Net neutrality isn’t as black and white as I’d like it to be

After this is settled, Im going to Disneyland

After this is settled, I'm going to Disneyland

Information is power. The democratized web has given the public access to more information than ever before, and they’ve taken advantage of it, showing big media companies and politicians that the public can still have control over their systems, much to the big guys’ dismay. With that in mind, net neutrality is a no-brainer – why would we ever want to stifle innovation, kill creativity, and generally screw over the little guys who’ve defined the web? Why would we want to consolidate throttling power in the hands of ISPs, when we’ve seen what happens when we give control of our communication pipes to AT&T?

But, much to my dismay, there are actually a lot of (non-evil, non-monetary) benefits to a non-neutral web, especially to people who want to see robust interactive and video content served over these pipes (despite what Tubefilter might write). The hardware and software of the web runs into frustrating limitations when there’s a limited amount of bandwidth to be distributed equally to everyone. “Everyone” includes web video producers, who rightly need more bandwidth, and bloggers, who rightly need less. Mark Cuban put it well yesterday:

…in a net neutrality environment no bits get priority over any other bits. All bits are equal…When that happens, bits collide. When bits collide they slow down. Sometimes they dont reach their destination and need to be retransmitted. Often they dont make it at all. When video bits dont arrive to their destination in a timely manner, internet video consumers get an experience that is worse than what traditional tv distribution options.

We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t argue that we want to web to be neutral to allow for innovation and cultural progress, but then desperately need more than our equally distributed share of the web in order for our art form to progress. But do we really have to surrender our rights for the good of artistic innovation? We did that once, and boy has that one come back to haunt us…

I’m just wondering if there isn’t a third path here, an alternative that makes it so we don’t allow huge corporations to unfairly and disproportionately benefit from a non-neutral web, but still allows us to take fuller advantage of limited technology. Should we make a third-party, unaffiliated entity that oversees connection throttling, the UN of the web? Or could someone design a program for the infrastructure of the network that will monitor broadband usage and adjust limits accordingly? Is that even possible?

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