Rather misleading, perhaps (was: Another huge lie)

The Google-backed coalition that’s trying to stifle the growth of America’s communication networks is at it again, lying their asses off spinning like dervishes on speed:

As of this morning, more than 1,500 blogs have taken up the cause, posting links to SavetheInternet.com or urging their readers to take action by calling on members of Congress to stand firm in defense of Internet freedom. And the Hill is hearing it.

According to these slimy bastards fellow citizens, every blog that’s posted a link to their site supports their wacky fascist regulations. But this blog has linked to them, and I don’t support their goals, and neither do the other blogs I’ve cited on this subject. In fact, a scan of the blogs that have been discussing this issue will show you that technical bloggers and free marketeers almost universally oppose the “net neutering” legislation proposed by Google’s coalition, while support is mainly concentrated in left wing blogs who actually are pushing for a government-funded and government-controlled Internet (but not exclusively; some right wing blogs run by people who don’t have technical knowledge — such as the Instapundit — have joined the fray on the wrong side.)

When governments and Google control the Internet, you get something like China. We don’t want that in America, we want market-based systems where experimentation isn’t hampered by fascist rules about how packets are forwarded.

Don’t be misled.

A good example of a thoughtful approach to the problem comes from Kevin Drum. Kevin’s a good, card-carrying Democrat who runs a highly-respected left wing blog, but he’s got some background in the video business so he’s not fooled by the hysteria Google’s astroturf alliance is spreading. Check him out:

Video-on-Demand is a market I know a little bit about (at least, I did back when I worked for a startup VOD company), and the bandwidth and service issues that face commercial VOD rollouts are quite real. You and I may or may not care about VOD, but a lot of people do, and when telecom companies say that they need to make substantial investments to support large-scale VOD, they’re right. When they further say that these investments will only be worthwhile if they can guarantee VOD service that works reliably and well, they’re right again.

The question, of course, is whether the only way to provide reliable VOD service over the internet is to offer a tiered service to video providers. I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s not transparently absurd to think that the answer might be yes.


16 thoughts on “Rather misleading, perhaps (was: Another huge lie)”

  1. Let’s intersperse a few cold, hard facts into your rhetoric:

    1) The current state of the Internet is network neutrality. The FCC has
    come down hard on any carrier who violated it. Neutrality has resulted
    in massive value creation (think Google, which emerged from nowhere as
    a competitor to Yahoo… or think Vonage or Skype). How will an emerging startup (the next Google, for instance) get going if they can’t pay the protection-money for their packets? The carriers want to suspend neutrality: that’s a fact.

    2) Cisco and other networking vendors are hawking hardware to the carriers that is utterly ominous in nature. It is designed to analyze, filter, meter, and/or otherwise meddle with Internet traffic to financially benefit the carriers. In fact, in the marketing lit, they almost come right out and say that the products will degrade applications that compete with the carriers’ offerings.

    3) The carriers contend that prioritization is required in order to deliver high-quality voice and HDTV streams to consumers. But that argument is bogus. Recent experiences with the high-speed network backbone called “Internet2? clearly shows that “best effort” packet delivery over high-speed networks results in more than acceptable performance for HDTV streams and other rich content.

    4) Lastly, see if you can get answers from carriers’ lawyers to these three simple questions. My guess is you will not.

    Get over to SaveTheInternet.com
    now and help out. It’s not too late to keep the two remaining telcos
    and handful of cable operators from damaging U.S. technological
    leadership and, by extension, national security.

    I’m a conservative. So is RightWingNews. RightWingNutHouse. The Gun Owners Association of America. Instapundit. And so forth. Basically, this is the left and right sides of the blogosphere coming together against a single entity: the carriers, who mean to do harm to the current state of the Internet.

  2. 1) The COPE Act does nothing to change the current state of the network, db: it leaves intact the FCC’s regulatory power with respect to blocked access. The pro-fascist coalition wants to increase that power, and COPE leaves it where it is.

    2) The equipment you describe is for carriers who want to sell metered bandwidth. That’s always been common practice in data networking.

