Sep 4, 2008

Net Neutrality: Which Side Are You On?


Lloyd Kaufman asked me to blog about Net Neutrality a little while ago but I haven't yet for two reasons: 1) I was travelling & had little to no access to a computer and 2) I wasn't really sure what to blog exactly.
Well, today, after falling asleep beside my Dad's pool and turning into a lobster, it occurred to me that most people might not even know what net neutrality is or why they should even care, nevermind why I would get so excited by it that I'd 1) create a graphic design devoted to it & 2) be conversing with Lloyd in the first place over net neutrality!
So, what is net neutrality and why should you care?
Here's what Wiki has to say:
"Network neutrality (equivalently net neutrality, Internet neutrality or simply NN) is a principle that is applied to residential broadband networks, and potentially to all networks. A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, which does not restrict content, sites or platforms, and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams."*
Let's pretend you actually read that. Now let's pretend you didn't.
What it says basically, is that net neutrality means that your ISP has NO CONTROL over what YOU CHOOSE to download. So, if you, oh, I dunno, want to pirate SLiTHER (a James Gunn film) from a BitTorrent (a popular peer-to-peer software/internet slang for downloading) site because you're, oh, let's say too poor to buy it, then, well, you'd be able to no problemo because NO ONE would be paying any attention to what you are downloading.
So what's the problem?
The problem is this: pirating is wrong. When you download James' movie you are stealing from him and all the good folks who worked their butt's off making the film (well, at least those who get royalties).
So here's the question of the day/year/decade: who should police pirating?
Of course many feel the FCC should swoop in and Big Brother the heck out of the internet, but who wants that? Do you really want your daily internet activity to be the equivalent to Fox nightly news?
Why do you even go onto the internet? I won't even touch porn with a ten foot pole, that's your business. Most people I know, including my folks, best friends and MySpace Pals, use the internet for information (where else would James come up with such great ideas as Humanzee?!?!).
The internet is the last great bastion of untapped, unfiltered information.
Net Neutrality -- and the politicians who stand behind it -- want to keep the internet just that: untapped, unfiltered information!
Now let's get back to choosing sides. The design at the top was created by me as my own personal FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, posted to Flickr under the CREATIVE COMMONS license, & picked up by WIRED magazine's blog for an article on Net Neutrality and the uncomfortable relationship between Comcast and BitTorrent. That's right: relationship.
There's a link to the article in my photos section, but to save you the trouble have at it right here:
The title of the article alone makes my skin crawl: Comcast Makes a Deal with BitTorrent.
What exactly does that mean? What is BitTorrent doing sharing a bed with Comcast and why should you care?
Comcast is a massively popular ISP (Internet Service Provider). If your email address ends with "" then Comcast is providing you with internet service and is "watching" what you download to a certain "degree." (To know more, please, I beg you, just read the article.)
Here's the beginning to get you started (and hopefully spark your interest enough that you actually will go read the article):
"Comcast, under federal inquiry over its throttling of BitTorrent traffic, said Thursday it will deploy a so-called "agnostic" approach to traffic management and treat all data equally by year's end."
Agnostic? Isn't that what my parents put on my birth certificate when I was born because they didn't want to force a religion on me? I'm already not liking the sound of this "merger."
Let's skip ahead:
"Digital rights groups were not so sure. They urged the Federal Communications Commission to continue its inquiry into Comcast and other internet service providers that had been delaying or blocking BitTorrent packets. The BitTorrent protocol, while having legitimate purposes, is among the technologies of choice for distributing pirated material online."
So, like me, others weren't so sure of this whole idea either... Hmm, I wonder why...
Pirating materials. It's all about big business and control. The movie industry is hardcore when it comes to protecting its intellectual property, like movies. Big business wants to watch your ISP and make sure you don't download Pirates of the Caribbean like I did and if you do, even, oh, just to test the waters, you'll get a lovely piece of email straight from your ISP berating you for doing such a thing.
I wonder how my ISP knew what I was BitTorrenting?
Think about it. Go back, read Wiki, educate yourself, then go check out that article. Seriously. This is not a joke. Net Neutrality is es muy importante, people! Know your rights BEFORE they are taken away.

"The issue of net neutrality is bigger than Comcast and BitTorrent," he said. "This agreement does nothing to protect the many other peer-to-peer companies from blocking, nor does it protect future innovative applications and services. Finally, it does nothing to prevent other phone and cable companies from blocking. Innovators should not have to negotiate side deals with phone and cable companies to operate without discrimination. The internet has always been a level playing field, and we need to keep it that way."

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