Cutting the Crap on Net Neutrality Scare Tactics

Look, I don’t know whether are people are actually ignorant of what net neutrality is and how it works, or they’re just pretending to be, to raise money from the extremely gullible. Either way, we have to get smarter about this.

I received this email from The Daily Kos this morning (links removed):

Milt, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)may be on the verge of a huge mistake that would hand over the internet to the 1%.On May 15, the FCC will consider a rule that would create a new “pay-to-play” fast lane which would allow big corporations to pay an extra fee to get their content prioritized to users. Independent, grassroots sites like Daily Kos would be left to suffer in an internet slow lane.

Please, sign the petition to save Net neutrality by urging the FCC to scrap their horrible “pay-to-play” proposal.

Let’s be clear—this isn’t about better service of streaming video or faster broadband speeds. This is about broadband providers being able to create another way to make additional profit from charging more for access to the internet without any new investment to expand service or speed.

This would lead to more corporate sponsorship and control over the internet, which would lead to grassroots, independent sites—like Daily Kos—being relegated to the slow lane.

This goes against everything that is great about the internet. Please sign the petition to save Net neutrality by urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to scrap this horrible proposal.

Keep fighting,
Rachel Colyer, Daily Kos

P.S. Please help keep Daily Kos strong by chipping in $3.


ALL of the above is crap. Here’s why.

To believe any of the above, you must have absolutely no concept of how the Internet, and your access to it, works. To believe there is a “fast lane” and a “slow lane” and that being in a “slow lane” puts some websites at a major disadvantage indicates that you believe that the Internet is “magic,” or something similar.

When you call up a website by typing in a URL or clicking a link, the page you are looking at goes through a series of servers and points in the milliseconds it takes to get to you. How fast it gets there depends on a number of factors. If a lot of people are calling up the same website or page, it can slow things down. If overall traffic is heavy, that will slow things down as well. The speed of access also depends on what service tier you pay for. It’s not like everything on the Internet now moves at the same speed, anyway. If you’re pulling up a diary at the Daily Kos, you’ll probably get it instantaneously, because there isn’t much to get; perhaps a megabyte or two. On the other hand, if you’re buying a movie from iTunes, it might take anywhere from minutes to hours to download, because the size of that target is about 3 gigabytes. Internet traffic is not egalitarian, and never has been.

In order to believe the above email crapola, you’d have to believe that everyone gets the same Internet sites at the same speed. Of course, you know that’s not true if you ever had dial-up years ago and then switched to broadband. Some folks have a phone or tablet that operates on a 3G network, while others have one that operates on a 4G LTE network. Some folks have cheap broadband at home with a download speed of 1.5 mbps, while others have supercharged turbo cable modems that can get upwards of 40 mbps. Still others pay a few hundred per month for T1 Internet access, which can download that iTunes film in seconds. In other words, while a lot of people speak in egalitarian language, they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Or they do know what they’re talking about, but they’re counting on you not understanding it, so they can fleece you.

All Internet traffic generally occupies the same space. That means the Netflix movie or Hulu TV show you’re watching is sharing bandwidth with The Daily Kos. if a whole bunch of people are streaming House of Cards the day it comes out, your access to Daily Kos will be slower. The combination of all of this data coming through the “pipeline” (it’s not really a pipe, of course) at the same time is necessarily going to slow everyone down.

The FCC’s new proposal allows ISPs to make deals with certain websites, like Netflix, to prioritize their traffic. That concept has nothing to do with net neutrality. The fact is, now Netflix is slowing everyone else down, and as their streaming service becomes more popular, that effect will be exacerbated. Net neutrality is about making sure every website out there can be accessed by everyone. And now, with the proliferation of streaming music and video services, as well as the increasing popularity of sites that sell movie and music downloads, the Internet is becoming very crowded. Sites like Netflix already slow down sites like The Daily Kos. These agreements, where companies like Netflix get priority on Comcast’s network, are actually more likely to free up other, more mundane traffic, like news sites and blogs, because they won’t be crowding them out. Again, streaming House of Cards takes up a hell of a lot more bandwidth than reading the Daily Kos, so it’s possible putting Netflix on a different path could speed other sites up.

As long as no one is trying to throttle, stifle or block certain Internet traffic, there’s no problem. And nothing about these prioritization agreements does that. In fact, the rest of the Internet could get faster. So, if you’re following this line of hysteria, and allowing Daily Kos or the myriad other sites scare you into throwing some money their way, you’re part of the problem. The Daily Kos isn’t going anywhere just because a few high-bandwidth services make a deal.