Monthly Archives: December 2007

Duopoly Helping Net Neutrality: By Obviously Subverting It

grinch.png With enemies like these…
Until recently, net neutrality was a difficult issue to explain at a dinner party. It was even more of a struggle to get anybody worked up about it. Now, thanks to the major Internet service providers (ISPs) Comcast and Bell-Sympatico, the stakes are crystal clear and the acrid scent of a smoking gun hangs in the room.

How the Grinches Stole ‘Net Neutrality’ Internet service providers play favourites with video, large files and political sites. By Wayne MacPhail, the Tyee, Published: December 27, 2007

…it may seem we don’t even need friends, but we do.

A pretty good pro-net neutrality writeup follows. This is the gist:

Is it in the carriers’ best interest to allow upstart cheap phone companies like Skype or Vonage to suck up bandwidth with its inexpensive and excellent service? Nope, but in a free market and a neutral Internet, upstarts happen. The traditional players just don’t like it much and want the nonsense to stop.
You want upstarts? You want net neutrality.

That plus the duopoly wants to control content: Continue reading

ABC News Covers Net Neutrality

byline_abcnews.gif Well, not really. ABC News marvels that “tech-savvy Americans,” bless their little hearts, can drive news:
Newspapers and magazines won’t be the only media outlets endorsing presidential candidates this election cycle.

Popular tech blog TechCrunch will make its own picks for president, giving its opinionated readership a voice on policy issues close to tech-savvy Americans’ hearts.

Starting today, TechCrunch, which is read by more than 400,000 people monthly according to Nielsen/NetRatings, will allow readers to vote on its site for a Republican and a Democratic presidential candidate based on the candidate’s stance on issues such as net neutrality and ID theft.

Tech Blog to Endorse Presidential Candidates, TechCrunch Gets ’08 Contenders to Come Clean on Net Neutrality, ID Theft (HTML head title: ABC News: Which ’08 Candidate Will Get the Tech Vote?) By ASHLEY PHILLIPS ABC News, Dec. 19, 2007

A circulation of 400,000 puts TechCrunch in the range of big-league newspapers; there are only 27 in the U.S. with larger circulation. And that’s what the story is really about: Continue reading

Censored News 2007

phillips_photo.jpg As usual, net neutrality was the top censored news story of 2007:
Throughout 2005 and 2006, a large underground debate raged regarding the future of the Internet. More recently referred to as “network neutrality,” the issue has become a tug of war with cable companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely ignored in the headlines until 2006.1 And, except for occasional coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television remains hands-off to this day (June 2006).2

Most coverage of the issue framed it as an argument over regulation—but the term “regulation” in this case is somewhat misleading. Groups advocating for “net neutrality” are not promoting regulation of internet content. What they want is a legal mandate forcing cable companies to allow internet service providers (ISPs) free access to their cable lines (called a “common carriage” agreement). This was the model used for dial-up internet, and it is the way content providers want to keep it. They also want to make sure that cable companies cannot screen or interrupt internet content without a court order.

#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media, Top 25 Censored news stories of 2007 Project Censored, The News That Didn’t Make The News Sonoma State University, 2007

This is the first I’ve heard that “Internet service providers” other than cable companies are on the side of consumers. Doubtless AT&T will be gratified to hear that version. Oh, wait: later the same writeup refers to “cable supporters like the AT&T-sponsored Hands Off the Internet website.” Also, what’s this about free access? Continue reading

Users Revolt: Net Neutrality Wins

NodeMagazine.jpg This is the path to net neutrality:
“See-bare-espace… it is everting.”

—Odile Richards, Spook Country by William Gibson, 2007

Long version:
Top Ten Predictions for 2008

1. The Users Revolt. As advertisers focus in on social networking sites, users revolt against this trend, and power shifts in the worlds of Social Networking from owner to user, on issues ranging from Second Life rules and Facebook privacy to Cellphone Billing. Users will gain new leverage.

My Top Ten Predictions for 2008, Mark Anderson, Strategic News Service Blog, 22 December 2007

He picks up on some of many signs of users’ discontent, such as Facebook’s Beacon fiasco: Continue reading

Consolidation Flood: What Will Really Stifle Internet Innovation

monopolist.jpg Advocates of the “exabyte flood” political campaign against net neutrality claim they are for innovation and that the coming flood of Internet usage will stifle innovation unless they get their way.

What will really stifle innovation on the Internet is this:

The Federal Communications Commission, at the urging of Chair Kevin Martin, voted 3-2 on Tuesday to relax longstanding rules that block corporations from owning a broadcast TV station and a newspaper in the same city.

Uproar Over FCC Vote on Media-Ownership Rules, By Frederick Lane, Top Tech News, December 19, 2007 10:14AM

No, not specifically newspaper and television consolidation. Further consolidation of media and information distribution in the hands of a tiny number of companies. This December the FCC lets newspapers and TV stations consolidate. Last December it let SBC buy Bellsouth. Internet access is already in the hands of a tiny number of companies (typically at most two in any given area) that are increasingly moving to control the information they carry on behalf of a small number of companies including themselves and movie and music content producers.

The exaflood politics isn’t really about how much infrastructure the duopoly has to build out. It’s about maintaining the duopoly and extending its control of information, to the duopoly’s short-term profit and the long-term detriment of of us all, including the duopoly.


