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Tilting at Windmills

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April 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NET NEUTRALITY....THE CURRENT RULES....Just in case you're curious, here are the current principles of net neutrality that were adopted by the FCC last August. These principles would be enforced by the Barton-Rush bill if it were passed in its current form:

The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a policy statement that outlines four principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of public Internet:

  1. Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.

  2. Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.

  3. Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.

  4. Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

Although the Commission did not adopt rules in this regard, it will incorporate these principles into its ongoing policymaking activities. All of these principles are subject to reasonable network management.

The Barton-Rush bill instructs the FCC to enforce these principles if a complaint is submitted, but does not allow the FCC to proactively create new regulations based on them.

Note that these principles prohibit internet providers from blocking access to sites, but do not explicitly prohibit degradation of service. It's an open question how the FCC will interpret "access" if someone ever lodges a complaint alleging that a network provider has deliberately degraded performance in a way that effectively prevents a site or application from working properly.

Note also that these principles do allow internet providers to create special high-speed lanes that they can offer for a price to specific customers. The most likely customers for such a service are video-on-demand providers.

Conversely, Ed Markey's amendment, which failed 34-22 today, would have specifically prohibited network providers from impairing or degrading performance and would have required them to operate "in a nondiscriminatory manner so that any person can offer or provide content, applications, and services through, or over, such broadband network with equivalent or better capability than the provider extends to itself or affiliated parties, and without the imposition of a charge." In other words, no special high-speed toll lanes.

This is just FYI.

Kevin Drum 11:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Let's see, whom should I trust... ATT, who wants a zillion dollars from me and believes in monopoly rents....

Or a ragtag bunch of bloggers who believe in free speech and equal access?

Golly, that's such a tough choice. Let me flip a coin...

Posted by: craigie on April 27, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ouch.

Posted by: shortstop on April 27, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I had a TV then they said Cable was better.
I had a Cable, but no Box.
I got a Box and Cable to watch TV
They Said Sattelite was Better.
I got a Box a Cable another Cable a Dish and a TV
They said Streaming Video was better.
I got a box a cable another cable a dish and a PC video card for TV out to the TV.
Now I have a Box, a Tivo, a Sattelite, a Cable, another cable, a PC Video CARD, TV Out, Another Cable a TV and a Monitor and a DVD player..

Posted by: Mach Tuck on April 27, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

And know what?
The Media Programming still SUCKS.

Posted by: Mach Tuck on April 27, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Lost in the discussion of neutrality is the incredibly broad language the FCC uses to describe our impaired rights of communication in the face of the "needs of law enforcement". Personal use of strong encryption would fall at the whim of law enforcement in the face of the FCC's posture regarding what we're permitted to transmit over the Internet. Similarly, the casual mention of "legal devices" that we are permitted to attach is rife with opportunities for abuse by corporations and the government.

Posted by: Doug Bostrom on April 27, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

By being forbidden to make rules, consumers, and perhaps providers would be forced to sue if they had been wronged. Such lawsuits could take years, maybe decades to resolve. Furthermore, there may be issues with who has standing to sue.

If an ISP put in some form of stochastic discrimination, degrading competitors service at random times, it could be expensive to prove this in court.

Furthermore, whom, and at what point, can subpoena's be issued? During discovery?

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 27, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Make it simple: all packets will be transported on the internet without regard to originating or terminating hosts, or content of packets.

The whole point of TCP/IP is that the network is dumb, and the terminals are smart. the Telcos tried to shove these QOS features down our throats with ATM, and people rejected it. Now they are trying to turn TCP/IP into ATM. Sweet Jesus, doesn't anyone at the FCC understand this crap?

Where's Al Gore when you really need him?

Posted by: bob on April 27, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Look if it comes down to the choice of -

1) let the Telco's create high speed lines and charge for them so some folks can get movies on demand - or-

2) leave things alone, not get special high speed lanes for chosen content, and not risk censorship or negative impacts on any other part of the web

I choose #2.

Lets not kid ourself - why would anyone in their right mind trust the FCC to take care of consumers. The safe/sane thing to do right now is kill this bill.

Posted by: Mike Folsom on April 27, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

It's cool that people who don't get FOX on their cable plan can now watch Tony Snow on CSPAN and network TV.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 27, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Frequency nailed it!

Posted by: shortstop on April 27, 2006 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

kevin, this is too important for you to remain so blase. don't you have enough info by now to take a stand?

Posted by: brkily on April 27, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see problems with 'toll lanes'.

However, if I buy 6MB access, I expect 6MB access to all content on the network. If the content provider is also on a pipe that big, no in-between network provider should throttle my access.

I don't really understand the 'degredation' concept...

...If my access is being lowered from what I paid for, isn't that fraud?

I don't expect every user to have, use, or buy the fastest connection available.

None of these laws help the fact that as an industrialized nation, we have the least households which could have broadband access. Let alone note that we do have the least number that do have broadband!

