/ BLOG / A Subtle Case of the Two Tiered Internet

Once again there have been reports of what can only be described as a step towards a two tiered internet. But this time not between China and the Rest-Of-The-World, but between data carriers. To me this threat is by far more real, and far more dangerous to the internet.

The internet was created to share data, and whilst this may have gotten out of hand, its still what it was designed for. In my opinion its most successful in this goal, as almost anyone has access to mountains of data (ignore the fact that theres a lot of crap as well). What worries me is that this data, and this philosophy is going to be lost as carriers start to run a QoS-esque system on their lines. I can fully understand why they feel that they should have the right to charge, since its their system. After all, their analogy is a reasonably good one; that the government doesn’t tell the oil companies what to do / charge. However, perhaps a private, toll based section of motorway is more appropriate, as it fully represents the situation.

Either way I believe its wrong. In the past I’ve been called a bit of a “raving communist”, amongst other things. Most recently I was labelled an idiot for expressing my belief that open and Free systems are better, particularly that banking and other systems should perhaps be more open (to a certain extent), and I fear that I maybe labelled yet again. Whether its unreasonable or not, is for you to decide. Don’t get be wrong, I believe that the data carriers should make their profit, just not in this way. Going back to the analogy, private roads could set their speed limits but it doesnt allow them to set the limit for every other road around them - which is what I suspect would happen.

As a result, my main concern isn’t that I maybe charged (although that is a secondary concern), but that I maybe unable to retreive information, services, or suffer a worse experience as a result. I pay for my online experience - does this imply that I am entitled to the same level of service outside of my ISP’s network? Should my ISP be guaranteeing that my traffic won’t be subject to filtering and priorisation? I also play games online. Should the game developers or publishers guarantee that I should beable to play without significant issue online due to QoS? At the end of the day they wouldn’t be able to guarantee it without raising costs. The increased costs would mean that internet usage would be likely to decrease and the whole economy that now thrives, will be unable to continue.

Effectively this would give us a 2 step approach to a tiered internet;

It’s my firm belief that once someone starts charging web-orientated companies (see: Google, Microsoft, anyone with a significant web-presence), then its only a matter of time before it worms its way down to the consumer; be it through additional charges, or a worse experience. As Alan Cox said on LUGRadio, general consumers don’t mind paying more if its reasonable, but as soon as they find that they cannot do feature X which they could before, then they’ll start to complain, become disenfranchised, and possibly leave. My fear is that this will be too late, the internet will become a shell of its former “glory”, and the data carriers will have shot themselves in the foot.

Perhaps this is a little extreme, but anything is possible.

Foot Note: I’ve pulled a lot of this out of my arse, on-the-fly, so it could and most likely will contain errors.

Edit: Spelling mistooks corrected.