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Friday, August 3, 2007

Net Neutrality

As I was browsing through the Internet (actually the links on my Mutiny Universe biography page), I stumbled onto a link on Pearl Jam's activism page: A website called Rock the Net. Apparently really cool bands 'n stuff are for keeping the Net neutral.

And that reminded me of one of my posts on Mutiny Universe's ill-fated discussion forums, from October 31, 2006:

This may not be the most glamourous of socio-political causes, but if you're reading this RIGHT NOW, this definitely concerns you. (Keep in mind that I do not profess to be an expert on this topic, as I'm still gathering knowledge about it.)

It's called Network Neutrality. Basically, it means that over any given network--in our case, the World Wide Web--there is equal treatment to all sources and all data. It's like a freeway without a carpool lane. Videos, emails, music files, and computer viruses (unfortunately but necessarily) travel the same road at basically the same speed limit (the actual speed to your computer depends on your connection, obviously). In the same way, big websites like Google and Yahoo! must also observe the same speed limit as small websites like Mutiny Universe.

My belief is that Net Neutrality is a GOOD THING. Unlike the real world (location, location, location!), this virtual world is an equal-level marketplace (relatively speaking). It seems that true supply-and-demand, non-monopolistic capitalism flourishes under Net Neutrality. The obvious examples of the little guys becoming the big guys on the Net are Amazon.com, Google, MySpace, and YouTube (which Google bought a couple of weeks ago). Because they had the same opportunity to reach your computer as the already-established, wealthier companies, they had an opportunity to succeed. Opportunity doesn't automatically guarantee success, but they did succeed.

Those in opposition to Net Neutrality cite a concern that a free-for-all Information Highway will lead to perpetual rush-hour traffic. Some in this camp propose that there should be specialized lanes for video, audio, text, etc. Some also suggest that virtual toll roads would decrease congestion. Meaning, websites using these premium roads will load faster onto your computer than others. It is also possible that the non-toll road websites will "time out" on your web browser and never load at all.

The problems with charging a toll for the proposed premium road are obvious. Whoever is in charge of the virtual toll road controls the World Wide Web. Small companies cannot afford the premium as already-established, large corporations, so the playing field becomes analogous to the real world marketplace. There will be no more MySpace-type successes anymore; rather, there will be the same old, same old. Furthermore, the gatekeepers of the toll road (most likely telecommunications corporations--phone and cable companies) get to decide who can use the toll road. They might filter out voices due to political affilitation, ideology, and whatever suits their agenda. Bloggers, some of whom rival CNN and Fox News on the Web, will be silenced--effective censorship--if and when they are barred from the virtual toll road.

Anyway, keep your ear to the ground when it comes to issues like these. And remember to vote. For more information on Net Neutrality, you can go to the most dangerous/fantastic source for community information/disinformation: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality). You can probably say bye-bye to the Wikipedia if the gatekeepers have their way.

Cheers...alright,
Ryan

Anyway, I went out on a limb and signed Mutiny Universe up as a supporter of Net Neutrality on Rock the Net (my band, The Society of Gloves, also signed up). As it is, we're still one of the little guys, who like to support our peers (i.e., our podcast)...and Net Neutrality will only serve to help us on our journey.

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