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Everything you need to know about Net Neutrality

I’m prepping for the net neutrality debate tonight.

Here are three great pieces on the subject:

Ed Felton has a great introductory paper (PDF) which summarizes the technical issues and adopts more of a wait-and-see attitude. Here’s another piece he wrote about discriminatory pricing for bandwidth.
EFF Head Brad Templeton on why legislating architecture is a wrong-headed approach.

Here’s an introductory defense of net neutrality .

Bill Hermann responds to Ed Felton’s paper and talks about how the Snowe-Dorgan proposal would NOT stifle competition. This second link is highly recommended!
Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee expresses support for net neutrality legislation .

Globalcrossing section on net neutrality (more about politics than technology). Another excellent group blog on the subject. See in particular this piece by Adam Thierer on price flexibility vs. price regulation:

This raises the most interesting issue in this entire debate: Why is it that BSPs are not currently attempting to meter broadband usage and price it to account for demand and “excessive” usage by some users? In my opinion, this would be the most efficient and least meddlesome why of dealing with this problem. Per-minute or per-bit pricing schemes could help conserve pipe space, avoid congestion, recover costs and enable BSPs to plow the savings into new capacity / innovation. Despite this, no BSP seems willing to engage in any sort of metering of the pipe. Why is that?

I think there are two reasons that BSPs have so far been unwilling to price discriminate. First, broadband operators are probably concerned that such a move would bring about unwanted regulatory attention. Second, and more importantly, cable and telco firms are keenly aware of the fact that the web-surfing public has come to view “all you can eat” buffet-style, flat-rate pricing as a virtual inalienable right. Internet guru Andrew Odlyzko, has corretly argued that “People react extremely negatively to price discrimination. They also dislike the bother of fine-grained pricing, and are willing to pay extra for simple prices, especially flat-rate ones.” And George Gilder, another famous Net guru, noted in his book Telecosm that, “Everyone wants to charge different customers differentially for different services. Everyone wants guarantees. Everyone wants to escape simple and flat pricing. Forget it.” Gilder bascially argues that simple and flat pricing is almost always preferable from a consumer perspective and, therefore, network providers should avoid more complicated pricing schemes.

Here’s the latest Slashdot discussion on the subject.

Here’s my preliminary thoughts about net neutrality and my culling of Slashdot insights into the subject.
Here’s the primary website that advocates net neutrality legislation. Contains legislative updates and who’s signed on. Craig Newmark summarizes the grassroots opinion:

The telecom execs tell us they can be trusted to play fair and not extend privileges unfairly. These guys forget that they get the use of public resources, like airwaves and public rights-of-way. They’ve built their businesses on our resources and made a lot of money. The telecom and cable guys say: “Don’t worry; trust us.” But have they earned that trust?

Consider: Why do the telecom companies block some high-tech services on reaching our cell phones? Or how about the fake grassroots Web sites the telecom industry has set up to support its cause. These sites send a consistent message, and its not that the sponsors are trustworthy. They’re into “truthiness,” not trust.

Update: Here’s a book indicting the telcos for failing to bring fiber to the last miles of most households. In this nice summary, the author estimates that the typical consumer paid $2000 for fiber optic cables not actually in use. Writes a NYT summary of the book:

The author is Bruce Kushnick, a longtime irritant to the telecommunications industry. His targets are the Baby Bells, which he contends owe every American household about $2,000 because they reneged on their collective promise to deploy ultra-high-speed broadband Internet access via optical fiber to millions of homes.

By now, according to Mr. Kushnick, 86 million homes should be wired at 45 Mbps – at least 15 times as fast as the best commonly available D.S.L. service. The count of homes wired at that speed so far is zero.

The phone companies made this promise as Congress was getting ready to pass the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, he points out. In return, they received benefits – including tax breaks and changes in state laws lifting limits on their profits – amounting to more than $200 billion, Mr. Kushnick writes. But instead of building the infrastructure, they spent money on more immediately profitable services like plain old copper-wire D.S.L. and hoary long-distance networks, according to the 406-page e-book.

“It’s like ordering a Ferrari and getting a bicycle,” Mr. Kushnick writes in his introduction.Meanwhile, countries like South Korea and Japan were building out their infrastructure and making 100 Mbps service their nationalstandard.

And here at home, “this ‘bait and switch’ caused a ripple effect,”writes Steve Stroh, a research analyst, in a blog at bwianews.com.”While one can argue about the dimensions of that ripple effect,” he writes, “some effects are obvious – the cable companies only had tooffer a modest speed increase above D.S.L. to be competitive. It seems reasonable to think that cable-modem speeds would be much higher in trying to compete with fiber, or the prices much lower.”

Here’s the author’s expose of telco bills, which I have to admit are a crock. The bill pretends that most of the extra fees are “taxes” when in fact they are just extra user fees they are allowed to charge.

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