Net neutrality is dead. Why that’s bad for OpenSim grids

(Image courtesy Lawrence Pierce.)

Well, they’ve done it. Net neutrality is dead.

I first wrote about net neutrality in June of 2014. At that time, we all had a unique opportunity to voice our concerns in a democratic forum, in which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was seeking public comments for 120 days.

There has been an abundance of information available to help form opinions and explain the situation. Initially, I was in opposition to net neutrality, but as I learned about the caveats and supporters behind a tiered service, it became obvious that most of the arguments in favor of eliminating net neutrality were disingenuous at best.

The telling and final point of clear bias in the elimination of net neutrality was that the vote fell along party lines. The head of the FCC, Trump appointee Ajit Pai, has been quoted offering reassurances that the alarmist concerns of citizens and industry leaders will not be realized. I’ve put, “Trump appointee” as part of the description because for at least one-half of the citizenry of the United States (and polls suggest more than half at this point), that alone is cause for deep concern.

There has been unprecedented citizen and consumer group objection to ending net neutrality, with major tech industry names, such as Google, similarly opposing any change. There has also been late breaking controversy about consumer comments that were ‘fake’. In fact, in a follow-up article that I wrote (Net neutrality isn’t dead yet) my own casual review of comments, available to anyone for download, revealed many meaningless entries. Considering, however, that over a million comments were received over a five-month period, even if only half are legitimate comments, that is an exceptional public response.

Past arguments aside however, the deal is done. What counts now is what comes next.

And that part is still an uncertainty. We just do not know exactly who will take advantage of this and how, although we can guess at which entities would stand to benefit and which would stand to lose.

What we do know is that telecom corporations are not friends. No matter how they market to us, they are not friends. These corporations can be decent and treat customers and the planet fairly, but they are still not friends. In other words, they do not favor us because they know us and love us and will stand by us, even at their own expense. So, at the end of the day, every telecom corporation will decide what it needs and wants for itself and what is best for their shareholders.

Consumers will matter, but as hay for the horses, not as guests of honor.

As noted in my first article, there are some compelling cases in which we would all agree fast Internet access should be guaranteed. For example, medical monitoring services.

And other uses of the Internet, such as email, do not suffer appreciably from slower or erratic transmission speeds. Even an entertainment use of the Internet, such as Netflix, is a special case — if they cannot ensure excellent throughput the service is unusable, and I would argue that their customers would agree.

What’s more concerning, however, are the full range of services that are neither a matter of life and death, or functionally impossible, but nonetheless diminished, without unfettered access to the full transmission potential that is available.

For example, virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds is not a mainstream activity like email or television watching. Virtual worlds receive scant press and have relatively low numbers of participants. Most significantly, systems such as OpenSim and even Second Life depend on offering free visitor access.

And now with platforms such as High Fidelity using greater distribution of the processing mechanisms, excellent Internet speed is more essential than ever.

Will ISPs throttle such uses without the payment of fees that would essentially kill the growth of the technology? That’s the question not yet answered. But it’s easy to see how such technologies are vulnerable to such considerations.

Formally, companies such as AT&T are projecting a benign keep-the-status-quo message: “…The internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.” But just consider the title of the source statement for that excerpt: “AT&T Statement on FCC Vote to Restore Internet Freedom.”

In other words, AT&T has viewed net neutrality as a constraint on freedom — freedom to manipulate as providers see fit — not as a freedom for all users to access the Internet equally, or freedom from manipulation. See how easy it is to twist a single word into two entirely different sets of consequences?

With the end of net neutrality we have few answers, but many concerns. We should all watch and monitor what happens next. Maybe our worst fears will remain fears and nothing more. After all, we live on a planet with thousands of nuclear weapons, obviously a far greater threat, and yet, so far, we are still here without a global nuclear winter actually occurring.

But I end this update with the feeling that, as happens so often, citizen concerns are basically set aside by governments that time and time again promote the myth that if major corporations are treated like benevolent princes and princesses and granted a wealth of privileges, they will bestow nothing but blessings on all their loyal subjects. That is a trumped up hope – pun intended.

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lawrence.pierce@hypergridbusiness.com'

Lawrence Pierce

Lawrence Pierce specializes in new media design and production. He began as a computer game programmer and has been a systems consultant to corporations such as DuPont and the J. Paul Getty Art Trust, art director on the first computer game for MTV and a featured artist in the Hollywood Reporter.

