Open Source

Network neutrality (or down with open source)


I had thought net neutrality to be a dying issue. But lo and behold, it has reared its nasty head in England this time.

Naturally, to someone like me, the whole net neutrality debate smacks, on an obvious level, of an Orwellian attempt at networks to control what we can and can't see and use. On a not so obvious level, it smacks of a combined effort to ensure that one, and only one, technology can dominate both the network and our desktops.

But that is plain conspiracy theory. Or is it?

To many, the idea of net neutrality is simply defined as a network without gatekeepers. A neutral network would allow all protocols, all hardware, and all software to interact without issue. A less-than-neutral net would squash some protocols, hardware, and software.

And to me, the idea of a non-neutral network stands to threaten the very existence of open source software. How? Simple. If the governments of the world (steadfastly governing with their hands in the pockets of the businesses who stand to profit from this) decide to stamp out net neutrality, the first thing they are going to want to regulate is the one thing they can't (easily) regulate: open source software. With that in mind, they simply have one of their parasitic corporations develop a easily regulated protocol that will not mesh with open source software. With that in check, open source software no longer is viable on the network. No more Apache servers. No more FireFox or Konqueror browsers. Without those things, any networkable software would have to come from one of the companies in league with the governments of the world. And who might that be?

Many of the neutral net critics proclaim that net neutrality confines growth and reduces incentive to upgrade networks or launch newer services. How is that? How is it that clamping down anything (as the critics would have done) would incite growth or progress?

That's like telling the auto industry, "If you put an additive in gasoline that only works with this new high-end sports cars, everyone will have to (and will) buy the new high-end sports car."

It's not hard to see through the veil of BS that is being handed out from the powers that be on both sides of the ocean. Net neutrality is nothing more than sales-rep spin that will only serve to choke the progress of open source software. It's hard enough with Microsoft churning out software that breaks standards in order to put the open source community behind. But if the governments decide to do away with net neutrality, open source software will find itself behind far more than Microsoft.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

14 comments
tomspearsix
tomspearsix

Network Neutrality is a really tricky issue. I see how it can do great good and how it can doom the Internet as we know it. This delicacy really depends on the law makers who write the laws. If written poorly which, I imagine it will be, knowing how most governments work. The Internet will effectively shut down. Not having the ability to block DOS, Dictionary, and brute force attacks just to name a few who can bog down and kill a network and the only way to protect yourself is to block that address will I think bog down and effectively shut down a lot of networks. A world with out filtering or priority in networking will be a hacker???s playground. Hackers and script kiddies will run free causing all sorts of havoc while admins are somewhat powerless to stop them. You will also see a sever increase in prices for internet services. This will be due to the fact that since you can not prioritize packets your network will run less efficiently so you will have to allow for more bandwidth to push data. I think the idea of Net Neutrality is a good one but I don???t think it will work in practice like communism for example great in theory but horrible in practice. The only place I can see net neutrality being effective and practical is if the laws are written extremely well. This is something I doubt highly though. If you are still worried about ISP's filtering out your favorite site or blocking the open source community well the business industry will do what it does so well sue sue sue.

apotheon
apotheon

You've failed to differentiate between the government's use of the term "net neutrality" and what would be [b]real[/b] network neutrality when you use the term. It seems that you're (correctly) referring to an open, unconstrained Internet where everybody can get in on the action as "net neutrality" at some points, and at other points you refer to the legislative buzzword "net neutrality", which would essentially amount to government micromanaging the Internet (with the help of certain large corporations, of course). The truth is that there hasn't been a single "net neutrality" bill proposed in any legislature, as far as I'm aware, that would achieve anything even within the same league as actual network "neutrality" on the Internet. They're all contrived bureaucratic tangles of red tape designed to provide one set of corporations a market advantage over another set of corporations. Both sides are spinning the situation as much as possible, of course, and various corporations switch sides depending on the form of the current most popular proposed "net neutrality" bill. Ultimately, the only way to get any kind of real network neutrality is, as catseverywhere hints, to get people like Ron Paul into a position where they can start eliminating the government's micromanaged grants of niche monopoly powers to large corporations -- by eliminating the power of government to interfere with the Internet, not by passing more laws granting the government more such power.

