Posted by: Jack Santos
Interesting news yesterday about the YouTube outage ostensibly set off by Pakistan's clumsy attempt at limiting YouTube access within their country (censoring anti-Muslim speech from the Netherlands). The politicization of the Internet continues…Pakistan complained to YouTube, but action to remove what YouTube finally deemed as "Hate Speech" was too slow for Pakistan (we’re talking hours here, not days), so unilateral action was taken.
It puts some of the Net Neutrality discussions in context of a broader picture. These are heavy duty philosophical issues we’re dealing with folks – what is hate speech, what isn’t (a very fine line, indeed)….and most importantly: who decides? countries? ICANN? The UN? The US? Content providers like Google (who want to be deliverers as well), or content deliverers like Comcast or Verizon (who are providers too)? In some ways, arbitrary decisions on spam and viruses are already made by all of the above – and one person’s spam is another person’s speech. Will Serbs consider Kosovar anthems hateful? Will Kurds feelings toward Turkish military recruitment videos be considered?
Then there are the just as important, but less hurtful (at least ostensibly) decisions made by carriers. When I first started allowing work at home within my department, we found that a cable carrier (then Time Warner) had made what appeared to them to be a harmless business decision – block VPN traffic. Unfortunately, we found out at a critical time when remote access to fix a production problem was needed. In fact, what probably happened was that some network bit-head started to turn off all ports except 80 and 443 (not to mention a few others) – the ones primarily used for web page traffic. Just for hee haws. When complaints started pouring in, Time-Warner management responded initially with ignorance, then defensiveness ("we decide what we run on our network") followed quickly by entrepreneurship ("this is business use – you need to be paying business rates").. In the new world order the distinction between business and personal is ever so slight – but that’s a topic for another time.
That, my friends, was an earlier version of what net neutrality is all about. Time-Warner backed off, opened the ports, and things haven’t changed….until now. Comcast sees its "On Demand" service revenue decline, while bit traffic on the network continues to go up because of movie downloads from the Netflix and Apples of the world. So the response becomes protective of lost revenue "movie downloaders should pay more – they are bandwidth hogs". And for businesses, the same storm clouds hold true for ecommerce websites, and business/home use.
In the spirit of Ayn Rand I believe that the market can solve this problem – if there was a market. For most homes, Internet access is provided by a virtual monopoly – the same kind of monopoly that would not allow you to add third party phones to their lines way back when.. Network providers would love to have THAT revenue stream as well….
So net neutrality matters, and net brutality continues…keep an eye on both.