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net neutrality

censorship Access, rights right to know


Bckg. story

Cable, telephone and Internet industry giants are fiercely lobbying, using every tool at their disposal to gain a competitive advantage in telecom reform legislation. Some of those tools are easy to spot - campaign contributions, television ads that run only inside the Beltway, and meetings with influential members of Congress. Other tactics are more insidious. One of the underhanded tactics increasingly being used by telecom companies is "Astroturf lobbying" -- creating front groups that try to mimic true grassroots, but that are all about corporate money, not citizen power. ~ Craig A Newmark

What is network neutrality and why should you care? by Ken Ehrman

table of contents

  • [what is the internet?]
  • [how the internet works]
  • [what is network neutrality?]
  • [what then is the opposite of network neutrality?]
  • [pros of network neutrality]
  • [cons of network neutrality]
  • [what, then is all the big fuss? (with 2 viewpoints each)]
    • [fear that companies will abuse network control if neutrality is lost]
    • [fear that the barrier to entry for internet-based companies will be artificially lifted, to the detriment of the u.s. economy.]
    • [anger that, after having already paid to use a company's internet connection, that company then wants to charge you even more.]
  • [why should you care? an example]
  • [why should you care? conclusion]

[what is the internet]
for those of you who may not know, the internet is simply an enormous network of cables and switches, not all that different from the power grid or the phone system. and just like power grid and the phone system, no one business or government owns the whole thing.

[how the internet works]
technically, the way it works is simple. any time you send a message over it, that message -- be it a request for a web page, an e-mail, whatever -- is then broken into pieces called packets.

if the post office worked this way, when you went to mail a letter, they would take your letter cut it into pieces, copy the address onto each piece and then send each one independently of each other though the system, and your letter carrier would put it pack together when all the pieces arrived. and just like your interaction with the post office, you cannot know, nor prescribe the path your packets may take, nor the order in which they are sent. and also, each and every packet looks exactly the same, regardless of what it contains.

[what is network neutrality?]
"network neutrality" is a theory that states that each and every packet (see [how the internet works] above) on a network should be treated equally by all parts of the network, in order for that to provide the best benefit to all. what that means is that all those packets that comprise your e-mail to your momma are given the same priority as the latest funny video being passed around. when a network is neutral, all traffic is roughly homogenized in terms of speed of delivery. this is how the internet works currently.

[what then is the opposite of network neutrality?]
some internet service providers want to be able to sell the prioritization of network traffic, sort of like paying to ship and item by express mail, as opposed to normal first-class.

[pros of network neutrality]
with a neutral network, all players using it are on an even playing field, this means that that if wanted to show video on my website (i do), it would be transmitted across the internet with the same speed as video on website run by any other website using the same equipment as me.

[cons of network neutrality]
if you are a company that wants to make money by send large amounts of data over the internet (like video, phone calls, music, etc) you can have some problems. chiefly that since you cannot dictate what order your packets travel over the internet, your packets can get way out of order, causing your receiver to wait. (this causes skipping in music, bad pictures in video, and can kill a phone call). with network neutrality, there is nothing you can do to prevent this appearance of poor service in the eyes of your customer.

[what, then is all the big fuss? (with 2 viewpoints each)]

[fear that companies will abuse network control if neutrality is lost]
any idiot with even a basic understanding of free markets knows that when there is a financial incentive to do something, it is going to be done witness the ongoing drug trade.

anyway, the fear of network providers as gatekeepers is rooted in the fact that network providers are also becoming content providers comcast has its own channel, time/warner own aol, etc. and one can easily see that there is a financial incentive to cause your competitors network traffic to slow down, or at least to prioritize your own traffic over your competitors, making your service appear to be better.

[view 1:] so what? let them build their own network, if it's a bad idea, companies who do not provide neutral networks will be punished by the markets

[view 2:] placing so much control over network traffic into so few hands will distort the free market and preventing what may be best product from winning

[fear that the barrier to entry for internet-based companies will be artificially lifted, to the detriment of the u.s. economy.]
right now, you can buy a website, and start selling stuff over the internet for a relatively small amount of money. breaking with network neutrality will cause the price of this to go up significantly, keeping new ideas out of the market, causing technological stagnation.

[view 1:] so what? go ask the people who own brick-and-mortar businesses how fair it that the internet is so cheap.

