Once again the media is full of reports of the impending collapse of the internet. Apparently we users are to blame, as we are using too much bandwidth watching movies and so forth- thus says yet another study by “respected” think tank, Nemertes Research. They tried to push this line of bull on us in 2007, again in 2008, and now in 2009. Only the dates of the “impending” collapse have changed: always a year or two in the future. But anyone who knows much of about the internet and infrastructure behind it knows this “impending doom” is a fallacy. So why is Nemertes repeating it over and over and over?
Follow the money. Nemertes is funded by the Internet Innovation Alliance. The IIA is funded by (wait for it)… AT&T and other telecommunications providers. Prominent in every Nemertes “the sky is falling” report is a need for the ISPs to be allowed to shape traffic (I.E.: charge you more for accessing your favorite content), filter (I.E.: charge you more for accessing your favorite sites), and bandwidth cap (I.E.: charge you more for if you go over poorly defined and tracked “limits”). In other words, it is a money grab by the service providers.
I am all for companies making money. But basically what the internet service providers (ISPs) are trying to do is be given carte blanche to lie and cheat their customers. They want to sell “unlimited bandwidth” connections, then be able to charge you for actually using that bandwidth. Let me repeat that: they want to charge you and the services you connect to like Google once for the bandwidth available, and then charge you again when you actually use that bandwidth. In many cases this thievery is further desirable for the ISPs that are also cable TV companies: some users are (gasp!) using their internet connections to entertain themselves, and spending less money on over-priced cable channel packages and pay per view movies.
If the ISPs were honest, they would do something like change their billing model. Perhaps a low flatrate “base” fee, and a small charge per gigabyte combined with a verifiable and current traffic meter available in the user’s home. But this would put them in a bind on several fronts. 80% of the users are being massively overcharged via their existing flat rate “unlimited use” packages. If they switched to a clear and verifiable measure of bandwidth, competitive pressures would push down the per gigabyte prices and the ISPs would end up making billions less per year. What they really want is to continue overcharging most users *AND* be able to charge heavy users even more. That’s their definition of “win-win”.
Metered bandwidth and “traffic shaping” would, in my opinion, have a massive chilling effect on the technology industry. Technologists and users are finding new and innovative ways every day to make the internet and their computers do more for them. Picture sharing, streaming video, voice over IP, online games: if people were always looking at the cost per byte the end result would be hesitation of people to use any of these capabilities. The ISPs, particularly the telcos, have received tens of billions of dollars in tax exemptions and outright funding to build the networks behind the “open” internet, have spent years overcharging for bandwidth, and now want to start deciding what type of traffic is “good” and what is “bad” for their near-monopoly businesses.
The ISPs dream of a chance to make tens of billions of dollars with no investment on their part: just some changes in legislation that would let them continue to feed us “unlimited” packages with ever-increasing fees and limits. Nemertes is one of the tools, along with heavily funded bribery lobbying programs, the ISPs are using to make their dreams come true.
This posting is sort of my attempt to be of service to the various professional media outlets. I’m hoping that the next time they receive a pumped-up press release from Nemertes my little site will add one more voice saying “don’t believe them! They aren’t reliable sources! Follow the money!” I am certain that my hope is utterly in vain, but I can still try to be optimist