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  • Sandhill Posts: Internet Freedom (2/11/2006)

18th April 2006

Sandhill Posts: Internet Freedom (2/11/2006)

posted in Best o' Sandhill, Networks |

[Frequently over the next several months I intend to re-post material from prior editions of my web log. I'll select interesting stuff and preserve the comments].

I listened-in on a conference call yesterday (February 10, 2006) featuring a panel that included Lawrence Lessig, Mark Cooper, Jeff Chester, and Ben Scott. Here’s what I came away with:

A battle of Star Wars proportions rages around us and we, the people, the consumers of Internet services at the edges of the net don’t even know it. I’m not sure who plays Yoda, but the four panelists on yesterday’s call are certainly among a ragtag band of Jedi knights who have our best interests in mind. The forces of “the empire” have several faces and a monolithic interest in controlling content. They include both cable and telephone companies, companies like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Bell South, Charter, Verizon, and Qwest. While the giant cable companies and telcos battle each other for the broadband market, we - the consumers - are likely to get trampled.

An alarm must be sounded, a wake-up call to Americans who are in danger of sliding even further into a second class swamp of deteriorating end-to-end service while Europe and Asia using a model of network neutrality provide ever faster on-ramps and cheaper and better transport than we expect.

What would it be like to have a metered Internet, an Internet where every data packet that leaves your house is inspected before it is delivered to the end-point? The capability for metering is in place and the telcos are promoting it as a “Quality of Service” initiative. The argument is seductive. The sequence of packet delivery for audio and video is important. Why not prioritize them on an express track and put all the email spam over on a siding while the media content goes roaring through?

I’m afraid some babies will drown in that particular bath water. If we give the telcos and the cablecos gatekeeper privileges, if we allow packet inspection, then we will see services blocked. Why should SBC allow Skype or Vonage service through its pipes if it can block that service and require you to use the SBC voice services? Content will also be “managed.” If the bandwidth providers can block your access to a website, if they can sideline the delivery of a message from your computer to my computer, then they will be limiting free speech in a terrible way.

Sascha Meinrath asked “What are the critical battles?” and Yoda umm, Lessig said that step one is to fight for Network Neutrality principles. Step two, and also of critical importance, is to influence the government to turn over a meaningfully large chunk of unlicensed broadband radio spectrum for wireless broadband access competition.

The rest of the world is pretty much united in imposing Network Neutrality principles, but in the United States there is a trend toward empowering the owner of the network with control over the content. There is, in other words, no longer a principle of regulating a common carrier.

If you’re still reading, then it’s likely you have more than a vague interest and understanding of all this. In that case, you might find the following post rewarding. In it, I offer you a chance to go to Washington DC and get deeper into just what Freedom to Connect actually means.

February 11, 2006 | Permalink

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>> An Appeal For ‘Network Neutrality’ from Beltway Blogroll
As Congress ponders the future of telecommunications policy, a new line of debate has opened over the concept of “network neutrality,” and advocates of that neutrality are making their case to bloggers. Under a system of net neutrality, dominant cable… [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 13, 2006 11:42:44 AM

Comments

Corporations that form the backbone of the Internet have essentially been reselling what people (and, yes, businesses) provide to them for free. They take free content and put a price on it. Usenet is a good example. People provide pictures of trolleys, lighthouses and tall ships for free, then companies like (I’m afraid to say a name) turn around and not only charge for it but tell you you’re cut off after a couple of gigs of it every month.

This is a barely acceptable situation to me. I have a website and provide free content for the Internet o’seers to resell. If they are allowed to put tollbooths on the Internet and charge for quantity of content or number of clicks, then they should be required to pass along half of the increased revenues to those who provide content like mine. If they know who does the clicking, then they should know whom to pass along some revenue. Not complicated.

And another thing, if this new policy they want of charging for quantity and clicks results in a decrease in traffic to sites that rely on clicks to advertisers, and these sites pull their content because the opportunity cost of providing content (less content, that is, due to people exonomizing on their usage) will suddenly be out of whack versus maybe opening a hot dog stand or standing on a freeway ramp with a sign trolling for spare change, then how is that not restraint of trade? The new plan to charge for quantity and clicks should be considered to be a restraint-of-trade issue.

If quantity or number of clicks becomes an issue, then I plan to pull my content and just use an email account. If I and others do this, then it will ripple across the Internet, the result being that only the big-money sites will thrive and a lot of valuable content will either disappear or be marginalized to the point of struggle. Perhaps that’s the whole idea.

Posted by: I. M. Marginalized | Mar 3, 2006 1:25:12 PM

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