(Photo Courtesy of Cliffnotes)
Reseda High School

#NetNeutrality: Why Americans can’t afford to lose this fight

Imagine it’s 11:58 PM. You’re surfing on the internet, perusing through Facebook, Twitter, and Cliffnotes while reading, “The Tempest.” Once you finish reading, you log back on to try to make sense of “The Tempest,” only to see that Cliffnotes has been blocked. A notification reads, “This content has been blocked by your internet service provider. Please contact your ISP for further information.”

You think to yourself, “Now, how on earth am I going to pass this quiz tomorrow?!”

This imaginary scenario may seem ridiculous but very soon, it may become a reality if Trump appointed- FCC chairman Pai gets his way. Under Pai’s leadership, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed, “returning to the longstanding light-touch regulatory framework for the internet and restoring the market-based policies necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom.” According to their statement on the Federal Communications Commission website, the Trump administration is seeking to undo Obama-era internet regulations that ensured that all Americans are in control of their internet experience.

capture #NetNeutrality: Why Americans cant afford to lose this fight
PC: Richard Coca
A country without Net Neutrality lacks a free and open internet

 

According to Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, “Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time.” Net Neutrality is the fundamental idea that internet service providers like AT&T, Spectrum, and Verizon should not be able to speed up, slow down or block any content, applications or websites you want to use.

Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked. Two years ago, however, internet service providers sought to change that, leading to the Obama administration’s action to protect net neutrality. Millions of activists pressured the FCC to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules to keep the internet free and open.

On a party-line vote, the FCC applied 1930’s-era utility-style regulation (“Title II”) to the internet. Democrats were in favor. Republicans opposed it and seek to eliminate these regulations over the course of this and the upcoming year. Six months ago, according to savetheinternet.com, a proponent of net neutrality, the FCC voted to let Pai’s internet-killing plan move forward.

Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An Internet Service Provider could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with.

In the age of Trump, this could have daunting consequences. Marginalized communities could possible feel the biggest impacts. Social movements that started on the open internet such as Black Lives Matter could die if companies like AT&T or Spectrum block content they don’t like. These ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a lower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet and the biggest losers would be the American people. Americans simply can not afford to lose this fight.

net neutrality works for me iksa in source #NetNeutrality: Why Americans cant afford to lose this fight
(Image courtesy of Iksa.in)

 

 

1 Comment

  • Reply Douglas Campbell November 6, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    When you use political attacks rather than debates on the merits, you diminish the strength of your position, and turn off readers who might otherwise be receptive to your points. I’m a Trump supporter.

    Have you stopped reading yet? Did the point that I’m a Trump supporter contribute or detract from the basic position I want to debate?

    We already have “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” on the Internet. You can pay for “blazing speed” or “basic Internet”.
    You can pay for volume of content by the gigabyte or terabyte. Even given those basic differences — that the speed of delivery of your content (whether it is generated by you or consumed by you) and the amount of that content is based upon what you have paid your Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPs to date has promised best effort delivery of that content, and the entire structure of the Internet itself — is oriented toward fulfilling that promise. The only way your content could be delayed or prevented from reaching its destination would be if some interior portion of the Internet’s routing capability were broken or congested — either in your ISP or in one of its peers — for, in the end, the Internet is a collection of thousands of peers who have all made arrangements with each other to allow the free transit of data from other peers in return for the free transport of theirs. Congestion is what happens when too many people attempt to use a given resource at a given time. Breakage is what happens when unwanted traffic is introduced by a component of the Internet — or that component fails to transfer packets properly.

    Some ISPs — most notably COMCAST — attempted to perform a misguided attack on net neutrality by delaying or quenching packet delivery from large scale providers such as NetFlix. The problem, as COMCAST saw things, was that their subscribers were making teeny tiny requests but giant packet streams from non-customers were “overwhelming” their network. Lost on them was that NetFlix wasn’t pushing traffic onto COMCAST’s network unbidden — rather that COMCAST’s own customers were requesting that data and COMCAST was fulfilling one of the requirements in the contract with its customers by transferring that data. Lost on them was the non-symmetry of most requests on the Internet — consumers make tiny requests and providers give giant responses. So, what did COMCAST do? Exactly what you claim might happen with CliffNotes — they would quench the bi-directional data stream by issuing an RST packet and sending it to NetFlix. They didn’t even say “see your ISP” — because that would have given away the fact that they were injecting abnormal traffic onto their network — they were breaking the Internet. That portion of the Internet TCP protocol (RST) is how one computer informs another that it is no longer desiring the connection; the connection can be closed. So millions of COMCAST subscribers would find that their NetFlix accounts were no longer functioning properly — movies were not being delivered. Their Internet experience was terrible, to use a word fit for publication. COMCAST was in negotiations with NetFlex to receive extra payments in order to unstopper the spigot and this was a weapon they were using to get those extra payments — figuring that NetFlix subscribers would pressure NetFlix to “improve” the Internet experience NetFlix was providing.

    The result, sadly, was that NetFlix paid COMCAST for that content delivery. Now remember, COMCAST is both an ISP and an Internet peer and its peering arrangements required it to take packets from other peers. In the aftermath, COMCAST lost subscribers, who realized that in attempting to extract more money from NetFlix, COMCAST was violating its own contractual obligations to them — its customers — to provide best effort delivery of every Internet packet. COMCAST tried to blame the problem on greedy customers consuming more than their share of the Internet capability that COMCAST was providing. That argument was quickly seen as the red herring it was — after all, hadn’t COMCAST promised “blazing speed” to its consumers, and weren’t the consumers allowed every bit of the speed for which they had contracted?

    COMCAST has changed its tune (now that NetFlix is paying weregild) and now publicly supports net neutrality. But it’s too late. The cat is out of the bag.

    Given a map of the Internet, it’s easy to see that a few big providers can toll everyone else above and beyond their contractual arrangements if they choose. And that’s what the fight for net neutrality is all about — how many ways ought an ISP be able to charge for packet delivery? Should it be allowed to charge both its consumers with promises of a nice Internet experience with best effort delivery — while at the same time reaching over to content providers (some of which are not even in existence yet) and gently explaining to them in what appear to be the most reasonable terms: “Nice packet you have there. Pity if something were to happen to it.”

    I say that ISPs need to charge their customers — and not some other peer’s customers — what they need to charge for a good Internet experience and a fair profit — and to make peering arrangements which allow them to service their customers properly. If I ask Google for packets, I should not be denied that request by my ISP because Google refused to pay a toll for the delivery of something I am entitled to under my contract with my ISP. Quickly, we will see things like TOR (which is used to hide the identities of the correspondents) become a standard for data delivery as the Internet becomes more Balkanized by the loss of net neutrality. After all, the ISP can’t block packets from sources if those sources are encrypted and otherwise unknown to the provider, and have been routed through any number of other ISPs first. The Internet already has a solution if Net Neutrality is lost — and it’s not a nice one.

    Like

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