A note on net neutrality

It's cropping up meme-like: posts on net neutrality on M-Zone and Bruins Nation, with comments in various places including Burnt Orange Nation. 

 Here's my $0.02:

For the first time in a long time, I am with Bruins Nation on this one. The argument that the telcos are making to support their contention that internet traffic is not covered by the Communications Act is at best disingenuous. 

Effectively, the telcos are arguing that there's something different about internet traffic vice voice traffic. Their contention is that the use of TCP / IP — packet-based communications protocol — means that there is a different technology involved  and that there's something substantively different between using transmission capability for data packets over voice. This is crap: the actual transmission lines are protocol-neutral, you just stream data of one type or another down them. The growth of VOIP should illustrate this, I would think.

In effect, the telcos are suggesting that there is something qualitatively and quantitatively different about the data from one source or another. The difference is that they can segregate TCP/IP data from "regular" data, which means that they can prioritize traffic based on IP address of origin or destination. That, then, allows them to monetize priority access to their networks, and thereby increase revenue from companies who don't want degraded service.

Taking the argument a bit further, you can then argue that the telcos are in fact either 1) trying to find ways to pay for over-investment in capacity, or 2) create a "demand" for service by crippling the speed of data transmission for those who don't pay. Option number 1 just means they fucked up their estimates of demand to capacity, which is a risk of building infrastructure, and option 2 is the Barbary Pirates economic model — a letter of marque based on technological weapons rather than cutlasses and cannons (AAAAAAAAarrrrr!)

Listen, it's one thing to be pro-business, but allowing one group to buy legislation that will seriously affect not just other firms but the everyday citizen – for the worse –  is just wrong. In addition to effects in the US, what about the rest of the world? The vast majority of internet traffic routes through the US at some point; what effect will it have if foreign countries start thinking that they are getting screwed because we're allowing US companies to engage in rentier pricing policies as if it's got anything to do with overall economic good? That might well be the trigger to promote investment in "alternative internets" — and the utility of the internet is that it's a universal standard.

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2 Responses

  1. Great info. As a new blogger it is obvious that there is awhole host of things i have yet to learn about the web. Keep up the good work.

  2. thanks — I think it’s even reasonably accurate, except of course for the part about Barbary Pirates having a letter of marque — they operated on the “badges? we don’t need no stinking badges!” approach.

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