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Net neutrality has ruined the web

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Comment I thought I knew something about networking, but according to an animated cartoon by telco lobbyists, I've been laboring under numerous misconceptions. For example, I'd always believed it possible to increase both capacity and bandwidth without the kind of traffic discrimination that the telcos would like to introduce. Apparently, that's wrong.

The cartoon clearly illustrates that network neutrality makes it impossible for broadband providers to increase capacity and bandwidth. You've simply got to discriminate between cheap packets and expensive packets to accommodate a large traffic flow. This was an astounding revelation to me.

Now, those who, like me, believe that the internet has always been ridiculously oversold by providers and techno-utopians are in for a shock. It turns out that once we've got special pipes for premium features like VoIP, HD movie streams, TV, and the like, everything will work as we've been promised it would work since the mid 1990s, as the cartoon carefully explains.

And this brings up another misconception of mine: I had thought the reason we don't get HD movies on the internet had something to do with greedy control freaks within the entertainment cartels who have yet to figure out how to charge us for online content according to a pay-per-use scheme. But apparently, it's because there isn't a special pipe carrying movies, for which we can pay extra. Apparently, the movies will begin to flow as soon as the pipe is laid and the valve opened.

And if you thought, as I did, that mile upon mile of fiber optic cable has been rotting in the ground from ambitious build outs by long-bankrupt NSPs in anticipation of a broadband Valhalla that was forever just around the corner, listen up. I just learned that the broadband industry is actively laying fiber - because, you see, the new, properly-functioning internet that's just around the corner is going to need even more of it than we've got on hand. That's because you need fiber to carry expensive packets. You don't want them mingling with cheap ones.

Silly me; I thought that capacity is capacity, and bandwidth is bandwidth. I'm glad I didn't write any foolish articles advocating net neutrality before I saw that cartoon. It's all so clear now. Evidently, the internet has never worked. And the reason it hasn't worked has nothing to do with corporate greed or media consolidation or general over-promising; it's because the internet is one dumb pipe that can't tell a cheap packet from an expensive one. ®

Related stories

Net Neut nixed in Congress (9 June 2006)
A neutral net is a neutered net? (9 May 2006)
Net Neutrality bid gone for good (28 April 2006)
Net neutrality bid fails (5 April 2006)
Google chief dampens Office hype, allays net future paranoia (18 March 2006)
Vint Cerf condemns two-tier internet (8 February 2006)
Mark Cuban and the Chicken Little Netheads (2 February 2006)

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