18 Responses

  1. lmpierce@alcancemas.com' lmpierce says:

    I should probably add two details: net neutrality is dead in the United States, while regulations in Europe, for instance, are a separate matter. Also, in case you missed the news about it, the FCC vote to repeal net neutrality in the U.S. was on Thursday, December 14.

    • hanheld@yahoo.com' Han Held says:

      It will be bad for those of us in the United States. A not-insignifigant portion of Opensim lives outside of the U.S, however.

  2. geir.noklebye@dayturn.com' Geir Nøklebye says:

    The FFC ruling is a US only issue (although it could spill over to other locations). A large number of grids are hosted outside of the US and are therefore not affected at the hosting location. US users may have a “last mile” issue even when using those grids, where their local ISP might throttle the connection.

  3. lmpierce@alcancemas.com' lmpierce says:

    Hi Fli Girl,

    Please note that this article is an opinion piece, not news. It is located under: “Columns/Metaverse”, whereas news articles are listed under, “Metaverse/News”. These headings appear above the title of the article. You probably missed this. My opinion piece is not a production of Hypergrid Business and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

    Nonetheless, this article has links to two previous articles which invited discussion on the advantages and disadvantage of net neutrality, and a link to facilitate readers with an interest to make a comment of their own, with the FCC, in support of, or against, net neutrality. I’m guessing you missed those articles as well.

    The term ‘net neutrality’ was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a Columbia professor, the same year that Second Life was launched. Your statement, “And also if you recall SL was born way before net neutrality and all was ok.. ” is inaccurate, but also no longer relevant.

    It bears pointing out that the stakes have grown tremendously over the last 14 years (if you want to use 2003 as a starting point) – The importance of the Internet cannot be overstated. Its history and growth is nothing short of breathtaking in evolutionary terms. It may be entirely valid to say that before 2003 there were few if any serious contentions for bandwidth, but that kind of assessment is completely out-of-date at this point.

    The idea that there is a meaningful free market of choices in ISP’s is ridiculous. Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon account for 76% of the Internet subscribers in the U.S., according to the Leichtman Research Group. And guess where they ALL stand on the issue of repealing net neutrality… right, they supported it. (This article nicely summarizes the topic: https://www.inverse.com/article/38734-net-neutrality-att-verizon-charter-comcast)

    The Internet today affects most educators, consumers, hospitals, entertainment providers, security agencies, small start ups that offer online services, and on and on. As usual, the welfare of most people has been relegated to the wishes of a few giant entities that want any possible additional control over the Internet for themselves.

    But I will close this comment as I closed the article. It is not yet clear how telecom companies will use their enhanced privileges. As noted in the article, the future is uncertain. What we do know is that virtual world technologies are vulnerable (I’m not with the CDC, so I can legally use the word ‘vulnerable’ – an inside U.S. joke that also illustrates just how disturbing control of one group over another can be). Tiered service that relegates a ‘minor’ technology like virtual worlds to slower speeds would be bad for OpenSim (SL, Sansar, High Fidelity and any others as well).

    It is entirely appropriate for that demographic to be concerned. And that’s really all the article says.

    • asgowf@gmail.com' Fli Girl says:

      You are correct that I missed the point of this being an opinion article, so to that I apologize. But You do have a fact wrong Net Neutrality was not passed into law until 2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality_in_the_United_States And in fact the internet ran just fine in 2014.. But I will concede things have changed in the past couple years which will require more bandwidth but that just pushes right back to my other points. The Good thing of getting government regulations out of the internet is it will once again open the free market. While yes there are only a few major ISP’S right now providing high speed services that will change as the law of supply and demand proves time and time again. If the major ISP’s start throttling then smaller ISP’s will start to pop up to fill the need. If you remember before net neutrality was passed into law there were lots of smaller ISP’s starting to pop up and then when government regulations began as with any industry small business was strangled.
      And moving passed all that think of it this way, do you really want government having control of your internet? Especially those who think Trump is such an evil person.. Net Neutrality gives the government over site of the very company’s that give you internet so in effect they have control of the internet, and if you say ohh the government would not do that well take a look at facebook who is already starting to to censor due to government pressure. In my opinion net neutrality is the first step to a slippery slope where government once again takes control of freedoms we all take for granted…
      I posted this reply once already almost 24hrs ago and still has not shown, so if it comes in twice I apologize.

