Internet Slowdown Day; The Game Theory Of Net Neutrality

by Tim Worstall,  Forbes

Today is Internet Slowdown Day (and I don’t think we’re taking part here at Forbes) which is the way that various of the internet content providers urge you all to complain to politicians about the possible changes over net neutrality. Arguments over this subject range from the apocalyptic to the sort of heartfelt “meh” that I’m able to muster myself. At the extreme end we see people telling us that it will be the end of the internet if net neutrality is breached and at my sort end of that spectrum of arguments it’s simply about who gets to make money out of providing us with exactly the same things we already get.

Yes, the internet itself is fiercely complicated: that’s why the engineers that keep it running make so much more than you and I do. However, the theoretical concept is really pretty simple. It’s a distribution system. We can think of it as being like the highway system if we like. We’ve got all sorts of traffic coming onto the system at all sorts of points, trying to get to a near infinite variety of places and coming off that system at different times.

Net neutrality simply means that all of that traffic, whether it’s in the tubes of the internet or upon the roads of the highway network, is treated exactly the same. And when it’s put in those terms it gets a little difficult to see why it would be the end of it if there was differentiation between the various pieces of traffic. For we most certainly differentiate between different forms of traffic on those highways. Bicycles aren’t allowed on the interstates, trucks often have different speed limits to cars, in areas of great congestion we have HOV rules (vehicles with more than one occupant get to use special lanes etc). Further, we allow emergency traffic (an ambulance say) to break pretty much all of the speed and rights of way rules that everyone else might have to obey and as someone who has transported radioactive materials before special cargoes most certainly face special rules (as I recall, one 32 lb bar of thorium to go over a state line required its own 18 wheeler with flashing lights plus a police escort. Two 16 lb bars after it had been cut in half could go on the same Fed Ex truck with no extra precautions. Go figure.).  Read the entire story.

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