The always provocative Andrew Orlowski finds a classic theme in the blogosphere’s reaction to the “net neutrality” debate:
For a moment, let’s dispose of the telco lobby’s argument that the phantom of a “free market” means any new regulation is unnecessary. With spectacularly poor timing, AT&T launched its IPTV service this week, pricing it exactly in line with the cable operators it’s competing with. And you thought competition is supposed to lower prices? The cable companies and IP giants are a duopoly – and they don’t like competition. Verizon’s patent infringement lawsuit against Vonage reminds us of that.
For the Neutralists, any suggestion of packet prioritization was interpreted as a speech issue – as censorship. But packet prioritization is very useful to the health of a data network. Neutralists assumed that because some services may have a higher priority, and travel faster – as video packets must – their favorite services would automatically travel slower. This is in spite of the recent doubling – at no extra cost – of internet bandwidth to Verizon fiber customers, who are the only US consumers to enjoy European-style broadband speeds today.
As for business – which you’ll note conspicuously failed to join the campaign – the various attempts at drafting ‘neutrality’ legislation would have rendered today’s Service Level Guarantees, the SGAs, or SLGs which businesses demand – illegal. IP expert Richard Bennett has offered a sensible technical antidote to both the free market utopians who came out to support the big telcos, and the hysterical Neutralists. Bennett argues that the net needs new policies because VoIP and Bittorrent simply saturate it further. You may disagree, but at least it’s a rational argument.
That last line needs a little clarifying as we failed to make telephone contact today: VoIP won’t generate much traffic until a lot more people use it, but it’s the canary in the coal mine that will die as BitTorrent overload sets in.
Technology is all about change, so any movement allegedly grounded in tech that’s resistant to change on principle has some problems.