What is up with the geniuses in Congress?
Here’s the deal, in a nutshell:
Today, there is no packet on the Internet that has priority over another, for the most part anyway. Sure, there is some packet-shaping that occurs, but that’s primarily limited to making sure that a few big peer-to-peer users don’t consume an ISPs entire bandwidth. The important thing is that first sentence though – nothing is prioritized. I buy my access to the Internet. Companies like Google and eBay buy their access to the Internet. I pay for my bandwidth from my ISP, they pay for theirs.
The ISPs (especially the guys that service your house) don’t like this. Why? The reason that they give is that they don’t have any incentive to build out their networks for high capacities. Their own content has to compete with other traffic going to your house that has the same priority. Their way to fix this is to do away with network neutrality. This way, they can charge other companies for the bandwidth that you use accessing that company’s site. This may be easier to explain in an example.
Today, if I access a video at Google Video, Google pays for the bandwidth that I use from their provider, and I pay for the bandwidth that I use from my provider. There is no additional monies that needs to change hands.
But that money isn’t good enough. The ISPs need more money than god to expand their “services”. More on that in a minute. What the ISPs want is is this:
If I access that same vdeo over at Google Video, Google pays for the bandwidth used from their provider, and I pay for mine. It’s the same so far, right? The kicker is this – the ISPs that the traffic passed through want Google to pay up as well. That traffic may cross several providers, such as AT&T (aka MCI, aka Worldcom, aka SBC), Verizon, Bellsouth, etc. All of these guys? They want a cut of the action.
One of the biggest reasons I see these companies wanting to put a bullet in network neutrality’s head is so they can offer new services – Video on Demand, VoIP, etc. But how can they make sure that they can offer better services than their competitors? By making sure that their traffic gets priority over everyone else’s. In this regard, I can see why they want it, but the fact of the matter is that all it really does is line the pockets of the corporations and their shareholders.
Another note on this… Know who one of the biggest pushers of ridding us of this evil thing called network neutrality is? Cisco. You know why? Because the ability to do this packet shaping and service quality stuff requires new hardware. And that means huge dollars for them.
Nate Anderson over at ArsTechnica has a great writeup that you can read. Today, your Senators are contemplating what to do… Why don’t you give them a shout?