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Tilting at Windmills

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April 24, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NET NEUTRALITY....I've been trying to understand this whole "net neutrality" thing and I've failed utterly. I just can't figure out the underlying issues.

On the one hand, the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels (for a price) for high-value, high-bandwidth services like on-demand video. This does not seem very alarming to me. Companies already buy bigger pipes and negotiate quality-of-service agreements when they need guaranteed bandwidth, and that's never caused any problems. Bloggers are accustomed to paying their hosts based on the bandwidth they plan to use, for example, and this seems like more of the same on a larger scale.

At the same time, the CEO of Qwest claims that "No one should deny or impede access to lawful sites on the Web. Everyone supports that position." But in fact, last year a small broadband provider decided to block access to Vonage phone service so apparently support for that position isn't quite as universal as Qwest's CEO claims.

What's more, if the real issue is that telecom companies want to be able to offer higher service levels to certain customers but would never reduce service levels for other customers well then, why not write that into law? Especially if "everyone" supports this position?

For the moment, then, I don't know. Everything I can find on the subject is hopelessly vague about what the rules used to be, what they're going to be, what the FCC will be able to do, and what the likely results will be. I'm confused and bewildered.

But I have a solution: I want Reed Hundt to chime in on the issue. I like his stuff over at TPM Cafe, he used to be chairman of the FCC, and I'd trust his judgment on this. So how about it, Reed? What's the straight dope?

UPDATE: More here. (Much more.)

Kevin Drum 8:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (147)

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Comments

Kevin, are you really so gullible as to take a telcom's word on where it will stop if you don't regulate it?

Regulation now, regulation tomorrow, regulation forever!

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on April 24, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Everything I can find on the subject is hopelessly vague about what the rules used to be, what they're going to be

That's because there are no formally defined rules. The Internet is an ad-hoc creation based on the principle of equal access with reasonable limits to increase efficiency. But this came out of academia and has maintained that philosophy. The whole point of the Internet is that no one controls it. Now that it is becoming an extremely important part of everyone's lives, soon to deliver telephone service, television, and every other type of communication, companies want to assert control over it. So, now we do need to codify the rules that allowed the Internet to come into being. This is nothing new, it happens with every new disruptive technology. It starts off under the radar of the major players (think Apple II and IBM, HP, etc.) and as it becomes prevalent, companies try to dominate and control it (think Microsoft).
The Internet needs to be protected against companies seeking to control the flow of information. Net neutrality needs to be codified.

Posted by: Nathan Florea on April 24, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Since the Internet was developed using phone lines as its transport medium, it was already explicitly protected from content blockage by common carrier principles.

But now that broadband is no longer regulated under the Computer Inquiry rules, any pipe owner can block or degrade content.

The issue is bandwidth. Cable companies haven't chimed in on this issue, primarily because their pipes are fat enough to handle video.

But the Bell's pipes aren't. They want to get into the video business, but don't want to really spend the money to upgrade their pipes. So in order for their prefered content to get through, they'll need to throttle all other content.

Net Neutrality language would keep the pipes
"dumb", and provide incentive for the pipe owners to upgrade. Fiber-speed is the end goal.

Other countries are kicking our ass. In france some companies offer triple play for less than $30 per month. In japan, 100Mbps speeds are common for less than $40 per month.

The bill being voted on this week in the House is a giveaway to the telecom companies.

savetheinternet.org

Posted by: bukowski on April 24, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

FYI... Media companies have received this today. Anything Dick Armey is for, I'm against, and vice versa.

____________

FreedomWorks News Alert April 24, 2006
Dick Armey, Chairman

-------------------

FREEDOMWORKS TARGETS DANGEROUS NETWORK NEUTRALITY EFFORT
New Coalition for Internet Freedom ironically proposes increased government regulation of the internet.

Washington, D.C. -- In response to today's launch of the "Save the Internet" Coalition, a misguided group of leftist organizations selling network neutrality legislation as a "First Amendment for the Internet," FreedomWorks is refocusing its long-standing campaign to bring about free-market telecommunications reform. The campaign aims to bring truth and clarity to the too-often misunderstood concept of net neutrality.

Net neutrality legislation would grant the federal government broad power to dictate how businesses offer Internet service. FreedomWorks finds this violation of fundamental property rights alarming. Additionally, FreedomWorks has grave concerns that, if enacted, net neutrality provisions would significantly deter investment in exciting new technologies that offer a faster, higher-quality Internet experience, thus ultimately hurting the consumer.

To combat the misinformation that groups such as "Save the Internet" have propagated regarding net neutrality, FreedomWorks is taking a multi-pronged approach to prevent net neutrality regulations including: directing its nationwide of army of more than 800,000 volunteer activists to call and email their members of Congress; conducting one-on-one hill staff and member education with FreedomWorks chief economist Wayne Brough and chairman Dick Armey; and placing targeted print and Internet advertisements.

FreedomWorks has a more than 20-year history on free-market technology issues. Most recently, it was active in several states for its "Choose Your Cable" campaign--a grassroots effort to streamline barriers to entry that now exist in the video programming--more commonly known as "cable TV"--market.

FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey commented:

"Net neutrality allows the government to run all over basic property rights in classic, Kelo fashion while expanding regulation in the telecommunications arena. Having the government tell a cable or phone company how to manage the pipes that offer their clients Internet service would fare no better than having the government tell Wal-Mart how to stock its lawn and garden department.

As Congress takes up the important issue of telecommunications reform, it must avoid the false idea that net neutrality represents Internet freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth; net neutrality is nothing more than "Internet regulation."

-- 30 --

For more information, call Adam Brandon at (202) 942-7698 or visit http://www.freedomworks.org

About FreedomWorks

FreedomWorks recruits, educates, trains, and mobilizes ordinary Americans to fight for less government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Founded in 1984, FreedomWorks has more than 700,000 members nationwide.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~
FreedomWorks...Advancing Freedom through Citizen Action

Posted by: jrockoford on April 24, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I take it you have never managed corporate telecom/datacomm services, negotiated a contract with a telco, or managed a contract or a service level with a telco? They all (and I mean every one of the 25 I have dealt with in 15 countries) have the A.G. Bell mentality of monopoly entitlement. As soon as they have the ability to throttle, control, and censor, believe me: they will.

And once those "lanes" are established it will be quite easy for, say, the Jeb Bush Administration to seize the controls and use them to shut down dissenting web sites. Given the current situation with the AT&T feed to the NSA I think we have to expect that to happen right off the top.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on April 24, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Internet is not a grocery store.

Grocery stores have limited shelf space so they get product makers to pay for the shelf space their products appear on. A so called "shelf fee" or "slotting fee"

Cable companies have a limited number of slots so they to engage in "slotting fee" like practices though not quite as much because they also sell subscriptions.

The internet and network connections are not limited to a fixed number of slots so slotting fees is just an attempt to extort money.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on April 24, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's simple.

When the jackasses at SBC say that it's not fair that Google gets to profit off of using their pipes for free, they're LYING. Google pays for it's access. And the bandwidth they use.

SBC is trying to get the rules changed, so that they can look at packets for data content, and favor one type over another (and supposedly charge for preferential treatment).

The type of preferential treatment they have in mind is:
Blocking Voice Over IP so that it does not compete with their POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).
Charging more for a given quantity of data transport, to certain customers, than other customers are charged. Just because.

Along with various other types of discrimination and anticompetetive practices.

This is not all that complex. There are many fine sites out there that explain the details (including EFF.ORG). But the bottom line is - for the first 10 years of the Internet's modern (post 1992-ish) existence, nobody took seriously any talk of threats to net neutrality, because it's obvious to everyone that net neutrality is what brought all the content to the Internet, and made it so accessible, which brought high demand, which created an economic and information phenomenon unparallelled in the history of man. Nobody dreamed that politicians would be so stupid as to take these proposals seriously. Now the telcoms are consolidating, and monopolizing again (witness broadband penetration, and pricing in the US, compared to countries like Japan, the UK, and South Korea). And now they're buying off politicians to essentially privatize the Internet.

This is the worst idea since "book burning".

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on April 24, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels (for a price) for high-value, high-bandwidth services like on-demand video. This does not seem very alarming to me.

The biggest broadband provider in most markets is the cable company. Do you really think it's a good idea to give these guys a stranglehold over their competition? The future of TV is downloadable digital content (with ads you can't fast-forward throught) that goes to a set-top DVR-like device, but that vision can never come to fruition if we allow cable companies to use their near-monopoly power in defense of their highly-profitable cable franchises.

Posted by: Wagster on April 24, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

"the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels (for a price) for high-value, high-bandwidth services like on-demand video. This does not seem very alarming to me. Companies already buy bigger pipes and negotiate quality-of-service agreements when they need guaranteed bandwidth, and that's never caused any problems. Bloggers are accustomed to paying their hosts based on the bandwidth they plan to use, for example, and this seems like more of the same on a larger scale."

Wow, the current crop of bloggers is so low in it's level of knowledge of technology. It wsn't always like this.

The short answer to the above statement is that you're conflating two different things. If I go out and pay more for DSL than Dialup -- that's to the Internet Service Provider. Only in the United States where competition is prohibited does this mean the Telco. What I get for paying more than for Dailup is more bandwidth for all content -- more bandwidth for YouTube as well as for Disney.

There is no discrimination in content. All content is equal and hence you have 'Net Neutrality'.

What the Telcos want to do is not offer you better DSL, they want to off your better Disney. ITube, YouTube, WeAllTube will be left in the Dust.

They usually describe what they want to do as "priority bandwidth". What it is in truth is "bandwidth discrimination" and those who can't pay the extra freight -- in addition to paying for the Hosting Service, in addition to paying for the Internet Service Provider -- will be screwed. You differenciate like this to knock out the small-time independent voices.

Posted by: patachon on April 24, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I just don't understand how you can doubt that the corporations have our best interests at heart. Next you'll be contradicting Al and claiming that Exxon and the like don't want what is best for us drivers!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on April 24, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

This is all about the telcos and cable companies trying to figure out how to make more money off their bandwidth pipes. Since there are no net neutrality laws in the US, that makes it easier for them to figure out where/how to put the squeeze on.

It's definitely an issue, but the level of panic and paranoia I'm seing on the blogs today is IMHO a little irrational.

Posted by: fiat lux on April 24, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

From Save the Internet:

Last year, Canada's version of AT&T -- Telus-- blocked their Internet customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating. And Shaw, a major Canadian cable company, charges an extra $10 a month to subscribers who dare to use a competing Internet telephone service.

It's entirely feasible that sort of thing could happen here.

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 24, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the telecom companies are trying to confuse the issue.

It is completely legitimate to have a means of guaranteeing quality of service for certain kinds of services; for example, voice-over-IP or real-time video communication needs a steady, non-bursty pipe, so that frames don't drop out, while if you're downloading a large program, you care only about the average speed; burstiness is no problem.

