Tag: net neutrality

18Dec

On Net Neutrality-

If there is one argument against ‘net neutrality that rings true to me, it’s that of extending regulation. What we have here is essentially a war over how costs are presented to the consumer. Content providers want to charge for the content without the cost of the network thrown in, so the content looks cheap. Network providers want the cost of the network to be carried, to some degree, by the content provider, to make the cost of the network look cheaper.

What’s likely to happen, in the end, is the providers will struggle under ‘net neutrality, and end up asking for government bailouts to stay in business. Once the government controls the purse strings, they will use those purse strings to control the content. And down the road to censorship we go. Take the case of Wikileaks, for instance. I understand the stuff they are posting is illegal —so then get real injunctions in a court of law and use those injunctions to take the data down. What the US Government has done, instead, is to use financial pressure to get the providers hosting the materials to take it down. That sets a bad precedent, no matter how you feel about the material itself.

China is not the only nation-state that has been imposing Internet censorship controls and getting a little bit of press about it. Australia has been subject to some news attention over the ACMA imposition of national Website blacklist filtering, essentially copying China’s national firewall approach. Meanwhile, the US government has taken a different approach, doing things like outlawing gambling sites and having WikiLeaks shut down. –Tech Republic

News reports show that the U.S. government pressured PayPal and Amazon to stop supporting WikiLeaks, again without any due process. You do not have to be a fan of WikiLeaks to understand that letting the U.S. government decide, on its own, without the legal process defined in our Constitution, what should and what should not be accessible on the Internet is not a recipe for freedom. Meanwhile the FCC will be voting on a new U.S regulatory regime for the Internet on Dec. 21. The FCC has not bothered to actually be open enough to let us know what the FCC will vote on but the rumors should make anyone interested in an open Internet cringe. –Network World

The problem with ‘net neutrality is that the Government is trying to insert itself into a market it can understand and control no better than any other market it runs, and the result will be regulation on political, rather than economic, grounds. We can be assured the first targets of “government equality” will be “radical” Christians, “radical right wingers,” and Jews.

This one argument convinces me that ‘net neutrality is a bad idea.

4Dec

On Net Neutrality

If you’re having problems figuring the “net neutrality” debate out, maybe this will help.

On the one side, you have content providers —online gaming and video rental sites— that want to deliver content to you cheaper than you can get it through physical delivery. This is, in essence, the entire game of “cloud computing.” The network is free, only content counts. On the other, you have the actual network operators who must buy the physical hardware and pay the physical salaries of those who maintain the “free” network. Network equipment, network cables (especially long haul), and network engineers don’t come cheap.

It’s not about content, it’s about volume and flows, and who pays for the infrastructure build necessary to handle them. What amounts to poaching other people’s resources works well right up until you drive that other party into the wall and force them to spend a crapload of money for which they receive nothing in return. That is, they don’t receive any renumeration for the additional expense – but you do! This is the base problem with all overcommitted services where the business model is predicated on fractional use of maximum possible resource consumption. When that model is violated costs go up dramatically. This is ok provided the person who has the cost also gets the revenue that is occasioned by the violation of the original model. But in the case at hand, Netflix and similar get the revenue, but Comcast gets the cost. –Market Ticker

There are two ways to handle the problem. The first is to allow the service provider to charge more for the content provider to connect, so the cost is thrown back to the consumer in higher costs to download the content. The second is for the service provider to charge those who use more bandwidth for their usage directly. The Internet is structured the first way today, but there are many who want the structure to change to the second.

There is another twist to throw in here, of course. Should the local service provider be allowed to prefer services they’re making money off of over services provided by someone else? In other words, suppose there are two broadcasts of a local football game, one made by the local provider, the second by an outside company. Should the local provider company be allowed to treat their broadcast of the game on their network differently than they treat the outsider’s broadcast?

If you put these two problems together, you have the entire net neutrality debate in a nutshell. Right now it looks like the direction the FCC is going is to allow content providers to charge customers directly based on usage, but not treat anyone’s traffic any differently on their network.

The top U.S. telecommunications regulator on Wednesday endorsed the idea that broadband providers could charge extra for providing heavy Internet users with lots of online video or data-heavy services such as videogames. Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, backed “usage-based pricing” while outlining proposed rules that would bar Internet providers from deliberately tampering or slowing legal Web traffic. –WSJ

Whether this is the “right” outcome is still open to debate. It seems, to me, that users should pay for their bandwidth directly, rather than by proxy through the cost of content. It also seems, to me, that the cost of high bandwidth usage should be applied to those who use it, rather than spread across all users. If I pay for one delivery service for telephone, and another for Internet access, and another for television, then I’m paying for those who use high amounts of bandwidth without reaping any benefit.

Competition will truly be fostered when the true cost of the service is given to the consumer. On the other hand, is there anything the government has touched where the regulation hasn’t turned into another reason to limit free speech and favor rent seeking large companies? This is a difficult web to untangle, indeed.

21May

Is Internet Censorship Coming?

