Net Neutrality – Reality vs Imagination

What is the issue with Net Neutrality?

Here’s an analogy:

Internet backbone contracts between the big players that move the bulk of data between cities and nations, all assume something called “Balanced Peering” or “Symmetric Data.” Think of it like a two-way street between towns. Both sides cover their own costs for a two way street, and don’t charge each other a dime based on the assumption that both will benefit equally.

Now, what happens when a little village “Small” starts mining tons of rocks and sending them out all over the nation, but nobody’s sending traffic their direction? Yes, they need one road that can handle the traffic, but their big neighbor “Big” ends up carrying huge volumes of truck traffic on many long roads, passing the traffic on to others, causing wear and tear, etc. Costs skyrocket for their neighbor “Big”, which suddenly is pushing unbalanced traffic to its other neighbors as well. Yet, by contract, “Big” can’t charge “Small” a dime… except for the fact that the terms of the contract have been broken.

So, “Big” offers to set up extra lanes that can handle the traffic, and asks “Small” to cover the cost.

Hopefully you can see where this is going. What I described above is what the “Fast Lane” internet issue is really all about. It has nothing to do with politics. Nothing to do with good/bad content. It’s a simple business contract issue.

Unfortunately, activists and politicians have turned it into a political issue.

So, down to real vocabulary, real facts, real references.

The key issue: Unbalanced Peering. Sounds pretty technical but not actually hard to understand. This is basically all about Netflix (and the partners they use to push data onto the Internet.)

First, a link to a recent (Mar 14 ’14) report on the biggest bandwidth users. Netflix is responsible for over 1/3 of all Internet bandwidth in the US during the busy “prime time” hours! Somewhere I saw a graph showing the trend. http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/netflix-youtube-bandwidth-usage-1201179643/

Now remember that ALL “backbone” agreements are based on the principle of Balanced Peering: A and B carry each other’s traffic, and do so at no charge since there’s a balance in each direction.

If Netflix is pushing 1/3 of all traffic of the whole US Internet, in ONE direction, that means they are not handling any significant traffic in the OTHER direction. And so, the people they hand traffic to are (by contract) having to carry Netflix traffic essentially for free.

THAT is why ISP’s want to charge Netflix for the traffic.

It has nothing to do with competition or throttling some people.

Here’s the actual data and numbers, by an inside independent expert: http://blog.streamingmedia.com/2014/02/heres-comcast-netflix-deal-structured-numbers.html

And below is a description of how NetFlix has been strong-arming your ISP to demand no-cost access to ISP customers (thus forcing ALL customers to subsidize the cost of the few.) In reality, NetFlix was demanding no-charge access to last-mile ISP infrastructure, to place their CDN on-site. In other words, they want ALL ISP customers to subsidize the cost of the CDN being on-site.

And if the ISP does not agree, NetFlix claims the ISP does not support HD video.

Here are the links on this… and notice that these are business, not political links. This is NOT a political issue.
http://www.multichannel.com/blog/bit-rate/netflixs-version-net-neutrality-its-entitled-non-neutral-treatment/323997
http://www.forbes.com/sites/bretswanson/2014/03/27/netflix-wants-the-internets-benefits-without-its-costs/

 

Note: the following link is a good introduction to the topic. However, I’ve moved it down here because it is from one of the corporate players in this “game” so some people would be less likely to trust anything coming from such a source:
http://publicpolicy.verizon.com/blog/entry/unbalanced-peering-and-the-real-story-behind-the-verizon-cogent-dispute