[PLUG-TALK] Netflix neutrality

Keith Lofstrom keithl at gate.kl-ic.com
Mon Mar 2 08:04:55 PST 2015

The airlines are a common carrier.  But they won't let me bring
along my car as luggage.  Streaming movies is like moving a car
compared to moving a purse - gigabits of data compared to the
kilobits this email uses.

What Hollywood and Netflix are asking for, and what the politicians
want to give them, is displacing millions of purses so they can
move thousands of cars.  Netflix wants to feed impulsive customers
who demand instant gratification.  Hollywood doesn't want you to
have a stored copy (like this email you are reading) on your
computer hard drive, just a few buffered frames in your RAM. 
This is an expensive abuse of a limited-bandwidth packet network
designed for different purposes.

Don't want a movie to jitter?  Download the whole thing to disk,
relatively slowly, then play it back later.  You may have to wait
an hour for the download, or pay for 50Mbps fiber internet and
wait 10 minutes.  That's like waiting for your car to be delivered
by truck rather than passenger aircraft. 

Don't want to pay, don't want to wait, and want to force the cost
and delay on other users?  Want to displace thousands of political
discussions and muzzle individual free speech so vidiots can watch
the latest action movie?  Easy, just steal the phrase "net
neutrality" and take bandwidth and mindshare from public discourse.

The internet is a limited resource, and most of the cost is
megamiles of optical fiber and acres of hugely expensive electronic
switches to connect them.  I've designed some of those switches. 
Making switches powerful enough to transport movies to everyone
simultaneously is possible, but extremely costly, and would consume
enormous amounts of always-available electricity (that is, nuclear
or fossil fuel).  If you want movie bandwidth delivered by microwave
networks to your phone, that is possible too, but we will need to
build forests of cell towers everywhere, and convert even more
electricity into a microwave bath at exposure levels thousands of
times what some activists complain about now.  I can help design
that, but you will have to pay me enough to retire someplace
without the pollution and microwaves and movie-addled morons.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com

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