      • hanheld@yahoo.com' Han Held says:

        And moving passed all that think of it this way, do you really want
        government having control of your internet?

        Do you still beat your wife?

        I mean, as long as we’re throwing out loaded questions that are worded in the most loaded way possible….

        Net Neutrality gives the government over
        site of the very company’s that give you internet so in effect they have
        control of the internet,

        What’s your posistion on the government having control of water, food and climate?

        Or are you one of those who holds the fringe belief that we can without the FDA and the EPA? (a belief which relies on denying the lessons of the gilded age)

        Personally speaking …I most certainly want the government to make sure that ISPs transmit data in a neutral manner without regard for the content of that data. Just the same as I want them to make sure that the water company transmits water into my home that does not catch on fire when exposed to an open flame.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LBjSXWQRV8

      • lmpierce@alcancemas.com' lmpierce says:

        Fli Girl,

        Good point about net neutrality being given formal legal protection in 2015. In my comment, I said that the phrase was coined in 2003, which is, to my knowledge, correct. At that time the principles were already in play and had acquired importance, but not legal protection… Perhaps giving those principles legal protection was part of the reason they attracted so much attention and rebuke… I think sometimes principles are best left as principles.

        Skipping ahead to today, however, I think the more salient point in all of this is that the significance and role of the Internet now is quite different than the Internet of not even so long ago. Hence, our considerations, whether expressed through principles or laws, cannot simply refer to past trends without taking into account the current, and often complex, realities of interdependencies in the modern world. And there’s no doubt, I believe, that the Internet will only grow exponentially in importance and impact moving forward.

        • asgowf@gmail.com' Fli Girl says:

          Yes you did say coined in 2003 and I actually do agree with you that sometimes principles are best left as principles. And I can honestly see where you are all coming from big business has a habit of putting profits before service. And yes the internet is fast becoming and soon will be an intercal part of everyday life. But with all that said I still believe in a free and open market where costumers demand drives it not government over site.
          What everyone seems to be missing is its not like now comcast does not have to obey laws there will still be over site it will just be administered on a case by case decision instead of a one size fits all. The FTC will work with the FCC to insure ISP’s live up to promises made to consumers..

          https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/12/ftc-fcc-outline-agreement-coordinate-online-consumer-protection

          So I guess like I told Han time will be the true test to what this means..

          Ohh and by the way “(I’m not with the CDC, so I can legally use the word ‘vulnerable’” that was debunked CDC never banned any words 😎

          Merry Christmas! Thanks for hearing my view 😎

          • lmpierce@alcancemas.com' lmpierce says:

            Promises are not laws and oversight does not always lead to enforcement of the best interests of ordinary citizens (and a ‘memorandum of understanding’ carries no implication of legal commitment). I absolutely believe we need laws enforced by governments in nearly every sphere of human activity. My position on the value of law is not as simple as having ‘big brother’ reign-in the bad actors. In general, people do not agree enough for humanity to be entirely individual-centric or single-industry-centric. Companies do not agree with each other either. Consumers have different needs and concerns than corporations. The law at its best is a powerful way to manage our disagreements. Whenever someone starts asking, “Do you want the government having control and oversight”, I have no consistent answer. It depends on the issue, and the stakes, and the government, and to put a fine point on it, the specific form of government that is involved – regulatory agency, state, local, federal, international court, and so on).

            (BTW: the banned words reference was a way of being politically humorous in light of current affairs, recognizing as I did that it highlights some of the same issues with net neutrality, namely who has control over what. As far as I know, the Washington Post story about the Health and Human Services (HHS) and banned words list has not been retracted (I checked while writing this comment). The HHS argues that using the expression ‘banned words’ is a mischaracterization, but that is not the same as debunked. Rather, it is an example of when people / entities disagree. And from the public statement of the HHS, it sounds to me like they are the ones using wordplay to obscure that in fact, there is an expectation to avoid certain words that the current administration recognizes as contrary to their ideologies about life and the world. I would actually prefer that this be an example of mistaken reporting that ends up retracted because as it stands, I find the issue disturbing. If the story is true, it’s also my sense that the CDC will push back, so who knows what will transpire in the end. But whatever, it was just a sideline attempt at topical humor on my part, and not meant in any way to substantively contribute to the points I’ve been making.)

