Fri Jun 16th, 2006 at 08:43:00 AM EST
So you pull into your neighborhood gas station one morning to fill `er up. Pop the gas cap. Swipe your card. Stick the nozzle - hey, it doesn't fit! What the ?!? "We're sorry," says a disembodied voice over the speaker, "Your vehicle's gas tank isn't compatible with our Exxon Gasoline Service. Also, you don't seem to be a member of the Exxon Gasoline Portal. Would you like to order our Exxon Gas Cap today for only $39.95, and get your first month's membership free?"
"Hey, I just want some gas," you say. "Gas is gas. Your nozzle's all big and square. It won't fit my car here."
"We hear you, and we can meet your needs," says the voice. "You can purchase an Exxon Gas Cap and get your trial membership at 50% off this week. The Exxon Gas Cap accepts gas only from the Exxon Nozzle. New members receive a free Exxon Gas Can, a quart of Exxon Oil, and an Exxon Coffee Mug. Shall I use the credit card you've already swiped to sign you up this morning?"
"Oh, that's all right," you say, pulling a tire iron from the trunk. "I have a better idea."
Gas is gas, right? All over the world. Electricity is electricity, water is water, rubber is rubber, tin is tin, rice is rice, and potatoes are potatoes, everywhere. Commodities are commodities.
And the internet is the internet. It's a commodity. Except in America. In America, plans are afoot to make everybody's internet the private property of six corporations. In America, six corporations are going to see if you mind them sabotaging your internet, see if you mind them peeing in your pool.
In America, a half dozen telecom companies want to take us all back to the era of 8-track tapes and CompuServe and GEnie and Prodigy. They want to seize the `last mile' of internet cable - the mile that comes right to your home or business - and make it incapable of pumping the internet into your computer unless you subscribe to their internet portal and buy special hardware from them to receive data from 'their cable.' In other words, you gotta buy an Exxon Gas Cap, and you can only buy Exxon gas from here on out. If you want to buy gas from BP, you'll need to buy a BP gas tank and sign up for the BP Club.
Make any sense to you?
Remember, ninety percent of the internet's physical cabling - fiber optic and copper wire - is shared, and has to be shared, and this will never change. The emails and web pages from everywhere have to get to everywhere else by traveling through the main trunk, so all telecom companies use the trunk lines equally. Network Neutrality stays in place there, and won't be touched by this current wave of telecom piracy.
It's only that `last mile' of neighborhood cable they want to lay claim to, under the pirate flag of 'network diversity.' They want to change your internet access from a commodity -- like gasoline or sugar or tap water -- into their private property, and then sell it to you in a 'feature rich' new package with their name on it, at prices they dictate. They want to sabotage the setup you have right now. They want to make you an offer you can't refuse. They want to pee in your pool, call it a service, and bill you for it.
This is the struggle over Net Neutrality, which the Republicans have already pushed through the House, and will try to push through the Senate now. The bills were written by the telecom companies, and lobbied for real hard by the telecom companies. No citizen of our country has ever asked for the Exxon Gas Cap. You are never likely to ask for one. But then, this is not being done for your benefit.
Don't Fix What Ain't Broke
Net Neutrality is your ability to access one worldwide network through standardized hardware, talk to anybody, and surf anywhere, all through your local Internet Service Provider. Your local ISP is a neutral gatekeeper to the internet, and they cannot favor one set of packets over any other set. Net Neutrality means you log on today knowing that you are seeing ALL the information out there, and you can confidently base a great many things in your life on that assurance.
You can check out companies on the Web before you invest, you can get reviews on products before you buy them, you can get the facts on politicians before you vote for them, you can judge current events by open and honest reports from all of the world's news media, and you can start and run a business knowing that you are really working on the cutting edge of innovation and communication, and not on some imaginary, watered down version of reality like CompuServe.
The Telco's want to seize that last mile of cable wiring, and make it a private bottleneck, a private choke point on your right to full information. Fox News becomes your only source of news. A select list of `patriotic Christian bloggers' get priority access to you, and dKos just times out if you try to load it. Constant on-screen ads become a 'service' provided by your Telco, and pop-up blockers are no longer 'an approved feature' of your ISP's portal. This is called hijacking, in plain English. This falls under the definition of extortion.
This is peeing in your pool and telling you it's good for you.
This is no different than your neighborhood gas station and installing big square nozzles on their pumps so you have to join their club if you want gas. The Telco's want to seize that 'last mile' of internet cable as their private property, and install their private hardware between the internet and you. They want to force an Exxon Gas Cap on you. They want to push you into one of their Telco Portals, and show you only as much of the internet as drives their profits higher.
