The internet is changing. For most of its existence, our experience of the internet was either through email, or through accessing websites. Pretty much every user had the same experience. They might have used the internet a lot, they might have used it a little, but for all intents and purposes, the data sent and received was identical in nature. And so it made sense to treat this data identically.
But times change, and the internet has changed with it. Already more and more people are using the internet for services other than web browsing. More and more people are turning to live streaming of movies; soon high-definition sports online will become common. Already businesses are starting to use video-conferencing – something that is even more resource-intensive as it requires instantaneous two-way traffic.
These applications obviously require more bandwidth to use than simply accessing the internet. And so people will begin to use the internet differently.
For instance, my parents still use the internet primarily for email, and the occasional web browsing. I, on the other hand, stream TV shows though Hulu, play the online roleplaying game Everquest 2, and have participated in video conferences. All these applications demand incredibly high bandwidth. Even a split second delay significantly detracts from the online experience. On the other hand, waiting an extra few milliseconds to download an email has little difference. Other types of data transfer – backing up your computer over the weekend for instance – are of a very low priority on a second-by-second basis.
It is recognizing the distinction between high-priority and low-priority data that is at the core of the net neutrality debate, and why it is sheer madness to outlaw data discrimination. Because in order for the internet to evolve most efficiently, network administrators must be allowed to differentiate between different types of data, and must be able to engage in prioritization. We need to move beyond the internet being simply comprised of dumb pipes treating all data equally, to a truly smart network.
The internet has, since its very inception, had this discrimination built in. The Internet Protocol itself contains within it the ability for differentiated services, and the ability to tag some information packages as requiring expedited service. Net neutrality will criminalize this, and for nothing.
There is no rational reason to take power away from system engineers and network administrators and hand it to bureaucrats. It is radical ideology, and no more. Net Neutrality will hurt everyone with an internet connection, and bring no benefits. This is a crucial issue that everyone should learn more about :the very future of the internet depends upon it.