Net neutrality. Speak the words, savor the flavor of freedom as it rolls off your tongue. Net neutrality. As a photographer, those are becoming the most important two words you will hear in this decade. Net neutrality means all internet traffic is considered equal, from whatever the source, and none shall be given a preference in speed of delivery or preferential routing between internet host and your personal computer/smartphone/tablet/heart monitoring device. Net neutrality means that delivery of your photographs and videos has the same speed and routing as Netflix or Amazon. Net neutrality. It is an important pair of words.

This issue of net neutrality verses a two tier rule is currently before the FCC in Washington DC. Their impeding decision will impact artists around the world: photographers, videographers, painters, musicians, sculptors, animators; anyone who uses the internet to display their art. Users are invited to contact the FCC. Read on and take action.

Net neutrality is a global crisis because it influences the traffic speeds and traffic patterns for the entire globe. If any of the so called two tier rules are enacted, you will pay for your connection and service at a contracted speed, and then the server owner you connect to must pay a premium to rank higher in the “queue” to deliver you your packets (internet page) ahead of the packets delivered to you and other users who do not pay this extorted extra “premium”. Those who pay the most get to cut in line. In other words, your computer will slow to a crawl as Suzzie Q next door does her ultra-high speed shopping on Amazon. Not very nice, not what the free internet was designed to do, but what can you or I do about it?  How does it effect me?  How does it effect you and your photography?

Netflix is also impacted greatly by this net neutrality issue.  Netflix was recently forced to pay a premium to both Comcast and Verizon to increase their streaming movie feeds. This “agreement” kind of reminds me of the “agreement” I had with the elementary school bully who collected twenty five cents a week of my lunch money to “protect” me from abuse. Netflix is not happy about this situation, and has taken their case to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C, in protest.  Netflix is a strong supporter of Net Neutrality.

As an aggressive act of protest, or a childish display of bitter grapes?  Depends upon whom you ask. Verizon today fired back  a shot across Netflix’s bow, as the two titans of the internet seas face off and prepare to do battle. Verizon legal team worked overtime drafting the following Netflix advisory and demand:

Verizon cease and desist to Netflix

What’s next? Most likely something just short of global thermonuclear war. Expect to see the court summons start to fly around Verizon New York headquarters as well as Netflix in Silicon Valley. There is no question, this issue is drawing huge public debate.  So far, the FCC’s call for public comment on proceeding 14-28 has drawn only 45,395 comments according to the FCC internet site here: http://www.fcc.gov/comments

In addition to artists, small independent businessmen from all walks of life are strongly protesting FCC proposed rules allowing two tier pricing schemes. Feeling threatened by the deep pockets of the likes of Amazon, concern is strong about a small independent’s ability to compete when up against the money to buy delivery at full speed, whatever the cost.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to calculate how many people will simply switch from a slow, glitchy user experience on SuzzieQ.com vs. the smooth, high speed delivery of an Amazon.

Those of us old enough to remember the early internet days of dialup AOL connections get shivers up our spines at the very thought.  “You’ve Got Mail” for me became synonymous with an hourglass on my screen collecting cobwebs as the photographs s-l-o-w-l-y ground their way from the Outlook Express™ inbox over my modem and down onto my desktop. It was a trial of patience viewing any web site heavy with photos-like mine and most of my photography friends!

From the Netflix blog post:

Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service. The big ISPs can make these demands — driving up costs and prices for everyone else — because of their market position. For any given U.S. household, there is often only one or two choices for getting high-speed Internet* access and that’s unlikely to change. Furthermore, Internet access is often bundled with other services making it challenging to switch ISPs. It is this lack of consumer choice that leads to the need for strong net neutrality.

 

The first offered chance at my own high speed concoction to the internet was from Cox, my cable company. I bought, and have continued to buy, service from my local cable company for my internet connection for well over two decades. The entire time I have expected and enjoyed seeing my photographs come up on my computer at the same speed and equally as smooth as those of Google’s or Yahoo hosted competitors. I’ve relished in the ability to view my friends photographs on all of the platforms, forums, Flickr’s and Flackr’s of the world with equal aplomb. Low speed internet connection is simply not conducive to viewing art of any genre. Sampling a video on a dialup telephone line is connection suicide.

The lure and promise of higher speeds, smoother downloads and complete presentation equality are the very underpinnings of the internet I enjoy, the internet that I have built my own future upon. At 64 and retired, sharing my experiences through my photographs and my prose with you my readers is as fine a retirement as a man could want. Most artists don’t make much money in the arts, they have real paying jobs on the side. But the satisfaction you get from pursuing art as an artist, sharing that in a community of your fellow men and women around the world, is truly a precious freedom we as global citizens should fight to defend.

I wholeheartedly support Net Neutrality. Here is my reasoning: I pay my cable company a lot of money every month just to provide me with extra high speed internet connection service. Our home does not buy their television offerings, not even the basic package. We prefer movies from our Netflix subscription. I’ve paid those cable bills for nearly thirty years. I pay an equally outrageous amount of money every month to AT&T for our cell service, so we do not buy voice communication service either from my cable company. Every penny of my cable bill goes towards offsetting Time Warner’s costs and profits of providing my internet connection at Net Neutrality. At issue is my financial ability to stand in line to deliver and receive the stories, photographs, music and videos I choose. At issue is my freedom of choice. Those who hold the purse strings want to pound my service level back to dial up.  These guys aren’t kidding around.

net-neutralityWith net neutrality freedom today, nobody can legally make my service erratic, slow, or force a return to a horrible photographic and video experience for my readers. What these vested interests attempting to kill net neutrality fail to point out is that the internet was designed at its inception as a net neutral peer to peer communication vehicle. Image files coming from various servers around the globe make up most of the content, such as this story you are reading right now. The net is a “lowest common denominator” vehicle. Each page you read here comes together from separate sources, videos from one, text and stills from another host, each presented in position as it arrives in your browser window. I design my pages you read to look good when all the content is presented together. They look anemic when viewed without the photos and colorful content. They look clownish without the text and photos. That content loads slow enough now, should I have to pay to make my stills load as fast as the Vimeo movie? I can’t compete, and neither can most of the artists and independent entrepreneurs of the the world.

I can not afford to pay anymore taxes, connection fees, or for so called “premium services” which are sure to follow if net neutrality is eliminated,  I already started paying almost thirty years ago to eliminate that lousy user experience, and have paid Verizon as well as many of their brethren in the cable and wireless internet connection business to continue that level service agreement with net neutrality for almost thirty years. Never forget, the internet itself is a free communication exchange for free peoples of the world to communicate and interact together socially, we only pay for our connection to it, Hybrid Storytelling depends upon net neutrality to continue to function.  Video streams must meet up with stills, audio, and text all at the same time in our browser windows, or the experience just sux.

Everybody please comment to the FCC and share your own views there, or in the comments here below.

For the FCC: http://www.fcc.gov/comments

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