This isn’t a widely read blog (yet), but I’m hoping that someone will read this and get the word out as best as they can.
In a few days, a bill will be presented in the House of Representatives, which could have quite serious and lasting repercussions on the Internet.
The bill has been lobbied by all of the major telecoms companies in the US as something they need to help them grow into the future.
In short, they are demanding to be allowed to charge companies like Google, Yahoo, YouTube, MySpace, and anyone else out there who offers multimedia content to their users to pay extra for it to keep the same quality of service that exists today. If a company such as YouTube does not cough up, people visiting their site will quickly find that they cannot access the videos easily at all. And even when they do, the content will take much much longer to download. If you think this isn’t bad, try watching some of these videos on dial-up for a week.
The argument put forward by the various companies, is that such multimedia content uses up a lot of bandwidth on their networks, networks which the telecoms companies built. They also argue that in order to continue growing, such that the Internet doesn’t become a large congested network, they need to invest in making faster networks and for that they feel the people using the networks most should pay up.
This seems reasonable until you realise there are a few problems with the stated arguments:
- Companies like Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc already pay the telecoms providers a whole lot of money to be able to connect to the Internet. They may not pay AT&T, Verizon, et al directly, but they do pay their ISP, who in turn pays AT&T, Verizon, Comcast..
- The customers of said telecoms companies who have broadband also pay a monthly fee for their Internet access, and often pay quite a lot of money for this (my own bill is over $75 a month).
- The networks that were built by the telecoms companies, were heavily subsidised by US taxpayers. The companies now wany to take the subsidised networks and start making much more money from them, again at the cost of the taxpayer.
For many years now we’ve lived in a “neutral” internet – everyone had equal access and everyone was treated equally. Someone with a small DSL connection could host their own web server and it would be given equal preference compared to a large company.
This is not a partisan issue. Many members of Congress from both parties agree that network neutrality as it stands today is best of the Internet. It is how the internet has grown and how it should be allowed to grow, as a free-market. However, many are still undecided.
Please visit http://www.house.gov/ and contact your representative, and tell them that you disagree with the proposed bill.
You can also visit http://www.savetheinternet.com/ and express your voice there.
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, today put out an open letter to all users of Google on this matter. You can read it here: http://www.google.com/help/netneutrality.html