If the Telcos tried this business model in direct competition with our current, wide-open internet, they would be out of business before they started. It's only possible because they already have a monopoly on service. They are the only companies who install that `last mile' of cable in the many neighborhoods of America. They know that you can either sign up with one of them or go without Internet service altogether. "Hey -- we're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to care."
That this raises immense Constitutional and antitrust legal issues goes without saying. There will be a flood of class action lawsuits if the Senate allows this turkey to see the light of day. It will take heroic work by Scalia, Alito, Roberts and Thomas to get that fifth Supreme Court Justice to go along with their predictable opinion that "this monopoly is not a monopoly." That this is all Okay Because It's Republican.
This new Telco business model is based entirely on sabotage and extortion. They will not be able to pull this off without walling off their `last mile' physical networks from the internet, and then making themselves look different from one another. A 'feature rich' computing environment is planned for you, where you will enjoy true 'network diversity' and damn well like it.
The truth is that only by walling off a private corner of the internet can they can start charging you for access to it, and charging all those billions of content providers who want to reach you, if they want to reach you. The Telco's will make money on every packet coming and going. They could easily make more profits than Exxon if they get their way on this.
John Gotti would be so proud of this crew.
This business model requires a crime be committed right upfront. They have to mug you. They have to pee in our pool get things started. They have to turn the wide-open internet off at your place, and sabotage the feed so you need to buy their filter in order to unscramble what they scramble on their 'last mile.' This is extortion, plain and simple.
The Telcos are already talking about privatizing their own internet protocols, the very packets that carry your bits and bytes out over the wires. By making their IP packets proprietary, only a computer with their hardware installed can interpret the packets received. If you receive an email or a web page from someone broadcasting the standard internet packets used all over the world today, the Telco has the option of allowing it through or slowing it way down, or blocking it completely, all according to what the sender AND you have paid them in subscription fees this month.
Isn't the free marketplace wonderful in its wisdom?
Few people grasp that the rest of the world is NOT going to eliminate Net Neutrality, The rest of the world understands that the internet only functions as a pure meritocracy of relevant information. They understand that internet innovation only happens in wide-open mode. That walling off a private section of the internet has the same effect as tying a tourniquet around your leg - it cuts off circulation, and your leg begins to die.
What entrepreneur would risk doing business in such a bastardized environment as the Telco's want to provide? If you cannot see what everybody else is thinking, publishing, creating, planning, and doing -- how can you risk innovating? You don't have full information; instead, you have whatever information the Telco feels is best for the furtherance of their business plan and bottom line. And if you do start a new internet innovation, you have to start a version for each of the Telco portals, and then pay each of them monthly to give you access to their web customers.
And those customers will have to pay extra to see your innovation.
And as soon as the Telcos can write their own proprietary version of your innovation, you will be starved to death over their wires while their version gets high speed delivery.
America will fall behind immediately in the cutting edge information innovations driving much of modern commerce, and our Telco Portals will have to play catch up as best they can, copying whatever the Europeans and Asians and Brazilians did last year on the real internet. Even that pathetic effort will fail, as the two Net models diverge ever more starkly. One is for real and relevant information that's free for the asking, and one is for filtered info at a fee to both provider and receiver. One is a race car, and one is last year's pace car. Which one would you rather drive? Which one is really in the race?
If we lose Net Neutrality, smart companies will have to either move their high tech operations overseas or pay to have multiple T1 lines brought in from Ireland or Japan or China so they can continue to compete in the real world. Smart businesses and smart people will pay whatever it takes to get access somehow to the real internet and leave these Telco's to wither away like the greedy wraiths they are.
"See? I told you not to tie that belt around your leg, ya dumb bastard."
Few people grasp that if Net Neutrality goes away in America, it will be put right back within a year by overwhelming public demand. Just like Classic Coke. Either rewritten laws and regulations forced by overwhelming public anger will put it back in place, or it will happen in the marketplace itself as people vote with their wallets, abandoning the Telcos and paying premium fees to whomever will connect them to the real internet again.
As soon as people grasp that they are being returned to the era of 8-track tapes -- except at a higher price and with a smaller selection -- there will be bloody hell to pay.
Any Telco that survives the massacre they are asking for will do so only by adhering strictly to Net Neutrality. That's the standard the public is used to, and the only standard they will accept. This heist the Telcos are pushing will prove to be the Boston Tea Party of our century. The Internet is like Classic Coke - now that they've tasted the real thing, the public won't buy anything else, even under the most intense marketing. They will respond to efforts to force them into private Telco portals with ridicule, neglect and economic force of their own.
The giant is still sleeping on this one. The House vote drew barely a yawn from the American herd. But once the outright sabotage and extortion this business model represents becomes clear to American consumers, the corporations who sponsored it and the politicians who sold out to it will be at the receiving end of a hurricane of spite and anger.
No one is going to respond to this by saying, "Well Of Course You Can Pee In My Pool."