black…
I was surprised they were so easy on him. He must be a very engaging fellow. - But, yes, try that in Chicago?
There is an analogy there, and I pray that it not be applied to potable water.
But sticking with your analogy ( and I am not disputing the fairness of paying for faster service) there is another cost which is more the analogy at the core of the internet neutrality debate. Specifically costs which you do not mention: 1) that to get the express lanes on a freeway it is needed that the access to and from the freeway is restricted to a few access points. and 2) freeways divide neighborhoods and make access between them more difficult. In other words, to improve access for the financially endowed it mostly is an unavoidable necessity to make local transportation more difficult, and insidiously it enhances the motivation for the profiteer to make all alternatives to using these fast lanes even more difficult.
Fast lanes are about more than providing extra speed to the financially endowed. I doubt that anyone protesting the loss of internet neutrality is upset that some would be able to buy enhanced faster service. What we are concerned about is the degradation of our service as our access to other neighborhoods gets channeled through a few access points under the high-speed freeway and we lose easy access to sites that we have been using for years. High speed is not the issue. Access and adequate speed is. It is important that our access to the net is not degraded by profiteers who want to get richer by selling faster service at the expense our our access to the net. It is important that the carriers do not monitor what we see nor make decisions on what we can see and where we go on the internet.
Possibly they are patient in their response because some cops and their supervisors support net neutrality.
Are you certain that providing faster service to some ISP customers necessitates throttling the services to non-faster-service-paying customers? I’m not so sure that the freeway analogy necessarily applies to ISP infrastructure, which can be enhanced at much less cost than a motor vehicle transportation infrastructure.
We’re already paying way more for Internet than our European counterparts pay for theirs, and they often have superior connectivity. I see no reason at all to give providers even more money for a substandard product.
There is a whole lot of infrastructure not in place at all, with no real plans to build it, because it is really expensive. Since the first obligation of any corporation is to make profits for their shareholders, investments in infrastructure overall will diminish as they put their investment dollars in avenues that allow them to make the most money for the least investment, a practice they have already implemented. That would be the care, maintenance and improvements to infrastructure in urban communities that can afford higher prices and additional fees. It is also a perverse enticement to completely ignore their rural customers, who have been crawling along in the slow lane since the Net’s inception, if they have access at all.
Yes, I am certain. Adding bandwidth to the network is expensive. At some point it is profitable, but until then the carriers will be happy to sell enhanced service to a few by throttling the service of the other customers who, like Progressives supposedly have no where else to go. Besides, if the service that the non-faster-service-paying customer is getting is inadequate enough then more of the non-faster-service-paying customers will decide to buy the enhanced service.
An other issue is where the non-faster-service-paying customers will get their content from. What is the possibility that the non-faster-service-paying customer will get faster more reliable streaming and data from companies that the carrier owns and from those companies that pay the carrier for more reliable service?
Then there is the issue of copyright. With digital media they use digital rights management (drm) to restrict the access to the media. Would you be happy if your carrier had the power to require proof that you have a right to access the file before they allow it to be transmitted? so that instead of them having to prove the file is illegal you must prove that is legal? There are some powerful entertainment interests that are concerned about this.
In many places in the USA there is only one carrier available to get the internet from, they have local monopolies. What is there to stop them, when it is more profitable to do so, from throttling service to the non-faster-service-paying customer to give to the higher paying customers. Or to stop them from deciding what content you see? Only the FCC. If the FCC gets rid of network neutrality and does not protect you and you do not like what the carriers do and charge then you can go buy a newspaper or borrow a DVD from the library or read a book or go for a walk or . . .
Thanks for the links. Below, I’ve provided a couple that may be of interest to you, that I made it a point to save during the past few years.
I can see where urban underground infrastructure would be expensive; but, in rural and semi-rural areas, similar to where I live in Maine, broadband infrastructure necessarily is mostly above ground; and, is therefore not as expensive to build. However, In my area, there’s only one cable ISP and one DSL ISP; so, essentially no competition. I can also understand that ISPs would rather boost profits by raising prices than by extending infrastructure. Hopefully, FCC lawsuits currently being prepared by many states will keep net neutrality in place.
Broadband Rates Are Too Damn High – Jan 3, 2016 – Dana Floberg – Truth-out
The Cost of Connectivity 2014 – Oct 30, 2014 – Danielle Kehy et al – New America
As I think about it, it seems to me that the real problem driving the internet neutrality debate is the current system capacity, how the currently available bandwidth should be shared and expanded, and the coming problems with system capacity that the streaming of 4K movies will bring.
4K streaming requires about 5x the bandwidth of high definition streaming and thus allowing it to be promoted has the potential to quickly cause much congestion in the internet. The coming demand for these 4K movies is what is causing the current network neutrality problem as 4K streaming if promoted will hog the bandwidth and will create the scarcities which the carriers wish to exploit in order to make more profit. When the network is being run at close to capacity then network neutrality interferes with the potential that the carriers have to maximize their profit by aggravating and exploiting the shortages of bandwidth.
In order to satisfy those who want that better resolution for their movies and those who want more profit it becomes necessary to take bandwidth away from most users so that those with money who want 4K can have it while the capacity of the system is being expanded. A few monopolies want to manufacture and aggravate a scarcity into increased profits. Internet neutrality is being threatened for profit and to satisfy a very frivolous and unnecessary desire.
A better alternative would be to limit 4K streaming while rapidly expanding the capacity of the system.
If this were a well functioning democracy we would be discussing how to fairly share the bandwidth and manage the internet and would limit the streaming of 4K movies where it will cause problems. As the system capacity is increased more 4K streaming can be allowed. We would be discussing whether the cost of expanding the system for 4K streaming was worth the benefits. We would be concerned that adequate service is available to all. As an analogy note that highways and streets need speed limits to avoid chaos and carnage. They need limits on vehicle weight to keep the costs of building and maintaining the roads reasonable. They need lights and rules to manage the flow of traffic. Might the internet need a streaming speed limit in order to keep costs reasonable and to enable the internet to function in a way that will maximize its utility to society? Seriously, how much is 4K streaming needed?
In large part we are having this problem because the FCC is not properly doing its job.
Interesting post. Thanks. Has the FCC addressed the 4K issue at all?
I do not know much about what the FCC has done. I have not seen any argument that we should not allow unlimited 4K streaming but I think that it (and access point neutrality) should be part of the discussions. What I wrote is quick speculation based on mathematics and logic and I would welcome more accurate information. No doubt the topic is well addressed somewhere.