Thursday, August 03, 2006

Net Neutrality - Tier Access

This is my attempt at explaining the concept of Net Neutrality-Tier Access and how it could affect not only Shatford Library but all libraries and the general public. It is a complicated subject, but at the core is the right to control information.

A Wee Bit of Technical Background - Simplified

The phone companies provide the transmission “backbone” of what is now called the Internet. Every second of every day data is traveling through the phone company infrastructure.

The current data that is transmitted is plain old telephone service (POTS), E-mail and most forms of Internet connections. It is also includes Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP or Internet Phone services) Audio and Video content not to mention data from cable, satellite and broadcast television stations.

My Understanding of Tier Access

The phone companies are actively pushing for new legislation to create a tier or metered access. For example, Amazon.com would pay more for having more traffic and using more bandwidth than I would pay as a blogger.

Shatford Library may not generate the same level of bandwidth as Amazon.com but there is a cost to provide library Internet services. There would be an increase the amount PCC and Shatford would have to pay to provide those services.

As a blogger and consumer of audio/video content, the phone companies feel that I should pay more for my bandwidth usage than a person just sending and receiving e-mail.

The phone companies want the freedom to increase the cost of providing the services without restriction or regulation. On the surface it seems fair; you use more, you pay more.

The reality is that Amazon.com does pay more money for access. They purchase multiple high speed transmission lines. Shatford Library also spends quite a bit of money to provide web access to staff and students. As a blogger, I pay for my ISP connection to the Internet as well as my normal phone service.

The phone companies are getting paid. They now want the right to more compensation. A lot more.
  • With Tier or Metered Access Amazon.com would be required to pay much more money because they are using a certain level of bandwidth as determined by the phone companies. Not only that but if a competitor of Amazon.com wanted to purchase an exclusive contract that a certain section or domain of the Internet is “Sponsored by” the phone companies could block access to Amazon.com.
  • Shatford Library would pay a much higher rate because staff, students and faculty would generate a certain level of usage. If the rate becomes excessive the college would have increase the budget or the library would have to reduce or eliminate providing its current level of access.
  • If my Internet Service Provider could no longer eat the cost of the number of member free web sites and blog traffic it could make the decision to reduce, limit or charge me more for my access and content. I might also lose the company that host the videos and the company that provides free blogging services.
This has real implications for all library patrons, workers and book junkies alike. Okay, maybe not the Luddite bookies but it would have a dramatic effect on users who cannot afford home access and depend on libraries for Internet connections. What happens when libraries can't afford to provide anything more than basic connection?

More Information:

There are many sides to this topic. Tier Access is just one aspect of the discussion about Net Neutrality.

Dive in and join the discussion.

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