RIP net neutrality (and molesting minds)

Friday already? Here's this week's last IT Blogwatch, in which the net neutrality amendment dies. Rest in peace; we hardly knew ye. Not to mention a mind game for the office...

One mans victory is another mans loss. As reported by Eric Bangeman: "A US House of Representatives handed AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest a victory in ... their fight for a tiered Internet. The Energy and Commerce subcommittee shot down an amendment to ... a bill that would amend current telecommunications laws to account for certain technological advances ... Such legislation would have prevented telcos and other ISPs from selectively throttling or passing through IP traffic on their networks ... Rep. Markey said that the bill as written would 'fundamentally alter the Internet' and that it would preventing the FCC from translating its policy against Broadband Internet Transmission Services providers hindering 'lawful content' into 'something it could effectively enforce.' ... AT&T was the first of the telecoms to float a tiered Internet trial balloon, when then-SBC CEO Edward Whitacre accused Google and Yahoo of using AT&T's pipes for free and said that there is 'going to have to be some mechanism for these people... to pay for the portion they're using.' ... The bill will also deny states the right to keep towns and cities from deploying their own municipal broadband networks ... Maybe it's time for Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon to build a serious presence on Capitol Hill."

» Caroline Craig's take on this: "a Net neutrality amendment that would have prevented broadband providers from offering higher-speed services to partners or affiliates. (For a dispassionate definition of 'net neutrality,' try wikipedia.) ... the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee voted 27-4 to pass the bill without the amendment, dismissing net neutrality concerns as vague and overblown. The amendment had the support of companies such as, eBay, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, but was opposed by broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast, as well as by conservative think tanks ... Does this spell the beginning of the end for a free Internet and the dawn of an era where users must subscribe to all sites to get acceptable bandwidth? Or are supporters just so many Chicken Littles?" Plenty commented on Caroline's blog including Dave: "Pay for what you use is fair but don't allow favoritism or channeling for someone that pays extra as that allows the companies with the deep pockets to stay on top of the new or little guys that usually have the better ideas."

» Echoing your humble Blogwatcher's views, Techdirt's Mike says the sky's not falling: "Just a week ago, it looked like the telcos were going to get everything they wished for ... On Monday, even former FCC chair Michael Powell told net neutrality supporters to give up on that lost cause, suggesting (bizarrely) that the government couldn't do anything because it's 'broke'. However, it appears that the loud protests, many of which came from big tech companies, have made some politicians realize that there are other corporate donors out there besides the telcos ... Basically, the bill punts the issue to the FCC, but gives them the ability to deal with net neutrality complaints -- even (surprisingly) demanding that they respond to such complaints within 90 days. Another amendment being considered would basically require fairness in any tiers the telcos put together. In other words, if they offer a high speed/high QoS tier for their own voice or video offering, they would have to offer that same tier to other voice and video services ... giving the FCC the power to deal with any violations makes a lot more sense than trying to write all potential issues into the law (which would most likely be disastrous)." Mike also drew some comments like John's: "The idea that government is the source of all things bad and the private industry that is demanding a tiered, toll road on limited bandwidth is somehow the wellspring of innovation hasn't learned from the actual history of the internet. Damn near all of the 'innovation' and certainly all of the basic design was academic and government funded -- part, in fact, of the national defense effort. Had Bell had its way you'd have never been able to attach a modem to 'their' network. The phone companies are by far the most profound enemies of innovation in this realm."

» Michael at Nameless Rantings goes into more detail: "What makes this especially bad is the fact that you have monopolistic interests as an intermediary to information access. A free and democratic society requires open access to information ... but what do all these vague generalities have to do with Net neutrality? In arguing against Net neutrality, the telcos are claiming that their motivations are to prioritize certain services, such as streaming video ... OK, sounds reasonable enough, but what is the problem? And if it is really about providing better service, why are so many tech companies (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, etc.) in favor of Net neutrality? The answer is money ... Obviously, this is a game that only benefits the telcos. It allows them to use monopolies in one market (control of the data transfer lines) to benefit their other services. This is exactly the reason that anti-trust legislation has long been on the books."

» From Slashdot we liked qkslvrwolf's comment: "I agree that the internet shouldn't be regulated, but we have to make sure that something as important to the national economy and structure as the internet has competition. Have you ever seen that stats on how badly access in this country is lagging behind other countries? Its because we've systematically removed competition from fiber lines in the name of providing more competition. The rational from the telcos: we need to be a monopoly in order to compete. I hope most of you notice the irony in that one."

» Self-confessed angry blogger Tim Lee gets the last word: "This is ridiculous. In the first place, the Internet is much bigger than the American broadband market, to say nothing of any one broadband ISP. Even if all of the major American telcos were to simultaneously cut American broadband users off from the Internet (which would obviously never happen), the rest of the world can perfectly well carry on operating the Internet without us, and we could pass network neutrality legislation at that point to force the telcos to re-connect us to the real Internet. In the second place, it's important to keep in mind the kind of network discrimination the telcos are likely to use. They’re not going to block users' access to the Google website unless Google coughs up an access fee. That would be financial suicide. What they're interested in doing is setting aside some of the new capacity they're building to deliver their own services ... Finally, if anything, the apocalyptic scenarios run in the other direction. If Congress does nothing this year, they'll have every opportunity to step in next year, or the year after, to stop any nightmare scenarios that might unfold."

Buffer overflow:

And finally...  Mind molester... looks like a fun office game for a Friday

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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