After a few months of blogging at my site focused on technology and social issues at DigitalDivisions.org, I am re-focusing my time and effort on this new blog on technology and media. This will be a kind of personal/professional blog for me, and unlike the the last site, directly related to my primary interests and what I spend all my time doing these days.
I have a lot of experience with building and designing web sites and applications and recently switched gears to study journalism at Northwestern University. I’m halfway through the year long program, and things are going to start getting interesting. I spent the last six months learning how to write and report, and I am going to spend the next six honing my new media skills and working on projects.
The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council, a coalition of 160 Internet companies, met on capitol hill two weeks ago to discuss net neutrality.
The meeting hosted input from BitTorrent and other large network operators. Members of the coalition came down against any kind of regulation of their networks.
According to an article on FreePress.net, members are saying that BitTorrent and video downloads are beginning to consume a lot of bandwidth, and that the network operators need not be burdened by regulation when they manage their networks.
From the press release on the FTTH Council’s website:
“There is a continuing need to monitor and manage the networks to ensure available bandwidth for all subscribers,” said John Andrews, President of US Sonet [a major network operator]. “Network management is crucial and necessary for the success of new broadband applications and services. And, changing network threats require constantly changing network management practices.”
Network operators know better how to manage their network than politicians do. However customers get mad when they buy an Internet connection and can’t use it the way they expect.
Customer protection through simplicity. This is what network neutrality has to be about. Right now I pay for a 5 megabit Internet connection, and I can use that connection as much as I want whenever I want. Special exceptions to these rules will cause confusion and frustration. The Internet is complicated enough as it is.
The Chicago Tribune published an article this weekend about the impact that the Internet can have on the lives of people who are trying to make ends meet. The article mentions the WiMax rollout in Chicago, and the Lt. Governor of Illinois’ recently introduced ordinance to provide 15,000 low-cost laptops to Chicago Public School kids.
But the article is really about how the Internet gives people access to a whole new world. From the article:
Michael Bailey, who helps provide computer training for Chicago Housing Authority
residents, said that once people develop computer skills “they start to see that they can succeed. When they have the motivation, you begin to see lifestyle changes.”
The article quotes one woman who has a computer but cannot afford Internet service. She has a paying job, but other things are more important. But it started me thinking, for those who have a modest income, for whom a high-speed Internet connection might just be a little too expensive, could Internet access actually pay for itself?
With a little motivation, the Internet opens up a boat load of opportunity. Just getting the tools to apply to one job a day, or using online resources to education oneself, Internet access could result in a higher paying job. For those with time, who are willing to put some effort, everything a person would need to make money from the Internet is freely available online.
Is the Internet worth springing for, even if it might put a family outside their means? How long would it take for Internet access in a household to pay for itself?
The FCC’s chairman Kevin Martin has decided that they should auction off part of the 25 megahertz spectrum with the provision that the winner should provide free Internet access.
Don’t get too excited yet, the FCC’s commissioners have to vote on it at their next meeting on June 13.
It appears companies are willing to try the ad-supported Internet model again. From Wired’s Epicenter blog:
“We’ve been pushing for [free internet access] as a matter of policy for two years,” says John Muleta, founder and CEO of M2Z Networks, a company that aims to provide free ad-supported broadband access.
So is Muleta talking to Google, Yahoo or Microsoft about a partnership for the free access?
“We’re a Silicon Valley company and we’re always talking to potential partners,” Muleta says.
I do wonder if Google is going to get involved in another spectrum auction. I hope the last one didn’t take to much out of them. The open-access provisions that Google proposed for the last auction would be great to have applied here, but it’s not clear that the FCC will do that without pressure. Requiring the winner to allow any device and service over their airwaves in addition to free access is going to make this spectrum even less attractive.