I remember a seeing  a film in school a long, long time ago about government regulation. In the film—obviously fictional—someone decides people are cutting down too many trees, so they decide there needs to be a regulation on how many trees any given forester can cut down in one day, in one month, and in one year. As soon as this regulation is in place, the department in charge of counting trees determines the best way to measure the number of trees taken from the forest is to monitor all the exits to the forest, and count the trees taken out by each person.

Soon enough, the inspectors complain about the quality of the roads they work on, so the department takes to setting regulations for the roads into and out of the forest. Since all the roads lead to the forest in one way or another, they eventually claim control of all the roads. And then, one year, the river is really low, making it hard to count the logs being floated out of the forest. Here again, the department starts setting regulations on how much water anyone can take out of the river, in order to make certain the river never gets too low in the future.

I don’t know if the film was designed to be serious, or a form of “look how these people make government look ridiculous” indoctrination, but either way it shows just how governments tend to work. A slowly increasing scope of power, each step apparently reasonable in its own time. The end result, however, is always far from reasonable.

It appears the US Government is going starting down the path of regulating the Internet at large, primarily the information being placed on the Internet. When the new rules on ‘net neutrality first came out, I didn’t think much of them. In general, these new rules simply say that the wires, the physical circuits, owned by any given service provider, would be regulated so that everyone, and every service, has equal access. Benign, right?

But then I read this little gem.

What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. … At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control. –Socialist Project

Okay, so the major media is leftist, so what’s wrong with “divesting” the major players in the Internet space, and forcing them to turn the network infrastructure over to a “public utility?” Well, let me ask this: Why isn’t the left concerned about the New York Times, for instance, or ABC? Maybe because the only place they want more control is where they can’t currently control the message.

Are U.S. citizens aware of the extent to which the U.S. state has always played a direct and indirect role in facilitating and legitimizing the corporate media system? … They certainly would be if they were forced to read everything I’ve written. –Socialist Project

Isn’t that sweet? But isn’t this just some left wing nut spouting off? Who in the government really wants to control what people read?

The “˜24/7 media environment,’ he told the students, “˜bombards us with all kinds of comments and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter.’

Obviously if the problem is too much media, and too much of it untruthful, the right solution is to get the government to control what’s said to ensure it’s “true.” And who was this? Only Mr. Obama. I’m certain you know who he is. Or what about this?

Oh, only one of Mr. Obama’s “Czars.” And then there’s Mr. Obama’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has expended a great deal of intellectual energy searching for a rationalization that would preserve freedom of speech for viewpoints she likes while imposing government controls on speech she does not like. –Patriot Post

Be careful with “simple” government regulations. They can always grow into something else—and when those words, “this is the first step” are used, you can be assured they will grow into something else. In this case, a number of signs are all pointing in the same direction at the same time—I think this is something to be concerned about. Is censorship on the Internet coming in the name of “fairness?” It’s starting to look like it.

22Oct

On Net Neutrality

you might not have heard of ‘net neturtality.’ The idea is to change the fundamental way the Internet works to ensure free and equal access. Let’s start with this: I don’t really think many people understand how the Internet really works (in fact, I doubt anyone really understands how the Internet really works, beyond a broad theoretical level, even the architects at large Internet Service Providers—there are too many details for one human mind to grasp). And when I see a complex system that no-one truly understands being pushed into trying to solve one problem, without any regard for the unintended consequences, I get worried. Technical elegance requires considering all the side effects, or ensuring there are none (within human reason). Good network engineers aren’t often caught with their pants down in regards to unintended consequences (in fact, you could define a good network designer in just those terms—someone who never gets caught by unintended consequences).

Net Neutrality doesn’t pass my technical elegance smell test (speaking as an engineer who works on large scale networks on a regular basis).

The FCC has a web site up people can use to give their comments on net neutrality. They are, apparently, in the process of making rules about it. You can go there and comment, if you like. This is what I posted:

Net neutrality appears to have started out as a good thing”“the ability for anyone to attach to the Internet at a reasonable cost. The general idea appeared to be to prevent Google or Yahoo, for instance, from making the Internet into a “walled garden,” by getting service providers to charge them less than they charge other people to transit traffic of certain types. It started as an effort to prevent the service providers from killing off services that compete with theirs through quality of service games (think of a local cable company killing all voice traffic on their network, for instance).

It has, however, morphed into yet another attempt by the Government to regulate speech. It has moved from regulating the actions of service providers vis-a-vis their customers, to regulating the content of speech on the Internet, in general. It has gone from preventing service providers from squelching the next big thing at the behest of their top 20% of customers to controlling the content of blogs, in the name of making the flow of information on the Internet “fair.”

I don’t suppose we should have expected anything different, once the large companies like Google jumped on board with net neutrality. They were bound to change the meaning behind the term so they get what they want out of it”“to stop the game of musical chairs now that they’re in the “top seats.” Accordingly, my support for net neutrality has gone from yes to no. I would support not allowing Google to control other’s access to my blog through preferential pricing. I do not support allowing Google to control the flow of information on the Internet at the behest of the government.

No to net neutrality. What we have is better than what’s being proposed, even if what we have isn’t perfect.

Here is a clip from the Glen Beck show about the subject.

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