But the telecom and cable companies don't want to just be able to make video work better. They want to be able to make their video work better, and make their competitors' video work worse. They want to be able to shake down the likes of Google for more money, or make partnering agreements that let Google and Microsoft compete for the title of "preferred vendor".

The Internet we have today was made possible by the regulations imposed on the phone companies, going back to the "common carrier" idea. The ISP sells you a pipe; the people at either end decide what goes over the pipe. It works; we should not allow it to be broken for the benefit of the cable/local phone duopoly.

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 24, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels

Ask how they can do this. None of the basic IP protocols (TCP/UDP) have any Quality of Service guarantees. So how can they guarantee an service level between the content provider and you?

To contrast, on the USB wire, there is a certain amount of time available where only time critical packets can be sent. (I think).

IP is random traffic.

The only way they can conceivably guarantee a service level is by opening up packets and inspecting them and by degrading packets that they do not like. Degrading means dropping. Means slowing. Degrading is by definition impeding traffic.

If they want to supply a QOS service, let the industry get together with the IETF and implement a QOS service for IP services. Until they do that, everything else is just marketing bullshit intended to separate you from your dollars.

And others have already discussed what this means to google to have to deal separately with AT&T, Cox, Cable & Wireless, and other international ISPs.

When you say "I've been trying to understand this whole 'net neutrality' thing and I've failed utterly. I just can't figure out the underlying issues", it seems to assume you are competent in this domain and that this problem is not a real problem.

More accurately, "I am not an network engineer, nor an economist with an understanding of Internet issues, I have no real understanding of how the packets go from my laptop to yours, and I would appreciate it if someone could explain."

You appear to be taking the Yglesias approach: "I am not a physicist, chemist, botanist, or scientist, but a Law Professor said that Nuclear Power was really really good for the environment and I am inclined to agree."

Posted by: jerry on April 24, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Telecom executive lie, management changes, technology changes. Even if the first two don't get you, the third will. Sure, people will still be able to reach Washington Monthly using their current internet connection. But if you want to reach people who are connected by municipal wireless, or who've upgraded their DSL lines or their cable modems since that promise was made, gosh, the telecom folks are just going to have to charge you some extra fees. And they'll scare their customers into supporting them because otherwise they'd have to jack up access rates even further.

Oh, and do you perhaps host controversial content that might generate attacks by internet vandals? Obviously you'll have to pay a security surcharge...

And yeah, once the principle is established that you don't have to offer everyone equally effective carriage of their packets regardless of content, look for Murdoch and Scaife to start investing in internet backbone links. Individual customers don't even have contracts with the backbone folks, so there'd be no standing to sue.

Posted by: paul on April 24, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, has it occured to you that it's vague for a REASON? Vaguely worded legislation always makes me a bit nervous, especially when I can see drool coming from AT&T over it.

The simplest way I can explain it is to extend the highway metaphor: The internet as structured is like a public highway -- you've got to pay for your own car and gas, but everyone has free use of the road. This legislation is akin to privatizing ALL the roads in the country. If you pay out the nose, they'll let you use the highways -- if they like you. If you don't, you get the backroads, assuming you can even get where you want at all.

You'll still have a car. You'll still have an onramp. But you'll be blocked at the tollgate.

Posted by: Morat20 on April 24, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

To arms...

Posted by: Fred on April 24, 2006 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

This legislation is akin to privatizing ALL the roads in the country.

This sounds like a good reason why net neutrality is bad. If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more because private companies would immediately fix bad roads being that's in their self-interest to do so. Similarly by privatizing the internet and eliminating net neutrality, the internet would be faster and on-demand video would be faster because private companies would have a incentive to make it as fast as possible. So Kevin is right that net neutrality should be eliminated.

Posted by: Al on April 24, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

> If they want to supply a QOS service,
> let the industry get together with
> the IETF and implement a QOS service
> for IP services.

IP has had QoS since at least 1995; I found 30 RFCs with just a quick search. Corporate IP telephony wouldn't work otherwise.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on April 24, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum,
Are you ready to say "Uncle" or do we need to continue?

Posted by: Kevin on April 24, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Damn you Cranky!

But I still think there is a difference between corporate telephony on private backbones and leased lines and extending qos services across an isp for all matters of tcp based protocols.

Posted by: jerry on April 24, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Besides which, just finding 30 RFCs in itself doesn't mean any have been implemented, or that any are anything close to widely adopted standards.

Don't forget RFC 1149 - Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on avian carriers. Indeed one of the comments on RFC 1149 is "RFC 1149: Proposal to introduce Quality of Service (QoS) via the PO (Pecking order)..."

Posted by: jerry on April 24, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

IP has had QoS since at least 1995; I found 30 RFCs with just a quick search. Corporate IP telephony wouldn't work otherwise.

And that is great. Latency sensitive applications like telephony and video conferencing need to be bumped to the front of the line, while other applications like web browsing and e-mail can be delayed with no perceptible difference.
But, it has to be applied on a non-disciminatory basis. That is the key difference. Telcos want to force you to use their VOIP service, their video service, their sanctioned applications and no one else's. They want to give their data preferential treatment and delay other data so that it is unusable. If they are going to improve QoS for one type of packet, then they have to do it for every packet of that type regardless of origin.
That is what one of the net neutrality bills killed by the Republicans addressed. Network providers had to provide equal or better service for other data as they did for their own.

QoS is great, but only on a non-discriminatory basis.

Posted by: Nathan Florea on April 24, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Regulation now, regulation tomorrow, regulation forever!

But regulation pretty well went out with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. -- "To unleash technology and entrepreneurialism so as to maximize consumer welfare in ways we regulators (ex and otherwise) could never even imagine."

Kind of funny, don't you think.

Posted by: Bob M on April 24, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin man,

It doesn't take a genius. Serious policy changes to the internet should not happen with out a lot of public discussion. This bill is like a bludgeon to free discourse. It will certainly lead to discriminatory traffic policies to all sites. It is also clear from the lobbyists backing the proposal to end Net Neutrality that public interest is not being served.

The call on thos bill is no-brainer. Kill it in comitee and bring the whole issue to light in some very public discourse over the next year. There is no urgency for passing the bill right now, except for the underhanded reasons.

Posted by: patience on April 24, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Congress critters, of either stripe, who think this is an easy vote on obscure pork for lobbying money are going to find themselves out of office and receiving the distributed Joe Lieberman treatment. Congress needs to understand. Hands off or lose your hands.

Turning off the internet is a sure way to piss-off the millions of people who have grown to depend on it.

Posted by: patience on April 24, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry, you're trying to draw too fine a distinction. The telecoms already use QoS and traffic shaping. They're right to do so -- the size of the pipe to your house is limited. It makes sense to marshal that limited resource based upon the different types of applications that are using it.

As others have pointed out, problems arise when those network decisions begin to be shaped by payments of protection money. Kevin, it really isn't complicated. You pay a consumer ISP for your broadband connection; Google pays a bulk broadband retailer for theirs. Now the guys who own the consumer connections want to be able to send a bill to Google, too. If not, they turn down the quality of your connection to Google.

It's sleazy, it's unethical, it's dishonest. There's not much to clarify here. This is like banks charging non-customers higher and higher ATM fees: there is no price pressure that will actually lead to improved service for anybody. It's just a private tax being levied on businesses (and therefore indirectly on consumers) for no justifiable reason.

Posted by: tom on April 24, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: in lieu of Reed Hundt, I'd recommend Rep. Rick Boucher (D-far southwest VA). He used to be my Congressman, back in another lifetime, and despite representing a very rural, conservative area, he was extremely knowledgeable about telecom and the potential of the Internet even then. He clearly figured that his geographically isolated constituents' best chance of participating in a 21st-century knowledge economy was to be connected to the world electronically.

From a Boucher press release last summer:

Boucher called on Congress to enact principles of Net Neutrality which include:
# ensuring unimpeded consumer access to any lawful content, applications and services on the Internet;
# allowing consumers to attach and use any device that does not harm the broadband network; and
# prohibiting broadband network operators from unreasonably favoring themselves or their affiliates in the provision of Internet services.

Boucher noted that incidents of improper action by broadband network operators blocking access to websites that offer content in competition with that offered by the broadband provider have been recently reported and that no binding rule or law currently exists to prohibit network operators from engaging in anti-competitive practices in the operation of their platforms. "The absence of a binding statute codifying the principles of Net Neutrality leaves a significant gap in our regulatory structure which will undoubtedly be exploited again by companies seeking to gain an inappropriate competitive advantage," he added.

Posted by: RT on April 24, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - right now, you pay to host your site and the bandwith to the nearest onramp. I pay for my bandwith from the offramp to my computer. Our respective ramps pay into "the system," which currently must treat all packets of information equally.

What the telecos want to be able to do is treat packets unequally. The problem is, you don't have any control over what pipeline information coming in to you is travelling on.

Imagine if long-distance phone calls were treated this way. You might have Sprint, I might have T-Mobile, but the trunk might be AT&T. So AT&T wants the right to give shitty, crappy reception to calls that aren't AT&T on one end. Or paying extra fees to AT&T.

Remember, digital is as good or crappy as you want it to be. And the fastest US broadband is pure shite and four to five times as expensive as in the rest of the world. And that we paid massive subsidies through customer surcharges to build a true broadband network for the whole US, and the cable/telcos never built it, yet kept the money.

Posted by: NotThatMo on April 24, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

The core issue for us internet customers is this: the fact that ISP's dont regulate content is what caused the internet to be so great. Applications like www, blogging, social networking, chat happen by innovation at the edges, not the controlled center of the internet.

The moment ISPs start regulating content, innovation will slow. COould blogging have started if bloggers couldnt get good QOS while big newspapers paid for super-fast QOS? The big guys like Google and Yahoo have enough money that they wont be hurt when the Bells start charging for their traffic, but the small guys will.

Posted by: Vish on April 24, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

What the broadband companies are asking for is the right to force all broadband customers to purchase a branded, old school AOL-type service. Remember when the internet first came to AOL, Compuserve, and their ilk? Raw internet feed loaded slowly and was hugely buggy, while the AOL stuff worked OK?

The public has loudly and thoroughly rejected that type of service. The telcos think it is a better business model for them, however, so they have gone running to Congress to allow them to be able to force it upon unwilling people.

Posted by: NotThatMo on April 24, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Given the track record of this administration and this Congress, we'd be very stupid to accept this without protections written into the law. Once the freedom we've known in this medium is gone, I doubt we'll ever get it back. Quite apart from Reed Hundt, Al Gore, who does know what this is all about, should be speaking out. Has he?

Posted by: PW on April 24, 2006 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

"If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more because private companies would immediately fix bad roads being that's in their self-interest to do so."

Someone hasn't been to Pennsylvania, apparently.

Posted by: BB on April 24, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

One word: Skype.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on April 24, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

You mean like my name?
Really what can you tell?

