Net Neutrality as Applied to Stop Lights
I was asked for my comments on Net Neutrality by a reporter and so I wrote this.
In general, I think that it is difficult to predict exactly what bad things will happen and in what order. Once Net Neutrality is no longer an underlying value of the Internet, those who control critical core internet resources like fiber links and peering points will look for opportunities to hold traffic “hostage” to make more money.
I believe that in general, “small sites” may not really notice any change except for a general inflation in bandwidth prices as hosting providers like Amazon, Internet2 and DigitalOcean are held hostage. The wholesale cost of bandwidth could easily double in 2-3 years once “Net Discrimination” is officially legal. Large sources of bandwidth like Netflix, Hulu, etc are going to see “death by a thousand cuts” as every little router owner all around the world is going to want their cut. The cost for bandwidth is likely to go up by a factor of 2-3.
It is as if you are driving through a city and every stoplight has a toll booth where you need to stop and take out your credit card to pass. Assume a bunch of different companies you never heard of each “owned” one or two stoplights in downtown Mountain View. When they “bought” the stoplights there was a rule that you could not charge for a green light but instead you got a small fixed amount of money to run your stop lights to move traffic as efficiently as possible. Now with “Stoplight Discrimination” legalized, they can hold car manufacturers “hostage” for green lights. Tesla can pay them so their cars can send a signal to the stoplight so it immediately turns green whenever a Tesla is moving toward the stoplight.
The problem is that sooner or later all the major car manufacturers will have to pay each of the little stoplight companies the “stoplight toll” and then all traffic will be again be treated equally and the companies will be getting very rich.
And the worse part of it is that there is little incentive to improve the roads or generally improve stoplight technology – because the frustration of the drivers and their complaints to car manufacturers leads to more revenue for the stoplight owners. And when things get really bad the stoplight companies can tell car companies they can purchase the “silver level” to once again get differential treatment for their cars. And then everyone buys the “silver” level so they introduce “gold level” traffic discrimination – and so on. Soon, “platinum”, “ruby”, “sapphire”, and “diamond” levels emerge – and then “double diamond”. The worse that traffic gets snarled up because of the byzantine pay-for-play rules – the more money these stoplight companies make.
The revenue potential for doing absolutely nothing more than what you were already doing is immense. No wonder these companies love Net Discrimination.
And our costs of all these services will go up because the “stoplight tax” will ultimately just be passed to the consumers.
This is a story that I tell people over and over when I meet them – so I figured I would make a blog post so I could have it written down somewhere.
I am an accidental Internet historian. It all started in 1995-1999 I hosted a Cable television program with my friend Rich Wiggins that was a talk show about the Internet that ended up with three names over time as the cable TV companies bought one another over that period. Here is a YouTube of those (3) shows:
This led to me having lots of cool early Internet video and for a number of years I wrote a column called Computing Conversations in IEEE Computer Magazine that wrote a short print article with an associated video interview. Here is a Youtube Channel of that work:
You can see my old material and new interviews since 2012 interwoven. I also attach a couple of articles to give you a sample. We even made an NPR-style audio interview for each of the columns:
Then in 2012, I re-did all this material in the form of a Coursera class titled Internet History, Technology, and Security – that is how Niel and I crossed paths. Here is the course and a Youtube channel of the lectures and media:
I even turned this all into a textbook on the basics of the Internet that I wrote for a Khan Academy high school course course on TCP/IP. I finished the book but never built the Khan Academy course.
The latest activity was a live Teach Out – a one week open learning learning activity that I did with Doug Van Houweling called “Internet and You”
This is a story that will keep going as long as I find new folks to interview and add to this collection – I hope folks enjoy this material.
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Reference: This post is from an email written by Neil Caidin and sent to the sakai-all mailing list.