Sunday, December 3, 2017

Book Review: They’re Coming For Your Internet

'They’re Coming For Your Internet' by Nate Levesque discusses the issue of net neutrality, a hot topic these days. In six heads, namely, Beginnings, The ISP Problem, Profit and Control, Second-Class Data, Traffic Control, and If the Internet Falls, the relevant issues are touched upon. That this isn't a problem with the Internet as a whole, while the backbone of the Internet is fairly competitive, the relatively few companies control the last-mile (the connection from you to a backbone provider) networks. 
Tracing the origins of high speed communication networks to Samuel Morse and telegraph, the book tells us how, in the initial days itself, communication made its presence felt -  by swinging the presidential the election due to careful control of what news about the candidates spread. Next, the book talks about the Internet landscape. How acquisitions have folded many service providers into a few large regional and even national providers, leading to the network becoming centralized again. Also, of the threat faced by established companies from disruptive innovations, which the upstart, smarter companies will adopt quickly, leading  the big players to look for fresh ways to secure their position. That all these put net neutrality in jeopardy, one can easily see.
What will happen if net neutrality is repealed, the book asks. The answer is also ready. The 'on-line' is in for a change. ISPs, who are already violating neutrality by selling low caps, zero-rating, and throttling as solutions to imagined network congestion shall get emboldened. They may also push for legislation to prevent cities from building their own Internet providers—called municipal networks—which usually offer better, faster, and cheaper service. Many more imaginative throttles to independence of net communication are then discussed.
I liked this book. It opened my eyes to many things I had no inkling of. The book issues a real warning. Our ability to be informed, to express ourselves, and to run a healthy democracy hang in the balance. It’s hard to imagine a company interfering with an election as Western Union once did in the case of the above mentioned presidential election. Even with the necessary safeguards, there are many instances where the suspicion is on media manipulation. It may become a real threat, the possibility of ISPs take control of what’s available on-line is too dangerous to be ignored.

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