Here’s a biased report on net neutrality from the BBC. In it, the author describes internet traffic is being analogous to road traffic. But this is terribly misleading, either by design or incompetence.
A motorway is a terrible analogy for internet traffic. All internet traffic moves at the same speed: i.e. slightly less than the speed of light. The issue is bandwidth, which is not speed.
A better analogy might be a passenger rail service. Traveller neutrality means just that: you can buy as many tickets as you want, you use it wherever your final destination happens to be, no matter how many in your party. Lack of any rules means the train company could arbitrarily prevent some travellers from reaching a particular destination, or charge them more to do so.
For example, if the rail company were paid by Burger Queen to make it harder for people to go to McDougal’s, then travellers heading to McDougal’s could be given tickets that only entitle them to use an older, dirtier, worse equipped train; or there may be fewer trains timetabled on which those tickets are valid. Maybe they only run Monday through Thursday.
The chances of the customer experiencing this and subsequently shunning McDougal’s in order to avoid the ignomy of travelling fourth class are greatly increased. McDougal’s sales fall, Burger Queen’s anticompetitive investment was successful.
If you pointed at your monitor and shouted “They can’t do that!” you’d be right. A passenger rail service is one type of essential public service, or critical infrastructure. Treating customers in the way described would be erecting barriers to competition.
I hope it’s obvious that this is in no way like making trucks travel slower or restricting the lanes on which they can travel ... this is in fact a very good description of European motorways. But those restrictions on heavy goods vehicles are not made for reasons of competition, but safety. The BBC’s analogy is wholly unrepresentative of the situation with internet traffic.
Now let’s test the passenger rail analogy by applying it to ISPs and phone/cable companies. Let’s group them as “internet carriers”. If such an internet carrier has an HD video service, then they may decide that they will throttle traffic from third-party video companies such as Google (YouTube) or Amazon. The internet company is restricting its competitors from showing HD video.
Worse, the internet carrier may block all videos marked with certain key words. This becomes an issue of censorship when Google carries a video with content that happens to go against the wishes of the internet carrier company. Say the internet carrier is a religious organization that prevents videos about evolution from being shown. Or it’s a science-savvy company that prevents videos about religion from being shown. Neither situation is a good one. Neither side is in the right. Neither side is in the wrong.
The only way to resolve this conflict of interest is to compel those companies which seek to provide critical infrastructure to act like it. Just as rail companies should never be allowed to impede their passengers from reaching destinations they don’t like, internet carriers - ISPs and cable/phone companies - should never be allowed to prevent their users from consuming content they don’t like.
Jeez, but what if the BBC – one of the world’s largest and best funded media companies – had a vested interest in making sure its readers were misinformed over net neutrality? What then? Might they post nonsense articles?
The #netneutrality day of action is 2017-07-12. Visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12/