Net Neutrality, As Explained By YouTube’s Geniuses

Justin Pot 24-06-2014

Are you still not sure what Net Neutrality actually is? Don’t feel dumb: it’s a nuanced concept, and the media’s done a bad job at explaining it.

We’ve attempted to outline what net neutrality is, and why you should care What Is Net Neutrality & Why Should I Care? A significant number see Net Neutrality as essential to the survival of the Internet. In this article, we're going to look at why Net Neutrality matters, and why we should fight to protect it. Read More , and the issue got a lot of press in the last couple of weeks. But try as we might to explain the issue with words, sometimes a video works best for grasping complex subjects. Visuals help, and so does a little bit of humour.

With this in mind, I’ve tracked down videos from some of the smartest people on the Web. They all have a point of view, but all succeed in various ways in breaking down a complex subject in a way that’s understandable. So start watching, and learn.

CGP Grey: Fast Lanes v. Speed Bumps

“Ever notice the company that sells you Internet also sells cable TV and landlines, stuff the Internet totally replaces?”

Net Neutrality is complicated, so anyone trying to explain the situation needs to depend on metaphors. Grey uses a couple, focusing on pipes and fast lanes. It’s simpler than it sounds, so give it a watch.

You’ll be briefly introduced to the concept of a “common carrier”, which is a class of business not allowed to discriminate when it comes to usage. Phone companies, for example, can’t determine who you can and cannot call — and power companies have no say as to how you use your energy. Grey argues the Internet should be treated the same way.

ViHart: Give Us What We Pay For

Right now, ISPs control content without being liable for that content.

Recreational “mathemusician” took a break from numbers to explain net neutrality, and it’s well worth watching. Her metaphor, that of a package delivery company, reveals the insanity of the situation. You pay your ISP for Internet access so you can use services like Netflix, but that’s not enough for them. The reason things can happen, according to ViHart, is a lack of competition.

Vi Hart is a channel that can make you laugh and learn at the same time YouTube Channels That Will Make You Laugh And Learn At The Same Time While the video sharing site might be better known for music videos, the Annoying Orange and, let’s face it, for being the cesspool of Internet comments, there are quite a few entertaining, educational videos that... Read More , so check out the rest of her stuff if you like this video.

Hank Green: Mock Debate With A Cable Exec

You have no right to decide what information goes at what speed through your pipes!

Hank Green, one half of the Vlogbrothers, did something a little different here. Formatting the video as a “debate” between Green and a cable company suit, also played by Green, this quick watch can teach you a lot.

The fictional suit’s response? They’ve already set the precedent, and don’t think Internet activists can play on their level in terms of lobbying.

Extra Credits: The Potential For Greed

A non-net neutral web is one that stifles competition.

If you love video games, you probably know about Extra Credits. This YouTube channel for the “thinking video gamer 3 Fascinating YouTube Channels for the Thinking Video Gamer These three YouTube channels ask and answer great questions about making and playing games. Read More ” explores the process of designing games, and is an information feast for fans and designers alike. Sometimes they talk about broader issues, and the above video is an example of that.

This video is less about idealism, and more about the practical results of a net without neutrality. The threat, this video says, is that ISPs will charge users extra for decent speed to particular sites, as a way to make more money. Imagine an ISP charging $5 extra a month for YouTube speeds that don’t suck, and you can picture the problem.

John Oliver: Raising A Troll Army To Defend The Net

The Internet, in its current form, is not broken…and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.

You’ve probably seen this by now: it was all over a few weeks ago. John Oliver hilariously explains the basics behind net neutrality, before asking the Web’s trolls to flood the FCC with comments. It’s probably the most entertaining outline on this list, so watch it if the other videos didn’t quite click. You’ll get it.

What Did We Miss?

Are there more videos outlining net neutrality? Let us know if there are, okay?

Related topics: Bandwidth, ISP, Net Neutrality, YouTube.

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  1. J Melcher
    November 16, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    If the analogy to the 'phone company' were valid, there would never have been different rates for calls to different nations or regions versus calls within one telephone "exchange". There would never have been different billing rates for "night and weekend" calls versus calls during business hours. There would never have been different rates for consumer home service versus commercial business service, nor between voice service versus (old, accoutic modem style ) data service.

    The point is, phone companies VERY MUCH have had the ability to determine who and where and when you will place phone calls, and how much they will charge for the call when and if you choose to make it.

    Lately, after the Bell System was broken up (deregulated) in the Reagan era, and the cell phone networks provided some competition, the rate structures greatly simplified, but many now arguing about "net neutrality" are too young to remember the old POTS/Bell/ "Ernestine the Operator " ("We don't care, we don't have to, we're the PHONE COMPANY!") era. But yeah, phone calling was never "neutral" about how much it cost to call who, where, when, and the analogy is very badly broken.

