Internet Neutrality: Corporate Communism

In response to user comments on this article about the loss of internet neutrality:

Harold, I see your argument, and do agree to some extent… but the way you explain some of the technology approaches seem slightly incorrect. Please let me explain:

The first remark is that I understand you to be is assuming an HD television broadcast consumes your data allocation. I do not believe this to be the case. Television signals travel down the same wire, yes, but they exist in a different frequency inside that cable. Meaning that your internet and television are isolated from one another. Here is somewhat simplified explanation of what I mean:

Let’s say though, that you’re $5 movie is coming from Netflix, Hulu, or what-have-you. Then yes that is a digital download, exists inside of your internet allocation, and will consume that data. This is no longer a Comcast problem, because you didn’t hand them the $5 for pay-per-view, you paid someone else that is delivering it to you through the internet. It will consume a portion of your allocated bandwidth.

Now, to continue with this bandwidth statement. Lets say you are downloading a giant bit torrent of files, your bit torrent will consume a large portion of your data because depending on how many peers you are seeding from or to will has it’s own persistent connection. This meaning that if the router is trying to level data across all open connections, then your one bit torrent download could have +20, whereas your netflix streaming would be 1 or maybe 2. Your netflix gets a much smaller slice of the pie. Is this Comcasts problem in this scenario? No, you are using your data bandwidth that you purchased in irresponsible ways. If you wanted your netflix to perform well, then you should throttle your bit torrent downloads.

For clarity, Comcast wouldn’t open another “virtual pipe” to accommodate this frivolous usage. They are currently throttling your overall throughput down to 20 mbps (or whatever your plan is set to). Many ISPs, on business services will offer “burst” allowances, where if you get a sudden surge in traffic, the ISP won’t begin throttling you down for a period of time. This, as stated is mostly found in business services, so that the business can better server their client.

Also, in either case. There should be very little reason why packets would start dropping. Even under a heavy load. Unless your internet was completely saturated and you started getting packet timeouts. You shouldn’t be dropping packets just because the going gets slow. If this was the case, it would be because your hardware is not performing like it should. Bad connection, interference, poor firmware, bad drivers, etc.

The real concern behind this article, is that it would allow ISPs to play mafia in the internet. They use the example of toll ways on freeways, but I think it could get much uglier than a dirt road.

Imagine you live in a neighbor hood, controlled by an ISP. They are the only ISP that services your area, so you must pay them to get around (on the internet). If they disapprove of you visiting Netflix, because THEY offer movie rental services too. Well they would individually throttle down your single connection(s) to netflix whenever you attempt to watch that movie. Eventually you will get pissed and go buy it somewhere else…. Like directly from you ISP! Netflix did nothing wrong, their internet bandwidth was plenty fine, they had ample room for you, and was accommodating in any way they could. Your ISP, overseeing your activity discriminated against Netflix, and without your discretion or knowing provided you a bad experience to help steer you into a direction they want you to go.

This sort of power could change everything from spending down to elections. You steer your users to only the data you want them to access by putting up barriers to the places that you don’t want them to see. I’m rarely viewed as an extremest when it comes to political matters. But this could be used as a form of corporate communism, the most dangerous part of it is because the end user could be completely oblivious to the happenings that are going on.