The Internet can be greater than the sum of its parts at any distinct point in time, much like the Infinite Monkey Theorem (best described in this paper, a good, 29-page, lunchtime read). Why then, would anyone consider intentionally hampering a tool that has done so much for the planet? (Yes, I know; both good and evil happen on the Internet, but in both cases, that’s human instigated – don’t blame the tool.)
This post is a few days late in covering this issue, but since almost no major or minor news outlet has been doing reporting on this since Friday, let me bring it up again (stifling vomit burp).
Last week, the FCC held their opening meeting to discuss the idea of allowing ‘fast lanes’, by executing tariffs on high-yield content providers (streaming media mostly, but it could be applied to anyone who might transmit large data content). Of course, those fees would be passed onto the consumers.
Since those early, fun days of 2600 baud modems and AT computers with green screens, there have been monumental improvements in the technology. And each step of that progress cost money – consumer money. Ordinary logic would suggest that this is simply another improvement, so please pay up.
The problem as I see it, is one of scope instead of improvement. The Internet carriers have already invested in improving fiber in the main customer areas (major cities, both coasts). The cable, satellite, and DSL carriers are also charging you an arm and a leg for the service.
!Rant Tangent Warning!
Subscription services are where the money is. As far back as the mid-1800’s, writers (Mark Twain), along with their pimps (agents and publishers) figured out how to get a constant stream of revenue from the rubes. Develop a monopoly on an object or service, parcel it out on a regular basis for a price that the consumer won’t miss (until they audit themselves and discover the whole amount).
Following in suit, telephone companies. An extremely efficient method for people to communicate, they started out as numerous entities until subsumed by Ma Bell. In addition to paying for standard service to your house, they would only lease you the actual phone unit (this practice went to court in the early 1970s; by the end of the decade, many companies were selling retail phones). Shortly after losing the customer hardware market, the courts decided that the Ma Bell monopoly should be divested. Competition ensued, some prices declined, but at present, there are so many associated fees tacked on, it’s as if a standardized price structure was adopted by all the telcos.
!Rant Tangent Concluded! (mostly)
This next article: “Why AT&T’s merger with DirecTV is a terrible idea.”, is related to the inherent problems with subscriptions, availability of choice, and competitive pricing. In select industries of the past, market fluctuations determined whether companies would merge or split. In this instance, the ‘market’ is so limited, as to be invisible. The only conceivable reason(s) I see are to corner a (legally allowed) portion of the market and perhaps marginally improve delivery of services (Utopian dreamer? Who, me?)
So the previous article considers the ‘follow the money’ theme. We’ll see some links to that later! But, wait! Let me try to get back on topic. What the hell is Net Necessity?
What it is NOT is covered is in this article at the Grey Lady, “Warnings Along F.C.C.’s Fast Lane“.
It’s a NY Times’ reasonable report spelling out the positions of the different managing parties. What is of concern for the consumers is which gang of ‘providers’ will win out. One idea I had on dealing with this goes back to my earlier spiel on early hardware development. Why aren’t there engineers working on some new compression algorithm to allow better streaming and buffering? Seems to me that if your road is only so big, you build vehicles to maximize throughput.
To simplify: this interview with Tim Wu (pictured), a law professor at Columbia University, who also happens to have a history of working in the Silicon Valley trenches, supports his earlier (2002) paper describing Net Neutrality as being akin to common utilities. The only problem with implementing or at least accepting that came from Michael Powell, the former FCC chair, who stated that he supported Mr. Wu’s position, but also said that “the Internet was an information service and not a common carrier.” Simple wording, that brought the Internet to this impasse. An impasse that’s going to be solved by the loudest (moneyed) voices involved: either the lobbyists or citizens.
Which leads me to another tangent sidebar: The Lesson of the Power Loom
When reading this piece, I was thinking again about creativity, and bits zipping through fiber, and that above bit about building better (data) vehicles. There are multiple teams out there, squirreling away code, building stronger hardware, and developing policy. Sort of like the American triumvirate of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The problem, in both examples, is one group trying to control and own the others. In the early inventive days of the net, there was sharing, experimentation, and sometimes a little outright theft. Twenty-plus years later, the trust is gone, the players have lawyered up, and the average citizen still gets an expensive deal for cut-rate service.
To escape from the issues and confines of the TrINTles (my lame attempt to label NN – borrowing The Troubles from Ireland and insert INT for the Internet; like I said, lame), it’s time for the Pirate Internet to evolve. One starting point is Project Grey, associated with the folk at Pirate Bay.
What interests me in their concept is the idea to use Bitcoin to support the effort. Even though the Internet was built with other peoples money (taxpayers), trying to evolve a bypass net (ByeNet?) will occur along the lines of the Linux path.
Last (finally), a couple links to the theme I just can’t get enough of, “Follow The Money”. At least there’s some transparency going on here.
And yet more interesting reads. I actually got a kick out of the first one’s title; like the FCC really cares about world opinion.
And I thought my rants were somewhat entertaining…
Finally, what the hell do I mean by Net Necessity?
Over the past twenty years, society – Western, Eastern, Martian, you name it, has become enhanced and encumbered with open availability of information. As someone who grew up in the earlier days of computing (the rooms of equipment used during the Apollo program, the miniaturization of that equipment to be affordably used in my high school, the continued advances with the IBM AT, to today’s smartphones), to contemplate having expensive or no access to information is unthinkable. It would also be illogical for the companies that have done so much to develop the Net to price themselves out of business. For all of us monkeys clicking away at our keyboards, there will be great creations and discoveries to be had. Like air and water, those prizes are a necessity.