Neutrinos point to a four-year-old experiment with QoS at Internet2 as proof that QoS can never work. The report on this experiment is very critical of the network equipment of the day, and clearly biased in favor of over-provisioning as an alternative to QoS. Yet the report’s author doesn’t support current efforts to enact network regulation in the name of Net Neutrality:
I have not seen the bill that is reportedly shaping up. However, what I know of it indicates that it is likely to do much more harm than good. A good bill needs to have two things: (i) sunset provision and (ii) possibility to price the network in an economically efficient way. It appears, from what we know so far, that the bill will permanently prohibit economically efficient pricing and mandate a flat pricing structure, where users pay a monthly fee only. This would be extremely harmful, as it would instill the incentive to regulate the amount of traffic a user sends by giving him a tiny straw instead of a fat pipe. It would be tragic if we started with the belief in fat cheap network pipes and ended up outlawing them.
[Update, May 2, 2006: It appears that the draft Steven’s bill satisfies both conditions: it does have a five-year sunset provision and does not prohibit economically efficient pricing. It appears to be very good, at least for now.]
The Stevens bill does not enact “neutrality” provisions.
Larry Lessig raises an interesting straw man relative to my favorite topic:
The something to recognize is that in a fundamental sense, fair use (FU) and network neutrality (NN) are the same thing. They are both state enforced limits on the property rights of others. In both cases, the limits are slight — the vast range of uses granted a copyright holder are only slightly restricted by FU; the vast range of uses allowed a network owner are only slightly restricted by NN. And in both cases, the line defining the limits is uncertain. But in both cases, those who support each say that the limits imposed on the property right are necessary for some important social end (admittedly, different in each case), and that the costs of enforcing those limits are outweighed by the benefits of protecting that social end.
Is he right, is Net Neutrality simply Fair Use applied to routers? Bearing in mind that Lessig argues that TCP/IP is something like the Law of the Internet, here’s my response:
It’s hard to debate NN because nobody knows what it means. One theory bans all forms of packet-level discrimination and another simply bans deep packet inspection. There’s also an intermediate theory that says packet-based prioritization is only OK if all packets that ask for high priority are automatically given it, but that’s a non-starter from an engineering perspective as the whole point of priorities is to maintain a short queue for some traffic on the egress from a congested router.
If NN were applied to supermarkets, there would be no quick check line and every trip to the store would end in a hellish wait in the kind of checkout line they have at Costco. I don’t know what this has to do with fair use exceptions to copyright law, you may as well be comparing NN to gay marriage.
That’s actually a close fit. NN says the fathers of the Internet wrote a Code of Conduct into its design, and any departure from it brings us perilously close to Satan. The Christian Coalition is in favor of NN regulation for this very reason. Opposition to gay marriage is similar to support for NN, as it argues from an “original intent” perspective on marriage law.
But let’s play along. Assuming the RFCs for TCP and IP are the Internet’s constitution, are we allowed to amend them without running the risk of bringing the Apocalypse down on our heads? Recall that the US Constitution had to be amended to abolish slavery and to allow women to vote.
Supposing the deal we’re facing now is like this: the Internet, as originally designed by Vint Cerf and the merry elves at USC, discriminates against real-time applications just as the Constitution used to discriminate against women and slaves and may against gays in the future. We’re now at a point where the balance of traffic on Internet could shift from downloads and web pages to real-time voice and video. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to amend the rules such that these new packets are treated reasonably? Bear in mind that TCP can’t really be used for Voice.
That’s the better analogy.
I wonder how many people understand this crap.
The following would indicate that he is. Newmark supports efforts by Google’s “Save the Internet Coalition” to shackle the Internet with regulations on ISPs that are totally unprecedented in the history of the Internet, yet he flatly denies advocating any government regulation. This is truly an amazing exchange, and it certainly doesn’t speak well for the Google Coalition’s choice of spokespeople.
Newmark’s insistence on level playing fields and the absence of prioritization raises an interesting question for me. Google prioritizes search results, based on a secret and tricky technique that only Russian mathematicians can understand. This technique creates an unequal playing field. If ISPs should be requiredy by law to randomly forward packets without any inspection, shouldn’t Google also be required to randomly order search results so as not to favor the big sites? It would seem so, so I have to ask: if not, why not?
Should the Net Be Neutral?
