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Net Neutrality: The Official Telco Talking Points

 
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jbartas
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:31 am    Post subject: Net Neutrality: The Official Telco Talking Points Reply with quote

(This is edited from an article I submitted to Dave Farber's IP list)

It seems to me that the Telcos just got caught trying to pull a fast one, but like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, they're going to try to BS their way through with this. Several articles and op-eds have appeared in the last few days, and it's becoming clear what the official Telco talking points are.,

Don't get me wrong - with the resilient and International nature of the Internet, I suspect what the Telcos are trying to do will have some long-term benefits, such as faster adoption of IPv6 and long-haul wireless technologies. But short term victims will be consumers, and long term the Telcos themselves will suffer.

Here's a summary of the arguments I've heard against network neutrality, with some thoughts on each.

    1) If the Telcos can't charge extra, they won't provide new services.
    2) The Big content providers are getting bandwidth below cost.
    3) Government will ensure fairness during Internet deregulation
    4) It's like Fed-Ex vs. the postal service
    5) But without a fast track, some important transaction might lose out to something frivolous.
    6) The Free Market will make Telcos treat customers fairly.
    7) Deregulation won't kill the Internet


Here's one of the spin jobs in question, written by folks who will say anything they are paid to.

Lets consider these lines at a time:

1) "If the Telcos can't charge extra, they won't provide new services."

Internet innovation has absolutely always come from individuals and small companies. No Telco has ever, ever developed a new Internet technology, and there is no reason to expect them to start now - especially if we let them charge more for what they already do.

If these companies did propose a specific new service then we should consider the merits of allowing a fast track for it, but this is not what they are after. They want carte-Blanche to decide what packets get preferential treatment, so they can charge more for exactly what they do now. Given that the Internet is a public resource, there is no reason they should be granted such absolute power. They didn't build it and they don't own it. They just contracted to move some packets for us.

2) The Big content providers are getting bandwidth below cost.

True, but that's the Telcos own fault. They overbuilt when they thought they would profit from it. When it didn't pan out, a few of the remaining big content providers drove hard bargains, and provided Telcos with revenue. Now Telcos are changing the rules, expecting congress to save them from their own mistakes.

3) "Government will ensure fairness during Internet deregulation"

Stop laughing, they are serious. I guess people have forgotten what a great job government oversight did with S&L deregulation in the 1980s, or the California power grid in the late 90s. This will be worse, for several reasons. First, the average politician has even less knowledge about the Internet than they did about banks and power companies. Second, the Telcos are spending millions lobbying politicians to defeat network neutrality. If they win on this big issue, they will continue this briber.., uh, "lobbying" on all the smaller details. With the historic levels of corruption in Washington today, do you really expect that politicians will uniformly put public good ahead of PAC dollars?

4) "It's like Fed-Ex vs. the postal service"

No, because I have a choice about Fed-Ex vs. the USPS. Whenever I ship something, the other party and I decide who to use. If UPS announces that they will move our competitors packages faster than ours, we are free to take our business elsewhere. But when I point my browser or emailer somewhere, I have no control over what part of the backbone forwards my packets. I might even be willing to pay a premium to get fast Google access, but if any one of the companies which forwards my packets decides to slow-track them, there is not much I can do.

5) "But without a fast track, something important transaction might lose out to something frivolous."

The inane scenario that Ive seen brandished three times now is this "Emergency Medical information might not get through the Internet because men are streaming lingerie shows".

We don't have a fast track now, but has this ever happened? No - the idea is silly. First no sane medic would bet a patient's life on an Internet link, and a fast track won't change that. Obviously a heart monitor needs to be in the same building as the doctor. .

Furthermote, the "frivolous" traffic - streaming audio, video, and games - is exactly what the Telco supporters want to fast track via QoS. Emergency services (medical, police, firefighters) are NOT clamoring for tiered service.

