On Campus

Against net neutrality—sort of

Even if you are burning gigabytes learning calculus from streaming video online, you still need to pay for it

Was checking back through the blogging history of my fellow contributors and stumbled across this post. It sounds good, but to me it mixes up the concept of net neutrality with something completely different.

I define ‘net neutrality’ as the idea that internet providers or government do not restrict or monitor the theme of the content you view on the internet. Whether that content is MIT OpenCourseWare or something much less socially acceptable, that doesn’t matter. It’s not their business.

This is not the same thing as being granted unlimited access to the internet for free. It’s unreasonable to expect the nation’s ISPs to grant every household as much bandwidth as they can consume, even if they’re using it to view videos of lectures on linear algebra. Every time someone loads an internet page, it’s an order to send electrons through wires and transformers around the world. Unfortunately, that infrastructure does not come free. There is a real cost to accessing the internet. And it’s only fair that whoever gains the benefit – the user at home – pays the cost.

Sure, we could legislate that all internet providers need to provide free unlimited access to the internet to further the education of the populace, but it wouldn’t be long before Canada didn’t have a single company willing to provide internet service. Alternatively, how about bandwith used to access designated educational content is free? Well, then someone has to monitor your internet use to determine what sites are visited, which I don’t find acceptable and prevents us from reaching ‘net neutrality’ anyway.

This is nothing new. We pay the electric company for running our computer even if we’re accessing educational content. Bus fare or gas money to go to university classes. Etc, etc, etc. There is no free lunch that provides us with an online educational utopia, as much as we would like one.

So, in short, even if you are burning gigabytes learning calculus from streaming video online, you still need to pay for it.