May 24, 2006
The “net neutrality” debate has reached a fever pitch as Congress mulls legislation that would allow Internet service providers to charge Web sites for preferred delivery of digital content.
Net neutrality advocates, including Internet giants like Google and Amazon.com, are lobbying Congress to preserve the status quo in which all Web content is treated the same. Phone and cable providers such as AT&T and Comcast say they should be able to sell premium tiers of service since they are investing billions to build broadband networks.
Congress is considering several competing pieces of legislation. One bill1, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), embodies the phone company view, while another bill2 recently introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.) supports net neutrality. Both the House and Senate will hold hearings this week.
The Wall Street Journal Online invited Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a net neutrality proponent, and former White House spokesman Mike McCurry, who heads a phone industry group, to debate the issue. Their exchange, carried out by email, is below.
Read the whole thing for a good laugh.
One of Google’s partners in regulation is planning a National Day of Out(R)age to block consumer choice in TV and Internet access. Their protest in Frisco goes too far:
Join media advocates & community activists out front of the SF Giants game for some activist style theatrical sports. Help make the point that consumers won’t play ball with AT&T and other Telcos that play ball with the NSA.
Rallying to protect community access TV is one thing, but disrupting a baseball game to do it?
These people are playing with fire. I can’t wait to see some dude on TV saying he had tickets to the game but didn’t get to see Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run because some scruffy hippie was blocking access to the ball game. The streets will run red with the blood of the unbelievers.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the highly-regarded hypertext guru who invented the web, is up to his old tricks again, sowing the seeds of paranoia by confusing service discrimination with content discrimination. He delivered some remarks before a web conference in Scotland that would have made any pandering politician proud:
Sir Tim said this was “not the internet model”. The “right” model, as exists at the moment, was that any content provider could pay for a connection to the internet and could then put any content on to the web with no discrimination.
Speaking to reporters in Edinburgh at the WWW2006 conference, he argued this was where the great benefit of the internet lay.
“You get this tremendous serendipity where I can search the internet and come across a site that I did not set out to look for,” he said.
A two-tier system would mean that people would only have full access to those portions of the internet that they paid for and that some companies would be given priority over others.
Berners-Lee knows better than this. He wrote on this own little blog that he’s not opposed to service-level discrimination on the Internet:
As I said above, I am happy that “We may pay for a higher or a lower quality of service. We may pay for a service which has the characteristics of being good for video, or quality audio.”
… but these latest remarks confuse the necessary engineering to make voice over the Internet practical on a large scale with content discrimination. His largest deception was to frame these new services in terms of the Web, when they’re really quite separate. The man’s either an idiot or a fraud.
Ethan Zuckerman plays the typical “what if” game that neutrinos like so much, and enhances it in his comments with one of the biggest lies ever told:
Right now, no major ISPs give preferential treatment to one type of traffic over another.
Lippard sets him straight:
Again, not true in the backbone world–Global Crossing, Level 3, AT&T, MCI, Qwest, and others offer products that use QoS and separate MPLS VPNs for certain types of traffic (and permit customers to do the same with their own traffic). At least one of the above-mentioned bills (HR5417) will classify backbone providers as broadband providers and make these products illegal or of questionable legality, which makes no sense.
as do I:
The cable company access lines carry voice, video, and packet traffic on different channels and with different QoS. The DOCSIS protocol that carries packet traffic on this network is isochronous, and it most certainly prioritizes based on QoS. The telco lines that carry DSL carry analog voice in a different FDM domain, and apply completely different rules to it. And it’s always been legal for any ISP to prioritize traffic any way he sees fit; common carrier rules didn’t address ISP filtering and forwarding. WiFi networks also prioritize based on QoS requirements through a little feature called 802.11e.
VoIP doesn’t inherently work well on a packet network, with first-come, first-served queuing when load is reasonably high. Providing priority queuing is the most efficient way to combine VoIP with the heavy demands for bandwidth that HDTV poses. Simply throwing bandwidth at this problem doesn’t solve it, and when the bandwidth has to be bought with somebody else’s dime, your solution is a non-starter.
Every net neutrality argument I’ve seen relies on spin and misinformation, and yours is no exception.
Some of these neutrinos are simply uninformed, but others are deliberately lying.
