The penny dropped again for me this Tuesday. I understood why the Net Neutrality issue is critical to every Canadian, and why imho we each need to engage with the issue (more on how, shortly).
Let’s start with an analogy.
What would you think of Canada if large companies like Safeway and Best Buy were able to pay to use our roads and highways, and given unlimited access, whereas the small organic farmers, who couldn’t cough up the $1,000,000 (or whatever) had to make do with the bumpy side roads, and could only use them between 3 – 5am?
What would happen to our economy? Who would get ahead, and who would discover this to be an obstacle that so challenging that they’d give up? And as consumers, what would happen to our choices?
That’s what’s at stake with net neutrality.
We all know we live in the “information age”. Where do you get your information? I’m guessing: the internet. it’s our “information highway”. Who provides the information? Right now, it’s entirely democratic – anyone with news to share, ideas to spread, or something to sell – like on Craigs List, or Etsy.
But Bell (and you can bet others will follow suit – Shaw and Rogers already do this, just haven’t gone public with the fact) want to change this. How? By “throttling” (they spin it by calling it “shaping” instead) the internet – some people (and in 2009, this will include companies) are held back on the internet, without even knowing it. Their connection is simply …. slower….
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you want to sell your jewelry on etsy (for those who don’t know, it’s similar to craigslist, for people to sell their hand-made crafts). One implication could be: etsy doesn’t pay extra, so they are lower priority to the internet service providers (Bell, Shaw etc.). When I visit etsy to try to buy something, the connection is slow and possibly I give up and go visit another site.
Here’s an even more direct implication. Many of you use Skype. Bell, Rogers and Shaw already *can* throttle (slowing the connection) for skype users. Conflict of interest, non?
Now the case Bell etc. make is that peer-to-peer (Bit Torrent or Skype) use is hogging the information highway, and they are simply trying to ensure everyone else gets their fair share. Prima Facie this seems fair enough. But. What’s not discussed are its implications per above. What’s not disclosed/transparent is whether or not there *is* plenty of bandwidth to go ’round, and the argument to shape is just you-know-what in order to grab more profits. I don’t know about you, but certainly neither Bell nor Rogers has remotely enough credibility with me to go on faith with this.
Net Neutrality is all about keeping Bell, Rogers etc. hands off and ensuring we all have the same egalitarian access to the information highway that we have to asphalt highways.
We do know this: even under Bush this practice was banned by Congress, and Obama is unequivocal about protecting net neutrality. But our gov’t and CRTC ruled in favour of Bell last year.
It’s not the end of the story, but it needs Canadians to get informed and engaged on the issue.
If you use craigslist, if you blog, if you are a small business owner with a website, if you use skype, YOU HAVE A STAKE IN THIS.
Here’s how to get involved:
1. Be informed.
2. Support these guys.
3. Join the Stop the Throttle facebook group, and share it with your facebook friends.
4. Sign this online petition.
5. Take action.