Thursday, August 5, 2010

Neutrality, Neutrality

I praised Google back when they stood up to China (though they eventually stepped back), so it's only fair to criticize them here. Google is working with Verizon ISP to deliver content from sites such as YouTube to Verizon internet subscribers faster than other content (commentary here).

This is bad. First, it sets the precedent that ISPs can select which information gets to you the fastest, and, as appears to be the case here, raise prices if you want a plan that gets you this selective speed up. Imagine calling up Comcast to get a cable internet plan, but now you have to choose if you want a premium plan (that comes at a premium) that gets you YouTube at speeds that make it bearable or not. Secondly, it allows ISPs to exercise control over how information on the web is delivered to you -- if at all. This is plain dangerous, as control of information and knowledge is equivalent to control of the population that requires this knowledge in order to make decisions and self govern.

Is this really a tyrannical power grab by Verizon and Google? No, they just want to increase profits. However, it is a step in the wrong direction, especially by Google, who has been fighting for Net Neutrality for some time. The greatest aspect of the web is its openness. When ISPs can filter it as they want, we lose that freedom.


  1. I'd love to know more technical details on exactly what they mean by "speeding up" content. I mean...YouTube videos, for example, stream at a certain bitrate depending on the resolution. Either your connection is fast enough for it or it isn't. Are we talking say....6mb internet with 10mb "google speed" or something? Or are they just going to put QoS on your connection for Google? Even without any slippery slopes this sounds like a bad idea to me....

  2. We already do pay for services that cost different amounts for different pipe sizes. This has been a staple of the high speed ISPs almost since their inception.

    I do believe preference should be given to certain types of data communication, as that is the basis for Quality of Service (QoS) in packet switched systems like the internet. I _might_ even support it at a large scale, such that streaming services get to use bigger pipes than async services do. Though I do recall that not too long ago Comcast was throttling bittorrent speeds, so certainly there needs to be some standards and oversight.

    I think the potentially serious issue here is if an ISP begins providing different levels of service within content types. For example, as was rumored here, giving preference to YouTube over other streaming video services is wrong.

    I did notice that Google made an official statement denying the whole affair anyway.