            Merry Christmas as well for you and yours.

  4. da.tonyhayward@gmail.com' Da Hayward says:

    Well actually I agree with Fi Girl. If one isn’t happy with a way an ISP treats you you move on to one which will honor their contract with you.
    So although there is a lot of views concerning Net neutrality. I think it is very easy to make a mountain out of a mole hill so to speak.
    Most reliable ISP’s will honor the contract you have with them.

  5. dahliatrimble@gmail.com' dahlia says:

    It should probably be mentioned that there is an expense associated with throttling TCP/IP traffic. Such traffic is intended to be “reliable” and as such, any step in the path between server and consumer needs to buffer (store up) any delayed traffic else it will be resent, causing additional traffic, and there is a hardware cost (memory) for buffering such traffic.

    I’ve heard where some ISPs have prioritized TCP/IP traffic over UDP as UDP is not expected to be reliable and does not require buffering along the path. As such, some games which use UDP heavily have suffered in the past. Second Life used to use mostly UDP traffic but over the years has migrated to TCP/IP for asset and inventory transmission and as such is less “vulnerable” to UDP de-prioritization by ISPs than it used to be.

    I’m somewhat ambivalent about Net Neutrality. I can see that ISPs might adopt abusive practices in the pursuit of profit unless they are constrained somehow. I can also see how they might not like services such as Netflix which use a lot of their bandwidth capacity which could degrade other services (such as UDP as mentioned above) and they may need some way to be able to charge Netflix for the needed capacity improvements, which I believe they have been able to do to some extent. I can also see how they may not like Netflix as they compete with their own television service offerings. I’m not sure how Net Neutrality regulations allowed such things to be worked out but I’d think ISPs might be anxious to protect their business models and not be forced to provide capacity improvements for all providers unless they can recover their expences.

    A final thought, when I purchase or rent a server, I usually have to pay more for high bandwidth capacity. Would Net Neutrality have changed this?

  6. hanheld@yahoo.com' Han Held says:

    Not sure how you beating your wife has any connection to net neutrality
    but just so you know, no I think you beating your wife is a bad thing.

    I was using a rhetorical device to demonstrate that you were using the ‘loaded question’ fallacy;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loaded_question

    and the difference between the government setting regulations on food
    and water I would just point out that those are literly life effecting
    products.. Life will not stop if you don’t have internet..

    Given the role the internet plays in modern banking, job searches, and bill paying that’s rather questionable.

    Particularly with the role the internet plays in job searches and career advancement. Facebook, linkedin etc.

    It’s possible to live off the grid, too. But it’s not practical.

    In 2017 living without the internet is not practical.

    And water cities who control water have screwed that up so bad you don’t
    dare drink from a tap… IE Detroit.. As for climate well that one’s
    God and good thing last thing we need is Washington deciding when and
    where it rains..

    Your whole argument hinges on their being a god, just saying.

    The question isn’t where and when it rains … the question is maintaining the quality of the our resources so that we don’t have burning rivers and the quality of our food so that we don’t have to worry about our wonderbread being made of sawdust.

    I will do the same thing with my ISP’s I do with anything else I buy if
    they give me a product I’m unhappy with I will find someone who gives
    me the product I want..

    Lucky you for having a choice. Not everyone does, as I’ve already pointed out.

    “I got mine” is a horrible place to come from when it comes to deciding policy.

    Long story short, you don’t appear to believe that the government should address environmental problems, food and drug quality or internet.

    It’s quite fortunate for you that your side holds all three branches of the United States government. For those of us who enjoy having drinkable tap water, food which isn’t adulterated with filler or poison and surfing an internet that does not charge us per-website the future is less rosy.

    Again, I’ll just repeat that as I’ve already proven; ISPs will act to unfairly restrict and prioritize traffic in a way that is against the interest of the consumer, while either having a literal or practical monopoly on internet service.

    This isn’t a question, nor is the need for them to be regulated so that they go back to neutral handlers of data.

