Monday, June 2, 2014

Net Neutrality With Layers

There is a lot of discussion about Net Neutrality flying around with basically two sides to it. Side one is the belief that the Internet should be completely open, uncensored, and this includes bandwidth speed not just content. Side two is where companies can pay for a "fast lane" or basically premium bandwidth through the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) networks.

For example Netflix that uses up almost half of the bandwidth on some providers network has recently negotiated with Comcast and other major ISPs to have a "fast lane" or priority for their traffic. This is so that the end users will have a better experience streaming their Netflix videos. The complaint is that it's not fair to give priority to any traffic as it hurts the small companies possibly trying to compete against Netflix.

Here is where the argument begins. And the FCC is in discussions on this as well to decide if this practice is to be allowed or not. Now you have to remember that bandwidth is not free, someone has to pay for it. If not the Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube's of the world then the consumer is going to have to make up for the extra costs. To compound the issue the companies typically providing bandwidth to most peoples homes are also making money on providing phone and TV. Consumers are stepping away from these other services more and more every day. Trading home phone service for cell phones and TV for streaming services. What is left for these cable, satellite, fiber, and last mile providers is Internet with massive demand for high quality bandwidth. Whats more is everyone wants it cheap and unlimited.

I say let the free market decide what to do and let the ISPs compete for our business by providing us with the best service at the best price. If you don't like what one ISP provides then go somewhere else.

BUT you say I don't have a choice, or not much of a choice!

So then there is the discussion of treating ISPs like a utility. This would add regulations (a lot I am sure) to an industry that would more than likely have to dramatically raise prices to deal with these regulations.

Well then that is where I get into the "Layers" discussion. I have not heard anyone bring this one up but having a background in networking it makes perfect sense.

For anyone that knows what the OSI layers are the first two are Physical and Data Link. Yes there are 7 layers but for this topic I am only referring to the first two. The physical layer is the infrastructure that you can touch. Copper and fiber as well as all the equipment in between. OK before you technical people tell me that "routers and switches work on layers 1 through 4 and sometimes through 7". I understand that and I am simply referring to the "Physical Layer" as what the data passes through.

Soooooo... lets treat the physical layer as a utility. Now you can regulate the delivery of a product that uses tangible infrastructure. Imagine if there were 6 different power companies all with their own wires. Or 3 water companies with their own pipes. It would be a nightmare to build and maintain all that infrastructure. Right now the only companies that can afford to build infrastructures are very large companies with lots of money. They then allow data over their networks from all over the world and charge their customers for the connectivity to their networks.

Then lets treat the data layer as a free market that is open to whatever businesses want/need to do. With enough competition the consumer will be the winner almost every time. The companies that own the physical networks will charge a fee to get on to their network and ultimately to the consumer. This is basically how it works now except that the billing is not done directly to the data initiator but rather indirectly to a data center for example that has links to many providers.

I am a true believer in the free market place. Ultimately companies are going to do what they want and if any government agency tells them what to do they will find ways around it and/or just charge more money. ISPs will not lose money and will only pass it on to consumers.

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