Thursday, March 23, 2006

Network Neutrality

Recently, the AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre remarked that companies such as Google were "nuts" to think that they could use AT&T network "pipelines" for free, a serious challenge to what some feel is the neutral essence of the Internet. FCC Chair Kevin Martin said that his agency could police and enforce any such attacks on the neutrality of the Internet; however, he added, he supports a "tiered Internet," in which broadband companies can offer different levels of bandwidth and speed. A blogger on the Networking Pipeline offered his two cents, stating that the FCC Chair's concept of "net neutrality" is far too narrow, that such a policy would help kill off smaller, innovative companies who can't afford high prices.

Anyone who still feels that the Internet is a neutral space is an idealistic, foolish holdover from the cyberlibertarian era of the early 1990s. Google is not neutral. Google's best services are paid services. Why do you think that the top links are "sponsored?" I agree that in its original embodiment, the Internet was built for research, not commerce - until 1991, in fact, the National Science Foundation forbade using the 'net for commerce. Once commerce entered the arena, things rapidly changed. An "open information" ethic is antithetical to commerce: credit-card companies pushed for the changes in network architecture that made the Net more safe for commerce, the same changes that ended the "open" nature of the net.

I've noted before that the Internet has no "Nature," that any structure or space that is defined by human-machine code has no nature other than that which is chosen to be encoded. That coded nature can be revised at any time, by legislation, by regulation, by corporation. The latter example surprises some people, but think of Microsoft: in the late 1990's, Internet Exploder was the dominant browser of the Web. Microsoft did not (and still does not) conform to the W3C standards for HTML coding. Microsoft is singlehandedly responsible for the deprecation of the (b) tag in favor of the (strong) tag (carats are not allowed in blogger). It is also because of MSIE that we still use the (id) tag instead of the (class) tag recommended by the w3c (World Wide Web Consortium), so when designing for cross-browser compatibility, we have to use: (div class="division" id="division") instead of just (div class="division").
currently playing on miPod - "Stardust" by Louis Armstrong.

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