Cory Doctorow has been one the few honest left-wing voices on Internet regulation, arguing that that willy-nilly regulation isn’t a reasonable approach to the alleged problem that Save the Internet and other Google sycophants aim to solve. He’s bent over backwards in recent article to appease them, burying the lede in the middle of the second of three pages on how to regulate the all-singing, all-dancing wonder principle:
1. Define network neutrality. This is harder than it sounds. If a Bell lets Akamai put one of its mirror servers in a central office, then Akamai’s customers can get a better quality of service to the Bell’s customers than those using an Akamai competitor. This is arguably a violation of net neutrality, but how do you solve it? It’s probably not practical to require the Bells to let all comers put local caches on their premises; there’s only so much rack space, after all.
Another tricky case: the University that provides a DSL service to its near-to-campus housing and configures its network to deliver guaranteed throughput to a courseware archive. It gets even stickier if the DSL and/or the courseware archive are supplied by commercial third parties. Poorly written net neutrality regulations could prevent universities from providing those services, which should be allowed.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a Bell that came up with a plan to let services tune their applications to improve on throughput to its customers. For example, some Bells might be able to tune service more efficiently by providing real-time feedback to companies about the optimal frame size for its network, or information on traversing its internal private networks, and so on. This is a good way to wring performance out of lines and switches, but the efficiencies decay if the Bell is legally required to provide this service to every customer, without being compensated for the additional effort.
The sycophants are cheering Doctorow for coming over to their side, but like Tim Berners-Lee he doesn’t actually endorse their legislative program.