Tuesday, December 07, 2010

once again. repeat. and again.

We had a discussion about net neutrality the other night. X played the role of expert and I played the role of me. First of all, ‘net neutrality’ is a horrible catchphrase for this issue but I can’t do much about that etymology. As far as I can sort out, there’s not a sane way around the content vs. network provider battle where the network provider comes out on top. If we believe that once we are ‘online’ then we should have unlimited access to the internet then the content providers win this battle. The prime players in the current battle are Comcast and Netflix (let them stand-in for any combination you choose, as X does) and the areas debated involve Netflix streamers using more of the transmission space than others: Comcast feels they should either be paid more by Netflix or the customers, or should be able to throttle high-use data/customers. The basic premise of net neutrality is that the backbone (means of information movement) doesn’t have the right to limit, control, or alter data delivery. Of course, Comcast built the network and set it up for triple play connectivity (internet, phone, and cable) into our homes but now can see the writing on the wall where we all cancel our cable (the phone is nearly gone) and only have internet for all our communication needs. They, unfortunately, have loads of infrastructure and costs invested and want to continue delivery dominance at the prices they desire.

It seems the only out here is for Comcast to decide on a price they feel meets their need for internet delivery and simply charge that number to every customer. From that point forward they are playing the market game that’s controlled by the existing demand and consumer forces. The final part of this freedom mystery is that, as always, we know how this will end. We know the final result will be that all of our needs will eventually – sooner rather than later – be met via the internet. There’s no way to stop it, whether Comcast likes that or not, and we’ve been down the road before: music, books, movies, etc. Just because you control the means of transmission or production doesn’t mean you’ll have it forever: you had a nice run now move on. I’d guess that we fought this exact same battle when the printing press and movable type became the norm five centuries ago. Same battles, different technologies.

I’m almost done with my autumn quarter – just two more classes after tonight – and will then have about three weeks off before kicking off again in January.

L. got her PSAT scored back, she’s smart enough.

It’s cold and the fireplace is now operational on a nearly full-time basis in the evenings.

Our cats are still lumps of uselessness.

All is well.

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