Posted February 21, 2014 by Ashton Graves in Editorial

Let’s Talk: Net Neutrality

This is the first in a series of articles we will be posting in order to bring something that you, the reader, might not think is a big deal or could impact your life into a form that you might understand better. Also, I’m sure there will be quips and sarcasm involved so, you know, there is that.

Let’s start with simply asking the question “What is Net Neutrality?”

Wikipedia, shut up this isn’t college, defines it as follows: “Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.”

But…what does that mean for you? Basically it means that no matter what kind of traffic (Netflix, Hulu, Torrents, Online Gaming, Web surfing, etc) passes through your network and out through the internet, you ISP can’t do anything to stop it or slow it down let alone charge you more for the content you’re receiving or sending. The bad news about this? Recently the Net Neutrality law was struck down by the Federal Appeals Court, hooray. I can almost hear you saying “I’m sure this won’t effect me at all”. Won’t it?

If you haven’t noticed your Netflix quality dropping recently then you’re one of the lucky few. Since the beginning of 2013 people have been complaining across the internet that their Netflix speeds, among other services, have been slowing down rapidly and the quality has been degraded. Looking at the Netflix ISP Speed Reports it is obvious that big providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, have been dropping in their speed for a little over the last year. With the Net Neutrality law now being killed, this is surely only going to get worse.

Oh, you can live without Netflix? How do you feel about paying a premium service fee just for accessing it or other sites that might require a lot of bandwidth? What is your already over priced cable bill was to go up in price even more because you wanted to game online, watch youtube unlimited, or even download games to your PC? With most high speed internet providers already implementing data caps, this is not the brightest of futures we’re looking at. With the PC gaming market and Steam growing rapidly, even with consoles offering more and more downloadable content including full games, are we going to have to pay more  for our usage? So far, all signs point to yes.

But with the bad comes the ever so slight light of good in that the entire system could be forced to change up the infrastructure implemented in use today as many other industries, print media/music/film, have had to do before as well. This glimmer of hope is one that is almost completely, in my opinion, crushed by the looming shadow of money hungry corporations which intend to beat competitors into the dust. It’s not just as if everyone in the US could revolt against their cable providers or ISPs, we’d just end up in a country full of people rioting in the streets because they haven’t been able to check Tumblr for a day and a half or send out a tweet about their last bowel movement.

Now, the Netflix issue isn’t exactly a new one, seeing as I reported on it back in October. But with the gaming movement attempting to break into every household in America and the steam boxes on their way, don’t you think games are going to get bigger and more demanding of bandwidth? Just look at Dead Rising 3 for the XBO, it has a 13 gigabyte patch which some people could not even download at one time because of the ISP bandwidth caps in their area being so low. Soon these games for console are going to be coming in on multiple BluRay discs, which for a single disc can hold upwards to 128 GB of information for the BDXL versions. That is for a console and if you’ve ever played a console game and a PC game then you will know the PC version is usually bigger due to lesser restrictions on texture packs and file storage. One seriously huge epic game being downloaded at 128GB? Sure the infrastructure is there to handle it and the speed is most likely there too, but the bandwidth caps could kill us if the ISPs don’t decide that it’s too much of a strain on their network already.

What if they decided to charge you subscription packages for certain websites as they do premium cable channels or perhaps they sold out packages to companies to make sure their content was delivered first and fastest over other sites which would crush the independent area of the internet. It would create a seriously frustrating user experience for something that has been nigh unlimited for ages. I am sure that these are the worst possible case scenarios but with the merger of Comcast and Time Warner being in discussion at this time, it is a valid worry that we should all have. If that merger was to take place, which it 95% won’t due to monopoly laws, we would be in a situation where almost the entirety of the US internet market would be controlled by 3 major player companies.

Do you really think those people have your best interest or the interest of the future in mind? We don’t.

Simpsons did it.

Simpsons did it.

Ashton Graves

The biggest all around Nerd you'll ever meet. I'm internet famous (see http://www.siradio.fm ) and I'm an avid lover of comics, movies, games, and music. I'm a little bit angry and probably a little bit biased but I will always give you something to think about.