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Archive for August, 2010

When I ride the bus in San Francisco, most passengers are interacting with their cellphones.  Recently, I read on my own cellphone that Google and Verizon believe in Net neutrality for the wired Internet (e.g. DSL and cable lines) but not on cellphone networks.  Net neutrality, as described in an earlier post, means that all Internet traffic, regardless of the content provider, has equal access to bandwidth.  In other words, to use a highway metaphor, all traffic has access to all lanes.  On a non neutral network an Internet Service Provider could give some content providers access to more bandwidth and could block others.

With a non neutral net, the Internet will become a toll road.  Internet Service Providers, like Verizon, will be able to charge the content providers, such as Amazon, Google and the New York Times, to have access to our computers.  Of course ISP’s already charge us for access to Internet service.

If the deal proposed by Google and Verizon went through, Google would also stand to win.  Microsoft’s Bing could be pushed into the slow lane or even blocked on all Verizon cellphones.  Bing, MS Office online, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail could be slowed to a crawl, while Google, Google Documents and Gmail are allowed to whiz by.   Of course, small startups would not have a chance in such an environment unless they were backed by deep pockets.  ISP’s could also double dip by demanding that consumers who want unrestricted Net access pay extra money.

At this point, I can’t help conjuring up images of bullies demanding tolls for access to roads built largely by public funds.  ISP’s, let us remember, only provide the on ramps to the Net.  The Internet backbone is mostly hosted by government and academic network centers.

Besides retail and service providers being able to buy access to networks, news organizations could buy or block access.  Suppose a news organization decided it didn’t like this blog entry, it could pay Verizon to block my entire blog.  Since many consumers have either no choice or very limited choice of ISP’s, if the ISP’s can control the content of the information they provide, effectively, the ISP’s could prevent balanced news from reaching the electorate.

But Google and Verizon argue that their proposal would only effect wireless traffic.  For the wired Internet, they want a neutral net.  Of course, as anyone who has ever ridden a bus or used a cellphone knows, the world is moving toward a wireless state.  So, this proposal that ISP’s control wireless traffic would give the ISP’s and their partners even more power and of course more money and it would diminish the power of “we the people.”

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