18 November 2010

Net Neutrality - The way I remember it

People are still puzzled by Net Neutrality and why it is so crucially important to everyone, so here's my quick summary...

The way I remember it, or at least the first time I remember reading about it (and geek historians please step in here because I'm on the stratospheric edge of my techie understanding), it all started a few years back when there was some scratching of heads in the boardrooms of America's big telecoms companies (telcos) - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Qwest, et al.

"Wait a minute", they were saying "what's this Skype thing? VOIP? Voice Over Internet Protocol? These guys are in direct competition with us, especially on lucrative international calls, and they are using our own wires???? WE MUST CHARGE THEM!"

Ignoring the fact they were ALREADY charging ISPs and other data wholesalers for the traffic through their 'pipes', the telcos started talking to people like Cisco who make the routers that route internet traffic, about how they could investigate individual packets of data and either re-direct them or identify them for billing purposes.

That's when the balloon went up and the great Net Neutrality debate started.

But note well (NB): It started when the people who owned the physical wires decided they wanted to charge twice for the same carriage.

The analogy, for my travel industry colleagues, is a cross channel ferry company, who charges We Shift It Haulage Ltd a fare for taking their lorry across to France, but who then open up the packages on the lorry and consign them individually to the slow ferry or, if the owners of those packages pay a second 'premium' charge, the ferry company re-loads those packages onto their high-speed ferry.

On this hypothetical lorry are an equal number of packages containing high quality cheese from Green's Organic Farm, and plastic cheese from the giant All Foods conglomorate.

Here is your 'starter for ten'.... Whose cheese do you think makes the first and biggest sales impact in France?

That is what Net Neutrality is about.


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