Published on September 9th, 2014 | by ryankapsar1
Policy and Games: What is The Great Internet Slow Down all about?
Policy and Games is a look at tech policy and the gaming world. The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of KBMOD or any of its contributors.
Tomorrow marks The Great Internet Slowdown, a simulation of the internet without Net Neutrality. So what is it? The slow down is all about making it harder to watch porn. OK, well, not really. It is actually about increasing awareness of the fierce, ongoing Net Neutrality battle.
Net Neutrality is a topic that’s been beaten like a dead horse by a lot of people. That doesn’t make it any less important though. Net Neutrality is as important as the NSA spying on you. Therefore, we need to make sure that we all have a common understanding of what Net Neutrality is or is not before we discuss the major issues surrounding it. Rhetoric has dominated both sides of the topic, so we’ll try to stick to the most boring, cut and dry explanation of the topic before we get into the emotional stuff.
Way back in the day, when the internet was first created, the designers had to make some pretty important decisions. How to transmit data was of course a huge one. There were a few different approaches tried but eventually ethernet and Internet Protocol won out. Ethernet was invented by Bob Metcalfe at XEROX PARC. The system was initially designed so that any data transmitted would transmit and arrive at a constant speed and order. This wasn’t an accident. First, this created separate levels where the data could be read. In the picture to the left there’s a better representation of this. Layer 3 could be Steam, layer 2 could be your operating system, and layer 1 would be the internet (using IP). Second, amount of data was limited to a specific size: a packet.
Because this technology was new and expensive, in terms of processing power, the decision was made to read only the data to get your packet closer to the other system. This is where the routers come into play, they can read the IP address that you’re trying to go to and will try to get you the next step closer. Since the only data that the router could see was where it’s going and where it just came from there was no way to prioritize one packet of data over the other.
Clearly this isn’t the case any longer, as the NSA is able to capture your emails as they move from your computer to Google and then to the recipient’s email address. The technology “Deep Packet Inspection” enables the NSA to spy on you and is the method that allows companies like Comcast and Verizon to identify if you’re downloading a copyrighted movie and then throttle your download speeds. Technically, this is already a violation of true network neutrality, where no piece of software could tell what your data is and doesn’t have any interest in figuring that out.
This is where The Great Slow Down comes in. Comcast and Verizon (along with many other ISPs) want the ability to shape and control the speed of data on their network, based on what type of data it is. They want to offer companies like Netflix the opportunity to pay them some extra money to prioritize their bits over Amazon, Twitter, Steam, or even KBMOD. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing to do, does it? It’s their network, they should be able to do that right? Well, they’d also charge for that free porn that you watch so you can advance the research on sticky pee. On September 10th, major sites such as Reddit, Netflix, Tumblr and more are going to be “slowing down” your access to the site to give you a simulation of what the internet might feel. So pay attention and remember what tomorrow feels like!