Exabyte Flood As Politics

465px-Deluge_gustave_dore.jpg Control or profits? Which does Wall Street want?

Slashdot finds a post by Ars Technica spelling out how the Nemertes report saying the Internet may get clogged by increasing usage is just part of a political campaign to use increasing Internet traffic as an excuse to nuke net neutrality. A campaign going on since at least January, when the Discovery Institute’s Brett Swanson posted “The Coming Exaflood” in the Wall Street Journal. Beware the thousand thousand petabyes!

My favorite piece of the campaign is this one:

We should not fear the exaflood, however. It is key to the innovative new services and applications that appear almost daily. Consider the growing number of universities that are making course lectures available online, often in real time. Or telemedicine programs that are transmitting medical images and linking patients with distant specialists for real-time consultations.

Bring On The Exaflood! Broadband Needs a Boost By Bruce Mehlman and Larry Irving Washington Post, Thursday, May 24, 2007; Page A31

No reason to fear the deluge! The telcos will protect you. As long as they don’t have that nasty net neutrality in the way, Continue reading

Packet Privacy and Net Neutrality

privacy_covert-surveillance.jpg Everybody’s familiar with consumer identity privacy, as in protecting passwords and social security numbers and complying with HIPAA, GLBA, SOX, PIPEDA, et al. But what about packet privacy?
Never mind net neutrality, I want my privacy. As in packet privacy. The telcos say they need to sell non-neutral routing of traffic to recover the cost of building broadband networks. Moving from the Internet, where a packet-is-a-packet, to something that looks suspiciously like the 20th century telephone network requires remarrying the content and connectivity that TCP/IP divorced. It requires deep packet inspection. It requires looking at the content of communication.

AT&tT does not plan to roll out two physical pipes to every end point in order to sell Google enhanced access. The new telco plan calls for content-based routing to separate traffic into media and destination specific VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Laws exist to address the substantial privacy threats created by the fact telephone companies know Mr. Smith called Mr. Jones, but the privacy risks associated with “content routing” replacing “end point routing” enter an different realm.

Forget Neutrality — Keep Packets Private, by Daniel Berninger, GigaOm, Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 8:30 PM PT

Despite Berninger’s phrasing, packet privacy isn’t something separate from net neutrality: it’s one of the key features of it. The point is that net neutrality isn’t just about pricing policies or technical means of content routing: it’s about privacy. And privacy is an issue that everybody understands. Stifling, throttling, or disconnecting without announced limits, censoring, wiretapping, and espionage: these are all violations of packet privacy.


Edwards on Net Neutrality

Yes and yes:
U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards is for net neutrality, already sent a letter to the FCC about it, and would only appoint FCC commissioners who support it. He also gets the connection with media consolidation:
“What we have to do is make certain the net does not go the way of broadcast television and commercial radio where only a few corporate voices are heard.”

John Edwards: Net Neutrality, answering, YouTube, Dec 2007

Among other candidates, Barack Obama already answered the question. Hm, looks like Huckabee has, too; more on that in another post.


Copowi: an ISP Based on Net Neutrality

copowi net neutrality guarantee Here’s an ISP that centers around net neutrality:
Within and subject to the constraints of the law and our Terms of Service, we guarantee:
  • We will not block, degrade or modify data users send or receive over the Internet.
  • We will not discriminate between network traffic on the basis of who it came from or where it is going to for some commercial advantage.
  • Where possible we will only deal with wholesale service providers who support keeping the Internet open and fair, in the same way., accessed 11 Dec 2007

That third point is a bit difficult to implement, given that Copowi provides its DSL as a reseller for AT&T, Quest, and Verizon, but at least their heart’s in the right place: they’re for equal access, innovation, participation, and lower cost.

Now if they can also deliver reliable and inexpensive service with good marketing….


Moderate? Comcast Stifling Isn’t

MagrittePipe.jpg Promising unlimited access, not delivering, and refusing to admit it is managing a network for the good of the many above the activities of the few? Pete Abel thinks so:
Earlier this month, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable broadband company — was caught doing what any good Internet Service Provider (ISP) should do, i.e., manage its network to ensure that the online activities of the few don’t interfere with the online activities of the many,

Fair vs. Foul in Net Neutrality Debate, By Pete Abel, The Moderate Voice, 24 November 2007

The problem with Comcast stifling BitTorrent by faking reset packets from a participant is not that Comcast is trying to manage its network: it’s that Comcast used a technique that if it came from anyone other than an ISP would be considered malicious denial of service, that Comcast still hasn’t admitted doing it, and that Comcast bypassed numerous other methods of legitimate network management, such as those used by PlusNet. Comcast could even use the Australian model and sell access plans that state usage limits and throttle or charge or both for usage above those limits. What Comcast is doing it seems to me is much closer to the false advertising of unlimited access that got Verizon slapped down for wrongful account termination.

The biggest problem with what Comcast (and Cox, and AT&T, and Verizon) are doing is that their typical customer has at most one or two choices, which in practice means that if your local cable company and your local telephone company choose to stifle, throttle, block, or terminate, you have no recourse, because there’s nowhere to go. Competition would fix that.

Abel tries to back up his peculiar interpretation of network management with revisionist history: Continue reading