[view 2:] by raising the bar arbitrarily like this, you are stifling competition, keeping new ideas out of the marketplace which introduces technological stagnation that will hurt the u.s. economy's ability to compete globally, where innovation is paramount.

[anger that, after having already paid to use a company's internet connection, that company then wants to charge you even more.]

breaking from network neutrality is not just a price hike, it is a premium billing rate for premium service, and some internet service providers want to force very popular websites like google to pay that premium.

[view 1:]
internet providers spend enormous sums of money building their networks, they should be allowed to run them as they wish and charge what they wish, you are welcome to use someone else's network. content providers like google can probably negotiate pretty good terms or even buy their own network.

[view 2:] just by offering priority traffic as an option, it kind of makes it a necessity for certain types of companies (again ,video, audio, etc) so it really is just a price hike.

[why should you care? an example]

right now i am paying only $24.99/mo for vonage phone service over the internet. (that means that my phone calls go out over my hi-speed internet connection that i buy from comcast.) comcast offers phone service now for $34.99/mo.

vonage is cheaper, but that nice low price i pay is totally keyed on the idea that vonage calls travel at the same speed as if i were using comcast's service. well, in the absence of network neutrality, there is nothing to prevent comcast from slowing down vonage's service to where it's not worth the money, causing me to switch to comcast.

given that i have no choice of cable providers because comcast has been granted sole control over cable television in my neighborhood, this hypothetical behavior could hardly be cited as anything resembling a free market move.

[why should you care? conclusion]
you should care because your internet usage will be impacted directly.

you don't have much choice of internet providers because no company is allowed to string new wire in your neighborhood, and breaking from network neutrality would give the providers you can choose from the artificial ability to force your hand in decision making, which is a distortion of free market capitalism toward socialism and state-sanctioned monopolies.

i'm not saying that abuse will happen, however it is very clear that breaking from network neutrality puts out there financial incentives to choke access to competition at every point in the network.

free markets only work if they are free and open to the public, and prioritization of packets by breaking from network neutrality would definitely be a great product to sell in the marketplace, however we need to be very wary and we must disallow it to be used to close the marketplace to the public. that means you.


HDTV plot to control technology available to the public. After 2013 Analog video outputs will be forbidden and won't be allowed to be manufactured.

FREEDOM FIRST: Unethical Products that restrict freedom.
Facism: Gov't toadies to big business Disney, Intel, Sony, Microsoft conspiracy.

DIGITAL DIVIDE Defining the Technology Gap between Rich and Poor - 1996

Bonnie Bracey
Christa Mc Auliffe Educator , CMI
In an October 8, 1996, article describing one of California's technology corridors, the Wall Street Journal captured some of the enthusiasm many people feel for the revolution arising from the marriage of computers and communications networks. "Silicon Valley," it said, "is in the midst of an epic boom, opulent even for this glittering edge of America."
But such riches haven't reached many low-income communities even ones like East Palo Alto, which is right in the middle of Silicon Valley's technological abundance. "Anywhere else in Silicon Valley, your parents use computers, there is a shop down the street to sell you a computer, another to fix your computer, another to give you computer classes, (and) there are Kinko's everywhere," notes Bart Decrem, director of a California youth technology initiative called Plugged In. "In East Palo Alto, there's none of that."
The contrast between affluent and low-income communities may be particularly sharp in places like Silicon Valley, but it exists almost everywhere. The simple fact is that poor communities are entering the Information Age far behind their wealthier neighbors.
"While [middle-class communities] are rapidly approaching the 'next cycle,' the technology of the previous cycle has already bypassed the inner city," says Richard Krieg, executive director of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, a public interest organization in Chicago committed to seeking practical answers to problems involving education, health care, and crime.
Krieg notes that while families in affluent areas are rapidly acquiring home computers, people in many low-income neighborhoods have little exposure even to earlier generation tools such as laser scanners at supermarkets and bank automatic tellers. "Despite limited empirical study of technology diffusion..., it is clear that computerization, telecommunications, and mass media applications are dramatically underrepresented in distressed urban areas."
As Krieg suggests, the technology gap is not simply a reflection of the choices made by individual households. The deeper problem is that many poor neighborhoods lack the infrastructure available in affluent areas. Groups such as the United Church of Christ that have studied patterns of telecommunications investment have found that, all too often, telephone and cable companies have moved quickly to wire wealthier suburbs with advanced systems, while poor, inner-city neighborhoods aren't upgraded. While public attention is often focused on whether individuals can get a service, the equally important problem is that lack of adequate telecommunications facilities makes an area less attractive for businesses. This can feed a spiral where the lack of investment at the community level leads to fewer economic opportunities for people who live there. As a result, the poverty in the neighborhood makes it a less inviting target for investment, further aggravating the problem. The same neighborhoods that lack infrastructure are comprised of households that are far less likely to have the tools of the Information Age. In an August 1996 survey of southern Californians, the Los Angeles Times found that just 22 percent of households earning less than $25,000 had access to computers, compared to 69 percent of those with incomes over $50,000. "Poor neighborhoods of the region are just totally cut off from the potential benefits of an economy that integrates such vast scientific skill," says Mike Davis, a Los Angeles historian and teacher of urban studies at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
More recently, according to a Computer Intelligence 1998 Consumer Technology Survey, 80 percent of families making more than $100,000 have computers. By contrast, of those families making less than $30,000 a year, only 25 percent have computers. A 1998 study led by David Birdsell of Baruch College found significant disparities in the area of education: of people with an undergraduate degree or higher, 53 percent use the Web while only 19 percent of people with a high school education or less are Web users.
While demographic trends are changing quickly, there is some evidence that race and income may interact in troubling ways. A 1998 Vanderbilt University study based on Nielsen data from late 1996 and early 1997 indicates that racial inequities in computer ownership and Internet access jump significantly when household incomes drop below $40,000. In such cases, African Americans were less than half as likely as whites to own a home computer and about 60 percent as likely to have Internet access.
I understood the taxpayer's concern. I just thought there was a way we could talk about it. I did not immediately realize that there was no conversation possible.