"6) The Free Market will make Telcos treat customers fairly"

In the long term (3-5 years) this may be true, but it's the shorter term that I'm worried about. ISPs and Telcos use a variety of anti-free-market tactics to make sure customers can't freely switch to a competitor. These include years-long contracts, refusing to sub-lease bandwidth or share lines, and in the case of Comcast (an honorary Telco in this issue) local cable monopolies. Further, The Telcos won;t announce to their customers that their service is going get worse - it will happen (and be noticed) gradually. Lastly, most ISP customers have their email addresses on the ISP domain. Have you ever had to change your email address? It;s a royal pain.

Telcos will start making tiered service money the minute they start jiggering packet flow, but the customers realizing this and finding alternatives will take a few years - and at the end of those few years the US Internet infrastructure will be in a shambles. The Telco execs behind this scam will be long gone with their ill-gotten stock option gains. Again, think of the 1980s S&L fiasco.

7) "Deregulation won't kill the Internet"

Probably true, but it could make it slower & costlier - for everyone. Each Telco is just one step in a packet's journey. My packets start on a laptop operating system, travel over a local DSL line to my ISP, who sends them toward their destination in the most expedient way, which may involve Telcos. At the other end packets again pass through ISP, WAN, one last router, and finally the receivers OS.

The vendor/provider of any of these steps could decide to charge big content providers for "fast track" access. What if Microsoft jiggered Winsock to delay non-MSN-bound packets? Or Linksys routers fast-tracked packets from whoever paid them the most? Or Google paid my local ISP or DSL provider to slow down packets from Yahoo? For me to get fast google access, Google and I might end up paying a toll to a dozen or more companies - if we have the option at all.

But this won't kill the net. If I can't get a US-based service to carry all my packets at full speed, maybe I can set up an encrypted pipe or satellite link to a Korean or Taiwanese outfit that will. Of course they might prefer to assign me an IPv6 address (or a couple of hundred Smile, but that's fine if Google, Amazon and EBay support v6. And they will - the big providers would accelerate their plans to move their server farms offshore, which would make supporting IPv6 a no-brainer. Both IPv4 and US based traffic would drop precipitously.

Of course the boost this will give to IPv6 would end IPv4 dominance, one of the major advantages American Telcos, ISPs, and e-commerce has enjoyed over the rest of the world (North America has locked up 85% of all v4 IP addresses); leaving the Telcos in even worse shape than they are now. Remember what happened to Detroit when people started buying Japanese cars? I'd like to see v6 arrive, but not like that.

The Telco executives now lobbying Congress won't care if the US Internet infrastructure is devastated. Fast-track service will yield high short-term profits before their customers revolt and Congress passes a belated neutrality law - plenty of time to sell their stock options and execute their golden parachutes.


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jbartas
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Joined: 06 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2006 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should 'fess up that I just added another Telco talking point to the above:

"The Free Market will make Telcos treat customers fairly. "

I had not heard this one until yesterday, and it richly deserves a rebuttal.


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KimCooper



Joined: 08 Oct 2005
Posts: 247
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2006 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You mean like yours above -- the free market only works if I am free to go elsewhere and "elsewhere" can offer me a different deal? (unlike the oil companies, wherein the "free market" doesn't seem to be working at all. Notice no one mentions that? Why should American oil companies have to charge whatever OPEC charges? If OPEC charges are inflated, why can't we get American oil (or Canadian or South American) for less?) If there aren't two or more truly different choices, there is no free market force to exert on the price or the service.
Free market is largely a myth anyway, and a truly free market ends up being monopolies anyway -- it's a myth that it works for the consumer once the system is mature. Sortof like trickle down economics. Ask the serfs about trickle down. It's demand that causes markets, not supply.
Capitalism American style is suitable only for a growing immature society. It doesn't work in a mature society that has no new frontier left. We need to tranform over to Cooperative Capitalism -- the system for the mature society, wherein the workers own the business, and a non-profit franchise company trains, advertises, and buys for the worker-owned franchises. Spread the wealth around. That increases demand, which increases production....
Actually, I'm just reading a book called The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapialle, and he says, in America, our work is Who We Are, so a sensible system might not work for us. I'll have to think about that....


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