The consequences of leaving a word out

Charles H. Giancarlo, senior vice president and chief development officer of Cisco Systems, has the neuts in an uproar thanks to the omission of a word from this Op-Ed:

Continued governmental support to promote an open and highly competitive telecommunications market combined with accelerated corporate and private initiatives to ensure that all Americans have equal, high-speed broadband access are crucial to the country’s economic and social well-being. We also cannot tie the hands of the Internet through additional regulation, such as “net neutrality,” which eliminates the ability of the Internet to support new applications. We should be breaking down barriers rather than building them.

Doc Searls is pretty exercised about it:

Net Neutrality is a red herring here. Lots of arguments can be made against it. Lack of clear definitions and possibility of unintended consequences are the main two. But to argue that Net neutrality “eliminates the ability of the Internet to support new applications” is so far beyond wrong that it calls Giancarlo’s motives into question. Has he joined the carriers’ lobbying teams? Sounds like it.

And Isenberg is in full foaming-at-the-mouth-mode:

Hey, Cisco needs the carriers as customers. Further, Cisco sees the complexification of Net Discrimination as a selling point that keeps the commoditization monster at bay. Charlie G saw the hot water John Chambers got into by repeating that voice would be free until Verizon’s execs lost patience, and he’s not going to make the same mistake. OK. But . . .

The battle is between those who would change the carriers so the Internet survives and those who would change the Internet so the carriers survive. Wouldn’t it be better for Cisco to have dogs on both sides?

Giancarlo should have said: net neutrality eliminates the ability of the Internet to support new types of applications. We know that the Traditional Internet is capable of supporting many kinds of web-based applications: catalog sales, hookups, auctions, blogs, and all of that tedium. But the architecture devised when the Internet was an academic plaything walled off from the world isn’t capable of supporting large-scale deployment of telephony, video-conferencing, live TV, and massively multi-user real-time gaming: whole new kinds of applications.

These new applications, when widely deployed, will put demands on the infrastructure that can’t be met economically by any carrier, privately-owned or publicly funded, if they can’t distinguish services. So even if policy goes as the neuts want it to go and the Internet becomes a public utility the performance potential of the Original Architecture isn’t sufficient to meet the needs and desires of the public for very long. Treating every Internet stream as if it were on-line gaming that needs to move massive amounts of data with a latency of less than 50 milliseconds isn’t practical. The pipes aren’t free, and there’s no reason for people who don’t need super-duper high performance connections to pay for them. Consequently, carriers need the flexibility to offer service plans that fit customer needs, and the ability to pay for infrastructure sufficiently flexible to do all the things people want it to do. One-size-fits-all is a poor policy for the Internet.

Giancarlo understands this, and the carriers understand it. Cisco and the carriers built the Internet, and they know how it works. It’s the height of arrogance for people unschooled in packet network engineering to denounce engineers for telling the truth, but that arrogance is the essence of net neutrality advocacy.

When will this madness end?

One thought on “The consequences of leaving a word out”

  1. Richard,

    I don’t often comment on net neutrality because it’s become a rather boring issue of flogging for me. Your comment at the end – It’s the height of arrogance for people unschooled in packet network engineering to denounce engineers for telling the truth, but that arrogance is the essence of net neutrality advocacy. – struck a chord because it’s an argument I’ve had with some of those folks more than once. It’s also an argument they quickly back away from. I’ve given up on pointing out their misconceptions because banging my head on that wall merely gives me a headache.

    Mostly just wanted to say thanks for keeping a view of reality in the discussion. I think it’s a pointless discussion and a lose-lose proposition. I wish it would just face away myself.

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