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008 - Net Neutrality _Final_

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					                                                                                            Gable 1

Keith Gable

Ms. Dreyer

English 1213-007

13 March 2007

                                          Net Neutrality

       Recently, there has been a major Internet debate over Net Neutrality, which is proposed

government legislation that would prevent broadband service providers from dividing the

Internet into a “fast lane” for companies that pay extra and a “slow lane” for companies that just

pay the required bandwidth costs (Baumann Online Database). Net neutrality is definitely

something that we, as Internet users, must demand from our Internet Service Providers and

Congressmen to ensure the Internet remains reliable, fair, accessible, and useful.

       Alaska Senator Ted Stevens once described the Internet as a “series of tubes”, and “when

they get clogged, when you put your message in, it gets delayed by ... enormous amounts of

material” (“Ted Stevens on Net Neutrality”). This is the reason that telecommunications

companies want to create a fast lane. They want to be able to offer incredibly fast Internet to

companies that pay a premium price, guaranteeing them a higher priority when they put their

message in. This sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, since telecommunications companies

are not wanting to increase the amount of available bandwidth, companies not on the fast lane

will be given a much lower quality of service (Passmore Online Database). Take, for example,

two search engines, like Google and Yahoo. If Google refuses to pay to be on the fast lane, or if

the telecommunications companies won't give Google access to the fast lane, but Yahoo is

allowed on and does pay for it, Google will become unusable at times because traffic destined to

Yahoo is given priority (Baumann). Recently, there have been instances of this kind of traffic
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shaping at most Internet Service Providers (ISPs). To ensure that all customers get treated

equally and get what they pay for, customers utilizing too much bandwidth are forced to slow

down for customers that have a short burst of high bandwidth (Passmore). There are serious

quality of service issues involved with this. For example, if a company can only provide 3

megabits, but sells a 5 megabit service, the extra two megabits get tossed between users, giving

them all a lower quality of service in general (Passmore). Net Neutrality would prevent this kind

of traffic shaping from affecting users; they will experience a greater quality of service.

       Having Net Neutrality is also important to keep the Internet fair. One company might

provide a service that is very useful, works well, and is exactly what a business needs. But

because another company's product is given a higher quality of service than this company's

product, a business has to pick the product that does not meet all of their requirements because

the first company's product does not have the reliability needed. In the case of smaller Internet

startup companies, it might cause their company to go under. Instead of a democracy or a

socialism, the Internet becomes a plutocracy, or a government ruled by money (“Plutocracy”

Online). This cannot be positive for any user on the Internet, because companies they deal with

may be using software they don't want to use just to ensure their users get reliable access to their

website.

       The Internet must also remain accessible to rural or remote users, and because rural users

are only a fraction of their customers, they don't necessarily have to treat them equally. Net

Neutrality legislation would help rural users get better services, like high speed Internet or higher

quality phone lines for dial-up connections. In some areas, the phone line quality is so bad that

dial-up connections are not possible. If telecommunications companies are permitted to give

higher-paying companies better access to their bandwidth, rural users will almost certainly be left
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in the slow lane no matter what, and with all of the other congestion in the slow lane, will

experience even worse than poor connections to the Internet.

       Internet Service Providers might also have hidden business motives that negatively affect

customers. Conglom-O Corporation might make a terrible and useless search engine, but may

have enough money to give an Internet Service Provider to ensure that they accidentally

(sarcasm implied) drop packets to competitor's search engine that is actually better. If this is

extended to services that are gaining a foothold in the market, like voice over IP (VoIP), an ISP

can force its users to use whatever VoIP service they want by altering their quality of service

rules. In certain cases, this is happening already. For example, Cox allocates dedicated

bandwidth for their own voice services, which gets around the quality of service issues

(Passmore).

       What if this happened with extremely popular teen sites? Cox could make their own

social networking site to compete with MySpace, allocate special bandwidth to their own

Coxhole, and give MySpace a lower quality of service. Sure, MySpace could pay more money to

get on the fast lane, but Cox might still not give it preferential treatment over their own service.

This seems like an antitrust matter, but it is perfectly legal presently. And, with the current

Congress's attitude on the subject, it seems like it will remain legal for some time.

       Most of the current Internet problems can be easily solved. Almost all of the quality of

service issues can be solved by slowing everybody down. If an ISP can't provide 5 megabits, but

attempts to give it to all of their customers, the entire network becomes congested and slower

than if they would have sold the customers the bandwidth they could provide. So, the first thing I

propose is for ISPs to stop overselling bandwidth. Second, they should increase their capacity in

any way possible – even if it means turning down customers. Any trustworthy independent ISP
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would tell you if they could not support another user; so should corporate ISPs. The third thing

they could do would be to actually do quality of service throttling. Instead of making it throttle in

a manner that makes an ISP more money, they should throttle bandwidth in a way that gives each

customer an equal share of the possible bandwidth. If a user is hogging all of the bandwidth, and

it is affecting other users, it should be okay to slow that user down for the benefit of the other

users. In the same way, slowing down certain kinds of traffic, like BitTorrent, to give adequate

bandwidth for the voice over IP services provided by competitors is okay as well.

       Opponents of Net Neutrality argue that Net Neutrality might turn the Internet into one big

slow lane (Baumann). They are right. If we keep the current infrastructure and the current

practice of selling more bandwidth than we possibly have, the Internet will become one giant

two-lane highway. Once ISPs stop overselling bandwidth, we will no longer be trying to cram a

fleet of doublewide trailers down a two lane highway. Instead, we will be cramming hundreds of

compact cars, which move faster and occupy less space. And, if the two lane highway was

converted into a four-lane highway, the Internet could be faster than it is right now, even if the

numbers are smaller. Additionally, Net Neutrality legislation cannot outlaw quality of service

measures entirely, unless the legislation also permits ISPs to give customers the name and

address of anyone hogging all of the bandwidth, and also includes a provision to make assault

and battery legal in cases where the person assaulted was using all of the bandwidth. People are

not always considerate when they don't understand that their actions affect others, and this must

be accounted for.

        With all of these peculiarities aside, it should seem important to get Net Neutrality made

 into law. There are countless websites that offer the ability to complain to a Congressman, and

one good one is SaveTheInternet.com. Since Internet Service Providers can implement any kind
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  of preferential treatment that they want right now, getting any kind of positive Net Neutrality

 bills signed into law will do nothing but help. Most importantly, every Internet user, voting age

 or not, should take a stand and let their Internet Service Provider, friends, family, community,

  and the world know exactly how they feel about Net Neutrality and why they think it should

                                    become law.Works Cited:

Baumann, Michael. “Net Neutrality: the Internet's World War.” Information Today Sept. 2006.

       Business Source Elite. EBSCO. OSU-Okmulgee Library, Okmulgee. 27 Feb. 2007.

       Keyword: Net Neutrality.

Passmore, David. “Net Neutrality Technical Challenges.” Business Communications Review

       Apr. 2006. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. OSU-Okmulgee Library, Okmulgee. 27 Feb.

       2007. Keyword: Net Neutrality.

“Plutocracy.” Def. 1. Wiktionary. 6 Mar. 2007 <http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plutocracy>.

“Ted Stevens on Net Neutrality.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central.

				
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