Google aiding in Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality is an interesting debate. I have to support it given the monopolized market in the US, but in reality it shouldn’t be needed because competition would iron out the wrinkles. In other words most people, if given a choice, would choose an ISP that doesn’t throttle traffic, but we, mostly, aren’t given a choice due to government supported monopolies for any given area in the US. In this election Obama has been a huge supporter of Net Neutrality and I tend to agree on most points. I would prefer to see the underlying problem fixed, but if I can’t have that I would prefer action to be met on this issue, and this is one of the campaign promises that I am going to hold Obama too. It could come to a head quicker than we think as Cox ISP has announced some pretty aggressive traffic shaping techniques. This is on top of Comcast that is currently in a battle with the FCC over traffic shaping.
It isn’t hard to figure out why Google would be a huge supporter of Net Neutrality, but even if such legislation would help them in the end it is, ultimately, good for the consumer as well. Goolge has launched the Measurements Lab which aims to help the consumer figure out what his ISP might be doing in terms of traffic. Ars has a very good round up of what is involved, but basically here is the list of what the tools are and can do:
Network Diagnostic Tool
Test your connection speed and receive sophisticated diagnosis of problems limiting speed.
Test whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled.
Network Path and Application Diagnosis
Diagnose common problems that impact last-mile broadband networks.
DiffProbe (coming soon)
Determine whether an ISP is giving some traffic a lower priority than other traffic.
NANO (coming soon)
Determine whether an ISP is degrading the performance of a certain subset of users, applications, or destinations.
It is good to see Google taking action on this front. The idea is that if you figure out that traffic shaping is taking place on your network you will take action and write your congressman. It also sheds light on what could otherwise be kept quiet from an unknowing public. As it stands now your ISP can do a lot with your traffic, and you have no way of knowing. This is a good first step.