The fight for net neutrality

Matt at SaveTheInternet posts an update:

Ok, so the vote on the Markey amendment to protect the internet has happened, and it was voted down, 34-22. That is a big deal. It’s too bad we lost the vote, but we expected that loss. What we did not expected was the narrow margin. By way of comparison, the subcommittee vote was 23-8, which means we should have gotten blown out of the water. We did not. All four targeted Dems by McJoan on Daily Kos flipped to our side, and many of the Congressmen both for and against this campaign mentioned the blogs and angry constituents.There’s a white hot firestorm on the issue on Capitol Hill. No one wants to see the telcos make a radical change to the internet and screw this medium up, except, well, the telcos. And now members of Congress are listening to us. The telcos have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and many years lobbying for their position; we launched four days ago, and have closed a lot of ground. Over the next few months, as the public wakes up, we’ll close the rest of it.

  • Toblerone2

    Of course the telco’s want to reassert themselves in any way possible. They see competion on the data and voice fronts from Cable companies and Vonage. Initially, they refused to build wireless networks, and had to buy out many of the startups that implemented the technology as competitors. They rely on an inefficient circuit switched network that costs billions to operate, and they have the illusion that they deserve a monopoly on voice communications. (A lot of government bureaucracy supports this way of thinking). They now want to meddle in the internet (which grew up around them) so that they can somehow regain their monopoly status of days gone by. We dont need them. Cellular and Voice over IP protocols for voice, and IP and UDP protocols for data can all run on a network that does not include the phone company’s proprietary, over-taxed network. And when 911 service is tied to GPS service, it will remove the one remaining reason to own a land line.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Isn’t it ironic that the central goal of Google’s faux populist “net neutrality” campaign is to have the FCC regulate business models and routing algorithms? I wonder how they’ll do this; will they compare telco pricing structures to Howard Stern’s farts and peering agreements to Janet Jackson’s nipples?

    Google’s mob wants to invest enormous power in the FCC, and I only hope that if they get their wish the Commissioners use it as wisely as they have in the past. Heh heh heh.

  • http://www.nyquistcapital.com Andrew Schmitt

    What I find funny is the same people who pound the table about how the internet was born a wild, free, medium, how this is it’s biggest advantage, and how this is the manifest destiny of the network now cry foul when the internet might evolve into paying for multiple tiers of service.

    Folks who make an argument for government mandated net-neutrality are asking to halt the untethered evolution they proclaim to be essential. That’s pretty funny.

    Contrarian opinion here:

    http://www.nyquistcapital.com/index.php?s=neutrality

  • a reader

    We must Save The Internet, why, think of the children, and let’s not forget about mom, and good old apple pie too.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    If the telephone companies are allowed to bundle services, surely the ice caps will melt, the oil wells will run dry, and the sun will stop shining. Verily, there will be a plague of locusts upon the land, the flood waters will cover beach-front property, and the children will be covered with boils. Howard Stern will stop farting and the hookers will renounce their colorful ways and enter convents where they’ll be made into clones of Martha Stewart. And the Earth will shift on its axis.

    I know this because the famous network engineer Tim Wu told me so.

    Yes, bothers and sisters, we must rise up and put an end to this menace, this high-speed broadband network that commingles the purity of our blogging with the horrors of television, promoting the mixing of packets and the corruption of checksums. God did not make the Internet for it to be simply one entertainment choice among many, He in His Wisdom meant for us to turn off “Desperate Housewives” and read “Daily Kos” and write diaries about our diets instead. And we must force our fellow citizens to do as we do, for their own good.

  • Hunter McDaniel

    While the telcos claim they just want to charge for using “their wires”, what they really want to do is to charge for access to “their customers” – i.e., us.

    If I were rich enough to have a butler, I’d be pretty p****d if I found out he was supplementing the salary I paid him by taking kickbacks from the tradesmen. What the telcos want to do, with the priviledged postion we gave them, is no different from that.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    What the telcos want to do is compete with cable tv and iTunes on a level playing field. Cable uses only a very small part of its cable plant for Internet access, and they make most of their money on the other part, with tv and voice services. The telcos want to do something similar. Similarly, iTunes can offer TV downloads for a fee, but there should be a limit to how much of the network bandwidth of your Internet access company they’re allowed to eat up. In practice, that probably means you can download two or three shows at a time, not hundreds. That seems reasonable to me.

    Pricing plans based on bandwidth are not a new thing in the communications business, and all this hysteria over them is silly.

  • Hunter McDaniel

    Richard, the fuss isn’t about “pricing plans based on bandwidth”. What’s new is that the telcos want to charge twice for the same bandwidth, and apply service discrimination against any web sites that don’t give them a kickback.

