Neutrality Circle-jerk

A large group of exceptionally clueless souls got together recently and decided to bare their ignorance to the world, just in case anyone was in doubt. They engaged in the one of the great, time-honored practices of puffed-up egos everywhere and wrote an ersatz piece of “model legislation” dictating that anyone who doesn’t understand “The Internet” as they do is bad and wrong and can’t call his product “The Internet”.

Gosh, what would lawmakers do without such expert advice? Here’s their deep insight:

(1) Definitions.- As used in this Section:
(A) Internet.- The term “Internet” means the worldwide, publicly accessible system of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP), some characteristics of which include:
i) Transmissions between users who hold globally reachable addresses, and which transmissions are broken down into smaller segments referred to as “packets” comprised of a small portion of information useful to the users at each transmission’s endpoints, and a small set of prefixed data describing the source and destination of each transmission and how the packet is to be treated;
ii) routers that transmit these packets to various other routers on a best efforts basis, changing routers freely as a means of managing network flow; and
iii) said routers transmit packets independently of each other and independently of the particular application in use, in accordance with globally defined protocol requirements and recommendations.
(B) Internet access.- The term “Internet access” means a service that enables users to transmit and receive transmissions of data using the Internet protocol in a manner that is agnostic to the nature, source or destination of the transmission of any packet. Such IP transmissions may include information, text, sounds, images and other content such as messaging and electronic mail.
(2) Any person engaged in interstate commerce that charges a fee for the provision of Internet access must in fact provide access to the Internet in accord with the above definition, regardless whether additional proprietary content, information or other services are also provided as part of a package of services offered to consumers. [emphasis added for laughs]

That’s heavy, isn’t it? There are only about five blatant falsehoods and two obvious contradictions in it.

My favorites:

1. They act like the Internet is a network, and not simply a means of interconnecting networks. The Internet doesn’t actually care what you do on your private network, it only sees the things you pass to other networks.

2. They ignore the structure of the IP header, which includes a TOS field with several levels of priority.

3. They don’t understand the fact that routing depends on commercial contracts, the enforcement of which depends on examination of addresses and labels.

According to this exercise in intellectual masturbation there is no Internet today.

Some of the geniuses involved are:

Susan Crawford, Associate Professor of Law, Cardozo Law School (thinks the Internet is a telegraph)
Bob Frankston, Telecommunications Analyst and Visionary (actually, he’s the Visicalc guy)
David S. Isenberg, Ph.D., Founder & CEO,, LLC (fired from the phone company and mad about it)
Kevin Marks, mediAgora (has a very thick English accent but no knowledge of network architecture)
Andy Oram, Editor, O’Reilly Media (O’Reilly)
David P. Reed, contributor to original Internet Protocol design (was in the same room with David Clark 30 years ago, on a downhill slide since)
Clay Shirky, Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University (Journalist)
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Department of Culture and Communication, New York University (wannabe Lessig)
Esme Vos, Founder, Muniwireless (lawyer)
David Weinberger, Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center (former philosophy professor)
Steve Wozniak, Co-Founder of Apple Computer, Inc., Member, National Academy of Engineers (and recently a high school Spanish teacher)

There are some others I’ve never heard of, with titles like “Librarian” and “TV Documentary Producer.”

So you’ve been warned.

Botched Experiment in Citizen Engineering

Poor Old Bob Cringely tried to do an experiment with Bit Torrent and prioritized VoIP and forget to control a variable: the bandwidth consumed by the VoIP call whether it’s prioritized or not. Naturally, he jumped to some very stupid conclusions:

With this new knowledge I did a simple test that you can do, too…I did a couple BitTorrent downloads of specific files, measuring how much time and total bandwidth was required. Then I deleted those files, changed my Internet Gateway settings to give priority to my Vonage VoIP packets, called my Mom on the phone and started downloading the same two BitTorrent files…

My test results were clear. I had no problem downloading the same BitTorrent files, but it took longer. That was no surprise. After all, I WAS talking to my Mom, which would have taken some bandwidth away from BitTorrent. But the more interesting result was that the total bandwidth required to download the same files using traffic shaping versus not using traffic shaping was almost 20 percent more, which undoubtedly came down to increased BitTorrent overhead due to contention and retransmissions involving the priority VoIP service.

