Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What Would Brian Boitano Do

As I gear up for that twice a year giddiness (March and October, specifically) only brought upon by the premiere of yet another half season of South Park, I can't help but wonder what that Brian Boitano would do when it comes to Net Neutrality.

Do note that I've capitalized Net Neutrality not by accident because it's kinda like the Sliced Bread of the Internet, although my doubts about capitalizing the latter term remain. Either way, this is not a debate about the capitalization of letters so much as it is about the capitalization of telecom companies, specifically SBC/AT&T or whatever the fuck they call themselves on days of South Park premieres.

My left leaning self sees it like this: evil corporate SBC/AT&T and all the other bandwidth providers in the United States are lobbying to pass legislation requiring the literal creation of a "fast lane" on the Internet. Portals like Yahoo! AOL Google and all the others with tens of millions of page views a day would be able to afford the mandatory fees bandwidth providers want to impose in order to keep their viewers coming in as fast as they currently do. Sites that don't have the millions of page views a day and/or that can't afford to pay a premium won't get HOV status and they will have to wait in a longer queue for slower bandwidth, thus bringing about another death of Willy Loman if he is not to compete on a level playing field. Larger sites could theoretically become even faster to access as all the other small ones they're used to won't be in the same lane anymore.

It's promising that Google, still in its infantile stage of learning how to bribe/lobby members of our fine government, is pro-Net Neutrality ie. doesn't want telecom companies to be able to charge fees for faster bandwidth and create a class gap even though they could stand to benefit from it, despite having to pay a fee. It's also promising that Republicans that were likely to pass the law/enjoy tasty steak dinners from AT&T executives got voted out of Congress in November, thus creating a little more hope. I feel that most people like myself who (1) blog, (2) hate evil corporations (3) think Google is hotter than your hottest milf and (4) don't feel the need to regulate Al Gore's first invention all kinda feel the same as Google does.

But in my totally un-biased approach to all political matters (wink wink) and my general interest in it as an employee of the internet industry, I've come across a legitimate reason for making the net a little less neutral and worry that this could be inevitable. The telco's argue that by charging these fees, they could better fund the maintaining and building of more infrastructure for more bandwidth, although my pessimism leads me to believe that the fees will just line the pockets of greedy people.

Either way, a company like YouTube, which never could have prospered without Net Neutrality and that happens to now be owned by Net Neutrality preacher Google, is caught in the middle of quite a paradox. The proliferation of video has led to predictions that the Internet will burst at the seams in 2007, which would just be a fucked situation. The dotcom bubble and total arrogance of the 90's led to a nice and hefty over investment in infrastructure, allowing the Internet to expand quickly and cheaply ever since it started recovering. Unfortunately, all that over investment hasn't happened for a long time and there's pretty much no "dark bandwidth," as it's called in some circles (no affiliation to Dick Cheney either), left to purchase to allow for cheap expansion.

The telco's may just get their way if there's nowhere to expand to but to try charging more money to use the internet in the first place. It's possible that we've been having our cake and eating it for the past 10+ years, but it would certainly suck to see the status quo have to change. I guess my specific job working in video is quite responsible for this debacle, so perhaps I have no right to complain. What I do have though is the right to not trust government regulation to make sure that those fees collected by the telco's actually gets spent on infrastructure or that the government would do anything about it if the were breaking the law anyway.

Oh well, for those of you who made it this far and weren't too well versed on the issue, I hope this helps, as it seems to have less traction as an issue than it should. Perhaps those brilliant South Parkers will cover this as an issue over the next 8 weeks, and perhaps Brian Boitano will be part of the solution.

In order to take yet another step in the wrong direction, I leave you with a follow up to last week's ridiculous Japanese humor show. This time they're on the toilet (notice how they sit backwards in Japan!) and pulling Police Academy-like stunts, as they did on Proctor with the crane.


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