I could be a Ferringi from Star Trek hologram, a computer glitch in the internet, a matrix, within a matrix.

Or it could be just a stoopid name that many people seem to conjure a red headed, bucktoothed village idiot of a stepchild or something.

Net Neutrality?

Who in the Hell sits around and thinks this crap up anyway, sheeshopeete

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 24, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Compare those ROADS to HALLIBURTON War profiteering and say that again. You will probably choke on the words.

"If all the WARS were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad WARS with PROFITEERING any more because private WARS would immediately fix bad WARS being that's in their self-interest to do so."

Someone hasn't been to Pennsylvania, apparently.
Or to Halliburtons History.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 24, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Internet will become Cable TV [$$] and just as sucky as The 'News Corp' is today. Might have to get the ham radios back out...

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 24, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

As I understand it, the way things are right now, the customer (you and me) decide what kind of speed and service we want and/or can afford, and subscribe to that Internet Provider. As a result, we can get to any website we want with the same ease and speed as any other.

What the Telcos want to do is to essentially reverse that forumla. Each website operator would have to decide if they want customers to be able to get them slow, medium-fast, fast or really-really-fast and pay accordingly.

So, imagine a little guy wants to start up a new book selling service and has wildly innovative ideas that could totally revolutionize the way we handle retail shopping on the internet. But he's just starting out, so all he's going to be able to afford is the slowest service. Even if you have the bestest, fastest, top-of-the-line broadband service, anytime you visit him, it's going to take a while to get there, and each new page is going to load very slowly. Meanwhile, Amazon can pay for the fastest service on their end, so going to their site will be just like it is today. That puts the little guy at a HUGE disadvantage since none of us like to wait for a website to load, right?

In addition, it also tends to devalue the customer's on selection of service because even if we're paying for the bestest fastest service we can get, there will still be sites that are going to load slowly for us, so we're not going to be getting the same kind of service as we have now.

Anyway, that's the way I understand the situation.

Posted by: kriselda jarnsaxa on April 24, 2006 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

Think of the Rail roads in the 1880's 1890's etc. The reason for the Granges etc.
If a private entity is granted special priviledges so as to facilitate providing a public utility for private profit then that entity must allow transperent and equal access to all.
View the telecoms as the robber barons of this century.

Posted by: Ken on April 24, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

All of the telecoms caved in when warrentless wiretaps began. If they didnt cooperate with the White House then their lobbyists pushing telco reform (in their favor) would be ignored.

All telecoms have provided remote links to their switches providing the nsa complete access to everything.

The internet was a benefit to the Republicans a few years back but is now proving to be a dagger in the heart.

Republicans want to control (censor) what goes out on the net and they are just clothing this operation in the telecoms uniforms.

You may remember that ATT (used to be called SBC until they bought ATT a few months back and changed their name) intends to buy Bell South for 67Billion (all stock, no cash). This would put Cingular 100 percent in ATT hands. Hmmm.

There are loads of behind the scenes deals hinging on this merger with the CEOs making out like bandits.

Net neutrality is just a catch phrase that they want us to concentrate on and I believe they have our attention. I would much rather watch the other hand of the magician, the one thats hiding the trick.

Posted by: Sideline on April 24, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Internet ain't broke. Don't fix it.

Posted by: DanF on April 24, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

.I've been trying to understand this whole "net neutrality" thing and I've failed utterly. I just can't figure out the underlying issues.

You have to be the stupidest fucking idiot on the planet.

There's a reason this site is held in such contempt by so many of us. Usually, it's the political stupidity and craveness you display on a daily basis that sickens anyone with a brain. But this statement goes beyond your usual whiny moderate hand-wringing capitulation into "President" Cuckoo Bananas brain-damaged idiocy.

What a fucking moron you are.

Posted by: dave on April 24, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

You have to be the...

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

No one fucking cares, blueshirt.

Posted by: Bored with Trolls on April 24, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

'dave' posted:

"You have to be the stupidest fucking idiot on the planet."

No that's you.

Posted by: VJ on April 24, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the only people who will defend him are the brownshirts that infest his site like so many fleas is all you really need to know about The King of the Hand-Wringing Moderate Capitulators...

Posted by: dave on April 24, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the only people who...

Go back to your loony bin, loser. Quit making a fool of yourself.

Posted by: Bored with Trolls on April 24, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin

Net Neutrality as every single poster has explained to you above is very basic. You are being thick. The internet as it now stands means every packet of information transferred over it is treated the same. I pay for my acessing content by paying my DSL/cable provider a monthly fee. If I'm a producer of content I pay server fees to host my content. Net neutrality means that the uploading and downloading of content is in no way segregated. What AT&T and other phone companies are suggesting is that besides the fee they already get from me as a consumer they will also charge content providers to get their content transmitted over the pipes. So if let's say AT&T decides that ebay is not paying it enough tomorrow when I try to acess ebay it will not work as well. Imagine what that means for any kind of innovation. Unless you can afford to pay toll fees to AT&T your content will never be accessible at reasonable speeds. So the next Google or MySpace or Ebay will never be formed because a start-up will not be able to afford to pay the toll fees. Think of it taxation on innovation of any kind that is not already supported by huge corpate cash. The internet you will have left will be kind that is sanctioned by AT&T, Verizon et al. AT&T and Verizon's argument that they have invested alot of money in their network is only partially correct. The phone and cable system has been built with huge tax payer support and all sorts of breaks with cable franchises enjoying monopoly rights in their markets. The internet is about content. The fastest pipe in the world is useless if there is nothin to see online. And what the phone companies want is control over what content gets delivered to the user.

Posted by: Santa on April 24, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

You have to realize that dave is the narcoleptic nazi hunter. It's a pity, somewhere there are real nazis for dave to find if he could just stay awake long enough. Due to his narcolepsy he is forced to call everyone a brownshirt lest he miss a few, and right after his brownshirt orgasm, the oxytocin peaks and off he goes. Zzzzzzzz.

Posted by: jerry on April 24, 2006 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, the issue is that the pipe owner would determine who can come down their pipe at what speed.

Today's Internet accepts all traffic at the same speed once it enters the system. That means that while someone sending lots of data will pay more (your example of bloggers paying more for bandwidth) the people who want to get that data can be assured it will arrive at the same speed as all other data.

Net neutrality is about the reader/viewer being able to pick whatever they want and getting it at the speed they paid for: 56K, DSL, Cable, T1, whatever.

The Verizon/AT&T/Comcast folks want to decide that for you based on how much they get paid by content providers.

Some of us out here think that once data is on the Internet and traveling to us, it should come to us without restraint. And that's a big deal.

Posted by: Nathan on April 24, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oh good lord. Well, you think medical savings accounts will cure US healthcare, so I'm not surprised.

Posted by: em on April 24, 2006 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

I found that this paper on net neutrality answered a lot of my questions...

Posted by: nascardaughter on April 24, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

This legislation is akin to privatizing ALL the roads in the country.

This sounds like a good reason why net neutrality is bad. If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more because private companies would immediately fix bad roads being that's in their self-interest to do so

This analogy only works in your favor if you stop halfway. To make it truly analogous, you would have to imagine many separate road systems--one system of roads for people who own Fords, one for people with Chevys, and so on. And if you own a Yugo, you're screwed, since none of the big companys will let you use their private roads.

Posted by: sc on April 24, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, if in doubt ask Gore. He sure used to know this shit. No kidding, we should let Gore and Vince Cerf figure this out.

From what I understand, Internet as we know will stop to exist once the implicit reciprocal traffic agreements breakdown.

Posted by: beaut on April 24, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels (for a price) for high-value, high-bandwidth services like on-demand video. This does not seem very alarming to me.

I find the fact that you believe them when they say that rather alarming. I may or may not want you on my jury. If I was OJ, I guess I would.

Posted by: Not OJ on April 24, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

We need a slogan that captures this issue. I am interested in other readers comments.

How about " Don't Let Them Cabalize The Internet ! " ?

I hate what cable has done to (kept the lid on) the promise of access to globally diverse programming. I can not imagine a scenario worse than letting telecoms and or cable firms gain control over access to the net.

Posted by: steve on April 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

This sounds like a good reason why net neutrality is bad.
Posted by: Al on April 24, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ohmigawd. The bill itself is called net-neutrality bill. According to telcos this is supposedly for net neutrality.

Swiftboating of the Internet is working. By god we are doomed.

Posted by: beaut on April 25, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that the fact the 'net has become an invaluable resource for netroots political organizing and fundraising has nothing whatsoever to do with this.

I'm sure that liberal political sites won't experience any access problems once Internet traffic is funnelled through pay-to-play telecom channels.

I'm also sure that the people of Russia will crown me their new Czarina any day now.

Posted by: CaseyL on April 25, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

I must admit I am surprised at the low volume of outcry from Google, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, YouTube, Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, ....

I am curious why they would not be organizing in response.

I would like to see a "The Day The Net Stood Still" demonstration in which for 60 minutes, all non-life-critical content on the Internet was stopped. I would think that Google, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, YouTube, Amazon, Walmart, Netflix would all benefit from participation.

Posted by: jerry on April 25, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK


OMG Kevin, Social security is in trouble, it needs to be reformed NOW! We can't wait! You democrats need to get out in front on this issue and show how sensible you can be, not like those lefty loony liars who claim it will be solvent for 50 years.

Posted by: Dub Ya Bush on April 25, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin,

I KNOW that you are NOT a fool...

THREFORE, GO HERE: Go HERE, Pal...

Follow the links, watch the little video, geared to an 8th grade mentality, and I am SURE that even YOU will grasp it... Just, PLEASE, get Lieberman's cock out of your mouth before you undertake this trek into the truth... I KNOW you can do it, buddy... Just BREATHE your way through it... I made it VERY SIMPLE for *ahem* "democratic centrists" like you... You can't miss it, pal.

The issue is as clear as can be... If your, or AN ISP doesn't like your message, your site gets FUCT by slow refresh, or total block, via firewall under this new idea.

Don't think that you are special, Kevin... you're a Democrat, or so you say.

Net Neutrality dictates that ALL sites get equal bandwidth and treament no matter WHAT their message. PERIOD. Just follow my EZ links. Even YOU can't miss the issue.

Kevin, if you cannot figure out this issue, just give it up, you fucking simpleton and Republican in Dem's clothing. I'm thinking that this is the case.. You're no sort of Democrat that **I'VE* ever related to, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!!!!???


--MF

Tony B.

Posted by: Monkeyfister on April 25, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

I must admit I am surprised at the low volume of outcry from Google, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, YouTube, Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, ....

I am curious why they would not be organizing in response.

They are the current giants in the marketplace and thus have the resources and/or capital to have their content delivered whether or not this bill is made into law. In either case any increased costs to deliver content will be passed on to their customers.