    • asgowf@gmail.com' Fli Girl says:

      “I was using a rhetorical device to demonstrate that you were using the ‘loaded question’ fallacy;”

      I got what you meant, I was simply throwing your rhetorical point back at you… That said it is not a loaded question. Its an honest question, Do you want the government to have control of your internet.. And you say you do so hey that’s your right..

      ” Given the role the internet plays in modern banking, job searches, and bill paying that’s rather questionable.
      Particularly with the role the internet plays in job searches and career advancement. Facebook, linkedin etc.
      It’s possible to live off the grid, too. But it’s not practical.”

      I never said it was practical I was simply pointing out the differences in the two comparisons you were making. But on that note it is actually quite easy to live without internet…. Banks still take walk in costumers, utilities still take checks mailed in to them, Newspapers still print wanted adds, and Most companies will still take your resume delivered in person. While not the easy sit on your couch with you hand in the Cheetos bag way we are all accustomed to today it is still very possible…

      “Your whole argument hinges on their being a god, just saying.
      The question isn’t where and when it rains … the question is maintaining the quality of the our resources so that we don’t have burning rivers and the quality of our food so that we don’t have to worry about our wonderbread being made of sawdust.”

      As far as religion I’m not even going to begin to debate you on that, It is way to far off topic.

      As far as the FDA and the EPA I was not saying we should throw them out the window I was simply pointing out that using them as an example of government success is not necessarily the best way of proving your point..
      And like I said with religion this is getting off topic, so If you would like to know all my political beliefs we can debate that sometime but not sure this is the right place. 😉

      “Lucky you for having a choice. Not everyone does, as I’ve already pointed out.
      “I got mine” is a horrible place to come from when it comes to deciding policy.”

      I in no way said I got mine, I pointed out the law of supply and demand. Let me make it simpl., So if you go to lunch everyday at McDonald’s (don’t do this its crazy unhealthy) but one day you walk in and they no longer carry french fries. What do you do? Stand outside with a sign demanding government to make them sell you fries or simply walk across the street to Burger King and get you burger and fries. Seems pretty simple right. Well if enough people want fries and stop going to McDonald’s there eventually going to say hay profit is down since we stopped selling fries maybe we should start selling them again..

      Butt waittttt Fli I only have one option for my ISP so its not the same….. In fact you are not alone in that and actually believe it or not 50 million US homes have only one 25Mbps Internet provider or none at all…

      https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/06/50-million-us-homes-have-only-one-25mbps-internet-provider-or-none-at-all/

      In fact in the two years after Net Neutrality was signed into law network investment dropped 5.6% the first decline ever (outside of recession) since the internet started. So in fact Net Neutrality is actually proven to slow you choices.

      https://legalinsurrection.com/2017/12/no-the-world-will-not-end-because-the-fcc-repealed-obamas-net-neutrality/

      By removing the regulations you are actually freeing up the market so that you will actually get more choices you may even be able to get Wendy’s fries instead of Burger King!!

      “For those of us who enjoy having drinkable tap water, food which isn’t adulterated with filler or poison and surfing an internet that does not charge us per-website the future is less rosy.”

      Do you? do you really? There are very few ppl left who actually drink tap water so if you are one of them I say GOD bless you! You are braver than me! Food not adulterated? what do you think they injected in that cow to make that McDonald’s burger so good? All because the FDA said it was ok…. Surfing the internet not charged by the site? I’m not sure how old you are but I have been on the net Since “Al Gore” created it and long before Net Neutrality and guess what, never once been charged by the site!!

      “Again, I’ll just repeat that as I’ve already proven; ISPs will act to unfairly restrict and prioritize traffic in a way that is against the interest of the consumer, while either having a literal or practical monopoly on internet service.
      This isn’t a question, nor is the need for them to be regulated so that they go back to being neutral handlers of data.”

      I’m not sure where you have proven anything? In fact there is no proof.. What your doing is saying its possible. Big difference. Its also possible to rain frogs https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/rain-frog.htm but I’m not to terribly worried about it….

      In closing Ill just say this, the law has been repealed. We can debate it forever but one of us will be proven right and one of us wrong we will just have to wait and see.. 😎

      Have a good Day Han and Merry Christmas!

    • asgowf@gmail.com' Fli Girl says:

      Not sure where my reply went was here than disappeared

  7. lmpierce@alcancemas.com' lmpierce says:

    I accept that you’re done.