Many of you probably heard about the announcement from Cox this week. If not, in short they announced that in the near future they will begin to handle network congestion based on protocol and need for real-time services. It’s a nice way of saying traffic shaping, but that’s an ugly phrase with negative connetations so the chose “congestion” because of two things. Congestion to regular English speakers means there is a backup, something that is wrong, that needs to be fixed. To be congestion-free is better than to be congested. Therefore they are doing us all a favor by fixing a problem. Thank you Cox.
Now what is really going on? Traffic shaping is the art of the ISP deciding what is actually important traffic and what is not. Granted some applications need to be real-time and suffer from any minute lag. VoIP is the classic example an streaming video. So Cox is saying that we can guarantee that this stuff will never lag. Ever. However FTP transfers and P2P (check that, bittorrent) will be scaled back when necessary for the better of the network. So instead of Cox realizing the incredible potential of P2P and perhaps working on a committee to use the technology and make it more efficient they have chosen that the state of the internet in 2005 is the way they wanted it to be, forever.
It seems they are doing you a service until you realize what this potentially (and will) lead too. The next step is bandwidth caps. This means every user is allocated 20 GBs a month to download, whatever they want at top speeds (unless Cox decides it knows what is best for you and decides to shape it) and if they go over that cap then their speed will be reduced to lets say half their initial speed, with another 10 GB cap in place. This goes on and on. You might be thinking, well hey, they put down all this wire and paid these heavy costs, why shouldn’t they protect their investment. Well, considering much of this infrastrucutre was laid down with government subsidies (this means your tax dollars) and many of these companies have de-facto monopolies in many areas and I begin to lose the warm fuzzy feeling. Take into consideration that many of these companies will be receiving money from the recent Broadband stimulous package and the situation becomes even more ridiculous.
Government: “Here is some money, take america to the forefront of internet penetration and usage. We lag behind the entire devloped world”
ISPs: “We promise to make sure America’s farmland country folk will now have internet speeds that are available in the most advanced third world countries. However to do so, we need to stifle innovation and freeze regular broadband usage at the status quo of 2005. Youtube is an evil thing indeed.”
So in the future, with bandwidth caps and traffic shaping become a standard you will hear things like this. Remember Cox users, if you watch online videos at any of our supported partners websites it doesn’t count against your bandwidth cap! Unlimited videos when you watch Cox approved content, through Cox approved providers. You see my point. They will begin to decide what is best for your by beginning to lock you in to their content. Doesn’t seem scary? It should. What is funny is that many of our friends in the third world already use things like traffic shaping and bandwidth caps. It’s good to know we have Internet policy on par with countries where people average income is $400 a month. This is ridiculous and hopefully someone in Obama’s administration will realize it.