Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Still More on “Net Neutrality”: The Misunderstanding

I looked up the posts by Michael Mooney “Chicken” | A Game Played as a Child and by some ISPs with the Internet | Beyond Bandwidth<> and Mark Taylor Observations of an Internet Middleman<> on the Level 3 Communications blog “Beyond Bandwidth” that were the basis of the Fierce Telecom article I discussed in my previous post.
These are both very interesting and well written articles that cogently support their issues with the ISPs. HOWEVER, they do not, in any way support the conclusion that ISPs are either “turning down” internet connections or discriminating against any customers. The facts, as documented by Level 3, are very different.
Basically, Level 3’s issue with ISPs is that they have not leaped to double or triple network gateway capacity in order to keep up with increased demand for bandwidth while absorbing all the cost for such upgrading themselves. So, yes, there’s congestion, and yes, the ISPs haven’t agreed to fix it for free. But that’s a far cry from saying that the ISPs are intentionally slowing anything down, and Level 3 doesn’t actually say that in its posts, but rather alleges that ISPs are intentionally foot-dragging with intent to extort revised peering agreements that provide for some payment for service upgrades. (Apparently, most existing peering agreements provide for free mutual interconnection between carriers, and make no provision for sharing costs of adding bandwidth.) Well down in the comments it is admitted that the ISPs adding bandwidth would require more than merely adding an additional Ethernet card or router at these gateway points--.
And, at no point does either writer allege that any ISP is discriminating or has discriminated against any particular customer.
So, the common allegation that the ISPs can, have, or will take affirmative steps to “slow down” the Internet for anyone is not supported, even by these serious critics. Instead, there is a genuine, serious debate in progress as to who should be adding capacity to meet unanticipated demand, how it should be done, and how costs should be distributed. This is how the public discussion should be framed, instead of being obscured by the b.s. arguments, which are, I am afraid, like most politics today, designed to distort issues to suit the speakers’ agendas and to stampede the uniformed.
Cases in point: in the absolutely most childish “protest” I have seen in a long time, the operator of the NeoCities ISP “found the FCC's internal IP address range and throttled all connections to 28.8Kbps speeds” (as reported in Daily Kos). Kyle Drake wrote "Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's internet slow and expensive forever' lobby." Exactly whom does this inconvenience? No one except Mr. Drake’s own customers, who might legitimately want to contact the FCC and weigh in on the issue--.
And, Professor Tim Wu, in his New Yorker Magazine blog, continues his disinformation campaign. On May 9th, he wrote “The problem is that the words “commercially reasonable,” on their face, imply slow-lane and fast-lane deals, whereby carriers like AT&T and Comcast would favor the strong and hurt the weak, while enriching themselves in the process. They could charge some companies extra for their content to reach you; everyone else’s content would then slow down.”
People, IT’S NOT A ZERO-SUM GAME! This is something that, in my opinion, Professor Wu should well understand. See the blog posts by Level 3, above, re adding capacity. The fact is that, given fiber-optic cabling, the upper limit on potential bandwidth for Internet infrastructure is incalculable, assuming there’s will and wealth to install it. In the recent past, FCC telephone service rules regarding “dark fiber” and “excess capacity” actively discouraged building out more fiber than was actually needed, so there is some catching up to do, but it is to be hoped that those days are coming to an end.

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