A fiction and not a useful one at that

Net neutrality is a fiction, and not even a useful one. I’m working on a short essay laying out the salient points, and trying to sort out some of Tim Berners-Lee’s eccentric notions. See Sir Web’s blog for the back-and-forth.

8 thoughts on “A fiction and not a useful one at that”

  1. On one of its public relations web site, AT&T describes its position as it tries to kill off network neutrality:

    “…[we] will not block, impair or degrade access to any legal web site, application or service, nor will we intentionally degrade the customer experience or the service delivery of content or application providers.”

    Sounds pretty good, right?

    Now stop and ask yourself the following question. Why can’t all of the King’s lobbyists, lawyers and horsemen codify that single sentence into the law of the land?

    Could it be because they don’t intend to keep their word? By failing to address this single, salient point of the NN discussion, you do yourself and your readers a disservice.

  2. Doug, you’re a shameless liar. This exact language is in the COPE Act that was passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last week.

  3. Really, Richard, name-calling doesn’t help your cause.

    The net neutrality language is in Title II (the bill calls it “enforcement of broadband policy statement.”) But instead of giving the FCC any enforcement power, the bill would actual limit the Commission’s authority to write rules protecting net neutrality. The specific language appears on page 43 of the bill:

    “…the Commission’s authority to enforce the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein does not include authorization for the Commission to adopt or implement rules or regulations regarding enforcement of the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein, with the sole exception of the authority to adopt procedures for the adjudication of complaints, as provided in paragraph (3).”

    The FCC is thereby neutered in COPE and unable to enforce the very language you claim is relevant.

  4. On the other hand, shameless lying and misrepresentation helps your cause because it’s all you’ve got. The FCC is currently enforcing complaints about arbitrary service blockages, as they did against Rogers Cable and Vonage. COPE recognizes that the FCC has that authority and allows them to continue to enforce it. The adjudication process is exactly how the FCC enforces the law passed by Congress.

    The only thing in danger of being neutered in this debate is the Internet, and that only if you idiots get your way.

  5. Yes, and that’s precisely why “idiots” like Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Kahn, and Vint Cerf advocate against the lobbyists and for net neutrality.

    But they just don’t get it, right? Because you can see the big picture and they can’t…

  6. The idiots in question advocate a very different version of “neutrality” than you, Doug. Berners-Lee told me he’s not against tiered service levels and priority traffic, but he’s concerned about somebody buying exclusive access to him. Cerf works for Google and is doing their monopoly dirty work for them; he hasn’t practiced network engineering for 20 years and doesn’t seem to understand how broadband differs from dial-up under the law. I don’t know what Kahn says, but I have a hard time taking your word that he’s on your side given your penchant for prevarication.

    BTW, the COPE Act says this: ‘‘(3) ADJUDICATORY AUTHORITY.—The Commission shall have exclusive authority to adjudicate any complaint alleging a violation of the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein. The Commission shall complete an adjudicatory proceeding under this subsection not later than 90 days after receipt of the complaint. If, upon completion of an adjudicatory proceeding pursuant to this section, the Commission determines that such a violation has occurred, the Commission shall have authority to adopt an order to require the entity subject to the complaint to comply with the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein. Such authority shall be in addition to the authority specified in paragraph (1) to enforce this section under titles IV and V. In addition, the Commission shall have authority to adopt procedures for the adjudication of complaints alleging a violation of the broadband policy statement or principles incorporated herein.”

    Hard to follow, right? It means this: the FCC can enforce the Broadband Policy statement referenced by COPE. What it can’t do is supplement it with its own regulations. So it simply has to apply the existing regulations case-by-case.

    You’re busted, dude.

  7. Ooooooooh. They can… adopt procedures! And… adopt an order!

    Yes, nothing strikes fear in the telco attorneys’ hearts like the dreaded “strongly-worded memo”.

    Further, the FCC is strictly limited to adjudicatory authority. Notably, this title of the bill does not give the FCC authority to write rules implementing or expanding any of the provisions in this policy statement.

    Now consider some of the key network neutrality provisions in COPE:

    “To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.”


    “The principles we adopt are subject to reasonable network management.”

    Put in simple terms, the carriers can easily violate the principles of neutrality by claiming either harm to the network (“You’re using too much bandwidth running that Gnutella client, Smithers, so we’re turning that service off”) or “reasonable” network management.

    What this means — and you’re smart enough to know it, but won’t admit it — is that COPE is the lifetime employment act for telco lawyers. It renders the FCC utterly harmless to the carriers. Here’s the formula: the carrier simply claims harm to the network or reasonable network management. The resulting complaints and appeals will wend their way through the courts for decades.

    Oh, and… you’re busted, dude.

  8. COPE says the FCC can issue fines up to $500,000 per infraction, Doug. That’s not small change. COPE codifies the power used by the FCC in the Madison River case. That case didn’t wind its way through the courts forever, they paid their fine and opened the port.

    You’re trying to sidestep the issue of net neutrality’s definition. You insist that it means ISPs can priortize packets, consistent with the Markey amendment. But Tim Berners-Lee says he’s OK with prioritizing, he doesn’t want anybody permanently locked out of the fast lane.

    TBL isn’t really on your side, dude.

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