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2013 Has Been A Terrible Year for the Internet

2013 is over. 2014 begins.

In 2013, we published 84 blogs. This is the 85th. The last of 2013.

With the last blog of 2013, instead of chatting about the Cloud, instead of talking about web hosting and instead of talking about how to resolve Linux OS issues, we are going to tackle a much larger topic – one we touched on yesterday in “The Internet is Broken. The Cloud Is Next.” For the last Solar VPS blog of 2014 we are going to talk about the continuing broken state of the Internet, the problem with Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, and why, once and for all, American ISP’s need to match or better the offered Internet speeds of Google Fiber.

Yes, this will be a rant blog. Yes, this will be a blog lamenting the state of the Internet. Yes, this will be a blog lambasting ISP’s and their horrible practices. Yes, it’s 2014 and we are mad as hell.

The Internet Is Broken

We normally don’t link to other sources but if you missed it, do yourself a favor and read the Esquire blog titled, “The Year We Broke the Internet.” Trust us, it’s a critical read to understand where our Internet culture currently stands. If you choose not to read it, no surprise, the Internet is broken. The reason? Us. Yes, us.

The Internet is broken due to the public. All of us. Me. You. My bosses. Your bosses. Your parents and my brother. The Internet is broken due to all of us. 100 years ago, hell, even 30 years ago, before the advent of 24/7/365 cable news and the always alive traffic chamber known as the Internet, media meant three things – the 6 PM nightly news, The Washington Post (newspapers) and radio. That was it. Walter Cronkite, Woodward and Bernstein and Edward R. Murrow. Then came 24/7/365 news broadcasting. Then came the Internet. By now, we all know new media has fully changed how the public receives media. Sure, the 6 PM nightly news is still a stable of broadcast stations however by the time Brian Williams and Scott Pelley inform you about the top news story of the day, that story has already been read and reacted to a few million times on the Interwebs.

The Cloud is Next

Now, the question: Does the 6 PM nightly news serve a purpose in our 24/7/365 media world? While some would argue it does not, we are arguing it does. The reason is simple: us. As noted by Luke O’Neil in Esquire:

“These all had one thing in common: They seemed too tidily packaged, too neat, “too good to check,” as they used to say, to actually be true. Any number of reporters or editors at any of the hundreds of sites that posted these Platonic ideals of shareability could’ve told you that they smelled, but in the ongoing decimation of the publishing industry, fact-checking has been outsourced to the readers. Not surprisingly—as we saw with the erroneous Reddit-spawned witch-hunt around the Boston Marathon bombing—readers are terrible at fact-checking. And this, as it happens, is good for business because it means more shares, more clicks.”

The problem is us. In a world dominated by who is first, in a media landscape dominated by speed over fact, the public has been given the task of fact-checker. When traffic becomes more important than truth, our society is at risk of shedding its founding ideals. An informed public. To argue we have an informed American public is to argue for insanity. Traffic has replaced real information. Clicks have supplanted fact. Views and shareability reign over long form journalism and substance. The Internet is broken not in spite of sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and the Huffington Post. No, the Internet is broken due to those sites. When a catchy headline and spurious content becomes more important than fact based information, our “need to be informed society” fails.

We know, those photos of cats on are so damn cute. We know they are. Now tell us please, what the hell is going on with net neutrality?

The Problem with Verizon, AT&T, Comcast…

Toll Booths and Pay For Access

Unless you have been living on Mars with your head firmly planted in Martian soil, you have heard something about Net Neutrality. If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is, the simple way to explain it is by picturing a highway. Certain highways have no toll boots. These highways tend to be paid for by increased tax dollars allowing for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. Other highways, like the ones we have in New Jersey, make use of toll booths. These tolls booths are separated into two distinctions – EZPass and Cash only. This is how Net Neutrality works. One set of drivers (companies) get quicker and better access to the highway (Internet), while another set of drivers receive slower degrading access to highways.

Now, as you might imagine, applying access or toll booth access roadblocks to the Internet would give ISP’s like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast the ability to pick and choose companies and consumers who they think should have preferred Internet access. Finally, understand for the past few years, ISP’s like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have all been lobbying to due away with Net Neutrality.

Fast forward to now. There is a case currently working it’s way through the Washington D.C U.S. Court of Appeals (the second highest court in the United States) which will determine the fate of Net Neutrality within the United States. Although the case hasn’t been determined yet, many sources, including Wired Magazine is bracing for the worst:

“But, in their questions and statements during oral argument, the judges have made clear how they planned to rule — for the phone and cable companies, not for those who use the Internet. While the FCC has the power to impose the toothless “no-blocking” rule (originally proposed by AT&T above), it does not (the court will say) have the power to impose the essential “nondiscrimination” rule.”
“It looks like we’ll end up where AT&T initially began: a false compromise.”
“The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector, requiring payment for reliable service.”
“In fact, during the oral argument in the current case, Verizon’s lawyer said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

Now, let’s put the Internet is broken together with an end to Net Neutrality. Not only does this spell out an Internet world in which only certain companies can flurish, it also spells out an Internet world of regulated clicks and information. Just like NBC telling Brian Williams what his 6:30 PM nightly news show can or can not broadcast, ending Net Neutrality would mean only chosen content, from chosen providers, would be clickable. Essentially, the traffic of information would be directed as opposed to free flow.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize this is not good for a society founded on the basis of an informed public.

Finally, let’s add terrible Internet speeds to the equation.

Google Fiber, 1 Gig BroadBand and ISP’s

Google Fiber is supply market competition to the broadband world

The simple truth of the Internet in the United States is connection speeds are terrible – on purpose. Google Fiber 1 Gig Broadband has been trying to fix this. Through a concerted effort, ISP’s like Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and AT&T have been actively fighting against Google Fiber. From within the U.S. court system to Capitol Hill lobbyists, major ISP’s have been fighting to keep Google Fiber from gaining hold for two reasons:

  1. Google Fiber offers faster Internet services along with more comprehensive cable/phone packages

  2. Google Fiber offers their services at a lower cost than other major ISP’s

Like any good corporate citizen, companies like Verizon have been fighting Google Fiber to ensure they maintain their hold on the market. Major ISP’s are fighting against faster and more affordable Internet access. Major ISP’s are fighting to limit customer services not on the grounds that those services wouldn’t be good for consumers/businesses. No. Major ISP’s are fighting against Google Fiber and 1 Gig broadband on the basis of they have no interest in spending the money to update their slower services and crumbling infrastructures.

Instead of doing the right thing – providing consumers with the highest level of service possible, ISP’s are fighting to maintain the status quo.

Some Perspective for 2013

So, let’s put this all together. The Internet is broken. Net Neutrality might go down in flames and ISP’s are providing the market with degrading solutions by design. What an excellent year in review.

The one good thing? The Cloud is growing.

Happy 2014 everyone!

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