In other words, he downloaded some files while he wasn’t on the phone and then downloaded them again while he was and it took longer the second time. Duh, isn’t that what you would normally want?

Cringely also makes the startling discovery that Bit Torrent is very aggressive in its search for bandwidth, and warns that throttling it makes it take even more bandwidth. That sound like yet another flaw in Bit Torrent, and I don’t see why all VoIP users should stop making phone calls so Bit Torrent can run faster. His argument is along of the lines of “we better not make those terrorists mad by killing them.”

Is this guy on drugs?

Don’t believe Net neutrality hype

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.

The Real Meaning of Net Neutrality

Consumer pays. All the smoke about “discrimination” is intended to cover it up. If the consumer foots the whole bill for his connection, there is no incentive for the ISP to massage content.

Somehow the additional requirement that no service plans can be written around Quality of Service gets a free ride under this concept. They don’t have to, but as the bills are currently written, that’s the situation.

Lippard neutrality

Jim Lippard makes a valiant effort at separating the real issues from the phony ones in his version of net neutrality:

In an attempt to offer something constructive, here’s a version of network neutrality–let’s call it Lippard Network Neutrality–that seems to me to be reasonable, providing me with what I want as a consumer of Internet services and what I would want if I were managing security for the provider of those services

Essentially, it’s a ban on censorship but not on advanced services. I endorse it, with a couple of quibbles about unbundling.

So Tim Berners-Lee opposes net neutrality regulations?

After a long hiatus, Sir Tim is back on the Net Neutrality case:

Net Neutrality is NOT saying that one shouldn’t pay more money for high quality of service. We always have, and we always will.

But what do the neutrality bills actually say? Here’s the relevant part of Snowe-Dorgan:

(5) only prioritize content, applications, or services accessed by a user that is made available via the Internet within the network of such broadband service provider based on the type of content, applications, or services and the level of service purchased by the user, without charge for such prioritization;

And the relevant part of the Markey Amendment:

If a broadband network provider prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, it must prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin or ownership of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service.

Does Sir Tim support or oppose these particular bills? Based on the above, I would have to say he opposes, so I’ve asked for clarification by leaving a comment on his blog. It was flagged as spam and not displayed, and you can make of that what you will. My guess is my comment will remain buried until after the vote is taken in the Senate.

And what does say about charging a fee for voice-grade QoS? Read on, humble traveler:

Critics of Net Neutrality measures in Congress have claimed there are no historical examples of abuse by ISPs and therefore government should not interfere. However, Jason Miller of WebProNews writes about an example of abuse coming out of Canada that shows how the words of intent coming from the men who run phone and cable companies have not been considered as evidence of what will happen here in the U.S.

The “Abuse” is simply a Quality of Service enhancement. Go see for yourself:

Shaw is now able to offer its High Speed Internet customers the opportunity to improve the quality of Internet telephony services offered by third party providers. For an additional $10 per month Shaw will provide a quality of service (QoS) feature that will enhance these services when used over the Shaw High Speed Internet network.

Save the Internet says for-fee QoS is “abuse.” Sir Tim says he’s in favor of for-fee QoS, and he says he supports Save The Internet. Something don’t exactly compute here, does it?

It seems that there’s a lot of manipulation going on around this issue. When you have these moldy old “heroes of the revolution” rolled out on their wheelchairs to praise the ruling clique with vague platitudes, there’s a distinctly Soviet feel to the dialog.

UPDATE: The last time Sir Tim posted in net neutrality he was met with a bunch of comments he couldn’t handle because he obviously wasn’t familiar with the actual legislation. This time, he’s simply turned off the comments (they’re rejected as “spam”).

Why is Tim Berners-Lee afraid to debate?

