Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

Net Neutrality or Open Access?

I'm not crazy about the terminology being used in the discussions about Network Neutrality. On the surface, there is something seductively attractive about a concept like Network Neutrality. Of course users should be able to have any application they want ride across an open IP network, without limitations and interference from the carrier.

But I think we need to look at what is meant by that kind of statement. In an ideal world, no one would interfere with anyone else's service; all the bandwidth capacity I ever need would be available whenever I needed it. But I don't believe that is true. I know that my service degrades when my kids get home and start power-gaming or use some bandwidth hogging application.

I have seen our web site slow down when another company hosted with our shared server runs a promotion that drives too much traffic.

Isn't it reasonable to have some shaping of the traffic to match the requirements of the application? Is there really an evil 'bandwidth monopolist' at work if my ISP throttles back traffic destined for file sharing in order to let me access my bank records a little faster - or to allow instant messenger services to be closer to instant messages?

The concept of a truly 'stupid network', where networks are unaware of the application, is an interesting academic theory, but I think it ignors economic realities. It only works if either capacity is unlimited or applications self-adjust to allow priority traffic to pass through.

Capacity can't grow without economic conditions that encourage network development. And communism doesn't work because human nature motivates individuals to try to try to provide advantage to themselves. In other words, people will always try to grab as much as they can for as little as they can - demand approaches infinity when the price approaches zero.

Rather than consider 'stupid networks', I prefer to think of Irrelevant Networks. Applications that can be developed independently of the underlying network facilities. Application developers can develop their own roaming and compensation schemes to address the issue of how they provide universal access to end users.

I am convinced that there are language issues: Network Neutrality versus Open Access. Over-the-top applications versus roaming... I think there is a common ground to be reached, but people have to start talking without the 'manifesto' type language getting in the way.

Comments:
Wow, have you been sold the goods by the Telcos and Cable Industry. The Canadian industry already thwarts peoples use of applications which by and large are modest consumers of bandwidth. I have a VOIP Phone line on a Cable connection I from Rogers. The cable connection is the largest bandwidth Rogers will sell and I pay a premium. Yet despite the fact that I have bought and paid for "extra" bandwidth, I have documented several occassions where Rogers has deliberately throtled my Phone connection, then called me on the same phone to offer me their phone service. This practice should be illegal and clearly the Government needs to regulate the greed of these providers.
 
Ouch; that really made my brain hurt, now what you're saying is all good; or rather it would be if it showed any sign of knowedge of how the internet works; but sadly it lakes some fundementals, such as how I get the feeling you believe things are sent intact over the internet; rather then in packets. Look into your fundementals before you go for the more advanced stuff.
 
Not sure what Paige is trying to say.

If Paige is offering a critique of David's comment, then the more relevant information to provide is that voice is an application that has a very low tolerance for latency. The size of the pipe that David is paying for may not be as relevant as whether there is packet prioritization being offered to the voice packets (like the service offered by Shaw).

I would be very interested in how David has documented Rogers deliberate interference with his phone service. I hope you understand that cable phone service is offered using a separate dedicated channel, not susceptible to interference by other users or applications.
 
According to the band's web site, Pearl Jam's Lollapalooza webcast was censored by sponsor/webcaster AT&T:

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.

During the performance of "Daughter" the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" but were cut from the webcast:

* "George Bush, leave this world alone." (the second time it was sung); and
* "George Bush find yourself another home."

But really, who cares, right? Just a bunch of DFHs whining about the fact that the world is at the mercy of the worst president in American history. Boo hoo!

But yes, there are larger implications. Even for you. Clean-cut American, working-class hero that you are:

AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of "Net Neutrality." Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.

Most telecommunications companies oppose "net neutrality" and argue that the public can trust them not to censor.

That's right. AT&T, like other telcos who say you can "just trust them" not to censor content in the absence of mandatory net neutrality, just did exactly what everyone who's worried about net neutrality always believe they would do.

What'd that take? About ten seconds?

Why don't people just laugh in the faces of industries that claim they can self-regulate?

Do you want Canada to become a country where corporations and certain politicians collude to have dissenting view points shut out? Is that democracy?? Do not be fooled by the 'let the market decide' argument, because when there is only 2 or 3 providers in the market, who have erected barriers to entry so massive that they remain the only ones in the marketplace, then that is not a free market or in the best interest of Canadian citizens. It will create an undemocratic and tiered system, stifle innovation and our voices.
 
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