Tech companies to Senate: No Neut Regs

This letter from 100+ tech companies to the Senate on the neut regs is great.

First, the Internet has benefited greatly from the relative absence of regulatory restrictions, which has allowed content businesses to grow and prosper. Congress has wisely refrained from burdening this still-evolving medium with regulations, except in those cases where the need for policy action has been clear, and it can be narrowly tailored. This is not the time to deviate from this posture.

Second, it is too soon to enact network neutrality legislation. The problem that the proponents of network neutrality seek to address has not manifested itself in a way that enables us to understand it clearly. Legislation aimed at correcting a nebulous concern may have severe unintended consequences and hobble the rapidly developing new technologies and business models of the Internet. Third, enacting network neutrality “placeholderlaws” could have the unintended effect of dissuading companies from investing in broadband networks.

If our industry leaders are heard, the crazy regulatory regime will not be enacted. Said leaders consist of Cisco, 3M, Nortel, Motorola, and a hundred others.

12 thoughts on “Tech companies to Senate: No Neut Regs”

  1. It’s my understanding that IPTV is not available yet, so television programming for now has to be delivered through the wireline networks through dedicated bandwidth. Would the NN bills proposed prohibit the telephone companies (or possibly the cable companies) from reserving bandwidth for television programming? If so, and one of these NN bills passed, would TV programming over these wireline networks end? If so, that would not only discourage fiber optic deployment by the telephone companies but would be very bad in its own right. Can anyone shed some light on this issue?

  2. IPTV is available in limited areas. Apparently the Verizon FIOS does it, and it’s becoming rather common on fiber networks in Europe and Asia. QoS requires reserved bandwidth, so there you are.

  3. ChadB,

    Cable companies still use the dedicated bandwidth model for both digital and analog TV. However, I understand that they want to move an QoS/IPTV format. Almost all cable companies still use the old cable format were all channels were streamed to all houses in a neighborhood, whether or not the customers were actually watching them (or had even subscribed to them). Thus, most cable bandwidth is wasted. IPTV would reduce then amount of dedicated bandwidth needed for television. QoS would allow for dedicated bandwidth to be allocated to other purposes when it is not needed.

    The effect of NN regulations depends on how the NN regulations define broadband services. Some NN regulations that I have seen could be construed to ban the dedicated bandwidth format that cable companies currently use. Others seem to apply to the Cable TV bandwidth only if the cable company moved to an IPTV format. Others would seem to put the dividing line at Cable QoS.

  4. MnZ, do you remember which bills do what? In particular, I would be interested in the Markey bill (H.R. 5273), the Snowe-Dorgan bill (S. 2917), and the Wyden bill (S. 2360).

  5. Richard said:

    QoS requires reserved bandwidth, so there you are.

    Why? Why couldn’t prioritization assure QoS (at least most of the time)?

  6. Prioritization is a reservation system that returns unused time slots to the common pool. It’s not an either-or, it’s just a more relaxed system than the strict reservations you get in pure TDM systems.

  7. Maybe then prioritization, rather than strict bandwidth reservations, would be the way to go because it would free up more bandwidth to be used by non-time-sensitive apps. It also sounds like the cable companies and telephone companies–if permitted make strict bandwidth reservations, could guarantee QoS for their Internet content and services and leave any rivals to fight for the non-reserved bandwidth, giving the telephone and cable companies a way to squeeze out rivals. So maybe strict bandwidth reservations should be banned. However, I have concerns about this.

    How would banning strict bandwidth reservations (while permitting prioritization) affect the telephone and cable companies, especially for television services? Would the cable companies still be able to provide television services effectively? Would the telephone companies stop deploying fiber?

  8. Nobody uses strict reservations on IP networks, but some most IP is layered on top of a system that has them, like phone and cable.

    So you wouldn’t want to ban something that’s already widely used, and you wouldn’t want to ban something that nobody would use anyway, unless you’re just on a kick to ban something, which I know you aren’t.

    I think the key is a service guarantee with fairly broad parameters.

  9. Thanks, Richard.

    If we were to have a net neutrality bill, it seems like it should be limited. I was thinking that a few principles to this effect might make net neutrality legislation more palatable:

    (1) Legislation should target only the cable companies and the telephone companies in their provision of broadband access to the Internet. It should not include backbone providers and it should not require open access to the bandwidth used for cable television or POTS. (This might give the cable companies an edge in television and the telephone companies a competitive edge in telephone, but nothing is perfect.)

    (2) Legislation should sunset once sufficient competition in the last mile arrives, presumably through alternative platforms. I was thinking maybe 7 years with a clause that the cable and telephone companies can get an exemption from the FCC for geographic markets that have at least 4 different competitive broadband providers.

    (3) Legislation should not prohibit prioritization or nondiscriminatory anti-spam/virus protections.

    (4) Legislation should prohibit device restrictions, blocking, degrading and QoS or prioritization fees. (I know we disagree about that last one.)

    (5) Legislation should authorize the FCC to determine and prohibit other types of anticompetitive or discriminatory conduct by broadband providers.

    What do you think? Edits? Additions? My thought is that a NN bill that is more palatable might allow a telecom reform bill to get through next year when the debate heats up again.

  10. At this point, all we need is for the FTC to be on the lookout for anti-competitive practices and to report to the Congress when and if they see any. Until we see evidence of a real problem, there’s no way to act that doesn’t cause unintended consequences. The Internet isn’t going away anytime soon, so there’s no urgency to take action now, unless the real fear is that a fully commercialized Internet is obviously better than the historical one.

    To make a crude analogy, regulating the Internet before we see an actual problem is on par with stopping the vote counting in Florida in 2000. What are the neuts really afraid of, the truth?

  11. But it will likely take a compromise to get a telecom reform bill through, which means enough NN protection to appease Sen. Wyden and prevent him or another NN proponent from filibustering. Remember that the Democrats, who tend to be more pro-NN, are likely to pick up a few seats in both houses in November. If you had to compromise to get telecom reform (read: competition in video), how could NN legislation be limited but still address the NN proponents’ concerns?

  12. Video franchising bills are successfully moving through the state legislatures without the NN regulations in big states like California and Pennsylvania, so in some sense the federal law is a sideshow. The backers of the NN regs are going to face charges that they’re keeping cable TV rates high because of their packet fetish, and that’s not going to help them at re-election time, so we’ll see.

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