Matt Stoller lies about lying

Matt Stoller is the crony of Jerome Armstrong & Markos (“Kosola“) Moulitsas who spread the lie that Cox Cable blocks Craig’s List. He did it in this post, ironically titled Please Lie to me about Net Neutrality:

There’s a pervasive myth that there has been no discrimination on the internet against content companies. That is simply untrue. For one, Craigslist has been blocked for three months from Cox customers because of security software malfunctions…

Without net neutrality protections, cable and telecom companies will have no incentive to fix these kinds of problems. Already, it’s quite difficult to even know that this is happening because they are quite easy to disguise.

The telcos are of course lying about this, claiming that no web sites have been blocked. And gullible reporters are falling for the lies.

This is the way he tries to re-write history:

There’s a really stupid lie that’s catching on among tech reporters. It started with George Ou at ZDNet, and then went to David Berling at the same publication. Here’s what Ou wrote:

It appears that the Net neutrality proponents have been caught in a flagrant lie in their effort to scare the public… and along with many other Net neutrality activist sites have accused Cox Communications of deliberately blocking the website Craigslist by quoting a report from our own Tom Foremski.

Well I suppose that would be a lie if I had accused Cox of deliberately blocking Craigslist. Only I didn’t. Here’s what I wrote.

Big companies, through incompetence, malevolence, or economic choice, can control the internet. Without legal protections, they will. So if you like dropped calls and crappy cable service, you’ll love what the non-neutral net will look like.

To their credit, most of’s readers aren’t buying it.


Tom Giovanetti wrote a pretty good Op-Ed on the neutrality riot for the local paper, so I started reading his blog. Turns out he’s a big Mavericks fan, being a Dallasite and all. After Game 2 he was gloating about how bad the Mavs were, so I left this little comment on his GioBlog:

If Riley can figure out how to get the role players in the game, he could potentially turn it around.

And of course that’s what happened: Udonis Haslem shut down Dirk Nowitski and the Heat won four in a row. I predicted the Pistons would beat the Lakers when they faced off in the playoffs too. Someday I’m gonna have to put some money on some of this sports genius, but not in a series where I have a favorite team.

Thank you and I’ll now go back to faking humility.

ESPN and reverse net discrimination

The forces of net neutrality regulations warn of ISPs discriminating among content providers, but what about content providers demanding payment from ISPs to carry their stuff?

Unlike the theoretical problem that motivates the neuts, this one is very real:

A little more than a week ago I had a Net neutrality debate with Russell Shaw. Russell Shaw speculated that there had to be some sort of Net neutrality violation going on and that the ISPs were locking ESPN out without some sort of special contract. In Russell’s blog, he speculates:

“My guess is that ESPN360 and Comcast did not come to a licensing agreement. It was ESPN360 that refused to pony up.”

But as I dug a little deeper and discussed the issue with some fellow bloggers Matt S and Richard Bennett and looked around on ESPN360, I came to a startling thought: Could this be a case of reverse Net neutrality service blocking? If this is the case then Russell might be right about a neutrality violation, but he may have gotten the role of the perpetrator and victim backwards.

It appears that what’s happening is ESPN demanding payment from ISPs for access to this service. So where are the regulations to prevent this kind of tiering of the Internet? Google? Yahoo? eBay? You folks are awfully quiet all of a sudden.

Somebody give Charlie Gonzalez a call, he’s the hero on this problem.

Craig Newmark backs down

Craig Newmark comes clean on the wild tale of Cox blocking today, admitting it was a bug and not a feature:

The whole thing was exacerbated by folks talking about ‘net neutrality…The message from some is that blocking sites is something that big telecoms might do and in all the confusion, that message turned into an incorrect message that an ISP actually did. To repeat, none of this was deliberate. However, it does illustrate a downside of journalism via blogs; stuff is published, then maybe fact-checked.

It sounds like he’s suggesting in a round-about way that he was, like, brainwashed by Matt Stoller and Save the Internet, doesn’t it? Damn that must be painful.

Give Craig a candy, he’s trying to do the right thing.