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Net Neutrality: Culling Wisdom from Geeks.

Here are some comments I am reposting from slashdot. Lots of wisdom here.

It would take about 17 minutes for Google to add a notice to their pages for Verizon users telling them that their ISP is deliberately crippling their connection.And even less time for them to figure out where you are based on your IP address, and show you very targeted ads to help you find a better provider!

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Generally, Google can be said to do great things because they find information that isn’t currently being used and then utilize that information at a huge scale. That produces some amazing results. Everyone wins (except for maybe their competitors).

This is a question of policy, not a technical advancement. Some users are being subsidized by other users. Yes, that’s you with the P2P client. Probably many Slashdotters are being subsidized by other users today, which is probably why the idea isn’t popular here.

However, in terms of efficiency for the industry, it’s a good thing. You want to not force people to pay for what they aren’t themselves using. My parents barely use the Internet at all — why should they be forced to pay for the dozens of gigs a month the kid down the block is pulling down? You want to encourage people not to waste bandwidth — this will help promote network-friendly software and behavior.

Plus, if the tiers get fine-grained enough, they’d be great for techies. Right now, there is a very, very rough-grained tiering currently happening at most ISPs. You have “business class” and “home class”. Unfortunately, most techies wind up uncomfortably best fit by “business class” service. They’d like to have multiple static IP addresses, they don’t want any ports to be blocked in or out, they don’t really give a damn about the ISP’s webmail, and so forth. They don’t need technical support, and don’t really want to subsidize the cost of having some minimum-wage worker repeat — for the thousandth time — his troubleshooting flowchart to Joe Sixpack.

The problem is, “business class” service is expensive. Bob Techie isn’t actually much more expensive to service than a typical residential user, but he currently gets lumped in with businesses in terms of what he values.

Second, I’m hoping against hope that maybe some ISPs will start offering QoS as part of their tiered packages. That would be *fantastic*. It’s in everyone’s interest to provide a little extra information that lets routers handle their data more efficiently. If I get, say, 100MB of high-priority data (ToS bit set in the IP header for minimize latency, a la ssh, ftp control, and so forth) a month with my tier, I can get really good performance on the things that I care about — like, say, playing network games with extremely low latency or sshing into another machine. I don’t really care, in comparison, how long it takes my mailserver to shove some mail out. I’m perfectly happy to mark that as “low priority” (or rather, just use software that already does so). P2P software doesn’t need high priority, and is there to soak up any available excess bandwidth, and should definitely be low priority.

**** (a dissenting view)

But you assume there is competition between companies. For example. Where I live I can only get comcast. I can’t even get DSL. And it really looks like the communication companies want to band together and set a pricing scheme.

If you are lucky enough to live in a big enough market you might see some competition. But the majority of us, especially people not living in large markets, aren’t going to see any competition.

Now so that you can moderate me down, I’m going to posit that internet service (the pipe) should really be considered an utility and should highly regulated to provide maximum access at affordable rates to everyone (again, not just people in large markets).

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If spam could be eliminated look at how much bandwidth would be saved. When my ISP (BellSouth) stops all the spam entering their network, then they can talk to me about how they need to prioritize my traffic because of limited capacity.

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There are quite a few people out there – not just representatives of the telecommunications industry – under the impression that “Government Intervention Is Bad”, hence we should all oppose network neutrality legislation. But this bill underscores the fact that government intervention by itself isn’t necessarily bad – it’s how government intervenes that determines whether the right or wrong thing is being done.

So let’s all drop this nonsense about claiming that the government shouldn’t be intervening in how the Internet works, and get back to the core of the matter – which is whether the telecommunications industry should be allowed to leverage its oligopoly position in the broadband ISP market to extract profit from content providers that don’t even connect to them directly, and whether the industry should be allowed to discriminate based on traffic type and content, rather than pricing by bandwidth consumption alone.

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I agree with Robert Nagle. I think this Net Neutrality thing is horribly overblown. It boils down to a silly remark by Whiteacre, a blogosphere gabfest-o-terror, and an attempt by legislators (who don’t understand the net) to milk some publicity by jumping into the fray. Has anyone here read the proposed legislation?

Mike Cane: FIOS is 5Mbps down/2Mbps up. For $80/month? Just a few years ago that same kind of bandwidth would have cost upwards of $3000/month! I think our perceptions are getting kind of skewed when prices ar 37 times lower over just a couple years, and we’re complaining about it!

Free market internet has been very, very, very good to us. It’s way too early to impose regulations that stop companies from trying out new pricing models. Hey, Whiteacre’s idea (if he ever actually chose to implement it, and there is no evidence that’s even in the works) might actually rock. Then again, it might suck (my prediction), and the internet would then do what it does wonderfully: route around the bad part, and put him out of business.

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So with this what’s the difference between the USA and China? We are supposed to have Freedom of Speech, but I guess not.

The difference is that in China, you’ve got the central government blocking/filtering (and arresting/jailing) based on the content of the communication. What you say triggers their actions.

In the case being discussed, the content of your blog (your speech) or the content of some streaming media spooling off of a small company’s server (as opposed to, say, AOL’s or Google’s) have nothing to do with it. Censorship isn’t even part of the discussion. What’s being talked about is who pays for the bandwidth being used. That’s it. Period. If Google wants to make billions of dollars by being the go-to search engine for millions of Verizon’s customers, then Verizon has every reason to place a premium on that gigantic peering arrangement.

