Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm Divided on the War for Net Neutrality

The issue of Net neutrality has been heating up lately in Canada with ISPs filing a motion with CRTC against Bell. Wikipedia offers a rather nebulous definition of Net Neutrality but I think most people are using the term to refer to the practice of slowing down or blocking certain types of Internet traffic to home users.

The discussion here revolves around some larger ISPs and backbone providers wanting to slow down or block certain types of Internet traffic, usually this is users downloading huge files (video and/or audio usually). However, some people are worried about where this might lead.

This is an issue I care very deeply about, but unlike others my take is more mixed.

First, the Internet was not designed for telephone calls (VOIP), broadcasting long videos (or any videos), or for downloading of software, music and movies. If these activities continue to grow, they will break the Net. As far as I have heard the techies have not come up with a viable way to address this, so it's a huge problem that's getting worse every day.

I'm a regular Net user. I don't download large files. I don't watch long videos. Nor do I use VOIP. So why should I pay the same amount for my Net connection as these bandwidth hogs? Why should they be allowed to degrade my Net connection speed? There are people who illegally download movies and software day and night. So I have no problem whatsoever with the ISPs charging more for users of these types of Net activities or for even slowing their connection down.

What I do hate is the idea that large ISPs, could be allowed to have their own content, or their partners' content, download faster to their customers or slowing down content from everyone else. Or worse, if the ISPs one day started charging websites for "premium" connectivity. All this works to destroy a fundamental principle of the Internet, universal access. The source of content should not be allowed to affect how fast it can be accessed.

I also hate the type of content filtering that China and Saudi Arabia does, but that's another story. Unlike some, I'm not worried that slowing down service or charging more for some Net services (eg. VOIP, watching or downloading movies) will lead to censorship. I don't have a problem drawing a line. The Net cannot continue to have more and more traffic added to it and not degrade for everyone.

The website, gives news and more information on the issue and specifics to Canada.

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