    3) Your description of Internet2 is completely, totally, and utterly false. The central concept of Internet 2 is something called “HOPI” which is a hybrid of two parallel networks, a circuit-switched network for voice and video and a packet-based network for data.

    It’s very much a two-tiered system where the tiers are only joined by a common set of middleware.

    Did you really think you could fool anyone with such a bogus claim?

    The issue that’s really at the heart of the so-called “network neutrality” debate is really one of bundling. The Telcos want to let advertisers and favorite partners subsidize your network connection, much like the way that Google has advertisers subsidize your searches today.

    This model has proved itself in the Google case, and the Telcos simply want to emulate Google. If Google isn’t doing anything wrong, why shouldn’t Telcos be able to follow in their footsteps?

    The objections are simply hysterical posturing.

  3. Representative Boucher (D-VA) clarifies the issue of Internet2:

    ” Internet2, a nonprofit partnership of universities, companies and affiliate organizations, including federal agencies and laboratories, has been studying this matter and has demonstrated that a multitrack Internet model is unnecessary to assure quality of service. Internet2 has for the past seven years deployed an advanced broadband network to more than 5 million users and has learned that in a network with enough bandwidth there is no congestion and no bits need preferential treatment because all of them arrive quickly enough to assure excellent quality, even if intermingled…

    In countries such as Japan and Korea, network speeds over the last mile of 100 megabits per second (mbps) are common. In the United States, our typical speed is less than 1 mbps. If broadband providers would increase their network speeds to approximate those in other countries, all content would reach consumers with assured quality. No prioritization of bits would be needed. ”

    And it doesn’t take much research to determine that Internet2 is a best-effort network where any QoS has been exceedingly difficult to achieve: http://qbone.internet2.edu/

    More “hysterical posturing” shortly.

  4. This is not new information, directorblue, and it doesn’t actually move the discussion forward. We’ve known for a long time that networks that are massively over-provisioned provide QoS by default. The problem with that approach is that such networks are massively expensive to build. Internet2 is a simply a government-funded research network running on over-provisioned pipes, not a practical alternative to investor-funded networks. The debate for real network design is how to provide QoS for applications that need it and bulk transfer or mild interactivity for those that don’t without breaking the bank. Pipes aren’t free.

    But you raise another issue that’s fairly central to this debate: who’s going to design the networks of the future, Congressional committees or network engineers? Since Congressman Boucher feels he’s competent to design our networks for us, perhaps he should join IEEE 802 or IETF and to some of the heavy lifting. These organizations are committed to open process, so we’d be glad to hear his ideas and give them due consideration.

  5. Lawrence Lessig wrote: ” [W]hen the Internet first reached beyond research facilities to the masses, it did so on regulated lines — telephone lines. Had the telephone companies been free of the “heavy hand” of government regulation, it’s quite clear what they would have done — they would have killed it, just as they did when Paul Baran first proposed the idea in 1964. It was precisely because they were not free to kill it, because the “heavy hand[ed]” regulation required them to act neutrally, that the Internet was able to happen, and then flourish. ”

    Vinton Cerf (one of the Internet’s key inventors): “The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services… My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity.”

    Interview with Bob Kahn, inventor of TCP/IP: “I asked Bob Kahn, the father of TCP/IP, and he made the point that the Internet is a Best Effort network and if you change that, well, you no longer have the Internet.”

    TechSearch reports: “AT&T certainly knows how to spend its money wisely. It’s donated $1 million to fund the pet project of a Congressman who has vowed to back a law letting AT&T and other telcos hijack the Internet. Is the contribution an illegal payoff?”

    Ever wonder why the telcos seem to spend more on lobbyists than inventing cool applications like Vonage and Skype? Now you know why.

    And you would put your trust in a handful of carrier lobbyists rather than the men who invented the Internet? But I guess they don’t know as much about the network technology than you and the lobbyists, eh?

    Go to SaveTheInternet and act! http: //www.savetheinternet.com

  6. Larry Lessig didn’t invent the Internet, and he’s proved to me that he doesn’t understand how it works in many on-line discussions, so let’s leave the poor old man out of the discussion.

