Net neutrality and open Internet are more than just power words. They’re a vision that Vint, Push, Manny and all of the others set out to build.

Power Words: Net Neutrality… A New Way to Hold Ideas, Innovation Ransom

THE Insider

“Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of ‘em are stupider than that.” – George Carlin

I love the power of words.

They shape, reshape your view, ideas of what’s real/unreal, true/false, bad/good.

Remember Digital Rights Management?

What a wholesome way to ensure you owned the video content you purchased on those old-fashioned DVDs.

Now there’s Net Neutrality.

Only a real stupid person could be against anything as wholesome as Net Neutrality.

Thank gawd it caught the attention of governments.

Every government around the globe is working hard to keep something that was born free of politics … free of politics.

What can go wrong?

In the U.S., the past head of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) got a cushy job heading up the mobile phone folks (CTIA). The new head of the FCC comes from the cable and telco industries.

What could be better?

Real experts reshaping the Internet that started out as an open-to-the-world science project then grew up to be a multi, multi billion dollar communications/entertainment/advertising industry.

Vint Cerf and the folks I worked with for 10 years at CERFnet (California Education Research Foundation) had no freakin’ idea how awesome the Internet would be back in the late ‘60s.

Modest Beginning – The Internet we enjoy today had a modest beginning – connect the U.S.’s supercomputer centers to speed the exchange of scientific, research and engineering information. Over time, it went from a government funded operation to one that carried commercial traffic and it wasn’t long before real money could be made.   

Push Mohta and Manny Robles were just driving between California super computer centers in their beat-up VW hooking scientists, engineers and others up.  

Want them to handle your system work and storage?

They’d locate servers and storage in their hardened facilities and charge you for it (no sexy name like Cloud).

Then, the damn thing caught on and everyone wanted in on the action.

Subscriber Services – As the Internet and Web grew globally complex, CompuServe number/letter addresses were replaced with easy-to-remember (and steal) user names and passwords providers discovered new applications and opportunities that have become indispensible for users, data miners and advertisers.

The fantastic collaborative scientific/engineering tool gave way to business applications which turned kids on to making it even more useful.  

You know:

  • Game consoles
  • Internet to PC
  • Feature to smartphones to tablets
  • STBs, DVRs, DMAs, timeshifting TV
  • Analog to digital TV – 30, 100, VOD, multi-screen, 1000s of channels, video providers
  • Online selling, buying, sharing, trading

It’s such a fertile field that folks (young and old) are spending 12+ hours a day with their electronic media.

Content Flowing – The use of the Internet has continued to grow – rapidly – becoming an indispensible part of almost everyone’s life. People have come to rely on the Internet, social media sites, websites and outlets as vital places to get/exchange data, news, photos, videos, entertainment and business information. The volume of content that crosses the global network every second is staggering.  

Everyone wants, needs, expects instant access to anything/everything all the time. As a result, the pipes are overloaded and stuff is backing up.

Yes, the Internet (wired and wireless) is broken – has been for a few years now – but then, no one ever envisioned people would be so creative or that a person could do so much with the spectrum … including stealing from anyone/anywhere, snooping on folks, carrying on private/public wars.

Since squeezing more frequency from the spectrum is impossible, governments (everywhere) are developing Net Neutrality guidelines so folks who “bought” portions of the spectrum and ISPs (internet service providers) won’t discriminate  (give priority) with the packets flowing across their networks.

There is light in the tunnel when it comes to wired Internet performance as Akamai (one of the industry’s largest CDN – Content Delivery Network – providers reported recently.  

The U.S. saw the overall connection speed finally increase to 10Mbps (your speed may vary).

That doesn’t come close to the top 10 countries/regions’ average connection speed (South Korea holds that honor with speeds averaging 21.9Mbps), but it is moving in the right direction.

That’s good news for businesses, telecommuters and important stuff like heart monitors.

But the truth is that speed isn’t “vital” to 90 percent of the stuff my kids (and most people) do with their devices.

Device Access – Today, people around the globe keep adding devices – mobile and fixed – to the point that some people experience real anxiety when their devices aren’t close at hand and aren’t connected.

Watching 500 cat videos on YouTube, checking out your selfies from last night’s party where you were awesome is less important than well … darn near anything.

The challenge is getting the speed, performance, quality you pay for.

Yeah, I dream of 1Gbps fiber to my house whether it’s from Google, my present provider AT&T or some awesome cable provider.

While delivering a 1 Gbps fiber-based connection is certainly the end game, in Austin AT&T is only delivering a 300 Mbps service today with plans to roll out 1 Gbps later this year.

However, according to a GigaOM report, one customer that signed up for its GigaPower revealed they are only getting a 70/50 Mbps connection--far less than 300 Mbps.  

Outside of the Austin market, the majority of AT&T users will continue to be served by its lower-speed DSL services.

Your Speed – Increasingly, people who test their up and down stream performance are finding that their speeds fall “a little short” of what they were promised and are paying for. There are a lot of reasons – some even valid – as the online population continues to grow.

Sorta’ shakes my confidence … just a little.

If you believe the ex-telco/cable folks at the FCC, net neutrality is really all about not letting ISPs discriminate regarding the stuff flowing over their networks and that the ISPs have to be as open about their dealings as the government is.

First of all, service providers would have to give all of us a “baseline level of service.” Then they could do separate deals with content providers for FasTrak service.

It’s not like special treatment for certain folks with good connections in the government – and elsewhere – it’s a new idea!

So Netflix’s Hastings could pay for better service and his customers could foot the better-quality entertainment.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing (paying for entertainment delivery); but the founding of the Internet was that ISPs couldn’t offer special treatment for a few dollars more.

Guaranteed Performance – To ensure people get the content they expect without slowdowns or interruptions, some organizations have begun discussing two levels of service for users – FasTrak smooth flawless performance (most noticeable from movie rental sites) and regular Internet speeds for the rest. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) like the idea of two, three, four levels of service.

Free-speechers like to say that the Internet should be an unrestricted platform for all speech and fast/slow lanes throttle that freedom.

But state and national governments have historically blocked some services and there isn’t a helluva’ lot ISPs can do about it.

Frankly, some of the stuff should probably take hours, days, months (bullying, discrimination and whatever your sore point is), and if some server gets tired of shuffling it around and drops it … ooppss.

Since the service providers know change is in the wind and net neutrality and “commercial reasonableness” will come, they’re busy studying how the other heavily regulated industry – the airline industry – has coped.

Lesson Learned – The Airline industry taught the pipe providers a lot in the past two years … keep your base charge “reasonable” and then charge for the extras.  

Want a ticket? Check

Want a seating priority?  Check

Want a bag or two?  Check, Check

Want connectivity? Check

Want a seat?  Check

Want a better seat? Check

Want a seatbelt?  Check

Want something to eat? Check

Want the restroom? Check

Commercial reasonableness can be a pretty low bar.

All the ISPs (wired, wireless) have to do is be transparent about what they’re doing, what they’re offering, what they’re charging for and how much they’re charging.  

Most folks don’t really care about what governments, lobbyists, PACs (Political Action Committees) do.   

They just want to go online with the device they have at hand and find, get, enjoy the stuff they want … now!

Net neutrality and open Internet are more than just power words.

They’re a vision that Vint, Push, Manny and all of the others set out to build.

If all of the governments, ISPs (wired/wireless) change the rules, you can be sure of the outcome for you!


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