R153nm
R153nm

Pure unadulterated greed, I believe. Think how much money telcos could get for threatening to throttle Yahoo, MSN, or Google. And of course a multi-tiered service plan for consumers, to get greater bandwidth for "non-approved" (read: Didn't pay us tons of money) websites.

johnson12
johnson12

Greedy swine who want to grease their pockets even further by giving priority to whomever pays them enough. One example of this greed is what is the threat over the BBC'c new iplayer service, that the providers won't stream all that video unless they are paid to do so. http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article2856766.ece I hope this article from a recent link in a slashdot article gets in front of as many Americans as possible. This is why the US is so far behind other countries with broadband service.http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070810_002683.html

jaghen
jaghen

Everyone has great points here. I think it will ultimatley come down to the masses. And how many of them fully understand the technologies they are using and losing. As one fellow here said, he barely has time to read a couple of articles a day to try and stay ahead of the curve. I also am in the same boat. I believe that the masses don't understand and thus will ultimately, unknowingly, give control over to the folks controlling the infrastructure. We have seen the consolidation of media and what it's done. People didn't understand what they were losing on the radio and tv as far as diversity. Now they pay through the nose for repetitave programming schedules that are mostly composed of commercials. What will happen if the companies running the internet decide to charge websites for internet access. The internet will go to the highest bidder.

VBJackson
VBJackson

While I would agree that "real" net neutrality, as you call it, is an ideal state for the internet, you are forgetting 2 things: 1) There really is no such thing as "THE INTERNET". It is really just a bunch of interconnected data circuits and centers, (mostly) owned by corporations. TANSTAFL ( there aint no such thing as a free lunch). Businesses are out there to make money. 2) No matter how you feel about the government, it is the only serious control the the internet has. If you think that the majority of people can and will take care of thier own systems, I am afraid that you aren't in touch with the majority of consumers. Yes, that would be an ideal world, but we techies are immersed in this every day. At that, I don't have time to visit slashdot, etc, on a regular basis. I am doing good to find the time to read an occasional article here. Not only that, but you are also dreaming if you think that ANY government is going to give up regulating the internet. The internet has too much power, and the people that go into politics are all about power.

gpopkey
gpopkey

I feel greed is indeed a factor with providers wanting a cut when volumes to/from certain sites are large. However I feel 'Net Neutrality also has implications with regard to restricting the free flow of information unless all bills are paid and the more you pay, the more you are allowed to do. As a retired IT consultant on a fixed income, I don't want to have to pay more to get what I have now. I don't want hours of use restricted, nor information volumes restricted, but the 'Net definitely needs to be policed to avoid abuse and maliciousness.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

There's more diversity in television media today than there has ever been. What country are you talking about?

apotheon
apotheon

Your number 1 point is irrelevant at best. Your number 2 point: "[i]No matter how you feel about the government, it is the only serious control the the internet has. If you think that the majority of people can and will take care of thier own systems, I am afraid that you aren't in touch with the majority of consumers.[/i]" That only means something if you can make a strong case for the alternative working out any better. If you think the alternative [b]would[/b] work out any better, I really don't think you've thought through the consequences of greater government control of technology very carefully. "[i]Not only that, but you are also dreaming if you think that ANY government is going to give up regulating the internet. The internet has too much power, and the people that go into politics are all about power.[/i]" Translation: "Evil is inevitable, so you may as well embrace it so you'll be on the winning side." Um . . . no thanks. I don't think that way. (Use of the word "evil" should probably be read as hyperbolic rather than strictly literal in this case.) (edit: left out the word "through" -- thinking faster than I type, darnit)

Antagonist
Antagonist

So who will police it? And who decides what constitutes abuse and maliciousness? That's the whole point, people need to police it for themselves. The net doesn't need policing. People need to start stepping up and taking responsibility for their own involvement on the net. They need to educate themselves about the dangers involved with using the network. That way we are all empowered to keep the internet free and safe for ourselves without having someone elses values and morals decide that for us.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

You have a vast choice of programs of people getting cut up. That certainly didn't exist before!

roaming
roaming

Here in Australia we have 3 different CSI's with gory pictures of dead people getting cut up and Silent Witness with gory pictures of dead people getting cut up and...

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