Net neutrality. This is a very thorny issue. I can see both sides of the issue as well as bringing up a third I haven’t heard anyone make yet. I’ll see if I can summarize the issues correctly here.

The Telecom businesses are saying that they would like to be able to improve the quality of service for businesses that give them more money. This would mostly be done by flagging packets from certain places as higher priority and multi-queuing them in the routers of their backbones. Other packets would still be transmitted but ones from paying customers would be be sent slightly faster than non-paying customers. They say that their backbones are private, non government owned entities and they should be able to at least make money from them somehow.

The other side is saying that all sites should receive equal space on the backbone regardless of how much they pay, and besides, shouldn’t the backbones be free? Shouldn’t the the smallest blogs be readable by all just like the big ones? Never mind that the different size sites have differing amounts of bandwidth TO the backbone…

Really, the net hasn’t been all that neutral for a long time. Companies and internet providers block ports constantly. QoS with multiple levels of service are already in place all over the net. To me, QoS is far less of an issue than port blocking. People should be able to transmit whatever they want at whatever speed they have paid for. This is the network neutrality that is really important, not whether the packet is pushed out the router first or as often for certain sites. As long as the data is sent fast enough for the connection not to starve or have problems…

The third perspective I thought up came from all these other examples of “you get what you pay for.” We’re not paying that much for backbone, so we’re likely to not get much from the backbone. Slowness is common and businesses hate how vague the backbone is and how difficult to nail down how well it will perform. Backbone providers can’t give any guarantees to anyone about the quality of service. What businesses want is to know that with this big fancy OC3 pipeline running into their data center with these hugely expensive systems, that their whole business won’t be taken off the net by a rush for some huge new video. They want assurances that they will get the quality of service from the backbone to match all of the investments they’ve made into their closer infrastructure. And they’re willing to put money in the backbone to do it as long as they get those assurances. They won’t shut down all of the other sites or put them at a huge disadvantage, they just want to know their data will get there.

If they do end up forcing through net neutrality for QoS and Bandwidth equality, what are these people going to do?

They’re going to go out and make private networks that they can do this on out of all of that dark fiber, then link it into the backbone at strategic points so that they won’t be interrupted by backbone service interruptions.

Several companies have already done similar things, like Akamai and Google.

Now what would happen if they were allowed to give assurances to their customers about the QoS for the backbone in exchange for money? They would buy up that dark fiber and put it in their backbones so they have a thicker pipe and can give more assurances out. Now when those companies aren’t using their entire allotted pipe space, that bandwidth would be available to everyone else… Whereas without QoS being a legal thing on the backbone, that bandwidth is forever cut off to anyone but those big websites.

Remember how USSR used to put propaganda out about how the US had such high unemployment and had so many people lined up at the unemployment office. They used pictures of Reagan driving by a bunch of cars at the unemployment office…

The Russian people looked at it and said “Hey wait, the poor, unemployed people in the US have CARS!? Most of us don’t even have cars over here!” The capitalist system ended up giving more to everyone, even the poor, than a socialistic system that was more “fair.”

Capitalism can give even those who are not paying into the system have a much better quality of living, or in this case Quality of Service. Hopefully we don’t nail ourselves on the cross of socialism here just because it’s fair and equal, when capitalism can give us a better result to everyone.