Imagine, for a moment, a broadband utopia where “buffering” screens are a thing of the past and every movie you watch loads instantly, presented in crisp sound and sharp detail, for just a few dollars more than you currently spend.
This glimmering prospect is closer to reality now that Internet service providers (ISPs)—the people you pay your $30 a month to—are able to provide a “fast lane” for premium content. You pay a bit more, you get faster Netflix and YouTube.
Sounds simple enough. Yet some people are upset—very upset—that providers are allowed to prioritise certain kinds of traffic. They believe in “net neutrality,” a dorky term that means your provider should treat every website equally and shouldn’t analyse traffic to work out what you should get at higher speeds.
Net neutrality is held as an inviolable dogma by some communities on the Internet, who treat it as if it were an 11th commandment. Dissidents are looked upon as morally defective. These ideologues say that prioritising some kinds of websites violates a fundamental principle of the Internet.
But their claims do not bear scrutiny. The web is already being used in ways its creators never intended, to such extent that it is barely fit for purpose. The recent Heartbleed debacle happened precisely because the Internet was not designed for the sort of secure transactions it handles today.
More to the point, “traffic shaping,” as it is known, has been going on for years. ISPs have always done it—to fight copyright infringement, to combat viruses and to cope with oversold bandwidth. (Unlike airlines, ISPs do not boot people off the plane when they sell too many tickets; they just spread the service more thinly.)
Incidentally, that’s another reason to rejoice in the death of net neutrality: If you’re a movie buff paying for the extra speeds, your Internet connection won’t be affected by your neighbours’ pirating habits any more. This is the revenge of the non-nerds: ordinary people protected from the basement-dwelling gamers and movie thieves up the street.
That’s especially important in countries where broadband performance can be spotty, i.e. most of the United States.
The Internet community is generally pretty good at overturning received wisdom—except its own, of course. But in any case, by losing this fight, net neutrality advocates have dodged a bullet. Because the alternative to traffic shaping, say ISPs, is usage-based pricing—as with mobile phone contracts—where bandwidth hogs pay more. Needless to say, it’s precisely the “free love” movie pirates furiously arguing for neutrality who would get stung with the biggest bills.
On closer inspection, keyboard warriors may decide to have their torrents take 30 minutes longer than pay $300 a month to stay online.
To be honest, usage-based home broadband bills, with punitive bolt-ons for those who go over their allowance, are probably coming anyway. But allowing ISPs to introduce premium packages now for heavy users will delay their arrival—perhaps by years. That’s good news for everyone.
I have been invited by the European Commission to help assess applications for a new €80 billion grant fund for technology startups, called Horizon 2020. This puts me in a bind. On the one hand, I, like every right-thinking person, loathe everything the European project stands for and want no part in its taxpayer-funded largesse.
On the other, it seems morally incumbent upon me to accept, to ensure your money is spent as wisely as possible and not given to dating apps for dogs. (Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with obscure social networks, but they should not be subsidised by the taxpayer.) And there is the added complication of a generous honorarium—a temptation to which I am not entirely immune.
After careful consideration, I have resolved to follow what British readers will recognise as “the Farage method.” That is, trouser the cash, do the best you can in the time available, then get the bloody hell out of there.
Today in nerds ruin everything: Even your afternoon dump is subject to analysis. Actually, I think it’s just bleeding the lizard for now (and, I learn around press time, an elaborate hoax). How my credulousness speaks to the snoopiness of data dorks, who were purported to have built a “quantified toilet” that scanned your effluvium for alcohol, drugs, diseases, and even pregnancy.
Sorry folks! The website, which pretends to list findings anonymously but publicly, is just good fun. Sooner or later, of course, the joke will become reality and the subpoenas will start flying. What a brave new world.
Amusing to discover that Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s new secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is a Trekkie. I wrote to him on Tuesday to ask whether he’s a Voyager or a Deep Space Nine man, whether he’s been to a convention, if he owns any costumes, whether he speaks Klingon, and which alien race he most identifies with.
Perhaps he thought I was mocking him (I wasn’t), because Javid declined to answer. A pity, because idle minds are prone to speculation. Given his financial cunning, polished pate and oily charm, I’m guessing the answer to that last question would have been Ferengi.
This week marked the 10th anniversary of the best movie ever made. I speak of course of Mean Girls, which among many deserved accolades boasts the distinction of being Mariah Carey’s favourite film.
Watching the ups and downs of Cady Heron 10 years later reveals just one anachronism in this otherwise timeless masterpiece, and that’s Regina George’s burn book photocopying spree. Can you imagine such a thing in the era of Ask.fm?
This strikes me as a bit of a shame. Now that everyone’s got Facebook, I mean, and the bar for bullying is set so low. Even as a 15-year-old, I recognised that there was something wonderfully romantic about the effort it took to stick posters up around school about people you didn’t like.
It showed a sort of perverse affection for the victim—nothing like today’s throwaway LEANNE U R A SLUT LOL. Yet another quotidian art form the Internet has killed off.
Someone on anonymous gossip app Secret says that Apple is planning to put heart rate sensors in its next pair of headphones. No doubt this will come in handy when they release the price of the iWatch.
A year ago this week, Kevin Morris of this parish reported that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales had not paid two winners of his “Wikipedian of the Year” award the $5,000 to which they were entitled.
Shortly after publication, one of those debts was finally paid off. “There were complications around Western Union rules and nothing to report about other than that the banking system makes it hard to do what people would like to do,” Wales told me via email on Tuesday.
Yet the second debt, which is now three years old, remains unsettled. Wales says “it has always been agreed that the grant would come upon my making a trip to Kazakhstan, which has proven difficult to arrange.”
Mr. Wales should be applauded for his ingenuity. Indeed, I am thinking of using the same excuse when my next cellphone bill arrives: “I’m terribly sorry, T-Mobile, but did we not agree that I would pay you the next time I visit Kazakhstan?”
Milo Yiannopoulos is the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of The Kernel. His first book, The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley, will be published in 2015