    Now it’s certainly true that the Internet that was designed back in the 70s by Cerf, Kahn, Clark, Postel and the others was simply a best-effort network that was mainly concerned with downloading files. And it does that job pretty well, as well as a few other things that put the same kind of traffic on it as file downloads. And it’s a fact that over the last 25 years, the most important protocol on the Internet has been TCP. It’s used by ftp, by HTTP, by SMTP, and by a host of other applications. That’s the history of the Internet.

    But it’s also reasonably clear that TCP won’t be the protocol of the next 25 years, because it’s extremely poor for doing the things that people want to do on the Internet today, such as Skype, Bit Torrent, IM, home video networks, and connection to Muni WiFi. TCP and best-effort IP make it damn near impossible to do these things on a large scale.

    So the dilemma for regulators is this: the telcos want to build an advanced network that opens up new avenues of creativity and entrepreneurship. Google, Microsoft, eBay, and Yahoo are afraid that such a new network would erode their monopolies. So they pay lobbyists tons of money and pay bloggers to stir up FUD over the new network. But if regulators respond to fears and impose draconian regulations, this new network will never happen and they will have regulated for nothing.

    So what do you want, an end to network innovation or a whole new round of it? The Amish were convinced that the horse and buggy was all the transport they’d ever need, and sure enough they were “right” too, just like Kahn and Cerf are “right” about their horse-and-buggy network.

    At any rate, I’m content to let the telcos do what they want until somebody’s blog is actually taken down or blocked. If that really happens, let Congress act. But not until then because even a telco isn’t dumb enough to do that in the real world.

  7. If consumers truly had a choice for last-mile services, I would agree with you completely. But consumers don’t have a choice. Nearly all have two or fewer alternatives for broadband and many have none. I would consider allowing the carriers to tier when the telcos (a) stop trying to kill muni wideband, powerline broadband, and every other semi-reasonable alternative in sight; and (b) come up with even one innovative layer 4-7 application.

    Now, let’s take this statement: “But it’s also reasonably clear that TCP won’t be the protocol of the next 25 years, because it’s extremely poor for doing the things that people want to do on the Internet today, such as Skype, Bit Torrent, IM, home video networks, and connection to Muni WiFi. TCP and best-effort IP make it damn near impossible to do these things on a large scale.”

    Really? And you base Skype’s ineffectiveness on their valuation of — what — $3 billion or so? Skype, Torrent, YouTube, et. al. may not be perfect but they represent the kind of innovation that gatekeeping will utterly destroy.

    BusinessWeek said it perfectly last week: “…Blair Levin, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus: “Right now, I would never invest in a business model that depended on protection from Net neutrality…”

    So there’s the effect of your neutrality-killing carriers’ activities: already stifling investment. In fact, the only innovation-destroying aspect to this whole debacle is the telcos’ unwillingness to invest more in R&D than on lobbyists.

    Here’s telco lobbyist Walter McCormick, Jr. — head of the U.S. Telecom Association — speaking to lawmakers recently on the topic of network neutrality: “Our industry has stated that it will not block, impair or degrade consumer access to the Internet, and the FCC has made it clear that it has the authority to enforce its broadband principles… Therefore, we believe that legislation in the area is premature. Any grants of new regulatory authority or statutory ambiguities could chill innovation and investment.”

    We wouldn’t want to chill innovation and investment, would we? Unfortunately, McCormick’s logic has all the intellectual rigor of an Art Schlichter ethics class.

    In reality, there’s pretty clear evidence emerging that the telcos’ plan to eradicate neutrality is already stifling Internet innovation. Let’s remember Mr. McCormick’s promises — along with his sudden inability to articulate his bold statements as proposed law.

    And it would help if the carriers had invented even one damn innovative layer 4-7 application _ever_. Until they do so — and there is real choice in the last mile — they should be stopped in their track (single track — pun intended).

    Go to Save the Internet — http: //www.savetheinternet.com — and help out.

  8. Telcos have invented a very interesting layer 4-7 application actually: it’s called “telephony”; It’s used by Skype, among others.

