Net Neutrality, Customized

Over the last few years, probably everyone who believes in an open Internet with non-discriminating access for all interested parties understood that abolishing Net Neutrality would amount to at least slowly, if not radically fast, driving small sites out of "the Internet", ie. present them with barriers-to-entry that they just can't meet. The result of such an effort would most likely be an Internet that consists mainly of your favourite state's authorities' offerings (aka "e-government"), plus the huge amount of corporation-generated content. Like eg. gambling, advertising, online television etc, but with a decreasing amount of actual user-generated content outside of platforms like Facebook or Google-driven stuff. Perhaps some of the more prominent non-profit projects would also remain highly visible because they are already prominent, and because some corporation deigns to sponsor their online activities as an element of their marketing efforts, but the general tendency is simply much in favour of big platforms, and against independent users trying to create their online activity from the ground up.

The efforts to codify Net Neutrality into telecommunications laws were, from my perspective, noticably supported by an initiative including Google and other big corporations, roughly arguing that abolishing Net Neutrality would result in all those small websites that still may make up the bulk of all web content, becoming roughly invisible because they will no longer be able to afford decent Internet access. I fully agree with this assessment. I'm an avid supporter of Net Neutrality myself, and strongly support the idea that the Internet should be open to everyone, for any purpose, and on basically equal terms, and not be reduced to a new technology for distributing TV.

But now I come across a statement of how "Google makes the Web faster" by - gulp - giving higher page ranks to faster websites, arguing, that websites which load faster, are beneficial to the user experience. I don't dispute that a user might like faster loading sites better than slow ones, but the question must be asked why some sites don't load as fast as others. The answer to that question is, in my opinion, quite often how much the web site owner can, or wants, to invest in having his site load fast. I see this move by Google as a change of course, now that they apparently have amassed enough content and their own broadband interests, to gradually deprecate "foreign" content, as much as all (other) carriers want to do, and to not deliver the best content, but only the best user experience. I understand that Google has to consider their growth, and their position against competitors, but none of them elided the slogan "Don't be evil!", and with the position of a market leader, there comes increased responsibility, too.

To me, this move indicates that Net Neutrality, essential for a "democratic" Internet, suddenly is not considered a value in itself by those big players, but only an instrument that may be used against the competition. I'd say that search (eg.) engines should be obliged to not discriminate against smaller websites with less-capable hosting, but exclusively rely on content-related factors instead. Their lesser visibility will impact search ranking, anyway, since these low-performing sites simply cannot be crawled as effectively and efficiently, as can be well-performing sites.

I'd like to take a moment considering the possible impact, political and otherwise, of this change in the ranking algorithm, and what it would mean if the tuning would be adjusted further, giving even more weight to speed. It would play more in favour of centralisation, restructuring the Internet some more from a level playground for all participants to a medium where ever fewer players set the rules for everyone else.

I hope that Net Neutrality can gain enough independent support to become not only the informal consent amonst old hands of the Internet, but be secured for all those who possibly don't even yet know what it is. But we, the users, need to make it happen. Please take the time to ask your delegates scrutinising questions, and vote accordingly.

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