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Archive for April, 2010

As of April 8, 2010, iTunes had 185,000+ apps for the iPhone/iPad. Some say this provides plenty of options and options are good. Amid all those apps, there are some treasures but there are also thousands of duds.

Personally, I would rather have a 300 excellent apps available than a thousand treasures distributed throughout 185,000 duds.  To me, the number became meaningless after about 300.

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Net Neutrality means that all traffic flowing over a network is given access to the same carrying capacity or bandwidth. On April 6th, the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC had overstepped its authority by requiring Internet Service Providers to provide equal bandwidth to all traffic.

This opens the possibility that ISP’s can cut deals with certain businesses. Suppose, for example, an ISP, such as Comcast, cuts a deal to send Amazon’s traffic to its customers at five times the rate that it sends Powell’s Books’ traffic. In fact, an ISP could effectively block traffic from certain websites. Imagine if Comcast decided to block all traffic to online bookstores besides Amazon.

Of course, the implications of this go well beyond commerce. Imagine if certain news sources were blocked. Since people now rely on the Internet to stay informed and democracies rely on an informed electorate, this could have serious impact on the functionality of our democracy!

The plaintiff in the case, Comcast, argued that a few customers were using the lion’s share of the bandwidth. These customers were using Bit Torrent to transfer very large amounts of data such as movies. Comcast had other means of stopping these customers from using so much bandwidth. For example, they could have charged customers for every megabyte they transferred across Comcast’s network after reaching a certain threshold. In fact, in some local markets, Comcast is already doing this and it works.

Eventually, I believe the FCC’s ruling will not work in ISPs’ favor. By having the right to regulate the traffic that flows through its network, Comcast also opens itself up to lawsuits. For example, Internet gambling in the US is illegal but it is very difficult to enforce the law. Since the ISP’s now have the right to regulate traffic, they are also now open to lawsuits when they do not block illegal traffic.

Overall, I think that this will have a negative impact on our society. Other means were available to solve the problems stated by Comcast. The court ruling solved one problem but in so doing created other, much larger problems.

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