Losing Ground Bit by Bit

I worked in very poor, rural, enterprise and economic zones. I was the only person of color on the CyberEd Bus. The quote" I love you man," is something very touching to me. I almost cry sometimes when I remember the poverty of some of the places I went to and the lack of everything. In one of those communities, this t-shirt was the motto, and people's best friend was their hunting dog. This person of color, from Washington, was accepted there. Why?
Because unlike on the listserv, I was able to share the vision, talk to people, make suggestions that worked and the funny thing is that those wonderful people have at this time more technology in their school than I had at mine. It was because we put the barriers down. We were not Republicans or Democrats, or male or female, or minority or majority.. we were people. My mother came from the country and went to school on butter and egg money. That and my knowledge of fishing, and the Civil War, just because I like to read it and have lived in areas of the battle , allowed us to talk , fish.. I did not hunt. Those men wanted the best for their children. I take my hat off to them because they made it happen. That is what I am about. So that was what " I love you, man" is all about. I can't even share all of the friendship because some of it may embarass them. It may be that most of you have never even seen the t-shirt.
Carol Edwards, director of programs at the National Education Association's National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, blames the technology gap partly on the way computer technology is sold. Cars, furniture, housing, and other big-ticket items often come with financing options, but computers, which are marketed mainly to the middle class, often must be bought all at once. "Look at where you buy computers: in upper-class malls or through mail order," Edwards says. "People in poor communities don't have easy access to these distributors." Nor do many poor people have checking accounts or credit cards, which often are required to get an Internet account, she adds.
While schools and libraries often provide access, training, and support for many who otherwise would not have any entry point to the Internet, these institutions face an uphill struggle to overcome the skepticism of many people in low-income areas. "Poor people maybe because of illiteracy, maybe because part of being poor means being unconnected to public institutions may not come to libraries for access," says the Urban Libraries Council's Joey Rodger.
But Bruce Lincoln, manager of community outreach and development at the Institute for Learning Technologies, interprets that ambivalence in another way. "It's understandable that folks are skeptical, but when the principal, the parents, the students, and the teachers are involved in the design and decisionmaking, they quickly overcome their initial ambivalance."
The troubles encountered by schools and libraries illustrate an important point about the dissemination of computer technology. As the Bellcore survey demonstrated, many people over half of those surveyed learned about the Internet not through these institutions, but rather at work or through family or friends. Only one in five was introduced to the technology at a university or through some other formal course. Similarly, a 1996 national public opinion survey of library users published by the Benton Foundation in Buildings, Books, and Bytes found that a strong plurality would go to "somebody they know" rather than a librarian for help with technology.
And don't even think about using a technology store as a place to learn. That is a whole other story.