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My confusing feelings about net neutrality

Being an EFA member it probably wouldn't surprise anyone that my views are heavily in favor of net neutrality.

EFA recently published an article Why Digital India took on Facebook and won and it got me thinking about some of the practices of Australian ISPs. Some I think are reasonable and others I think are not, but I'm not sure where to draw the line between the two.

A specific example is my ISP Internode has a has local FTP mirror that they have been running for years1 with a bunch of Linux repositories on it. So updates for Arch, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, etc.. are in their "unmetered" zone. They even mirror the videos so you can download all the videos of talks and they don't count against your quota.

With Internode's "Easy Naked ADSL2+" plan2 if you download more than your quota you get shaped down from 24Mbps3 to 128Kbps but you can still get internode's unmetered content at full speed.

The thing is that Internode also offer Netflix and Xbox Live Game Downloads as unmetered content too. So someone who has downloaded over their quota can't watch YouTube or Vimeo at much better than dial up speeds but they can watch Netflix in HD with no issues. While I feel that the FTP server is reasonable I feel uncomfortable about Netflix and Xbox Live, but I have real trouble differentiating the two.

The most obvious difference between the two is that content on the FTP mirror is free and not distributed for profit but even that gets a bit shaky when things like Doom 3 and Quake 4 install files are on there. Even if everything on the mirror was free4 would that be enough? Is it fair that I get my Debian updates unmetered at full speed while my friends have to download their Windows and OSX updates at 128Kbps? I feel it's still anti-competitive in a way.

I think the reason I don't mind the FTP mirror as much is it was setup years ago and I don't think there is any way Internode are getting a kickback from the Linux community infact I suspect it's costing Internode money.5

  1. The oldest example I can find from a quick search was from going back to 2002 but I'm pretty sure the mirror has been around since the mid 1990s 

  2. That's the plan I'm on 

  3. At least 24Mbps was the theoretical maximum, I get about 8Mbps. 

  4. When I say free here I mean libre, free as in speech not necessarily free as in beer. So that could include Red Hat updates on the mirror. 

  5. You could argue that it's saving them bandwidth because users are downloading packages locally rather than over the internet but most distros use http to download packages and then GPG to verify packages rather than https so Internode could just transparently proxy most traffic and I doubt that running an FTP mirror is a big enough draw card that it gets them many extra customers. 

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