    You missed the point about Skype: I didn’t say that it’s unimportant, I said it’s not a TCP application. Skype will use TCP in order to get out of certain firewalls, but its native protocol is UDP, which is also the native protocol of Windows Media Player, Real Audio & Video, and Quicktime. My point was that the TCP era is rapidly coming to an end. It’s completely impractical to use TCP on a wireless home network to support any kind of media streaming.

    And your quotes simply reinforce the fact that net neutrality legislation will only serve to stifle innovation.

    Go to Hands off the Internethttp://www.handsofftheinternet.com/ — and help out.

  9. Lovely deflection:

    “Telcos have invented a very interesting layer 4-7 application actually: it’s called “telephony” ”

    And now let’s fast-forward a couple of decades to the present and discuss the IP network, not PSTN.

    Question #1 – Can you name a single layer 4-7 innovation created by the carriers for the IP network?

    Whether its TCP, UDP, ICMP, BGMP — there’s plenty of diversity in the IP network with more invented on an ongoing basis. As lower-layer plumbing technologies improve (and there’s news of color-based fiber breakthroughs occurring as we speak, which promise to improve bandwidth significantly), we’ll find that “best effort” will be more than good enough.

    And despite your rhetoric around innovation, I’ve produced a valid quote that indicates the carriers are already killing investment in new apps.

    Question #2 – Can you produce a single quote from an investment house or analyst that matches Blair Levin’s (analyst with Stifel Nicolaus) “Right now, I would never invest in a business model that depended on protection from Net neutrality…” ?

    I’ll cue the Jeopardy music while we all sit and wait for answers to my two questions. In the meantime, viewers can visit http: //www.savetheinternet.com and watch the entire right and left sides of the blogosphere coming together to defeat the carriers’ lobbyists and Mr. Bennett.

  10. So you’re demanding that I go to Google and search for a quote from some financial guru about something — net neutrality — that doesn’t exist, has never existed, and never will exist? I don’t think so.

    Telcos are in the business of building networks, not applications. But despite that, Bell Labs in its heyday produced more patents per year than any other organization on earth, among them Unix, the C programming language, and all of the original text processing systems. Telco employees have figured out how to do most of the stuff that the Internet depends on for its management, and their names are all over the RFC database that records the collective wisdom of the Internet. Your questions are both ludicrous and insulting.

    You claim: Whether its TCP, UDP, ICMP, BGMP — there’s plenty of diversity in the IP network with more invented on an ongoing basis.

    Most of the innovation that I’ve seen in networking in the last ten years has nothing much to do with the Internet: wireless LANs, home entertainment networks, cell phones, wireless broadband, camera phones, broadband over powerline, and UWB. All of these technologies share some sort of Quality of Service capability that’s vital to their functions, and in every case sticking the Internet in the picture degrades their performance. That’s because the central problem in the design of the modern communication network is mixing streams that can’t tolerate delay, transfer small amounts of data, and tolerate packet loss with streams that are tolerant of delay, transfer large amounts of data, and don’t tolerate packet loss. Telephony is the former type of application, and web surfing is the latter.

    The Internet is a fascist network that forces all traffic into a single model, and that model has proved itself to be a bottleneck for all sorts of new applications. The culprit isn’t the telcos and some monopolistic greed, it’s a mediocre network architecture that’s essentially outlived its usefulness.

    Kindly stop placing ads on my blog, and kindly stop the lying about the “entire left and right sides of the blogosphere”. I don’t care about your politics, I’m a network designer and inventor, not a political shill. And while I have certainly lobbied my state legislature in the past on unrelated issues, this isn’t something I care about for ideological interests. Whatever your motivation may be to push this neutrality nonsense, you’re not going to get what you want out of it, and if you understood any of the technical issues you would have seen that already. The world may be ready for the “citizen journalist” but the “citizen network engineer” is as absurd as the “citizen brain surgeon”.

    And as long as we’re on this point, why don’t you tell me what you do for a living?

  11. What, precisely, is preventing the telcos from rolling out this super-awesome new network under current regulations? That’s the one thing I don’t understand. There are thousands of miles of dark fiber in the US. And yet, Verizon and Comcast are still offering slow upload speeds, limited fiber optic rollout, dynamic IPs, blocked ports and other technologies that limit what their users can do. And they’re claiming its because it would take too much bandwidth or present a security risk.

