Badger Blog Alliance

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is an issue that tears at me as much as government attempts to give Microsoft a hard time.

I am a Linux guy (OS/2 before that) and know what it is like to be shut out of computer resources. The only case it really happens to me now is trying to access videos that are in WMF format. That is a MS format and MS keeps how to decode and encode WMF files a secret, i.e. WMF is a closed standard.

The internet on the other hand is run on open standards, that is the hows of writing programs to move data over the internet is accessible to everyone. Go on the Internet and you can find the standards for file transfer protocol (FTP) and you can write your own FTP program. Other open standards may not so easy to obtain (i.e. one may have to pay for them) but in the end the public can access them.

MS has been very closed standard oriented, that way, if you want to access data in a MS format you most likely have to obtain MS software. With open standard files and data, you can usually take your pick from free software (I have yet to pay for a single piece of software on my Linux system at home and I am running the webserver that dominates the internet) to pay for software (e.g. MySQL is free for the download but Oracle is really pricey per license).

Now what is net neutrality? If I understand correctly it is applying Quality of Service (QOS) to the internet as a whole or to major portions of the Internet. Owen can probably go into QOS in a lot more depth than I can, but simply put QOS is prioritizing network traffic.

Lets say your company engages in processing marketing information. Much of the data comes and goes via the Internet. Now, your company makes its living (ergo you do to) by getting that information in from its sources and out to customers via the Internet. The leaders of the company are not going to want the company's ability to access the internet jeopardized by all of its employees streaming in and listening to the Charlie Sykes show. So, in addition to the acceptable use policies the network traffic controllers are set up with QOS. That is the network traffic controllers (aka routers) look at each packet (bundle of information traveling over the internet) and assign a transmission priority to those packets. Now, if the lines get jammed with traffic the routers start to hold back the Charlie Sykes Show and let the traffic the company has deemed most important to flow.

Now if I understand the issues correctly net neutrality means large scale network providers would not be allowed to prioritize traffic based on any criteria, all traffic is the same. That is traffic type A yields tons of profit for Company X. So, of course X would be (who wouldn't?) be tempted to prioritize traffic over its network to favor type A. What this means is if Badger Blog Alliance traffic is not type A traffic then people may from time to time experience slowness in downloading the BBA.

I think one can make analogies with the highway systems and will think it over. Perhaps I can find an industry insider who knows more about all of this.