    If all they wanted was to use part of their wire capacity to setup their own “cable service”, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    No, Hunter, you’ve got it wrong. The Telcos want to offer a variety of pricing plans, one of which may involve splitting the bill between clients and servers. That may or may not be a good business move, but there’s no way it hell it should be illegal. America is supposed to be a free country where business and individuals are able to tinker and innovate, not a police state like China where Yahoo and Google act as agents of the government to decide who’s free and who isn’t.

    The most shocking thing about Google’s fake grass roots coalition is that it’s asking Congress to legislate against a practice that doesn’t actually exist.

  • Eliot Bergson

    Richard -

    Are you naive enough to believe the telcos didn’t use their monopolistic clout for 150 years to prevent others from innovating and tinkering via sweetheart government regulations, predatory pricing, and free rights-of-way along railroads?

    It’s amazing that folks are rushing to telcos’ defense now about how they’re being set-upon by big government after so many decades of the telcos using government to pummel others. The difference now is that power has shifted to consumers, and we’re flexing our muscles in many ways – blogs, PACs, and – heaven forfend! – grassroots political pressure.

    You seem to think government regulation here is akin to “socialism,” but what was it when the telcos were using government against consumers? Corporate socialsm.

    The fact that Google has found a convenient slogan to support is not one iota different than telcos’ blather about bringing telephone service to farmers in decades past. We’re not dumb – we see Google arguing to their advantage. But rather than rape us with surcharges and monopoly pricing, at least they don’t have their hand in our pockets.

    Net neutrality benefits everyone – that’s how the network could grow as fast and large as it has. Changing net neutrality brings advantage to only one group – the telcos. What does it bring the average consumer? Nothing.

    So here’s a question: Let’s say net neutrality is cemented into legislation. And let’s say the telcos all go belly-up. Would the world be a worse-off place? Some smart people will buy their networks at book value and figure out how to make money from them. Guaranteed.

  • Eliot Bergson

    And lastly, Richard, I would ask how charging others for transmission at the highest rates and using the latest networking technology is a “level playing field”? Could Apple charge the telcos in return a carriage fee?

    Only the telcos would have this competitive advantage (along with deciding the threshold for highest-speed transfers, at their own discretion; without any regulation, they could theoretically charge for ALL transmission eventually, as competitive pressure grows).

    If the telcos want to compete with the likes of iTunes, they can partner with content sources or create their own content, and then send it for free over the networks, just as anyone else – that would be a truly “level playing field.”

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Elliot, go check your calendar. Mine says it’s 2006 and the era of the AT&T monopoly is long gone.

    You ask – and the answer incorrectly – what benefit comes to the customer from packet-level discrimination. Let me explain it to you. In a communications network its harder to move information really, really quick than it is to move it not so quick, so it’s reasonable to charge people more money if they require really, really quick than if they don’t, kinda like people pay more for HBO than for basic cable.

    The phone company know how to turn super-quickness on and off, and they know how to charge people for it, kinda like they do with long-distance calls. According to the net-neutering folks there should be no such thing as a collect call on the Internet, only free calls and calls paid for by the caller himself.

    That makes no sense. Somebody has to pay for the network, after all.

  • Hunter McDaniel

    Richard, the old AT&T monopoly may be gone but I see its ghost (under the same name, no less) trying to reform just like those androids in the Terminator flix.

    If the telcos wants to setup a new network (call it BellNet) with guaranteed QOS tiers and pricing to match, they can have at it; I don’t think there’s a big market for such a network, but who knows? OTOH I don’t want them mucking with the Internet, which was architected on the basis of an “end to end principle” and on that basis has fuelled two decades of growth and innovation. I have no problem with paying for the network resources I use, but I want the bill to be fully transparent and visible, not hidden in kickbacks extorted from online merchants.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t want them mucking with the Internet, which was architected on the basis of an “end to end principle” and on that basis has fuelled two decades of growth and innovation.

    Actually, this is a mistaken claim as the only thing end-to-end about the Internet is TCP error recovery. TCP is an important part of the Internet because it was designed to do only one thing well: download files. It can do a few other things, such as e-mail and web browsing, because they behave like downloading files. One of its original goals was to carry interactive terminal traffic, through a protocol called telnet, but that’s never worked very well. The Internet has also carried “type of service” bits in all of its IP datagrams from the beginning, but their interpretation has always been very loose. So it’s not “end-to-end” as you think of that expression.

    In any event, the Internet’s design is now clearly out-dated and in need of some reforming in order for it to continue to be a force for progress for the next 25 years and not an albatross around the neck of the typical person who uses it. Some of this reforming will require a bit of experimentation with pricing models, and some of it will be different from what you’re used to. Progress can be unsettling that way, but I’d suggest that you get used to it and not let your historical animosity toward the now-defunct AT&T monopoly color your emotions too darkly.

    And if you’re really all that worried about monopolies, how about paying some attention to the monopolies of today: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. They’re in favor of these fascist net neutrality laws themselves, and that ought to tell you something.