Today’s editorial on Internet regulation in the LA Times is the best one yet from the MSM. They focus on traffic priorities, the key regulatory issue:
Cable operators already divide their wires into two sections: one for prioritized data, which is used for television and related services, and another for Internet access. As phone companies add capacity to their networks, they should be able to take a similar path.
This approach is also consistent with what Internet users expect when they sign up for broadband. Having paid a premium for better Internet access, they don’t want their broadband provider cutting deals that could put their favorite sites at the tail end of the pipe. Meanwhile, Web-based companies shouldn’t be forced to pay more just to continue delivering the experience they deliver today.
Unfortunately, that’s not the route taken by the House earlier this month when it passed a bill to make it easier for phone companies to offer cable TV-like services. The Senate Commerce Committee is about to take up an even less attractive alternative that would provide a weak guarantee of users’ rights but no protection for websites against discrimination by broadband providers.
That last paragraph is wrong, however. On today’s cable system, TV, telephone, and Internet all move in separate bands, where they don’t interfere with each other (the technique is “frequency-division multiplexing” or FDM). On a single-frequency fiber, this is accomplished by “time-division multiplexing” (TDM) which may be implemented in a couple of ways, one of which uses priorities to gain great efficiencies (this technique is central to the Internet’s transport system.) Congress doesn’t have the power to change this, but new technology can, if it’s really a good idea.
The regulations promoted by the Google-backed coalition can be read in such a way that TDM is illegal, and that would do great harm to everybody.
Google’s main concern is protection from transport fees, and eBay’s is protection of its Skype service from technically superior offerings using priorities. These special interests should not dominate future regulations, especially as they’ve been sold on a number of false premises.
The Internet is much less neutral than they claim, and killing priority traffic doesn’t “protect free speech”. Traffic management at this level is a question of milliseconds, something the typical web surfer is unlikely to notice.