Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

2:05 PM -- If you thought net neutrality was a tricky issue before, it's gotten even more convoluted over the past few weeks.

First AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) tried to drag the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) into the fray, citing work done in the 90s to develop DiffServ as a way of enabling the Internet to handle the needs of different traffic differently, as proof the Internet was always intended to offer different tiers of service.

That prompted an angry response from the Free Press and other pro-neutrality groups, and even a denial by IETF Chairman Russ Housely, who later clarified his denial and probably now wishes he'd stayed out of the whole thing.

Now comes the Tea Party, backing the cable and telco giants in the name of preventing a government takeover of the Internet.

This is exactly what this debate doesn't need: more inflammation. There are rational issues to be discussed and rational solutions to be found, and inflamed rhetoric on all sides is not helping.

AT&T will take a hit on this one as well, as the company is allegedly donating to Tea Party coffers, along with spreading money around Congressional coffers, but net neutrality proponents have been fanning the flames for years, claiming that any attempt of an ISP to manage traffic on its network amounts to discrimination.

There is room on both sides for folks to take a deep cleansing breath and try to remember the ultimate goal that benefits everyone is an Internet capable of supporting the new video-laden applications, an Internet accessible to all, and -- here in the US -- for ISPs to be able to make a reasonable profit on their service offerings.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:43 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

LR is making that argument.

You are missing it somehow.



rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:23:44 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

Seven; Back to basics.  There's no such thing as free content. LR is getting paid.  It might seem free to you but it really isn't free.  The advertisers pay LR adding this into their costs of doing business and pass those costs on.

But your point was that LR and all content providers should be arguing that access *pipes* be free to them.  I pointed out that I agree 100%.  I also pointed to the observation that LR has not been making this argument.  When something doesn't happen that seems rather obvious it then begs the question of why not?  To that I suggested that LR is responding to their customers who in turn are slaves to the monopolists, monopolists who have the market and political power at the moment.   

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:44 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

LR does push for free content.



rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:23:45 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

re: "anybody who pushes content (Light Reading for example) has incentive to make pipes free for them."

Seven, your own analogy shows the flaw.  Why hasn't LR been arguing for free pipes? It demonstrates where the market power lies.  It's in the hands of the last mile pipes.  (Sprint's dependence on VZ and T for wireless backhaul also demonstrates this problem.)

Reiterating Noam's salient point:

They [last mile pipe providers] have significant market power towards the end-users, and even more so towards content providers, for whom they are the only way to access an end-user.

So it's in LR's economic interests to pander to the monopolist/duopolist because they don't have significant market power to do otherwise.  It taints the "journalistic integrity" to boot.

So maybe that's ok, i.e. only those with market power get a voice or get to decide who can say what?  Been there, done that, with broadcast media.  It's time to try a different model by my stinking opinion ;-)

Duh! 12/5/2012 | 4:23:48 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

"Simple Policy Tussle"....okay WHO's policy tussle?


That was a rhetorical question, right?

The players are a group of for-profit businesses who own broadband infrastructure,  a group of for-profit businesses who deliver content over broadband infrastructure,  plus grassroots and astroturf aligned with one side or the other. 

Most of the issues are strawmen.  "OMG, OMG, they are going to prioritize some lamestream corporate media website and silence my courageous little independent voice!  They are going to build a walled garden and lock out my favorite applications and content!  They are going to conspire to destroy democracy!  OMG, OMG!"   "OMG, OMG, those evil Washington bureaucrats, looking to expropriate private property like a bunch of communists and destroy free enterprise as we know it!  Spam! Warez! Child Pr0n! Viruses! OMG, OMG!"  You and I know better.  Let's talk about the real issues instead:

Should the regulations permit broadband providers to offer a delay jitter bounded service along with best effort, for an incremental cost?  If so, is this service offered to all comers on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis, or only to affiliated entities? Who pays, how are settlements handled?  How much effect may a better-than-best effort service have on best effort service at busy hour (and how to measure)?  Given that network capacity is statistically shared, what limits should there be on how to arbitrate amongst flows (aggreggates, subscribers) during busy periods? Given the spectrum and physical layer constraints of mobile wireless networks, should the regulatory constraints on operators of these networks be different?

Truth of the matter is, once you get rid of the strawmen and the whiny voices on both sides,  the core problems are tractible.  Not necessarily easy,  and some cases of having to cut the baby in half.  But nothing that justifies all this sturm und drang.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:51 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues


This like all other things on this topic are one person's opinion.  Opinions are like anal orifices - everybody has one and most of them stink.


For example, everybody points at Korea as a shining example of building a broadband infrastructure.  It did so by giving the carriers a chunk of the content revenue.

Suppose we make it the other way around and make last mile pipes free to the users and paid for by the content owners.  Sure would make the value prop change, but it would still be neutral.  The idea of free content flowing is definitely as slanted as the other way around.

So, again it is Who's policy that matters here.  So, think for a change rj - anybody who pushes content (Light Reading for example) has incentive to make pipes free for them.  Not because they are good, because it is in their economic best interest.  Just like it is in the carrier's best economic interest to charge.  Don't be so tied up in ideology.



rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:23:51 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

If you read the article by Noam you could get an answer to your question.  Here's the snippet:

To do so, one needs to break down the problem into its components.

Last-mile pipes. This is the traditional core of market power for the pipes. Right now, there are at most two major pipes – the telecom and the cable pipes. They have significant market power towards the end-users, and even more so towards content providers, for whom they are the only way to access an end-user. To deal with this situation requires the following principles:

• Incentives to increase the number of pipes. (allocation of spectrum to competing wireless providers, unlicensed spectrum, encouragement of municipal and electric powerline provision, temporary tax benefits to all broadband pipes, and access to public rights-of-way.)

• Only end-users pay for use of the last-mile pipe, there is no charge by pipes to content providers to send packets to those end-users.

• Packets from providers can access the end-user's last-mile pipe at its initial point.

• Pipes are free to offer different quality and price packages to end-users.

• Users are free to choose a quality or price package, to access any lawful provider, and to connect any device.

Middle-pipes. Here, there would be only no restrictions. For those pipes, competition exists, and content and applications providers could find ways to bypass restrictive middle-pipes, directly or through resellers, as long as they could access the last-mile pipes. The following principles would apply:

• Pipes are free in their pricing and quality offerings.

• Pipes cannot limit resale by a customer to other parties such as content and applications providers.

• Where pipes discriminate in favour of their own content or applications provision and hold market power, they are subject to fast-track regulatory and antitrust laws.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:51 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues


My point is that you are assuming that the content and the carriers are US entities.  If they are not, you don't get to make any of these policy decisions.



rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:23:53 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues

I'd probably start with a U.S. policy that enabled our own society and then hope other societies would catch on - kinda like a free press, democratically elected representative republic, etc.   One example of what not do is what we did with the financial sector where Wall St. justified our (lack of) financial regulation/oversight with the rational that in order for the U.S. financial sector to be competitive that it had to exactly equal that of London (with respect to regulation.)   Look where that took us - a race to the bottom.  In that regard, I'm not sure I'd model China when addressing free press type issues.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:53 PM
re: Politics Meets Technology, Chaos Ensues


Cool, so we can expect Chinese policies to apply!

Not to worry then about any kind of content issues.



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