However, the next google/youtube/etc will have a much harder time entering the market because they may not have the capital to have their content delivered in a reasonable manner.

Posted by: espumoso on April 25, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

For those of us who were aware of this nebulous thing called the "internet" in those days before WWW, it always seems something of a miracle that the internet evolved in the way that it did - an organic, bottom-up, egalitarian system - and not how it certainly could have - with Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL running the show.

If one finds media consolidation on television and in print to be distasteful, one should certainly hold net neutrality in the highest regard.

Posted by: absent signified on April 25, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

If the big telcos are for it, why in the world would I be? At what point do their interests coincide with mine?

Posted by: craigie on April 25, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Here's how I think about it: the [b]Bush Administration[/b] wants to give [b]large telecom companies[/b] more power to regulate their distribution of Internet bandwidth.

The policy will inevitably be anti-competition and anti-consumer. With these entities as the main actors, it is inevitably so, and so I reject this.

Posted by: NBarnes on April 25, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, am I right in "remembering" that the National Information Infrastructure" was NOT the intarweb but something else much more structured and organized from the top down? And it was only when the NII flamed out that people started to think of teh intarweb as the NII?

If so, then it seems that teh Intarweb's success was built on it's being relegated to the dustbin of history, and that we have already seen what happens to a non-neutral-net. It flames out and dies.

Or maybe it's just the aluminum anti-perspirant affecting my brain sales.

At any rate, I believe if we could convince Vint Cerf and Google to go dark for an hour, we could get MSN and Yahoo on board as they compete to do no evil.

Posted by: jerry on April 25, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Little Red Riding Hood: "I'm confused and bewildered."

The Wolf responds: "All the better to see you, my darling."

Posted by: TheOkie on April 25, 2006 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Ending net neutrality would not only be bad for our ability to communicate with each other (maybe not as bad as the worst nightmares, but still bad). It would also mean that our entire economy would have to do with second rate (at best) in one of the most critical areas for future development and growth.
The first scares me more, but the fact that corporate America as a whole is willing to let this happen surprises me more.

Posted by: Kevin on April 25, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the I2 people have already tried to do what the telcoms propose. They thought that "of course" the next gen internet would all be based on traffic shaping. Then they tried it in real life.

It turned out that it was not only easier, but cheaper too, to ignore content and just double the bandwidth. There's no problem with content delivery on the internet where the cheapest solution is not more fiber.

The telcoms aren't interested in the best internet, or even the cheapest (even to them) internet. They want total control, and monopoly rents on the internet, and nothing less will satisfy them.

Posted by: Mike on April 25, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to see a "The Day The Net Stood Still" demonstration

Ha! you youngsters obviously don't remember the day the Net turned black! It was about ten years ago.
Actually, even I don't remember what it was about... :(

Posted by: old fart on April 25, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin don't know what the little girl, understands:

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that, John. I am concerned about the economy because our small business owners and families are paying higher prices at the gas pump. And that affects the lives of a lot of people. If you're a small business owner and you have to pay higher gas prices and you're -- likely you may not hire a new worker. In other words, higher gas prices, as I have said, is like a tax on the -- on the small business job creators. And it's a tax on families. And I do think this has affected consumer sentiment; I do think it's affected the economy.

Ed Whitacre: Chairman, AT&T Wha, yeah!, cmon, yeah, yeah, cmon, yeah
Yeah, cmon, oh, yeah, ma
Yeah, Im a back door man, Im a back door man
Kevin dont know, but the little girl understand
Hey, all you people that tryin to sleep
Im out to make it with my midnight dream, yeah
cause Im a back door man, the men dont know
But the little girls understand, all right, yeah
Kevin eat your dinner, eat your pork and beans
I eat more chicken, than any man ever seen, yeah, yeah
Im a back door man, wha, the men dont know
But the little girl understand
Well, Im a back door man
Im a back door man
Whoa, baby, Im a back door man
The men dont know
But the little girls understand

Posted by: jerry on April 25, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

What good would Google, Yahoo, MSN be if the majority of web sites slip off the edge of the Internet? Where else are they going to find compelling content?

Posted by: Chris on April 25, 2006 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Here is a good summer of everything from Matt Stoller. This is not something you guys at the monthly can hedge on. Get yourselves together.

http://mydd.com/story/2006/4/24/123726/983

Posted by: patience on April 25, 2006 at 1:38 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin circa 1997:

"I've been trying to understand this whole Telecommunications Act that's been floating around Congress the past few months. But I just can't figure out the underlying issues. On the one hand..."

Posted by: samsin on April 25, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Can you say censorship?

Posted by: thebewilderness on April 25, 2006 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

My insecurities stem from the fact that I have a very tiny penis.

I am so sorry for being a useless twat.

Posted by: dave on April 25, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

In other words, higher gas prices, as I have said, is like a tax on the -- on the small business job creators. And it's a tax on families. And I do think this has affected consumer sentiment; I do think it's affected the economy.

Wow. I wish Bush had thought of this before he decided to start invading the middle east.

And no - it's not at all like a tax. A tax enriches the public treasury, and is used to do things like build roads, defend our country, and educate our children.

High gas prices just fatten tax-cheat CEO's offshore bank accounts. Not at all like a tax.

There's no problem with content delivery on the internet where the cheapest solution is not more fiber.Posted by: Mike on April 25, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, it's been shown (just google on "Dark fiber") that there is actually a massive surplus of bandwith (that you and I paid for through phone bill surcharges) built into the system, which the telcos simply decided to leave unconnected. If broadband is slow and expensive in the US - it's not for any technical reason. This is preciesely how the telcos want it.

God damned "supply-siders".

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 25, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

Changing net neutrality into telecom control will not only harm our ability to communicate, and organize, and create, but will also make us second rate in one of the areas most crucial for future economic development.
Putting the interests of one part of the elite even over the interests of the elite as a whole is often a symptom of societal sclerosis.

Posted by: Kevin on April 25, 2006 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

"No one should deny or impede access to lawful sites on the Web. Everyone supports that position."

That's a slighty creepy way to phrase that. Right now, nobody denies or impedes, period. Nobody outside of the guys running China's firewall, anyway. If there's an unlawful website, you go to their ISP and get their server shut down, it's easy. Qwest doesn't impede access to unlawful sites any more than Verizon impedes my ability to call my weed guy.

Nazi stuff is illegal in France, but Qwest doesn't deny or impede France's access to unlawful neo-Nazi web sites. They could though. They could, for an appropriate fee, make China's firewall much more effective, by denying and impeding unlawful packets leaving their network for China. And while they're at it, unlawful packets about early Canadian election results heading north from American blogs. Or allegedly unlawful copyright-violating packets coming from servers hosted on networks that aren't as cooperative with Scientology's lawyers as Qwest is. Or the MPAA's lawyers. Or a celebrity's lawyers upset with the weak libel laws that servers hosted in Russia have to follow...

But I'm pretty sure the CEO of Qwest has thought through the lucrative opportunities of his little unecessary exception better than I have.

Posted by: yipyip on April 25, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Come on Kevin, pull your head out of your ass...seriously.

Posted by: wtf on April 25, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

This is all so interesting in a "let's talk about something interesting" sort of way, but everyone count on one hand the number of times Corporate America has been denied anything it wanted from this MBA pResident. Feel free to use two fingers if you wish. My point is, by the time we start talking about things that infringe on freedoms, it's already too late. Done.deal. Game.over.

Posted by: Philip on April 25, 2006 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

Whoa, what's with all the Kevin hating here from leftists? I haven't seen the usual right-wing trolls. Are they masquerading as leftists here? Though I'm further left of Kevin, I do get embarrased by certain leftist types--thing is, I've never seen any such people so eager to denounce a bonafide center-leftist (which category doesn't include, say, the Joe Kleins of the world). Have they read Kevin since 2002? Or are they really right-wing trolls?

As for net non-neutrality, I think the only thing you have to know about the issue is that the telcos want it, therefore we should reject it.

Posted by: pantomimehorse on April 25, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Am I late for my free lobotomy? I heard this was the place!

Posted by: politica on April 25, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

"As for net non-neutrality, I think the only thing you have to know about the issue is that the telcos want it, therefore we should reject it."

Actually, the Defense Department may have an interest in this as well. Weave into the discussion Donald Rumsfeld's "Information Operations Roadmap" and perhaps people will get off their butts and pay more attention. Somehow, I doubt it.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4655196.stm

Posted by: Philip on April 25, 2006 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

Geeze, Kevin, if you don't know what's going on, have the grace to stfu!

They're busy destroying the Internets and turning them into yet another unlevel playing field owned by the loser hotheads who can't even play softball with the opposition (you see that story today? check it out at http://tinyurl.com/q3g23 ) and yr response when Duncan, Josh, and most Everyone Else gets excited is a baffled mutter like some kind of Democratic party strategist selling out basic principles?

Why, it's almost as if you haven't learned a damn thing three years after you cheered the Iraq invasion. What's next-- Social Security "reform"?

And this from a man who only days ago had a spellbinding must-read on the Commander in Chief's studied refusal to talk with Iran as he heads into yet another catastrophically boneheaded "regime change!"

You're not as stupid as you act. You can do this. Watch the video. Read the rants. Then redeem yourself.

Posted by: Tomm on April 25, 2006 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "What's more, if the real issue is that telecom companies want to be able to offer higher service levels to certain customers but would never reduce service levels for other customers well then, why not write that into law?"

The real issue for telecom companies is that they want a guaranteed profit margin. If that means a reduction in the quality of service for the same price, well, then that's just the way it goes.

Our resident telephone monopoly for years was GTE Hawaiian Tel (later Verizon Hawaii), which was recently bought by The Carlisle Group (yes, that Carlisle Group). For years, GTE provided substandard service to the state's rural areas (which in Hawaii is almost 90% of all lands).

In the Ka'u region on the island of Hawaii (the southern end of the Big island, an area almost three times the land area of the entire island of Oahu), residents had to rely on party lines, even though they paid the same residential rate as customers on Oahu.

This wasn't just after the end of World War II, when party lines were commonplace nationwide. This was 1998!

That year, the state legislature finally took action to force GTE to upgrade their service in Ka'u to the same standard enjoyed by the people of Honolulu. The phone company certainly wasn't going to do it on its own initiative. As it was, it only completed the phase-out of the Big Island's party lines in 2003.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 25, 2006 at 4:25 AM | PERMALINK

I've been trying to understand this whole "net neutrality" thing and I've failed utterly. I just can't figure out the underlying issues.

If you like privatization and unregulated capitalism, and if think that people should have to pay for vital resources such as water, then net neutrality isn't your thing.

See if this gives you a better understanding.

Posted by: Maven on April 25, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

This legislation is akin to privatizing ALL the roads in the country.
This sounds like a good reason why net neutrality is bad. If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more because private companies would immediately fix bad roads being that's in their self-interest to do so. Similarly by privatizing the internet and eliminating net neutrality, the internet would be faster and on-demand video would be faster because private companies would have a incentive to make it as fast as possible. So Kevin is right that net neutrality should be eliminated.

