There has been a lot of talk lately in the news about the potential for the implementation of a two tier internet, that is to say a global collection of networks in which some traffic is given priority over others, not necessarily for reasons of efficiency but for those of financial incentive – those that can afford to pay can prioritise their internet traffic or take advantage of less restrictive access to the content of others.
This is something I wanted to muse over a little before committing thoughts to my blog because it is something close to my heart. Having given it some thought though it is actually a less savoury prospect than I had ever imagined and I was never in favour of a two tier internet in the first place.
At present the internet is a place in which content is indiscriminately accessible to all; something I publish is available to a user in, say, Australia as readily as it is to someone who lives up my street. Likewise someone on a cheap ISP can also access my published content in exactly the same way as someone on a more expensive provider.
Two Tier Internet means that for the first time some publishers will be able to dictate which “class” of consumer will be able to access their content and what is worse even if the publisher intends to allow everyone equal access the ISP could be equally restrictive if it took their fancy. My internet might not be the same as your internet and this means that whole areas of the internet could be completely invisible to you without you even knowing it. Sure, you might be able to hit IP addresses but they would time out as if there was no machine responding if they weren’t on your tier.
I cannot stress enough how damaging this will be to the whole ethos of the internet. Tim Berners Lee (creator of the world wide web in case you didn’t know) said himself that the connections we use to share data should be freely accessible to all and that the whole way in which the internet works relies on us all being on one network in which we all have the potential to be equal players. If the very creator of the web intended us to have one internet and believes it would be damaging to split it up, why should legislators who have no technical knowledge have the right to say it shouldn’t be that way? Quite simply they are taking the piss.
I’m not going to jump on a high horse about the quality of the content I have to distribute to the world, especially since some of it is probably pretty crap in the eyes of some who might come across it, but I sure as hell don’t want to see someone else deciding who should see it or not based on who is lining their pockets. I put it online because I want everyone in the world with a connection to be able to read, listen to, watch or download it as they wish. If a day comes when I can no longer do that, the one place on earth where we are all still truly free, the internet, really will be dead and the world will be a much darker place.