If a little mom-and-pop web site starts getting a ton of traffic from a Slashdotting, do you really think that their monthly costs don’t go up? Who should pay for that… the ISP providing their pipe? How are they causing the Slashdotting? But it’s the ISP’s resources that have to suddently carry all of that traffic, and that comes at the expense of other capacity. This isn’t about censorship, it’s about the economic realities of the fact that huge IP pipes aren’t a natural occuring resource – they’re mostly built and run by private companies. You can talk all you want, about anything you want. But why should you be able to dictate to some other ISP how much of your traffic they should have to carry, and at what price?

If you don’t like the price they charge, you change carriers. If you don’t like any of the prices available (meaning, you don’t like the market), then become your own carrier (and see just how willing you are to maintain an artificial pricing scheme when “one way” traffic on certain peering connections account for the vast majority of your day’s work and financial costs).

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I think you left out one big point. Net Neutrality is not about stopping ISP for charging different amount for different levels of bandwidth. It is about stopping the ISP from charging content providers for different kinds of content.

It would be as if the phone company charged you one rate for calls where you discussed your family and a different rate if you discussed computers.

In general it is the difference between telephones (where you pay to be connected to someone else) and cable (where you pay for a kind of content) Net Neutrality would guarantee that the Net stay a communication tool and not just a form of entertainment.

Also it is only in the contexts of common carrier status. If an ISP want to take responsibility for the content that it is delivering then it can not get the government protection of common carrier, and jump into the wild.

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2)companies already pay for ISP’s [Buy Snacky Smores. Snacky Smores are the most nutritious and delicious smore supplement available on the market today. Snacky Smores! This inline advertisement presented to you by AT&T Yahoo DSL] and webhosting; tiered service is not anything new. Anyway, webhosting costs have been decreasing in price. I find it highly unlikely that this downward trend won’t continue across the board. I agree, I doubt anything will come of this whole thing. Companies like Google will have to foot the bill to get their data to us, but I’m sure the entrenched telco monopolies will leave individual websites or smaller sites like Slashdot alone and not interfere with their traffic in any way.

Here are some responses to my longish slashdot response I found insightful:

There is a certain presumption in the notion that people can understand tiered pricing models without professional help. To put in in terms of Dilbert these are “confusopolies” which thrive on confusion and I would not put it beyond companies to willfuly use tiered and other pricing models to confuse people to bilk them of their money.

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so I ended up going with a local company for DSL

The fact that you have that choice is itself a consequence of a legal framework that gives you that choice. Completely unregulated, your phone company would be the only DSL provider, and they’d charge monopoly prices (actually, completely unregulated, you’d be on a 19.2kbps dial-up line, if you’re lucky).

So, legislation like this works, and you have just given another example of that.

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How would that make any difference? At some point, those packets are likely to ride over one of the big telco’s backbones. At that point it will be subject to QOS.

Using the smaller ISP does not avoid the issue…

(a reply to the above comment)

At that point it will be subject to QOS.

I think it’s important to differentiate between protocol based prioritisation and toll based prioritisation.

The ISP I use does traffic prioritisation based on protocol. This is a Good Thing and should be encouraged – it means that RTP traffic, for example, gets higher priority than BitTorrent. This is great since RTP gets pretty unusable more than a few hundred milliseconds of latency jitter, but BitTorrent won’t care. (Yes, I’m aware that many people complain that they want to be able to shift enough BitTorrent traffic over their 15ukp DSL connection to destroy the usability of everyone else’s connections).

On the other hand, I’m paying for the internet connection so prioritising traffic based on whether the remote party are paying protection money to my ISP is a very Bad Thing – I already paid for the connection, the remote party already paid for theirs, why the hell should my ISP be demanding more cash from them and penalising me if they don’t pay?

Of course, protocol based QoS is fraught with problems because you can’t trust the end user to set the ToS flags correctly so you have to identify the protocol by fingerprinting instead. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it’s very worthwhile.

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(Congressman John Boehner on why he opposes Net Neutrality)

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there’s nothing to stop them except that their paying customers will be pissed if they get slow service

Sadly, most people probably wouldn’t even notice. I know for a fact that some major companies are already doing some downthrottling, and apparently not enough people are noticing to even call them on it.

I recently had an experience myself where I canceled my unlimited long-distance service with Bellsouth and the same day they downthrottled my 3 Mbps account to 1.5 Mbps speed (probably a measure aimed at those dumping them for VoIP service, to make VoIP look bad). Being a geek, I noticed right away and called them on it. They explained that they must have “made a mistake” (yeah, a “mistake” that just happened to have occurred on the exact same day I cancelled my long-distance plan with them) and returned me to 3 Mbps with curious ease.

Now, if a big company like Bellsouth has the balls to do something so brazen, it must mean that they KNOW that most of their customers will never notice. And that was MUCH more obvious than site-specific down-throttling.

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If you want choice in broadband, stop supporting “free” city-sponsored wireless deployments. Wireless is our best hope for having more than 1 or 2 last-mile providers. Wireless opens up the last-mile to allow anyone with a tower in your area to provide service instead of having to bury cables to your house first. The cost of entry for a new service provider is much, much less.

When cities deploy free wireless through tax payer dollars, they’ve removed any chance of private service providers being able to turn a profit. How can you compete with something that’s free? So, where we could have had multiple or even many wireless providers, we have one: the city government.

Wireless for last-mile is still an emerging technology and it’s not ready yet, but it’s going to stop dead in its tracks if we keep getting excited every time another city brings the ‘net to the masses. If you leave the opportunity for service providers to make money, we’ll see them driving the technology and the competition. Wireless will evolve into a viable and cheap last mile solution.

Who pays a toll when there’s another road you can take?

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