Posted by: Al on April 24, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen reasons for companies to not immediately fix bad roads without breaking a sweat, and I'm a moral woman with scruples. For a corporation that is required by law to scheme away in order to make a profit for its' shareholders, if there is more money to be made by not fixing them, they won't get fixed. They may even get dug up.

The privatizing of America's roads has not been thought through or debated by Americans. All that has been framed to date is that somebody else is picking up the cost of their upkeep. But it doesn't come at no cost to Americans. Our roads is a cornerstone of American freedom. To travel freely within the United States, on roads that we paid for, and that our ancestors built.

What if a corporation buys up roads surrounding a piece of property that they want to develop, but the owner of the property isn't interested in selling? I see Kelo as only one obvious outcome.

What if a foreign corporation (or some serious private foreign money interest, because honestly, who else is going to have the kind of money necessary to buy roads?) decides to create a New People's Republic of Inner Mandibula (or New Saudi Arabia) in the U.S.? Pick a state.

They can buy up the main arteries, close them down, get a good price on the land of those unfortunate enough to be without helicopters or planes. I think with what paper the Chinese and the Saudis already own, they could probably foreclose on our southwest, and ship a healthy population over to colonize. Perhaps not so healthy. Perhaps they'll use the U.S. for quarantining. Or their own workers who will pump our aquifers into floating bladders and ship our water out to other countries with the ability to pay.

I don't believe anybody can be enthusiastic about these privatization scheme once they've thought them through.

It's late, I'm sleepy, good night.

Posted by: Maven on April 25, 2006 at 5:41 AM | PERMALINK

I have difficulties in understanding the industries position, too. Maybe it's different in the US, but here in Germany the internet surfing customer pays for his connection and the 'publishing' customer pays for his website (or the company who offers him a limited presence, like blogger, pays for it). The website package consists of a share of a server, or maybe one or more servers, a certain amount of traffic and a guaranteed bandwith. Sure you remember those error messages when a small site is overwhelmed by traffic: "This domain exceeded his bandwith" or something like that. The companies who offer the hosting services have to pay the telcos for being connected to the internet. Even the telcos have contracts with each other for the data exchange.

So, contrary to their argumentation, the telcos already get paid for the backbones. And afaik they are making profits with this business. Now where exactly is the rational reason for additional charging of websites? Wouldn't this violate the contracts with the hosting services of those sites? If they don't like those contracts, too bad, then they should try to get more in the next negotiations. Good luck.

I don't see any logic in the arguments of the telco lobby. Can anyone here explain the brouhaha or is this just a big stack of lies and spin?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 6:49 AM | PERMALINK

Al: If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more

Better yet, privatize the potholes! Let companies charge for passage over the place of each. The invisible hand of the market means we'll get just the amount of potholes we desire, as it were.

Posted by: Ollie Lustbladder on April 25, 2006 at 7:20 AM | PERMALINK

"the telecom industry says they just want to be able guarantee service levels (for a price) for high-value, high-bandwidth services like on-demand video. This does not seem very alarming to me."

Kevin, sorry, but that's uninformed nonsense. A bit is a bit. There is no difference in the costs of transmitting one megabyte of email or one megabyte of data for the telcos. What the telcos ask for is a license to blackmail content providers by placing filters into the data stream that would slow the traffic of all normal customers down. Only by paying the ransom your data would be allowed to flow unrestricted.

In effect, this would result in all websites becoming hostages of the telcos. If they don't like your kind of data, they can slow you down to the point where you can't serve your audience in a satisfying way any more. It's a free country, who can force the telcos to offer a better bandwidth than a mere trickle to you, once they are allowed to differentiate between the bits? And on the receiving end, the customer would be left with an unmanageable amount of variations to chose from. At Telco 1, he could get his favourite websites A C D G in good speed, but not B E and F. At Telco 2, A B E and F run great, C D and G not so much. Telco 3 offers awesome connections with D E F G, but A B C are almost unsuable. And what will happen if new website H is the next big thing for the customer? If it isn't on the preffered list of his old provider, he will have to change services!

Kevin, does this remind you of something? YES, this is Medicare Plan D for the Internet! This will result in total chaos. Why should any internet using citizen want that?

So, 'No' to telco filtering plans! No pasaran!

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

"If all the roads were privatized, people wouldn't have to worry about bad roads with potholes any more because private companies would immediately fix bad roads being that's in their self-interest to do so."

Utter nonsense. For many places, there would be no competition in the accesibility, all roads would belong to one provider. Where this is the case, the company would have a monopoly and no incentive at all for providing a better service. Instead, they would raise the prices to a level slightly below the point where the customer would rather move his home or business. That's economics 101.

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

It's late, I'm sleepy, good night.

Posted by: Sanal Alan on April 25, 2006 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Good afternoon.

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

So, contrary to their argumentation, the telcos already get paid for the backbones. And afaik they are making profits with this business. Now where exactly is the rational reason for additional charging of websites? Wouldn't this violate the contracts with the hosting services of those sites? If they don't like those contracts, too bad, then they should try to get more in the next negotiations. Good luck.

I don't see any logic in the arguments of the telco lobby. Can anyone here explain the brouhaha or is this just a big stack of lies and spin?
Posted by: Gray

No, Gray, you understand the situation exactly. It IS just a big stack of lies and spin.

Put simply, the Telcos want to protect their telephony revenues. If Verizon or Qwest can block Vonage, you'll have to buy your telephone service from Verizon or Qwest, and at a price set by them, not the market.

Some of the other arguments - censorship, etc. - aren't really the immediate goal. HOWEVER, once the principle of "non-neutrality" is set, nothing would prevent a Clear Channel or a Sinclair from, say, buying Blogspot or Typepad and forbidding non-Conservative blogs.

Posted by: jac on April 25, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This guy has to be bought off, the obviousness of this being a bad decision means he'd have to be stupid to the point of mental retardation not to grasp it. He is clearly not an idiot,therefore someone must be paying him to say this? Perhaps his taskmasters at Washington monthly are pressuring him, or perhaps he's just a tool of the telecom industry.

It doesn't matter what rules they set up, allowing discrimination of any sites will kill the internet. If not immediately, in the long run. People will pressure sites to have them removed from networks that feature materials they find questionable, so nobody will see any point in having online stores. Nobody will carry political opinions to the left of Powerline, because business hates liberals. Christian groups will demand boycotts of networks that allow homosexual sites. This will kill free speech, political involvement and is an absolutely necessary step in setting up a dictatorship. I know Drum is stupidly poo pooing any notions of the such, but these people are doing a whole lot of things absolutely nessecarry for setting up a dictatorship. Let's not let them put any more pieces into place.

Posted by: Soullite on April 25, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Geeze, Kevin, if you don't know what's going on, have the grace to stfu!

Why? That never stopped me from opening my mouth.

Posted by: Atrios on April 25, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin comes from the tech industry and is familiar with statistical bandwidth multiplexing. The way it is supposed to work is as follows:

If you order a quality of service pipe to your home or business, then your traffic is higher priority and you get the minimal service delays you purchased.

Other traffic gets to use the available bandwidth left over.

Presumedly, no one is blocked from any site, it is simply that when higher paying customers use their bandwidth, lower priority users have to wait.

There should be nothing in this about blocking sites. If you are a lower priority customer, you still get porn, internet phone and anything else, you just have to wait your turn in the pipe.

Any telecom executive who actually blocks one site and allows traffic from another should be executed, promptly. If any executive is in Wasington asking for that priviledge, then his or her company should immediately have their taxes raised by a gazillion percent.

Kevin is essentially right abuot this, except for this point:
".. telecom companies want to be able to offer higher service levels to certain customers but would never reduce service levels for other customers.."
This is an impossible contradiction.

Without quality of service guarantees, then I can, from my home computer, arrange to continually receive megabytes of garbage and ruin internet phone for all my neighbors.


Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"That never stopped me from opening my mouth."

Hehehe! So why is it always Kevin who stands out for not seeing the wood for the trees? Do you offer private lessons for unskillful bloggers like him, Duncan?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I agree with Kevin about one thing here: I'd like to see Reed Hundt weigh in on this issue.

He would have a deep understanding of the issues involved, and I'd pretty much trust his judgment about what the proposal really entails.

It's hard to imagine that the telecoms aren't up to something extraordinarily greedy, because that's their natural constitution, but it would be good to hear from someone deeply familiar with the industry machinations.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 25, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

"you've got to pay for your own car and gas, but everyone has free use of the road. This legislation is akin to privatizing ALL the roads in the country"

This analogy is wrong. Truckers pay more because they require more road service. Carpool lanes contradict this analgoy. Heavy trucks are prohibited on some roads. Maximum speed limits and laws to put slower traffic to the right; it is all similiar to bandwidth guarantees.


"Net Neutrality dictates that ALL sites get equal bandwidth"

When I worked in the network business, we had a site that spewed random garbage. Its purpose was to fill the pipe full and see how badly other users were effected, a network test.

-------------------------------
Home users do not realize this, but your trafic slows to a crawl at sertain times of the day, mainly in the morning when everyone in the west coast goes to work and downloads huge chunks of material from the east coast. This "blockage" occurs because there are no service guarantees for the home user.

Do you ever acess a stie and get "Server not available". This often occurs because you link times out for that site, and it is not always the server, it is the low quality of service and high traffic volume.


Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, how many of us get digital video from our cable companies?

How does a cable company offer analog video, digital video and Internet access?

They use quality of service, not the Internet variety, but quality of service guarantees nonetheless. Without this quality of service, you would all be limited to the standard analog channels, and no cable internet.

Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Cranky, QOS is in the RFC, doesn't mean it's implemented.

Posted by: Michele on April 25, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Matt, thx, that's about how I understand the mechanics behind the filtering. But you are overly optimistic in its consequences!

Firstly, nobody says that there will be only two classes of data transport. It may very well be that there will be many channels who are differing in bandwidth. This channeling will slow traffic down, because there will be delays if a channel hits it bandwith cap. Most probably during rushhours, just like highways. But unlike highways, not every packet (=car) will reach its destination. If you're accustomed with the technology, you know perfectly well that data packets have only a limited time to live (TTL). If the transport of a data packet takes to long, it will simply be deleted! You may not call that blocking, but in fact the result is the same: The site becomes unaccessible. We all know those errormessages when a site is overwhelmed by traffic - for example remember the Superbowl?

Secondly, if the telcos are allowed to divide the bandwidth, it is a safe bet that there will be traffic jams in the 'standard' channel very soon. After all, they want to convince the big webplayers that they HAVE to apply for the faster channels. Consequently, even in times when standard internet traffic comes ot a near standstill, there will be sufficient reserves in the prioritized channels for the higher paying customers. But normal sites won't get any share of the reserves! Congestion will become commom annoyance in the channels with the lowest bandwidth.

