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Maybe the loss of net neutrality means opportunities
Let’s be honest, the main factor behind eliminating net neutrality is pure greed and control.
First, Internet Service Providers (ISP) like any other business, sometimes prefer not to invest in better infrastructure until they either absolutely have to such as seeing a competitive reason for doing so or when there are simply too many complaints.
There is little accountability for outages (until now) that end up costing consumers, businesses and organizations and outages are perhaps at times admitted to when they are simply too large to hide. Outages cost consumers and businesses in countless ways including the amount of time we have to spend on troubleshooting and calls to provider support lines.
For an ISP in an area with limited competition, there’s not much reason beyond cranky customer support calls, to upgrade the infrastructure. Without rules such as net neutrality, it becomes easier to throttle back access to high bandwidth sites or users who go beyond an acceptable usage level but worse, it can be quietly imposed which isn’t fair to consumers.
Now the talk is that providers could come up with premium packages for increased web access or may end up forcing online services to pay fees which in turn will trickle back down the consumers. As always, these moves end up costing us all, not only in terms of creating monopolies that limit our choices but also in that as these companies grow, they keep trying to make it harder for new initiatives to come to life, offering competitive services.
As consumers, we hold much of the blame for our lack of interest in this issue, hoping that others will stand up and fight for net neutrality while we’re busy streaming movies on our phones and hanging out on social media. It’s easy to think it won’t happen until it does.
So, what should we be worried about?
No rules in place not only allows providers to throttle bandwidth or charge more but it also opens the door to being paid to limit or block access to sites and information. It may start small or not seemingly affect us initially, but at what point do we create a tiered system of access to the Internet where everything is micro controlled by multiple companies before you ever get to it.
Imagine an ISP being paid to block information and in turn pays search engines and others that control access to certain areas or demographics? Things could get out of hand very quickly.
Having the ability to prevent people from voicing opinions, enjoying freedom of speech and sharing information should not be overlooked. While it may not be in the ISP’s interest to block customers, if there is enough money being paid to make these efforts worthwhile, these things could easily be done.
So, where does this leave those who would like to buy services from companies that aren’t going to earn their keep through such methods? The answer could be with cities, communities and or consumers working together to bypass local Internet providers.
Telcos and broadband companies do all they can to prevent competition in their areas which is something will may need to be addressed. Assuming palms are not being greased in local government, new network operators can work toward getting permissions and what ever permits may be needed in order to establish their own private Internet offerings.
Citizens may also need to stand up to possible push-back from their own city officials and typically that can be done by voting those who don’t help out of office.
The Internet is just one network
The Internet is just a network of interconnected networks and machines. There have been many propositions and even efforts such as mesh networks and others to build new networks. Many already exist. Of course, we dilute the incredible amounts of information we have access to by going down this road and eventually, someone will tie all these different networks together too.
Before all that happens, the first step is to get control of what we already have and bypass the local operators if they are going to play the access control game. There needs to be a movement in every community to starve these companies of the easy money they make on consumer grade best effort delivery Internet services while at the same time, creating an opportunity for new jobs. We could easily get back to the early days of smaller, local ISPs that work very hard to keep their customers happy.
Community based Internet services
This may not be an option in all areas but there are many locations which are well connected enough that a person, groups of people or city could purchase third party connectivity from any number of brokers/vendors which come with SLA.
Many cities are now bundling their own fiber networks when construction begins in new neighborhoods or have started doing so regardless. Copper can be provisioned with the local Telco and wireless can also be used where direct connection is not possible. Wireless speeds are continuously getting faster and is much less expensive than dealing with digging up the streets.
Net neutrality, one area at a time
Technicians could work out what would be required for X number of people using services such as NetFlix and others to come up with a reasonable per user bandwidth, price and of course overall throughput.
Data plans are a money making opportunity for ISPs which private services could potentially eliminate. Making sure that everyone gets what they pay for would also be based on certain criteria for a customer base. Heavy users would either have to pay more as usual or continue on with their current ISP.
However, instead of access to information and sites being limited in certain ways, everyone would have full and open access without concern that the local provider is somehow limiting them. No quiet throttling, no unfair slowdowns because there isn’t enough throughput to handle all of the customers. Best of all, no provider playing around with what you can or cannot get access to, everything would be above board and transparent.
Well, that’s the hope at least and it starts by having the right people in place with such efforts.