The internet as we know it is under threat because the explosion in online traffic is outstripping hardware upgrades across the globe which supports the Internet and in addition the individual IP address system (every computer has a number) has to be upgraded because we are running out of numbers. The IP address system was set up to cope with an estimated number of computers but that number is being surpassed.
The most important threat to the Internet is proposals to create a two-tier system; one for the well-heeled and the other for the rest of us.
The well-heeled will be able to pay for a faster, better service while the masses, the individuals as opposed to businesses, will have to put up with a slower, less efficient service. Perhaps it will be a multitiered system, I don’t know, but there is a lot of talk about this.
There is real potential for a change and a lot of people don’t like it because it is really a capitalism-style change. The change favours the rich and businesses and works against the “little man” and most of us have had enough of that already with the banking crisis and the way that the bankers have got away with it at the expense of the taxpayer, The People.
Currently, and this has been the case for as long as the Internet has existed, we have what is called “net neutrality”. This means that the Internet is neutral to everyone who uses it. There are no advantages in terms of access given to one group or another. It is open access, a truly egalitarian world in the ether but an anarchic world nonetheless.
Net neutrality favours budding entrepreneurs who wish to create businesses and there are many examples of this. Most of the current major websites probably started off in someone’s bedroom with a couple of geeky teenagers on an old computer. They had open access to everything on the Internet and without that neutrality of access, it is argued that online businesses which employment many tens of thousands of people would not have come into existence.
Accordingly, a two-tier system favours existing big companies and keeps down entrepreneurship. No doubt the big companies are pressing for this because it reinforces their status and position in the business world and it will help to keep down competition. Any government should realise that an open system which allows regulated capitalism to flourish is the best way to generate economic growth which ultimately helps the poor provided there are proper controls in place.
Returning to the hardware issues of the Internet and how they’re being outstripped by Internet activity, the problem is in the routers which route Internet signals across the globe. When they were built, a lot of them by Cisco, they were manufactured to cope with a certain number of routings which must have been considered adequate for the long term future but internet expansion has been faster than expected.
A lot of the routers have a limit of about half a million routings. This is not enough today which means the hardware has to be updated and tens of billions of dollars have been invested in Internet hardware which means more tens of billions of dollars is going to have to be reinvested to upgrade the hardware and I expect that this investment needs to be rewarded in some way which leads us back to the big business argument that there should be a two-tier system. If people want a high quality Internet they are going to have to pay a premium for it and that premium goes towards keeping the Internet fast and efficient.
How does this affect cats?
I think the answer to the above question is straightforward. These proposals and possible changes are likely to affect the spread of knowledge on the planet. It is the poorer countries that arguably need better access to the Internet but will these proposed changes make their introduction to the Internet slower? Will it hold back the spread of Internet access in developing countries where education is vitally important to improve the welfare of domestic and feral cats.
Recently, a visitor from Pakistan, Ahsan al Huq wrote a very interesting article about feral cat welfare in Pakistan and how it should be improved. Ahsan has a computer and Internet access and is quite internet savvy. Perhaps he would not have discovered this website and all the information on it together with the friends who use it without easy access to the Internet, so for him and for me and the other visitors to this website “net neutrality” is a vital.
I could not imagine Ahsan having the opportunity to visit PoC or indeed many other Pakistanis if the Internet was based on a 2 tier system which shuts out people on very limited budgets.
Open Internet access improves cat welfare across the globe. It improves it more particularly in places where improvements are most needed. I am very much for net neutrality. I hope all other cat lovers feel the same way. Loving cats and net neutrality go together and we should resist any changes.
I would ask governments to step in. It is not good enough to have big business running the Internet because now the Internet is a way of life for many people. The Internet is as important as water almost to many people and when something is this vital it needs to be protected by The People through government and not exploited by big business.
An example of a recent problem with outdated Internet hardware is the one suffered by eBay. The Internet giant eBay was unable to service its millions of users recently. Users were unable to log on which meant that a lot of sellers on eBay were unable to trade for a day. Their livelihoods depend upon access to eBay. These are people who we would consider the public, John Doe, making a living from home, surviving and depending on big business to provide them with the portal to do so. I’m sure that many of them would be very much against a 2 tier system.
Being an owner of a website I have been very aware of the explosive expansion of the Internet over the last 7 years, the time over which this website has been in existence. When I first started it was much easier to make your mark. Things have changed dramatically and will continue to do so. I firmly believe that it is time for a rethink about how the Internet is run and managed.
For instance, search engine should not always be in the hands of business because they can manipulate how their search engines work to their advantage. Search engine should be neutral and find the best websites or webpages. That single objective should be strictly adhered to. I don’t believe Google does stick to that objective any more and Google provides about 60% of the current search results. Personally, I much prefer Bing and Yahoo search engines because I believe there are more honest.
Change will be forced upon the Internet and it is time I believe for the people to get involved, hence this article.