Now to the dire consequences: Nowhere it is said that the telcos will guarantee that every paying customer will have the right to get a contract for a high banmdwidth channel! No, all businesses are free to chose their customers and decide which contracts they want to offer (as long as it doesn't boil down to outright discrimination). This will affect the accessibility of sites: If your hosting provider doesn't want you, there are lots of others you can chose. But there are only very few telcos who are controlling the backbones. If one blocks you from opting into a high bandwidth channel, the access to your site will be seriously hampered, and you won't have much alternatives because this isn't a very competitive market. If the other block your request, too, you're bust. And it doesn't take much fantasy to conclude that telcos won't be very cooperative if an anti-big-business site wants to get into a faster transport class, for instance.

So, the telcos won't block access, but they have the means to selectively starve sites from traffic. Do you find any flaws in this conclusion, Matt?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a statement from Anna Eshoo, Congressional Representative from my district, which happens to contain Google and Yahoo's HQ, too.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 25, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Here are a couple of good short posts on the subject:
http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/304?PHPSESSID=b9485a45954082e4add19e831f8bbf89
and
http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/303?PHPSESSID=b9485a45954082e4add19e831f8bbf89

And a complete, accurate white paper
http://www.publicknowledge.org/content/papers/pk-net-neutrality-whitep-20060206

Posted by: Jim on April 25, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"This "blockage" occurs because there are no service guarantees for the home user."

No, this is a misleading statement, to say it cautiosly. In the first place, this blockage occurs because the traffic is exceeding the bandwidth of the connection. And simply because the capacity isn't high enough, there are no 'quality of service' guarantees for the home user. And there won't be any guarantees in the future for the surfing customer, only guarantees for paying content providers! Normal users will face much more blockage, in fact, because their part of the bandwidth will shrink in favor of the big payers.

Imho this is elementary, Matt. Do you want to spin us here???

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Already read these at another link somewhere Jim.
Yup, " Libertarians Should See Net Neutrality as a (lack of) Competition Issue"
Good points there! A must read.

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

For those who don't want to read my lengthy post, here's the shorter Gray:

Internet blockades will become a common annoyance, because telcos want to coerce content providers into paying for a 'quality of service' contract!

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Clueless Kevin Drum advertizes his ignorance as some kind of virtue, yet he is almost certainly closer to George Bush than he is to any lovable kind of Homer Simpson.

George Bush want's to lay his dead hands on the net much like Bill Clinton and his wife did with the infamous and unholy Clipper chip.

Anybody with the slightest pretensions to being any sort of ' political animal' may have heard of ' follow the money', the ' Golden Shield', ' What goes around - comes around' and so on.Manchurian Global Cisco, etc.

Kevin Drum must be more political vegetable... or even mineral to act this stupid. Luckily the net treats inane pretentious idiots and imbeciles as damage and routs around them.

Posted by: professor rat on April 25, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Luckily the net treats inane pretentious idiots and imbeciles as damage and routs around them.

You misspelled "routes", genius.

Posted by: TT on April 25, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK
Only in the United States where competition is prohibited does this mean the Telco.

Actually, it doesn't even mean that in the US. Even though my DSL is through my telephone line, my DSL ISP isn't the telco.

(It was, up until they started lieing to me about service availability when I move across town, and simultaneously wanted to stop being a mostly-invisible ISP and started wanting to to be an AOL-light with the their whole own custom software suite they wanted me to use to access their service.)

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know, I think I'm perfectly happy to allow Comcast to restrict my access to Political Animal. I think I'd certainly wait 15 seconds for a page to load. What? Josh Marshall paid the extra access fee? and TPM loads instantly? well, goodbye then, Kevin.

See?

Posted by: northzax on April 25, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
But there are only very few telcos who are controlling the backbones.

As a result of regulatory conditions on approval to compete in other markets, many of them are forced to let other ISP use their cable to provide DSL service on a fee basis that is itself, I believe, tightly regulated.

Certainly, any attempt to charge fees for content provided to users of those ISPs would violate the underlying premise of those restrictions, which were put into place to guarantee competition and prevent the expanding telcos from leveraging their regional monopolies into other markets.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Home users do not realize this, but your trafic slows to a crawl at sertain times of the day, mainly in the morning when everyone in the west coast goes to work and downloads huge chunks of material from the east coast. This "blockage" occurs because there are no service guarantees for the home user.
Posted by: Matt


No it doesn't. It happens because the BACKBONE is clogged. A west-coast subscriber has no effect on the link between my Atlanta home and Comcast's Atlanta headend.

The proper solution is to beef up the backbone. If that means adjusting subscriber rates, so be it. That's how the toll network was financed prior to the internet.


By the way, how many of us get digital video from our cable companies?

How does a cable company offer analog video, digital video and Internet access?

They use quality of service, not the Internet variety, but quality of service guarantees nonetheless. Without this quality of service, you would all be limited to the standard analog channels, and no cable internet.
Posted by: Matt

You're kidding, right? My analog cable service is provided via a QOS implementation? Gee, I thought it was done using Frequency-Division Muliplexing - or, at least that's what my years in the business tell me.

How's that job as a telecom lobbyist working out, Matt?

Posted by: JAC on April 25, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Gee, I thought it was done using Frequency-Division Muliplexing - or, at least that's what my years in the business tell me."

Right, I seem to remember it that way, too. And it has to be said that generally analogue services are a huge waste of valuable bandwidth. So, if you can't boost the capacity of the medium anymore, it's a good idea to exchange analogue services for digital ones. That's why Germany doesn't have analogue terrestrial TV anymore, but three times as many digital channels on 'free-to-air' today.

However, just like JAC said, this has nothing to do with the artificial partitioning of internet bandwith!

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Or do the short form. Cheer for the little guy, if the big guy wins he's coming after you next.

Posted by: serial catowner on April 25, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

This bill will allow the corporate ISPs to do for the internet what deregulation allowed ClearChannel to do for commercial radio.

Posted by: So-Called "Austin Mayor" on April 25, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

If you want the Straight Dope, Kevin, shouldn't you inquire of Cecil Adams?

Posted by: RT on April 25, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

The only things that should ever be privatized are person's personal posessions and communications and home.

Posted by: Red Dawn on April 25, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin, does this remind you of something? YES, this is Medicare Plan D for the Internet!"

Thank you, Gray. Clearest analogy for me on this issue. Having recently spent 2 days with my elederly dad trying to figure out the best plan for him, I am frustrated and angry. Are there no reps in congress looking out for their constituents? I don't hold out much hope against the tidal wave of corporate might that will sweep in less service and fewer choices at a higher cost to the consumer.

Posted by: csmith on April 25, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Vonage is going t have a tough time. Cox is already dropping Vonage calls in favor of its own digital telephony packets.

I predict anti-corporate websites, or even slightly moderate blogs, will have difficulty after the corporate gate keepers decide to prevent their access. We definitely cannot depend on the FCC or the main opposition party to keep the web open and free.

Posted by: Hostile on April 25, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency-Division Muliplexing vs Time Division Multiplexing vs Code Division Multiplexing vs copper division multiplexing

What is the difference? Are we saying that if my telecom uses FDM then they can freely block access to web sites?

No, do not be silly. They are all multiplexing techniques.

"However, just like JAC said, this has nothing to do with the artificial partitioning of internet bandwith!"

Artificial? You mean green plants and animals are the only way to partition telecome services?
It is all man made the last time I looked.

Wireless Inernet often uses frequency multiplexing. Are you saying they are free to restrict access?

We are talking about time division multiplexing. We can use fixed time slots and it is not different than frequency division multiplexing.

The real difference here, technically, is that Internet does not require a call set up in the traditional sense. However, even that difference goes away in some Internet proposals for quality of service. Imagine video on demand, internet based. If you ordered a movie, and the telecome provider started sending you this movie to watch, but periodically they stopped the movie and informed you that the neighborhood kid was downloading the latest copy of Linux, would you be pissed?


Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

"No it doesn't. It happens because the BACKBONE is clogged."

I think that is exactly what I said, in other words. It happens all the time. The way to eliminate clogged backbones is to prioritize service, and that means QOS by any other term.

Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is probably one -- of many -- reasons that Google is working at developing its own Internet backbone, as they are one of the big targets of telco demands for payments.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

No, that's not what you said. And this is wrong, too:
"The way to eliminate clogged backbones is to prioritize service, and that means QOS by any other term."

Wrong! QOS will only eliminate congestion for privileged contents. The unprivileged partition of the backbone will become even more clogged. And those who don't pay for QOS will face even more blockades.

The only 'way to eliminate clogged backbones' for all is to enhance the backbones. What's so difficult in understanding this?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK
Wrong! QOS will only eliminate congestion for privileged contents. The unprivileged partition of the backbone will become even more clogged.

...causing businesses and uses that rely on it to whither and die, relieving the congestion by discouraging nonprivileged use entirely.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"If you ordered a movie, and the telecome provider started sending you this movie to watch, but periodically they stopped the movie and informed you that the neighborhood kid was downloading the latest copy of Linux, would you be pissed?"

Absolutely! Firstly, are they crazy to interrupt the movie transmission with Anti-Linux popups? Secondly, can't they use a cacheable format for that transmission that won't be prone to such interruptions? I don't think I would order another movie from such incompetent lamers.

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Matt? QOS doesn't unclog the backbone. What it does is to prioritize certain types of traffic (IP telephony, video, online gaming, etc.) where network response time is important. This means that your high-priority packets will not be slowed down (as much, anyway) when traffic is high. It doesn't do anything to reduce overall traffic.

QOS based on *type of content* makes a lot of sense. QOS based on *content provider* is an idea that only benefits the telcos (and given their track record, and the damage it's likely to do to the Internet, probably not even the telcos in the long run).

Posted by: mwg on April 25, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"The only 'way to eliminate clogged backbones' for all is to enhance the backbones."

You have a problem. I can always find a content source that will clog the pipe if I pay no incremental cost for the pipe. For example, I can offer a service that each day gives you the latest release of Windows, guaranteed, each morning. You get up, flick on the computer, have coffee, and poof, ten minutes later you and 20 million others have down loaded the latest copy of Windows. Sounds great? It is free, you are having coffee anyway, and there are unlimited pipes.

In fact tat is exactly what was happening in Silicon Valley each time Linux had a new release, the pipes clogged the morning of the release. So, we end up building these huge pipes to cover that special moment, once every three months when Windows or Linux offer a new release. Everything else is supposed to stop.

What if I buy internet phone from my cable company. I expect it to work, I pay a price for it, my price is cheaper than the telco. Am I guaranteed that my calls get through? No, not under your proposal, for I have to compete with my neighbors who are using free Internet phone.