Posted by: Crissa on April 27, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Now they are trying to turn TCP/IP into ATM. Sweet Jesus, doesn't anyone at the FCC understand this crap?

Because if a million people want to listen to the same stream of data, TCP/IP requires a million different sets of packets.

But what if there was only one set of packets, with a million addresses instead?

Posted by: Crissa on April 27, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Crissa - this isn't about your access - its about the providers access. Right now I pay extra for pro-DSL, you can have a T1 pulled to your home, etc.

This is about the telcos/cable cos charging premium rates to content providers for faster access.

A simple exercise. You think AT&T might want to charge an advertiser a higher rate so that their ad is GUARANTEED to display before the content you want? Hmmmmm. You think the advertisers might want that? Guess how fast blogs are going to load in relation to commercial sites. It don't matter what size pipe you buy - they will always provide the premium content faster.

The video on demand thing is a canard.

The internet is fucking over.

Posted by: pebird on April 27, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Another thing - there are two ways to "guarantee" premium speed - you can speed up the buyers of premium access. Or, you can slow down the speed of those that don't buy.

From the tel/cableco's perspective, its the same thing.

Or, of course, you can do both.

Posted by: pebird on April 27, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

But I don't understand. I thought that letting corporations do whatever they want is the best thing for all of us consumer types. Now you're telling me it isn't true?

I can't process this contradiction...

Posted by: craigie on April 27, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

well paid "Democrat" sells internet out:
see this http://davidsirota.com/index.php/2006/04/25/mike-mccurry-is-a-dishonest-shill/

Posted by: brkily on April 27, 2006 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, I think I've got my argument boiled down:

In most markets, broadband is either a monopoly or a duopoly.

These broadband providers are usually cable or telephone companies that face next-generation threats from web-based telephony and web-based video.

This legislation gives these companies a chance to tax their competition. It's a great way to strangle innovation in its crib.

Posted by: wagster on April 27, 2006 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Since Mr. Drum's next post says that a significant fraction of Dems read blogs, I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out to Democrats in Maryland's 4th Congressional District (P.G. County) yet another outstanding performance by that great Man of Da People, Congressman Al "I Occupy Space" Wynn. Al did just as his paymasters ordered, and voted against net neutrality. An extraordinary performance from a guy who claims to be a Democrat, surpassed only by his earlier vote for bankruptcy "reform".

This great public servant is, of course, virtually assured re-election, after the usual rubberstamping formalities....

Posted by: sglover on April 27, 2006 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

pebird has it exactly right: the telcos and telecoms want the right to charge content providers (who are *already paying* for their broadband usage, BTW) extra fees so that their content is "prioritized", i.e., so that their content is accessible to any user that wants to access it. They have already announced their intentions to do just this, Ed Whitacre of AT&T being especially loudmouthed about it. The PR department at AT&T must be keeping bottles of booze stashed around, for medicinal purposes.

Kevin, I agree with other posters that enough information is available to form a firm opinon on this issue. The internet works beautifully (as Tim Wu said on Tuesday, it is a textbook example of what free market capitalism should be)and proponents of net neutrality want Congress to legislate one thing to keep it working beautifully, and one thing only: leave it the hell alone.

Posted by: Constance Reader on April 27, 2006 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK
Note that these principles prohibit internet providers from blocking access to sites, but do not explicitly prohibit degradation of service.

Note also that, given the way the internet works, "degradation of service" by deprioritizing packets of certain origins or types can amount to de facto blocking, since packets don't stay alive forever.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK
By being forbidden to make rules, consumers, and perhaps providers would be forced to sue if they had been wronged.

No, they'd be forced to file a complaint with the FCC, which isn't precisely the same thing as a lawsuit.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK
The Barton-Rush bill instructs the FCC to enforce these principles if a complaint is submitted, but does not allow the FCC to proactively create new regulations based on them.

I think this is designed, rather cleverly, to sound nice but fail. Without rulemaking power, the principles may be too vague to provide fair notice to the telcos of what is allowed and what is prohibited, which, if it doesn't actually provide a basis for a challenge to any order imposing penalties or reforms to enforce them after-the-fact, at the very least gives the offending telco a powerful argument about the burden imposed and the fairness given the lack of clarity to minimize any order from the commission.

Whereas, if the commission had authority both to regulate base on the principles and to enforce them independently, there would be better notice on the foreseeable kinds of problems, and some ability to handle the extraordinary cases, as well.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

The authors of "Who Controls the Internet? are being interviewed by Terry Gross 'Fresh Air" NPR.org.

Right now

Posted by: slanted tom on April 27, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

the system clock is about 7 minutes fast here.

Posted by: slanted tom on April 27, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, Kevin. I know you hate Networking guys and all their geeky zealotry, and I know you're totally Jonesing for VOD for some reason, but can't you just get over that and admit that net non-neutrality is a bad idea?

Posted by: Royko on April 27, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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