Network Neutrality

May 19, 2006 - 12:00am -- swingbug

 I'm going to rant about this Network Neutrality issue for a bit. It seems like a lot of people feel that they don't understand this or they think they can't do anything about it. Allow me set you straight on both accounts.

Shawn wrote a really eloquent blog breaking this down last week, which I really encourage you to read. I had initially intended to simply point you there and have done with it, but yesterday on the radio I heard Sen. Barbara Boxer summing up this issue nicely to her fellow members of Congress with a comparison to a freeway and I thought that might be a nice metaphor for so many of us, myself included, that don't truly understand how the internet works; we just know how to use it. I'm going to expound on her idea, so here goes.

So right now Congress is looking to revamp our country's telecommunications policies and part of that issue is Network Neutrality.

When you open up your internet browser and type in the url to your favorite website, there are a lot of things that affect how fast that information gets to you. First, there is your connection speed. You pay your provider (probably your phone or cable company) for some kind of connection, DSL, or god forbid, dial-up, that allows your computer to connect to the internet. And that website that you're accessing? The creators of that site host that information on a server somewhere and the speed of their hardware affects your connection too. But everything in between, the pipes, so to speak, that carry the information, well right now, as my husband puts it, all bits are created equal. So let's say I want to drive to Disneyland. I can decide how fast of a car I want to buy and Disneyland can decide how nice of a parking lot they want to make so I can get parked and into the Magic Kingdom as fast as possible. But I-5 in between? All cars can go 70 mph out there.

This is how the system works now. But what if we changed that?What if the folks who owned the roads (these are the cable companies: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) decided that certain destinations could pay more and their customers would be allowed to drive 100 mph. What if you were trapped behind a stoplight on your way to Disneyland, but folks going to Magic Mountain were allowed to run that light and keep going?

Make sense? And this is exactly what the folks at cable companies are trying to push through.

In a world where almost all media that reaches you (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines) is controlled by just a handful of corporations, the internet is our open frontier. And the cable companies are trying to introduce a method for discrimination into that frontier. A method they stand to make a lot of money from, I might add.

This phrase "Network Neutrality" that is bouncing around you like a ping pong ball? The folks who are fighting for network neutrality are fighting to keep the internet an equal playing ground where we can all drive the same speed. And internet users from the big guys like Google and Amazon to little folks like Shawn and I are tugging on that side of the rope. On the other side are the cable companies. There aren't many of them, but they have a lot of lawyers to pull for them. And where are you? Are you pulling? Are you watching? Are you picking your nose and taking in the view in the other direction?

This issue affects you. If you're reading this site, then you have access to a computer and access to the internet, and so yes, it most decidedly affects you.

What can you do about it? In a nation where elections are rigged, where the NSA is spying on your phone calls, can one person among millions have any affect? You hand over all the power you have when you resign yourself to being helpless. You have congressmen who are paid to represent you. Go make damn sure they are doing their jobs. Call, write, email. Be a pain in the ass. It's their job to listen to you, and it's your job to speak up.

Okay, I've said what I have to say about it. Now I'm going to point you over to Shawn's website where you can read more about this and follow links to your local representatives to let them know how you feel. Have your say. It's your last true freedom. Use it or lose it.

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