Feature Article

January 28, 2015

Thoughts While at ITEXPO: Confusion, Collusion and Net Neutrality

I am sitting here at ITEXPO in Miami waiting for my conferences to start, and I have been trying to manage a better delivery system for the PowerPoints. In the old days we had a server at the show and we could download all the presentations from the server. That was good for the conference management people but was not ideal for the delegates, so we added Dropbox.

And here’s the part that got me to thinking about Net Neutrality: Why can’t I make this server approachable over the Internet?

The answer comes is because of politics, policy and a loss of personal freedom.

Politics: Ten years ago we would be bringing the Internet in ourselves to an event, and have full control over the site. To the exposition hall it was just another circuit drop, and if the signal was good the Internet was there.

Policy: Then government enabled exclusivity contracts for “smart” buildings and providing the Internet became a bundle with the conference halls, which usually subcontracted with some sort of fees paid to the conference center. The result was two-fold. First, the cost was now a cost-plus with the added problem of not being an open resource. Secondly, since the Internet service was to be parsed, it added layers of “security” like symmetrical NATs and other unkind things to unfettered access.

Personal Freedom: Now if I had charge of my own IPv6 address, and an ISP that was friendly to me, I might be able to rise above all this stuff and just provide the services. That’s what I want to do for the week that I’m here.

Instead, I have a complex relationship that doesn’t allow me to treat the people at the event to local services; I have to rely on the cloud.

Net Neutrality: So here was the “Gestalt Aha!” moment at 4 in the morning.

My lack of control of my address is roughly the equivalent of Marconi’s frustration when frequencies became licensed. Marconi had the vision that everyone would communicate wirelessly without restrictions. Instead businesses gelled and ecosystems became closed as media companies formed.  While media giants complain about the regulation, it is the regulation that enabled their business.

Now we have the cloud businesses all crying out about Net Neutrality and concerned they are going to be charged for access to the customers, who do not have control of their own IP address.

Do you see where this is going?

Licensing access helps the cloud folks, so while they worry about the Net Neutrality, I think they are just as happy that I can’t build an ad-hoc service that gives me the ability to support my community better.

The bottom line is, while Congress argues that the FCC should not have jurisdiction over the Internet, they are not focused on enabling the user, only on letting the ecosystem stabilize boundaries.

 


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