A storm on the horizon

Recently an important announcement was made by the FCC in regard to what is known as “net neutrality”. The principal behind net neutrality is simple: no entity on the internet should be treated more or less favorably by internet service providers when it comes to traffic flow. Small companies pushing out 1 mbit/s should have their traffic expedited and treated with the same care as large companies pushing out the same 1 mbit/s traffic flow.

To me this seems like common sense. As a small business owner, we have enough going against us in comparison to the big guys. We have less people on our support staff, we have less people monitoring and keeping our servers running, and we have less staff fixing our software.

Now we have something else to worry about. It seems that the FCC thinks that it is a good idea to pursue a policy that is sure to create even more disadvantage for small businesses who don’t have the money to pay off big telco and cable companies to provide a “fast route” for their traffic. If this becomes a permanent FCC policy change, and our traffic is relegated to slower peering points because we can’t afford to pay the big guys the fees they want for simply passing our traffic through links that are not congested, we’re in big trouble and so is the rest of the fledgling 3d virtual world and VR industry.

VR and virtual worlds are especially sensitive to latency and packet loss. Our services deliver realtime, interactive, 3d environments. We do our best to make sure that we’re sending traffic efficiently, and try to minimize packet flows that don’t need to be sent for state changes and movement. However, if ISPs begin randomly dropping our traffic just because we can’t afford to pay every ISP a special fee, our services will quickly degrade to a point where they’re no longer believable, where the world no longer feels right, and where the immersion is disrupted by jerkily moving, false looking objects and interactions. Drop more of our traffic and we’ll be forced to waste even more money and time debugging problems that are being intentionally created at the network level.

Startups are already strapped for resources. How is this a good idea?

If this is the future of the internet, it will surely kill off many startups in the United States that have a requirement for connections with reasonable latency and low packet loss. If Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift is any indication, our breed of interactive services are the future of traffic on the internet. Messing with that traffic might just count all of us in the USA out of the great 3D and interactive tech boom that will most likely first be developed and tested by startup companies. Being an internet startup based in the US could actually become a hindrance for companies wanting to work on the bleeding edge. Is this really good for the country?

In closing, in my opinion the internet doesn’t need to become a place where only the guys with the most money are able to pass traffic around with reasonable guarantees. I have a hard time believing that these huge telcos with 6 billion+ dollar profits are hurting by having to update their infrastructures without additional income from every company that wants to pass traffic through their networks. There has to be a happy medium here.

4 thoughts on “A storm on the horizon

  1. I agree wholeheartedly David,, The USA has been run into the ground by big business,, they have the fingers into everything now,, especially the government,, spending enormous amounts of money to get their way.
    Lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Washington D.C.,
    It has become clear that the members of our government have a new creed,, ,,, what can ya do for me,, instead of what is best for the country.
    ill get off my soapbox and let someone else take a stand.
    Da Badgah

  2. There are some advantages large corporate structure offers– lower prices (when we think about the high price of clothing for example… compare it to making clothing yourself)… convenience, consistency of product, and huge R&D budgets. But there are major disadvantages also: unfair competition, monopolistic practices, and outright unethical-bordering-on-illegal behavior. It is in the best interest of the stockholders to push the small businessman out of business. Smart corporations realize the small business is (as David points out), the innovator. Large corporations often buy out small business, making the innovator happy and making it easier and faster to get that tech out to the customer.

    But when those large corporations take on an attitude of “profit first”… that’s when problems develop. When they begin to think it’s in their best interest to try to put the small businessman out of business because “hey, we’ll figure it out ourselves anyway”… when auto companies don’t develop less expensive and more fuel-efficient cars or alternative fuel cars because the owners of those companies are also heavily vested in oil (and so are the government officials who “regulate” them)… when the retailer insists on making more profit on a product than the one who created and manufactures it… that is when big business fails to serve the needs of the public.

    One can be fairly sure this push against net neutrality is being fueled by big companies that want small companies to either “pay up or get out of the way”. The sad thing is, enough is never enough. “The lover of silver will not be satisfied with mere silver.” They always want more and having too much is not enough for them. It gets to the point it’s about satisfying the shareholders rather than satisfying the customer. And when business gets to that point– that’s when someone needs to step in and change how business operates.

    Wise businessmen know that the way to increase profit is to enable the buyer– who individually is the smallest but most important element of the economy. When big business gets so big it fails to recognize the importance of customers and small business… it becomes not only carnivorous but self-consuming. One can’t earn profit by destroying the source of that profit.

  3. Lord David

    And the wheels spin, and have yet more spinning inside them…
    One of the problems, at least in my Idiot view, and only one among many, stems from the ability, almost the inevitability, of the transmission provider (for want of a better word, an ISP) also becoming a content provider. Let’s make an example.
    To avoid issues of border or country, let’s imagine BIGISP. BIGISP is, not surprisingly, an ISP. Bone one day they notice how much money video content provider NOTFLAX is making offering people movies to watch. So, in order to acquire some of that money, BIGISP sets up its own movie streaming service. Yay! Profit!
    Hmmm, say the Directors of BIGISP. NOTFLAX are better known in the market for movies than we are. So what can we do? Ah!
    The next day, all of BIGISPs customers get an email (yes, they provide email services as well) saying ‘You know, we love you using that NOTFLAX thing. We do of course, have our own service, better than NOTFLAX, but you’re the customer. You’re always right. So you carry on using it. Of course, connecting to NOTFLAX, and, um, ensuring smooth traffic from their servers, is extra work for us. So, like the FTC said we could, we’re going to have to charge you a bit extra for your NOTFLAX packets. Oh – and if you want to take a look at our MOVIEMAGIC service, you’ll be delighted to know none of the movies you watch will contribute to your monthly cap of 1Gb of data!
    Yay for Net-Not-Neutrality – and yay for the pipe provider also being able to compete with content providers on an uneven playing field. Oh – without the ‘yay’ in either case, and with a ‘yah, boo, sucks’ in both.
    What if the same principle applied to, say, our electricity supply?
    ‘Dear customer. Of course, you are entirely free to continue to use the electricity you’ve chosen from ReallyGreen Hydro. As a company we support their ecologically friendly approach to power generation. However it does cost us extra to connect our lines to ReallyGreen. So we’re afraid we have to charge you more for, like, Volts and Amps from them. Because of, um, like, technical stuff you wouldn’t understand. But we’re delighted to be able to tell you that, should you choose our partner BlackGrimeDirtyCoal (yes, I know not all coal is bad. But stay with me 🙂 :-P), who already use our network of wires to send you power, you can have those same Volts and Amps at the low, low price of, um, a lot less!
    You heard it here first – Volt-not-neturality.
    I know. We can’t actually choose where we get our power. But it makes just as little sense. Especially when the power company owns their own power stations, and charges us a lot less for power from their stations than from those other guys…
    I know. I’m probably blethering again. Or gibbering. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes – but it’s not so hard to care. The Internet, to many people, is becoming just as essential a ‘utility’ as power and water. Whether rural or urban, able or disabled, having a decent net connection and the ability to choose the services you use over that connection on a playing field as even as possible is important. Or at least – so this Idiot thinks.
    Oh. And yes, Lord Tranquility. You do indeed know me under another name – but then, you knew that anyway, right? 🙂

    Graeme Smith
    or
    The Idiot
    or
    Jack’s Shadow
    or
    Charlie’s Driver
    or………….. 🙂

  4. Hi Tranq. People have to pay attention to what is going on. We are controlled by big money in everything we do—the powerful people that make the laws are in Congress. We better start paying attention to what they do and who they support—and vote.

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