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The way Net Neutrality should be

There’s been a bunch of talk on the news since the ruling a few months ago that the Federal Communications Commission had over stepped their bounds in enforcing restrictions on the internet. Basically the judge said that Congress hasn’t granted the FCC the power to create and enforce certain rules and regulations. Now there’s a scramble in legislation to craft powers over what the FCC can and can’t do in regulating Internet Service Providers.

On one side there are companies who would like the ability to have their traffic on the internet be prioritized and are willing to pay for it. It would probably start with intra company communication, but would probably end up with companies paying to have their customer facing websites loading faster than their competitors websites.

On another side of the debate is the ISP’s who are saying that a few users are stressing out their networks with file sharing and they want to throttle Peer to Peer file sharing.

On the other end are the internet purists who don’t want the ISP’s investigating the packets which are currently going across their servers and networks. Part of this group are people who want to continue on using the internet for illegal activities and don’t want their identity compromised to the authorities.  Some of these activities are bad, and some are good. Say for example the illegal activity is spreading accurate information about the benefits of democracy and free markets.

Here is my thinking on the matter.

ISP’s major complaint is that they want to throttle users because file sharing is stressing their system. To do this, they want to inspect the packets and see what type of data is being transferred in the packets. I don’t think that this is the best solution to that problem. What they should do is charge heavy users more. Right now the competition between ISP’s is based on the speed of the internet connection provided to customers. There is no mention of how much volume their customers get. So at the moment it’s unlimited. If there really are users using too much bandwidth, charge them for it. Rewrite the contracts to say that the connection will have a certain speed and a monthly allowance of megabytes. It’s just like cell phone minutes. ISP’s can then have offerings of X megabytes free a month and fines for exceeding the cap. They could even have off peak and on peak hours.

In this model the government (which is hopefully representing the people) can enforce that ISP’s (and hence the government) aren’t inspecting the packets going across their servers. All they’ll get to do is charge for how much the users are using their service. It’s in the best interest of us, as citizens, to be able to keep our anonymity. And it’s good practice to charge for usage.

As for those who want to make certain types of content faster than other content, well too bad. They’ll have to invest in making the internet as a whole faster. It’s worth it to keep all traffic moving across the pipes the same speed. For one thing, it reduces the overhead of moving the packets if each node in the network doesn’t need to inspect every packet and deprioritize most of the packets coming across.

So, my proposal naturally creates a model of ISP’s charging every time a packet leaves their network. This could create the problem of ISP’s starting to charge for content coming into their network. If ISP’s did that, they would then pass the cost of interacting with other networks onto the consumer. You (as a consumer) could end up with a monthly bill where accessing some websites would cost more than other websites based off of the networks that exist between you and the websites servers. In addition to this, the ISP’s would create and run tools and processes for tracking all of this. Creating and running these would cost resources, which would of course be passed onto customers as part of the cost of doing business. So for the good of everyone, doing such, should be illegal. It would border on packet investigating, even if it wouldn’t be investigating the entire contents of the packet.

ISP’s are in a position where they would be tempted to charge servers for connecting to the internet. I find this odd, because it’s the servers which create demand for the ISP’s product. ISP’s could cut off the supply of content in attempt to save a few pennies. Should this start to happen, I don’t think that the internet would go away, but it could create a situation where the cost of entry is so high that no new companies enter the world wide web. Again, something else which is bad for all of us. One of the major benefits of the internet is the ability for a startup to grow as fast as they can. The low bar of entry has been a blessing for us all.

Proponents of those arguing for a less neutral internet (than the one we have today) say that Spam makes up so much of the internet, that if ISP’s would start investigating packets, that they could throttle the Spam down and it would free up resources for all of us. Well, the email has to start as a client somewhere. If the clients start getting charged for the amount of megabytes they’re pushing the price of Spam would increase, causing the volume to Spam to go down.

Government should regulate that ISP’s are not allowed to inspect packets, they are not allowed for charging other networks for the volume of data transferred between servers, but they should be allowed to charge for the volume of data being pushed to clients. This would address everyone’s concerns (except for those who are using a lot of bandwidth right now). As US citizens we don’t want the Postal Service inspecting our packages, and similarly we should demand that ISP’s not inspect our packets.

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