    More recently, another utility, electrical power delivery, has installed "smart meters" to regulate how much and when and who gets electricity, for how much money per watthour. The old system might have been called "grid neutral" -- anyone and anywhere, a watt of power at any hour, all for the same (once upon a time) four cents. Well, in the new green eco-friendly world that's a memory, if not a dream. Want your air conditioner running in midafternoon of high summer, you pay more for a watt than at midnight in springtime. If you are against this, and in favor of "grid neutrality", then please declare this preference before giving me the sermon on "net neutrality".

    • Justin Pot
      November 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment. You seem to be reacting to my summary of other people's videos, which is great but I can't defend their arguments as well as I'd like to.

      I will say that it's really hard to get to the heart of the net neutrality debate with a metaphor, and a big reason for that is that the ISPs (unlike historic phone companies and power companies) are really only providing the "last mile" of your Internet access. There are a lot of companies involved in a lot of different stages, and the ISPs are only part of that, but unless we can maintain the neutrality the net those ISPs could hold the rest of the network hostage to increase their profits in a way that could make the American economy much less dynamic.

      But it's obvious you disagree on that point, and I'm not going to argue with you. I just wanted to provide some resources that summarize the issues. Do you have any others to point to?

  2. Bruce E
    June 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Well, clearly Howie hasn't taken the time to view any of the videos since he doesn't have a clue what is meant by Net Neutrality. Or he works for Comcast.

    @Justin, great pick for the last video. It's one that has previously escaped my notice and it is hilarious.

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    June 26, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Feeding The Troll Is Just A Waste Of Time.

  4. Jason N
    June 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Howard, it doesn't mean 'neutral content' - it means neutral content *delivery* - all content must be delivered at the same rate, nothing to do with censorship of the content itself. ISP cant decide to slow down unpaid content in favor of paid content. Thats all. Equality, not censorship.

  5. Howard Pearce
    June 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    It gives the the state the right to demand that ISP's publish "neutral" content as defined by it. The fact that it may not be a detailed instruction doesn't change that mandate or it's right to force ISP's to communicate as it demands. If it has to provide the detail of the "non-neutral" content that ISP's are currently providing, it will do so.

    Censorship is only a crime when done by the state as it's rulings are mandatory on everyone ... what you personally chose to "censor" in what material you provide others is totally your right.

    I'll take it that my example of the Newspaper Neutrality had an affect on you given your response. :)

    • Petew
      June 25, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      How about some mature, sophisticated English, less cretinous opprobrium? Read a bit of Mark Twain.

  6. Howard Pearce
    June 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Well once again, if the state told you that you couldn't control the content of your communications, would that be OK with you ? And why do you so easily want to give the state that ability to tell ISP's the same thing ... because they are not technically people ? How would you feel about a Newspaper Neutrality act that wanted to give the state control of the content of what newspapers provided ?

    I don't trust ISP's all that much; but their power and control over my life is far less than that of the monopoly institution we call the state. Where I am from there is actually more than one ISP one can buy from.

    • Justin P
      June 24, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      The Newspaper Neutrality Act is just a bad metaphor. A better metaphor would be the Paperboy Neutrality act, saying that your paperboy isn't allowed to deliver one newspaper a day earlier than the other because they happen to pay better.

      Net Neutrality does not give the state the right to control content; it prevents companies from censoring things.

  7. Justin P
    June 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I'm kind of confused by this argument. The state won't have control over what people can say, it's just telling ISPs not to give priority to some companies over others.

    Would you be okay with telephone companies making calls to their competitors sound like crap? What about Comcast, which owns MSNBC, scrambling Fox News during peak viewing hours to help ratings? If these things shouldn't be permissible, why should the Internet be any different?

    • Howard Pearce
      June 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      It will have control over what is defined as "neutral" communication and then dictate that those standards be enforced for ISP's !! Does the Fairness Doctrine ring a bell ?

      Let me ask you ..... would you approve of the state telling you whom you had to give priority to or not to when talking to them ? Of course not .... I am sure you would consider that a violation of freedom of speech.

    • Justin P
      June 24, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      I think you're misunderstanding what net neutrality is. It's about the FCC telling companies that they can't control content, not about the FCC themselves controlling content.

      I get mistrust of government, but do you also trust cable companies? Because they've kind of proven they can't be trusted...

  8. Howard Pearce
    June 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Net Neutrality contains the concept that the state can dictate to others how and what to communicate to others ... albeit limited to the internet and to ISP's ..... at least for now. But it definitely contradicts the underlying assumptions behind freedom of speech and press.

    Giving the state the power to control the communications between its citizens is an extremely dangerous concept regardless of who those citizens are or how "great" the motives may be.

    • Petew
      June 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      What you’re writing is just a step above typing words at random! How did you make it through the spam check?

    • Dave Posh
      June 26, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      I agree.
      5 Arguments Against Net Neutrality
      It gives the government more power over the Internet
      It's not a free market solution
      Little regulation has worked fine until now
      Classifying the Internet as a common carrier service wouldn't have the intended effect
      Charging everyone the same price isn't fair