Net Neutrality has had its highs and lows in the news over the years as various bits of legislation have been proposed, and the FCC has made several rulings.
Recently I've been hit with a rash of questions on net neutrality based on concerns that a Donald Trumppresidency will have a great impact on net neutrality.
The person asking the questions seems have some sense that Donald Trump will be overturning net neutrality and shutting down the internet. I don't understand the comments that Donald Trump wants to "shut down the internet." This rash of questions on net neutrality is an interesting study in the panic and paranoia surrounding politics.
I've updated my core reference on the Guru 42 Universe explaining the basic concepts, check it out: Internet equality and net neutrality explained in simple terms. I have attempted to remove the paranoia and politics from questions as best I can addressing the politics of technology here on my blog.
Net neutrality: what are we fighting for?
Net neutrality is about controlling the flow of traffic on the highway system known as the internet. Under the current rules of net neutrality, everyone who uses the highway pays the same toll.
Comcast is an internet service provider that controls a lot of bandwidth, and they are also a large provider of content that uses the bandwidth. Comcast owns national broadcast network channels such as NBC regional Comcast SportsNets. Comcast also owns many local channels. With net neutrality that means if you are streaming a video from a company that Comcast owns it is treated the same way a streaming a video from one of Comcast's competitors. That means Comcast could not charge more for streaming videos from content providers that are not owned by Comcast. That also means once the traffic is on the highway, they all share the same lanes of the highway. Comcast could not have the streaming videos from companies owned by Comcast use faster high-speed lanes, while streaming videos from companies not owned by Comcast would use older or slower more congested lanes of traffic.
The control of the use of the internet will always be a battleground in the United States. It is very similar to the history of radio, the first form of mass communications. Since the very beginning of radio, the U.S. government has tried to control radio. The U.S. Government seized control of radio for the "good of the country" during WWI and seized all amateur radio. After WWI the government created the monopoly called the "Radio Trust" to manage the use of radio. The company RCA was basically a government created monopoly for the control of radio patents.
The FCC was later created to manage radio as it became more and more commercial. Although much has changed since 1934, a lot of the argument now going on regarding net neutrality is based on the premise of the Communications Act of 1934, in that the FCC has the power to manage internet access in the same way they have been managing telephone and radio since 1934.
Which presidential candidate will have the greatest impact on net neutrality?
I have been asked questions on Donald Trump overturning net neutrality and shutting down websites. There are two different and unrelated issues. Shutting down websites because you don't like what they have to say, or what they are selling is a completely different topic from net neutrality. In explaining how net neutrality works I use the analogy of controlling traffic on the highway.
In my analogy the web hosting company is simply renting you a vehicle to use on the highway. They don't care, (as long as it is legal), how you use the vehicle. The companies running the highway system, like Comcast, are not focused on controlling every small vehicles, as much as they are the very large vehicles, the companies that deliver the large packages, such as streaming media.
Have you ever used a toll road on a motor vehicle highway where you paid a fee to use it? Sometimes the fees vary by what size vehicle you are driving. But how would you feel if the toll was cheaper for people who drove Ford's or Chevy's? Would that be fair? Would it be fair to make one brand of cars use a congested part of the highway, while Ford's and Chevy's got to use a more modern fast lane?
Could Trump twist the concept to use net neutrality to segregate traffic in other ways? Maybe we could get into a debate over whether it would be fair to charge foreign-made cars a higher toll than American made cars? Trump's views on net neutrality are as twisted as the people who fear him getting elected, net neutrality regulations have nothing to do with the content of the internet.
Hillary Clinton’s platform says she would continue to back net neutrality rules recently instated by the FCC and supported by President Barack Obama. That sounds pretty straight forward, doesn't it? Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, her actions don't match the words. Controlling bandwidth for the super large Comcast presents an economic advantage. One of the biggest opponents of net neutrality is Comcast, who has the most to gain by breaking down the current net neutrality rules.
Comcast executive vice president David Cohen hosted a $2,700-a-plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. NBC Universal (owned by Comcast), as well as News Corporation, Turner Broadcasting and Thomson Reuters are among more than a dozen media organizations that have made charitable contributions to the Clinton Foundation in recent years. Saying that you "back net neutrality rules" while having Comcast as a major supporter, would seem to be a contradiction in terms. Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, see links below on some connections to Comcast.
There is too much politics involved in net neutrality. Why did the government allow Comcast to own so many content providers, and acquire so many cable companies? Why was the Comcast - Universal merger not more vigorously opposed?
Does it matter who wins? No. The internet will not live or die based on the outcome of the next presidential election, and the fight for control will be an ongoing battle regardless of who wins.
Links to learn more from the Guru 42 Universe:
News Articles on Comcast and politics:
Comcast Rolls Over for Hillary: Comcast executive vice president David Cohen hosted a $2,700-a-plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Comcast's Cohen to hold fundraiser for Hillary Clinton: "Those who donate $50,000 or more will have access to a private reception with the candidate."
Connect with Tom Peracchio on Google