    But, for a very modest investment, dozens of communities have installed FTTH services and free WiFi. They’ve built the last mile that the Telcos and ISPs haven’t been able or willing to implement.

  12. Richard, you ignorant rukka-rukka. Doc has linked your name to my site and now I’m getting all these telco apologists clicking through hoping to find insulting net neut madness. When all they hear there is someone who believes that there’s nothing wrong with charging fairly for bandwidth but there is something wrong with monopolistic practices such as deep packet inspection in order to deny service to competitors, well… they shake their heads in disappointment. When they find me to be an apologist for mindful public service regulation and consideration of restoration of principles of common carriage… well, my goodness. One fellow’s head was seen to spin 360 degrees on his neck and he vomited Andersons Pea Soup.

    Yours for thoughtful dialog.

  13. That’s pretty funny, Frank. It’s interesting that Doc’s not on-board with this nefarious regulatory scheme, despite the fact that he’s more committed to an Open Internet than anybody I know.

    I don’t have a problem with regulating the Internet to free it from censorship (and punishing companies like Google who make it happen), but I’d like to do videconferencing over the Internet, for a small fee if necessary, without Skype messing up my call.

    Is that too much to ask?

  14. Web Ex. That’ll take care of your Skype problems. Of course it’s fee for service.

    I once was lost in the maze of wonderful possibilities of packet inspection and prioritization, a dazzled believer in the intelligence at the core. I’m still aware of the needs for some network level smartness and for me the stupid network is NOT an article of faith. (Hey you can’t route those packets if you don’t have a routing table. The network has never been all that stupid. Anyway, big fiber bandwidth on OC(umpty-ump) with ATM switching, that’s the ticket. I’m an old time 53 byte man. But you can understand why Doc is dragging his feet on this if you take a look at the write-up for MPLScon (aptly named) in New York this month. It says…

    Conference Director, Irwin Lazar, Director of the MPLS Resource Center and a senior consultant with The Burton Group and the outstanding Conference Advisory Board, have decided to return once again to New York, May 22-25, 2006.

    The conference attracts high quality attendees including major enterprises, carriers and service providers, from across the country.

    Doc has quaffed the Burton Group koolaid big time, and if they are more interested in pandering to “the enterprise,” the Fortune 500, 100, 50 than they are interested in good public policy formation, well Doc doesn’t look too far beyond his relationship with the principles there I believe. (A lot of inference in my analysis, and it’s unfair to dish it out like that without asking Doc, but my eyes widened when I saw the MPLScon write-up and I caught that cross current).

    Also, Doc is I believe a libertarian, and well managed net neutrality will require regulation that won’t sit well with those types. I can see why – although he’s a co-author of “World of Ends” – he’s puzzling this out carefully. He recently wrote regarding his concerns that this not be a partisan issue. I echo that sentiment, but in echoing it I realize that there is some convincing that has to be done regarding the absolute hideous and malevolent possible negative impacts associated with the duopoly and their service and pricing models.

    This is all enormously complex, and if it were a simple matter of providing Quality of Service by flipping a prioritization bit and letting your Skypes run free, then I would say “so what.” If it were simply a matter of opening the door for AT&T to deliver metered TV programming in competition with the cableco, I would say “bravo.” But the issues we face are fundamental…

    Doc says, “…The new carrier-based Net will work in the same asymmetrical few-to-many, top-down pyramidal way made familiar by TV, radio, newspapers, books, magazines and other Industrial Age media now being sucked into Information Age pipes. Movement still will go from producers to consumers, just like it always did. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Literally.” In this article, he certainly sticks up for the “ends” of network neutrality. I think what we’re struggling with is identifying the best means to those ends.

  15. I’m familiar with Webex, have used it a lot and even interviewed there once, taking the occasion to learn all I could about how they guarantee the QoS. Their business shouldn’t be necessary, and I’d like to make it obsolete as painlessly as possible. All it takes is DSCP, really; all that ATM and Sonet stuff is super-overkill.

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