Posted by: Matt on April 25, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

OK Matt, now come on, answer an important question:

How will you feel if you order a moviedownload and the transmission takes several hours because the content provider doesn't have a QOS contract with your provider?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

"For example, I can offer a service that each day gives you the latest release of Windows, guaranteed, each morning."

Firstly, you as a content provider have to pay for the host and this includes connection speed and volume. If it's your own host, you still have to pay for being connected to a backbone, again, thats speed and volume. The consumer who downloads that content pays for his connection, which is defined by connection speed and included traffic, too. Maybe it's a flatrate, but it's up to the ISP to get his calculation right. If you're a poweruser with a flat and causing lots of traffic, he probably will urge you to change your contract accordingly or he will cancel it. There's no free meal, it's supply vs demand and costs vs revenue. Where's your problem, Matt?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Don't let the telecoms "Microsoft" the internet.

Charging more for higher bandwidth? No problem.

Letting the telecoms provide content? Big problem.

This is the game Microsoft played. Charge more for basic services, provide content for free. Drive the other content providers out of business.

The telecoms should be prohibited from being content providers. PERIOD.

Posted by: Broken on April 25, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Another point, Matt: Your Silicon Valley example only shows how the telcos are defrauding their customers. As a customer, you pay for your connection speed. Now how can it happen that the backbone gets blogged when just a limited number of customers download the same content a the same time? Well, I would say, maybe because the ISP has a 10 gigabit backbone, but he has 100000 customers with 2mbit connections each. Now only 5% of those customers have to download at maximum speed and the backbone is clogged. Now who's fault is that? That of the customers? That of the content providers? Or maybe that of the telco who wanted to save the investment in the backbone, while being perfectly aware that the 'underpowered' pipe may lead to problems?

Posted by: Gray on April 25, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK


Here is something you might find interesting. It is an abstract model of a telecommunications system, which I worked out to debunk the misinformation circulated by interested parties.

The basic fact is that the underlying electronic components run at gigabits/sec to terabits/sec, but the subscribers are only using megabits/sec or less. That means that the more central portions of the network have almost unlimited economies of scale. What costs is the last little bit of wire before reaching the subscriber.

I was originally trained as a mechanical engineer. The difference between the way lawyers and politicians think and the way we engineers think is that we engineers more or less reflexively cost things out. There is simply no justification for the kinds of claims AT&T and Verizon are making. The basic problem of the telecommunications companies is that they are trying to collect money to cover "sunk costs," that is, equipment which has become obsolete, or has even been scrapped, but which has not yet been paid for.

To take one example, looking on E-bay, I found a DSL switch machine listed for only twelve dollars per DSL line ($300/24 lines). You can plug twenty-four of those boxes into a gigabaud Ethernet switch, listed in a Cyberguys catalog, which costs about six hundred dollars, and plug that into an Ethernet optical modem (ditto), which costs about a hundred dollars. Allowing something for a small building to house the electronics in, you might be talking about something like $25/subscriber capital cost for a telephone exchange serving a neighborhood of six hundred homes. That might work out at fifty cents a month.

Next stage of the line: a district exchange serving twenty-four such neighborhood exchanges. Take twenty-four of the switches described above, with two optical modems for each, and wire them all together. That comes to a bit over $20,000, capital cost, for a district of 14,000 homes, or a dollar and a half per house, capital cost, which might work out to, say, two or three cents a month. I'm using massive banks of common off-the-shelf parts in this example because I can look them up in a catalog and find out how much they cost, rather than guessing at privately negotiated prices.

Verizon is absolutely terrified at the idea that a district of 14,000 homes should build its own telecommunications system, and be able to drive independent bargains with the outside world. I think you will see the trend, as it were. As you proceed towards the center of the network, additional economies of scale crank in. You can make a fairly plausible case that unlimited and unrestricted use of the entire network backbone, from the first telephone exchanges upwards, ought not to cost more than ten dollars a month. The alleged costs of network congestion will be on the order of pennies per month, and the telephone companies' arguments run very thin. What really costs is so-called "lifeline" service, that is, having a telephone at all. Things like DSL internet access cost very little to provide, but the telephone companies are locked into an obsolete model of treating telecommunications as a luxury good.


What follows is a pair of abstract models of a telecommunications
network. One model is highly centralized, and the other is highly
decentralized. Both yield approximately the same results, and a
real-world system is not likely to differ very greatly. Upgrade
figures are based on a notional 1 Mbps per subscriber, and the
assumption of everyone talking at once to the most distant
possible parties. Of course it is no substitute for a proper
simulation model, that is a computer program which would lay out
millions of simulated cables, but since the results span orders
of magnitude, they are worthy of at least preliminary
consideration.

================================================================
Subscriber Loop To Primary Plugbox
================================================================
----------------------------------------------------------------
Subscriber:

Upgrade: DSL terminal, 1Mbps
----------------------------------------------------------------
Single wire (True Subscriber Loop), 500 ft from Subscriber to
Primary Plugbox

Existing: copper wire.

Upgrade: copper wire, recertified for DSL, 1 Mbps
================================================================
Primary Plugbox to Local Exchange, Centralized Version
================================================================
----------------------------------------------------------------
Primary Plugbox

Assuming rectilinear layout, following streets and respecting
property lines, the plugbox commands an area of 1000 feet by 1000
feet, 1/25 square mile, or about four city blocks. Taking a
notional small-town/suburban population density of 3000 per sq.
mi., 3 per household, this works out to 40 subscribers, each
house being about 160 ft from its neighbors.

Distance from subscriber: 500 ft.

Existing: copper-to-copper physical connection

Upgrade: 40 Mbps, Local, remote-controlled optical-to-DSL
switching computer.

----------------------------------------------------------------
Primary Ganged cable, 1600 ft

pro-rata share per subscriber line of the ganged cable: 40 ft.
per line.

Existing: ganged copper wires

Upgrade: 40 Mbps, one optical fiber (grossly underutilized).
----------------------------------------------------------------
Secondary Plugbox


Assuming rectilinear layout, this plugbox command a 3 by 4 array
of primary plugboxes, and areas as described above. The 12
Primary Ganged Cables converge at a plugbox serving about 480
lines, 1/2 sq. mi. (3000 by 4000 ft), and about 1500 people.

Distance from subscriber: 2100 ft.

Existing: copper-to-copper physical connection

Upgrade: 480 Mbps, Local, remote-controlled optical switching
computer.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Secondary Ganged Cable, 4,500 ft

pro-rata share per subscriber line of the ganged cable: 9.4 ft.
per line.

Existing: copper-to-copper physical connection

Upgrade: 480 Mbps, one optical fiber (underutilized).
---------------------------------------------------------------
Tertiary Plugbox

Still assuming rectilinear layout, this plugbox command a 2 by 3
array of secondary plugboxes, and areas as described above. The 6
Secondary Ganged Cables converge at a plugbox serving about
2880lines, 3 sq. mi.(9000 by 8000 ft), and about 9000 people.

Distance from subscriber: 6600 ft.

Existing: In process of being furnished up with a DSL switch.

Upgrade: 2880 Mbps, Local, remote-controlled optical switching
computer.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Tertiary Ganged Cable, 8000 ft.

pro-rata share per subscriber line of the ganged cable: 2.78 ft.
per line.

Upgrade: 2880 Mbps, one optical fiber (still underutilized on one
wavelength).
---------------------------------------------------------------
Primary Local Exchange

Assuming an only partially rectilinear layout, let us say that a
primary local exchange commands a town of 20160 households and
60,000 people spread over 21 square miles. The Primary Local
Exchange is fed by 7 Tertiary Ganged Cables. One Tertiary Plugbox
is centered on the exchange, the other six are within a radius
of 10,000 feet.


Distance from subscriber: 14,600 ft.

Existing, optical-copper switch, in progress of being refurbished
to a mixture of DSL and optical connections to substations
overlaid on tertiary plugboxes.

Upgrade: 20 Gbps optical switching computer.
================================================================
Primary Plugbox to Local Exchange, Decentralized Version
================================================================
Assume that plugboxes are 1000 feet apart, and have connections
to their neighboring plugboxes to the north, east, south, and
west, and shared cables running to them, and that all traffic is

handed over from plugbox router to plugbox router, internet
fashion. Each plugbox therefore owns 2000 feet of single-fiber
optical cable, shared among 40 subscribers for a pro-rata share
of 50 ft. Assume that the router in the plugbox is capable of
handling four multiplex channels in each direction (40 Gbps) and
any point in the network is therefore capable of doing 160 Gbps,
eight times the town's total outside connection requirement.

================================================================
Continental Trunk Switching Network, Centralized Version.
================================================================
---------------------------------------------------------------
Primary Local Trunk Cable
---------------------------------------------------------------
20 mile switched trunk cable from Local Exchange to County
Exchange

pro-rata share of the trunk cable: 5.25 ft. per line.

Existing: one optical fiber with obsolete transmitter and
receiver.

Upgrade: 20 Gbps, same optical fiber, say, refurbished to support
two multiplexing frequencies.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
County Exchange

At this point, we switch from suburban population density to
overall quasi-rural density. Assume one central town, and six
surrounding towns at a distance of twenty miles. Since the cable
is crossing the spaces between towns, it runs straight, with
minimal circuity. Making some allowance for rural population,
this might be 180 persons per square mile. A county has a
population of 420,000 persons and 140,000 lines in an area of
about two thousand square miles.

Existing: obsolete switches.

Upgrade: 140 Gbps optical switching computer.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
County to Area code Trunk Cable, 300 mi

pro-rata share of the trunk cable: 0.95 ft. per line.

Upgrade: Single Optical fiber, multiplexed.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Area Code Exchange
The Area Code consists of seven counties, laid out as before, at
a distance of thirty miles. Its population is three million with
a million lines, in an area of about 30,000 square miles. for a
population density of 100 persons/square mile.

Upgrade: 1 Tbps switching computer.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Intermediate Distance Trunk Cable, 300 mi.

pro-rata share: about 1.43 ft. per line

Upgrade: 1 Tbps, one fiber with wavelength division multiplexing,
finally fully utilized.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Regional Exchange:

10 area codes in a region of 300,000 sq. mi., and a population of
30 millions and 10 million lines.


