As many of us experienced yesterday, the internet ran at a snail’s pace, taking us back to speeds reminiscent of the early part of the new millennium. Seriously, I felt as though I was taken back to the days of AOL. In case you are unaware of the reason, to put it simply, it was the protest centered on the ever-growing concern surrounding Net Neutrality.
So why the slowdown you may ask? It was done by ISPs to make both a statement and a concrete example of what the new legislation surrounding Net Neutrality means (or the lack thereof), and the impending consequences: what all Americans and others can expect in the months and years to come. A warning shot that illustrates how the largest ISPs can throttle bandwidth to promote their own services, thus removing choice from the population by making other content providers suffer.
Here’s an example: If an incredibly large, dominant figure in the American ISP market—let’s call it DomCast—decided to promote its own version of Netflix, a version that would impact other companies. Let’s say for the sake of argument that DomCast launched DomFlix—a Netflix competitive service offering. DomCast could throttle Netflix on its network, giving the upper hand and priority to its own platform, leaving Netflix users suffering from buffering or no connectivity. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the issue with doing away with Net Neutrality.
The far greater issue is how Net Neutrality impacts the global ecosystem as it relates to our data driven world. In defining what I mean by that, let’s step back as IT experts in a B2B setting where data is defined by corporate files—let’s get bigger and wider. When I say data, I mean everything. I mean phone conversations, photo files, social media, TV and movie streaming, mobile apps, every file type you can think of, emails, text messages—in other words, the world as we know it.
Now, consider that world as it continues to grow. As fiber networks permeate the landscape, as data centers grow exponentially to compete with the ever-increasing digital traffic landscape, all of this depends on those who own the overarching networks.
Further to this, there is the changing world of our data consumption habits. Not to age myself, though I seem to be the old man waving his fist in the air of late, but back in my day we watched this thing called TV. Remember that? When a coax cable ran to your house and gave you the magic of five channels—with Battlestar Galactica and Night Rider ruling the airwaves? And remember radio? Or cassette tapes?
Now we stream everything through fiber, we create our own TV stations through our desired watch lists, we create our own radio through apps like Spotify, and we can find classic shows like the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica on YouTube, and more. My point? Everything we do is data driven. More so, data defines our lives. Not just work, not just personal—a blurred line that no longer entails a work-life-balance, but delivers a constant stream of a data-infused lifestyle that merges all aspects of our lives into a collection of devices without which we feel lost.
If our lives are so connected, and so data-dependent, what happens when the likes of DomCast decides what we can access, stream, share, and so on? The fight just became real. However, I fear that this time, the revolution won’t be televised—the bandwidth won’t be available.