Droolin’ Jim Sensenbrenner, chairman the House Judiciary Committee, has joined hands with his Democratic buddy John Conyers to introduce a bill banning Quality of Service on the Internet. The bill, HR 5417, would make it illegal for an ISP to manage high-priority queues. They would be bound to treat any packet marked for low-jitter service the same, regardless of size or origin. That sort of thing defeats the whole purpose of QoS, which is to provide a quick-check lane on the Internet where shoppers with little baskets don’t have to wait behind an endless stream of other shoppers with cartloads of stuff.
With Republicans getting on the grandstand and moronic religious nuts joining up, things are looking bad for the evolving Internet. Google has created an advantage for itself by building an unregulated private network that places servers close to everybody, and if the Internet changes this advantage will be nullified for voice and video delivery. Unless we get our act together, these mobsters are going to win.
Did you know Google is Moveon.org’s biggest supporter? read The American Spectator:
Google has become the single largest private corporate underwriter of MoveOn. According to sources in the Democrat National Committee, MoveOn has received more than $1 million from Google and its lobbyists in Washington to create grassroots support for the Internet regulation legislation. Some of that money has gone to an online petition drive and a letter-writing campaign, but the majority of that money is being used to fund their activities against Republicans out in the states.
For example, MoveOn is said by one DNC source to have funneled at least $100,000 “Net Neutrality” money to its operations in Pennsylvania (where MoveOn is organizing against Sen. Rick Santorum). It has also sent funds to Florida, Ohio, and Missouri.
MoveOn is also using the funds to help Democrats, including House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state. “A month ago, Representative Pelosi didn’t know what Net Neutrality was, then she heard that Google and other Silicon Valley firms wanted it. Now it’s one of her top issues. What Silicon Valley wants, Silicon Valley gets,” says a House Democrat leadership staffer.
Maybe it’s time for a little anti-trust action against Google.
Now here’s some good news:
Some of the largest hardware makers in the world, including 3M, Cisco Systems, Corning and Qualcomm, sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday firmly opposing new laws mandating Net neutrality–the concept that broadband providers must never favor some Web sites or Internet services over others.
That view directly conflicts with what many software and Internet companies have been saying for the last few months. Led by Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, those companies have been spending millions of dollars to lobby for stiff new laws prohibiting broadband providers from rolling out two-tier networks.
“It is premature to attempt to enact some sort of network neutrality principles into law now,” says the letter, which was signed by 34 companies and sent to House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Legislating in the absence of real understanding of the issue risks both solving the wrong problem and hobbling the rapidly developing new technologies and business models of the Internet with rigid, potentially stultifying rules.”
Legislating in the absence of real understanding of the issue is pretty much what the so-called net neutrality thing is all about.
Has anybody shared the Good News with you?
Washington D.C. — Today, Christian Coalition of America announced its support for the effort to amend pending telecom legislation in Congress in order to prevent the large phone and cable companies from discriminating against web sites.
Roberta Combs, the President of Christian Coalition of America did not say: “God created the Innernets right after he done separated the light from the darkness so’s Adam could find Eve’s MySpace page and get the ball a-rolling. The minions of Satan are presently seeking to tear the Innernets asunder from its best-effort packet delivery and pervert it with multiple service levels. If one level was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for sinners like me and you.
The Innernets is a Intelligent Design designed by the Designer and the instrument that leads us to the Rapture, and they can’t be no messin’ with it. Satan’s phone companies, the people who brought us all those “Prince Albert in a can” calls, say the Innernets has to change, to grow, and to improve. That sounds like Darwinism to us, and we’re agin’ it. We don’t want no monkey business just like we don’t want no dancing and no drinking of the wine. If Jesus wanted us to do that sort of thing, he would have done it hisself. Hmmm, where was I? Hey, gimme that snake to handle.
Right, we’re right proud to join up with that there scrawny vegetarian, Moby, ’cause of Jonah and that, and the witch-girl from the WB and all the heathern homosexual agendists to give Lucifer’s phone company a big ole fashioned country ass-whoopin’. (Why do you think they call it “Lucent” anyhow?) Let no man say we’re not as “hip” as all them heatherns. Hallelujah!”
After issuing this statement, Mrs. Combs promptly went for a dip in the cement pond with the Clampetts and then headed off to Wal*Mart for a case of mayonnaise and some white bread to go with her baloney.