Upgrade: 10 Tbps switching computer.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Long Distance Trunk Cable, 2000 mi.

pro-rata share: about 0.95 ft. per line

Upgrade: 10 Tbps, ganged trunk cable with 10 optical cavities.
This does not mean manufacturing ten fibers. Instead, it might
mean starting with a glass blank preform with a number of areas
of different refractive index and then stretching it out to get a
multi-cavity optical fiber. This would bring optical-fiber making
within the scope of Moore's Law.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Continental Exchange:

10 regions in a continental area of 3 million square miles, with
a population upwards of 300 million, having 100 million lines.
================================================================
Continental Trunk Switching Network, Alternative Decentralized
Version.
================================================================
Assume that every town has neighboring towns, north, east, south,
and west, at a distance of twenty miles, and shared cables
running to them, and that all traffic is handed over from town to
town, internet fashion. This works out to 10.5 ft. per line. Let
us assume that the cables are 10-ganged or 100 ganged (10 fibers
times ten optical cavities per fiber) as a matter of course. It's
the same sort of routine overkill which puts a traditionally
defined supercomputer on every desktop. In this case, The
aggregate east-west and north-south bandwidth across a continent
is somewhere in the hundreds of Tbps or more.
================================================================
Intercontinental Connection:
================================================================
At this point, we drop the abstraction and recognize that the
continent is North America, and assume that we have half shares
in 50 Tbps cables to Europe and Asia. Our share works out to 8000
mi.

pro-rata share: about 0.42 ft of cable per line.

===============================================================
Recapitulating:

0.42 ft of oceanic cable per line is one's pro-rata share of
getting from one's own continent to the rest of the world.

8.58 feet of cable (0.95 feet of it 10-ganged) is one's pro-rata
share of getting from the Local Exchange to the rest of the
continent.
[alternatively, 10.5 ft, decentralized model]

52 feet of single optical fiber cable is one's pro rata share of
getting from the Primary Plugbox at the corner to the Local
Exchange
[alternatively, 50 ft., decentralized model]

500 feet of copper wire is one's private task of getting to the
Primary Plugbox at the corner.

================================================================

The point to be drawn from this model is that the true copper
subscriber loop, in the strictest possible sense of the word,
overwhelms all other components of the telecommunications system.

Long distance works out to about ten feet per subscriber, whereas
the houses are a hundred and sixty feet apart. Since the copper
subscriber loop does not admit of being shared, per-byte or
per-minute pricing is irrational. In fact, if there is one
irrational element in telephone pricing, it is the fact that the
subscriber loop can be rented on a month-to-month basis, rather
than on a long lease.
Early adoption of high bandwidth is a somewhat different
story. The basic components such as optical fibers are not
scalable down to individual subscriber level. If one wants high
bandwidth before one's neighbors are ready for it, one has no
practical alternative to installing high bandwidth for everyone.
The economic availability of DSL service does not depend
primarily upon distance from the exchange, because the telephone
company could always set out a remote controlled computer and an
optical cable leading to it; but rather, upon enough of one's
neighbors agreeing to go shares on the equipment.

Posted by: Andrew D. Todd on April 25, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

The confusion that Kevin is suffering from, I think, is confusing differentiation from discrimination.

Yes, I can buy dialup access. Yes, I can buy broadband. Yes, I can buy the fatpipes that Google uses (if I have enough money). And the ISP isn't giving me orders as to what content I can see or can't see. The choice is mine. That's differentiation. We have that now.

But if AT&T refuses to let me access webpages not on AT&T's network because they have an ISP or they didn't pay "protection money" AT&T or AT&T just doesn't like what they have to say (especially if it might criticize AT&T and have the facts to back it up), then that's discrimination. That's wrong.

Net neutrality opposes discrimination. It accepts differentiation, but on the user's terms.

The COPE Act ultimately accepts discrimination, at least in its current form. That's why, I think, the COPE Act should be stopped now.

I hope this is helpful.

Posted by: Mitchell Szczepanczyk on April 25, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

You should check out Lawrence Lessig's writing on the topic. I know he covered it in The Future of Ideas, under the guise of the "end-to-end" principle, and blog posts on the legislation are here and here. The basic idea is that innovation thrives when there is a clear separation between the network and applications. The ISPs talk a lot about building "intelligence" into the network, but you get maximum flexibility when the network is dumb and the applications are intelligent. (The IP protocol is maybe the dumbest possible way to deliver packets---that's a good thing!) Think of all the cool stuff (IM, Google, Napster, Gnutella, Gmail, Skype) that came about because a few hackers could deliver their code to the world over a neutral architecture (i.e., the telecom industry did not have to anticipate and deploy the infrastructure for these innovative applications, they were built on top of a pervasive, neutral network).

Posted by: Chris Conway on April 25, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

When you say "I've been trying to understand this whole 'net neutrality' thing and I've failed utterly. I just can't figure out the underlying issues", it seems to assume you are competent in this domain and that this problem is not a real problem.

More accurately, "I am not an network engineer, nor an economist with an understanding of Internet issues, I have no real understanding of how the packets go from my laptop to yours, and I would appreciate it if someone could explain."
By Jerry


Well Kevin, I for one am glad you phrased it as you did, because I was utterly clueles too, about the underlying issues and as to how this issue would affect providers and users.

Had you said what Jerry suggests, I would not have opened this thread, because I would have assumed the jargon would be at the level of network engineers.

So thanks for a query at the basic level of most of us consumers.

I really appreciate all the wonderful commentary as it has brought home to me what this means.

It is tiered access, just like the insurance industry and cable bill.

Posted by: elrapierwit on April 25, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Regulation now, regulation tomorrow, regulation forever!

Posted by: Bob M on April 24, 2006

ctfu!! great line, Bob

Posted by: elrapierwit on April 25, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Apologies if it has been posted earlier, but there is a decent summary at MoveOn.org's Net Neutrality Initiative, including an excerpt from The New Yorker:

In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of "tiered access" for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got better service: their customers' calls went through immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn't pony up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them sometimes got an "all circuits busy" response. Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.'s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.
If you've never heard about this bit of business history, there's a good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a "common carriage" rule: it provided the same quality of service to all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while "tiered access" never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet.
Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called "network neutrality," which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality was considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of the basic rules of "Internet freedom." In the past few months, though, companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to scuttle it. In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers could receive what BellSouth recently called "special treatment," and those that don't could end up in the slow lane. One day, BellSouth customers may find that, say, NBC.com loads a lot faster than YouTube.com, and that the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run more smoothly. Tiered access will turn the providers into Internet gatekeepers.

Perhaps the issue could be explained in this manner: Without net neutrality, WaMo would probably have to pay a 'Gold Availabiity' surcharge to keep the same quality of service that this site currently enjoys...Without paying the surcharge, site visitors would experience longer load times and/or be directed to related, competing sites that pay the additional fee.

Posted by: grape_crush on April 25, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK
Without net neutrality, WaMo would probably have to pay a 'Gold Availabiity' surcharge to keep the same quality of service that this site currently enjoys.

If telcos manage to replace net neutrality with fee-for-availability (which they shouldn't), they should also lose their protection from liability for content and be liable for every byte that moves across their network as if they deliberately originated it.

If they want to control content, they should be responsible for it, as well.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 25, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

hi

Posted by: mesa on April 25, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

companies want to be able to offer higher service levels to certain customers but would never reduce service levels for other customers

Probably way late with this, but if everyone else's service level rises, and yours does not, you have effectively been downgraded. In terms of the Digital Age, where 18 months old=obsolete, and speeds are ever-increasing, that would definitely be back-of-the-bus teritory for these newly-second class netizens.

Posted by: Doozer on April 25, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't had the time to browse quite all of these comments so I apologize if this has already been said. I would just like to make another analogy here for what's going on.

I'm going to use basic phone service for my example.

As it stands now if a person wishes to use a phone they simply must buy one and then pick a phone company to provide them with a working line. Other than that the telephone company has no control over who I can and cannot call. I can pick any number in the phone book and call it, regardless of weather their phone carrier is beefing with mine. Why should the Internet be any different? My calls will not be degraded or blocked if made to a competitor because I already pay them for a service, anything past that is putting a gun to my head and robbing me. This is exactly what they want to do to the Internet now. They want to be able to set arbitrary guidelines in order to extort money.

Another way of looking at it is you're crossing a long one-way bridge that used to have only one toll booth on it, but now it has numerous toll booths on it where you have to pay a different toll at each one depending on what car you drive and what lane you are driving in. You cannot turn around, and you cannot avoid paying. That equals extortion, and making it so that the only way to access the Internet, regardless of ISP, is to allow yourself to be constantly victimized in the exact same way.

No one should have a right to choose who we can or cannot communicate with. If the phone company can't stop me from using any phone number in existence than how can they stop me from viewing any page in existence?

Posted by: Division The Punk Rawk Ninja! on April 25, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Let me recommend Farhad Manjoo's article in Salon on the issue of "prioritized" internet and especially pages three and four. No one needs to read it more than "Matt."


URL: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/04/17/toll/index.html
Link: Corporate Toll on the Internet

Excerpt:

(T)here is fractious division among network engineers on whether prioritizing certain time-sensitive traffic would actually improve network performance. Introducing intelligence into the Internet also introduces complexity, and that can reduce how well the network works. Indeed, one of the main reasons scientists first espoused the end-to-end principle is to make networks efficient; it seemed obvious that analyzing each packet that passes over the Internet would add some computational demands to the system.

Gary Bachula, vice president for external affairs of Internet2, a nonprofit project by universities and corporations to build an extremely fast and large network, argues that managing online traffic just doesn't work very well. At the February Senate hearing, he testified that when Internet2 began setting up its large network, called Abilene, "our engineers started with the assumption that we should find technical ways of prioritizing certain kinds of bits, such as streaming video, or video conferencing, in order to assure that they arrive without delay. As it developed, though, all of our research and practical experience supported the conclusion that it was far more cost effective to simply provide more bandwidth. With enough bandwidth in the network, there is no congestion and video bits do not need preferential treatment."

Today, Bachula continued, "our Abilene network does not give preferential treatment to anyone's bits, but our users routinely experiment with streaming HDTV, hold thousands of high-quality two-way videoconferences simultaneously, and transfer huge files of scientific data around the globe without loss of packets."


Posted by: The Ox on April 25, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I read an interesting piece a couple months ago by this prof at Vanderbilt about this subject. I thought he brough up a good point about not everyone needing the same amount of bandwidth and comes up with a new term -- network diversity.

Interesting read:

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:_yFKADqnFp0J:law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/Yoo%2520-%2520Network%2520Diversity%25202-6-06.pdf+%22yoo%22+and+%22network+diversity%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

Posted by: Raphy on April 26, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

See what David Sirota has to say just recently about all this and related Internet issues.

Posted by: Neil' on April 26, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The example that was written using electricity is the easiest for people to understand, I think.

Bandwidth = electricity: if you want to use more electricity, you pay for it. No one has a problem with that. When the juice is delivered to your house, you can use4 it for whatever you want or need it for.

What the telcos are proposing is that not only do you have to consider how much electricity you're using, but what you have plugged in to use it. Your lamp not manufactured by a company that has cut a deal with the electrical utility? Sorry, you can only get half the light out of it that you would if you'd chosen the right lamp. You want to use a Skil circular saw instead of a Black & Decker? Too bad, Black & Decker paid the extortion (sorry, "network fee") so you'll have to use their otherwise-identical saw if you want to be able to cut something more than a piece of paper.

Understand now?

Posted by: Keith on April 26, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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