Terry Lynne Hale

Practicing the Art of Perseverance

This is the internet!
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EFF.org (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is the leading non-profit (and maybe the first, 33 years ago as of this writing) to defend digital privacy, innovation, and free speech.   The following is EFF’s take based on a June 16, 2023 article written by Chao Liu, and Ernesto Falcon on EFF’s Deep Links Blog.  The title of this post sums it up nicely: “There is Nothing Fair About the European Commission’s ‘Fair Share’ Proposal.”  EFF has written extensively regarding Net Neutrality, and you can find many articles from them on this subject.   The battle between CAPs and ISPs rages on.

You may wonder why a writer in Kansas City cares about what’s going on regarding technology in Europe but as the recent flurry of app and web “policy updates” (just today, one from Pinterest) illustrate, what happens in Europe might just overflow into how the USA approaches comparable issues.   We all know legislation and regulation often results in higher costs to consumers so, that’s just one reason this got my attention. 

First, let’s remember the FOUNDATIONS OF THE INTERNET: NET NEUTRALITY.  From Klint Findley, WIRED, May 5, 2020 “ISPs shouldn’t be able to block some sorts of data and prioritize others. Here’s what to know about the struggle to treat all information on the internet the same.”

World Wide Web
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Big tech companies and internet service providers are engaged in battle.    

Let’s define: CAPs – “content and applications providers” are companies that produce or distribute information, and various forms of other content online like Facebook, Netflix, Google, Apple, and Amazon – who provide many additional services and ISPs – “internet service providers” whose physical infrastructures deliver this content.  In my area, ISPs include Spectrum/Charter, AT&T, Google Fiber, Earthlink, T-Home Internet, and Xfinity.

The ISP’s complaint is that CAPS promote more and more content continually and that they (ISPs) are incurring increased costs to deliver this content. They maintain that the increase in traffic generated by more content is responsible for their increased costs leading them to claim CAPs are freeloading off the ISPs and want their “fair share” for using the ISPs’ network. 

As EFF clearly points out, “The ISP argument mischaracterizes the nature of the Internet.” CAPs don’t freeload and in fact, they have invested nearly $900bn into the physical infrastructure of the internet.   These massive investments have saved ISPs billions annually.  They continue, ISPs’ costs for delivering increased traffic have not been drastically rising due to their investments in fiber-based infrastructure – permitting them to advertise and sell consumers and businesses gigabit and beyond speeds with lower operating cost.

EFF maintains the ISP argument also mischaracterizes the growth of the contemporary internet.  Traffic is not generated by CAPs but by us – consumers and end users asking for “services (data) from CAPs.”

Think about it: if no one used the internet, there wouldn’t be any traffic, there wouldn’t be any streaming services, so no data would be sent – to anyone.  Intense interest and demand by people wanting to use the internet and doing so at an ever-increasing rate, results in demand that must be met.  Just as ISPs must compete, CAPs are competing.  To meet consumer demand, they make additional investments (like the $900bn previously mentioned) to create higher quality content, make it more accessible “via infrastructure that hosts, transports, and delivers their services.”

This consumer, like most of us, does not want to wait minutes for a video to load.  We want instant access and so CAPs’ investments have contributed to data delivery in minutes, then seconds, then milliseconds.  Since we consumers and end-users have shown a willingness to pay for faster data delivery, ISPs have benefitted from this arrangement for years.  This is why ISPs have also invested in improved infrastructure. 

(Our cable, internet, and land line monthly cost when we got online in the mid-1990s was around $35.00.  Fast forward to 2017, we shuck the landline, have increased Internet speeds, and must add sports channels to our viewing package, and we were nearing $200.00/month.) I know it’s a long time ago and everything goes up but remember that is monthly x millions of customers. We’ve made some changes since then, but this writer isn’t feeling the ISPs’ pain.  As EFF points out “ISPs profit on user demand.”

In my opinion (and that of EFF’s) when it’s all said and done, an arrangement like the “Fair Share Proposal” will result in higher costs for lesser services to consumers. 

In addition to the EFF and WIRED links within the post, here are some other “takes” on Net Neutrality, FYI:

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