The Other Side: Net Competition
The days of dial-up are practically over. Take a listen: the atmosphere is relieved to be empty of the digital twittering from modems connecting at a paltry 56kbps. Today’s Internet is built for speed, and the stuttering page-loading is gone. Sites like YouTube and Pandora demand to pump packets through ISPs’ tubes at the speed of a click.
And then there's the trendy interactive Web: Web 2.0. This includes sites like Facebook, Flikr and some more radical ideas like YouOS, an online operating system. The idea is putting the user in control; it's spreading its roots all over the place, generating some of the most popular content ever. And all this comes only at the cost of about $50 a month.
Backers of net competition say this is not the case. In the outstanding and unresolved Internet technology (IT) debate over “net neutrality," companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast propose that there are indeed bigger costs to today's Internet, and they're tired of paying for it. The digital world has evolved beyond the scope of its original concepts. Is it time for the physical world to catch up?
"Frankly, the issue began in 2006, when it became permanent at the grassroots level," said Mike McCurry, the former Clinton Administration press secretary who now lobbies for Hands Off the Internet, a coalition of major networks that wants to stave off the impending NN regulations. "There are two sides to this story; we'd better get out and tell the other side."
Between parties there can be a bit of packet loss regarding what net neutrality really is, but an IT research firm, the Burton Group, has an ostensibly innocuous definition (It is, of course, the implications of the definition which lead to trouble). Net neutrality, it says, is ensuring that all packets (Internet data) are treated the same, and users' access must be treated just as equally. Alice can watch videos on YouTube with the same service capabilities Bob has when he calls his mother using VoIP (Internet telephone). Service is not conditional upon either of these.
Backers of net competition say that this is quite feasible without loading up on federal regulations. For some on this side of the fence, there's already a lack of equal user access. When picking an Internet service provider (ISP), users must inherently choose how much of a wallop they want from their Internet. Those who go for dial-up naturally aren't going to get the same access as someone using cable, and cable can't match the speed of those using fiber optics. People pay for the kind of access they want. If they want their speeds to be capped less, they pay more.
This argument then carries over to content providers such as Google. People using YouTube necessarily need more bandwidth than someone viewing a simple HTML page. The Fiber to the Home Council stated that "downloading a high-definition video takes more bandwidth than viewing 35,000 Web pages." And viewing a 10-minute video takes up much less time than viewing those 35,000 pages. McCurry stated that the Internet is "very fragile," revealing that "YouTube carries the same amount traffic now that the entire Internet had in 2000. It needs to be updated."
So the data getting through is dense in the sense of data per second. Think of highway tolls, and imagine a tractor-trailer's costs for highway use versus a car's. Here are three scenarios: the truck can unfairly pay the same, small amount a little car would; the car can unfairly pay the same, large amount the truck would; or the price can be regulated and geared toward the appropriate vehicle. If a company wants to use bigger vehicles that cause more wear and tear, then they agree to pay the extra money. Doesn't this make sense with data flow as well?