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[ NNSquad ] Re: L.A. Times Biz Section/Lazarus: "We can't be neutral on net neutrality"

That's a nicely nuanced position, Vint, and one that I generally agree with. Since it's rather sharply at odds with the approach taken by the Markey bill, it would be helpful for the process if you were to come out publicly in opposition to Markey's overly-restrictive approach.

Vint Cerf wrote:
I prefer to emphasize the need for non-discriminatory service, providing access to internet services on equal terms for all application providers and especially consumers. Does this mean that the access provider cannot charge more for larger capacity? No, I think it is reasonable for a consumer and application provider to pay more for higher capacity (preferably measured in maximum bits/second, not measured in volume of bytes transferred). Access providers who impose limits based on total bytes transferred (e.g. per month) do not really reflect the constraints on their system's capacity. the capacity limit has to do more with the rate of data transfer than with the volume. Bits per second, not bytes per month. If applications require distinct classes of service (e.g. low latency), I think it is quite permissible to offer such services. But, as Lauren argues, I think these options must be equally available to all application service providers and consumers. This does not require that all packets be treated equally. It does require that all users be provided equal access to such preferential services. I agree with Lauren's point that the provider of access services (especially broadband, by whatever definition we end up for "broadband") not discriminate against competing application providers by favoring the access provider's services over those of competitors. In rough terms, this means that the underlying Internet access should be equally accessible among competitors.

The rationale for this treatment is to maintain the open networking effect that allows new application providers to introduce new applications without discrimination, thereby maintaining an ecosystem that is friendly to innovation. I hope you will note that the proposal above does not prohibit access providers from responding to denial of service attacks or managing congestion. I also allows them to offer differentiated services but in such a way that competing application providers are not disadvantaged merely because they are not the providers of access facilities.

A key question is when differentiated access services become discriminatory. If we are unable to define this point clearly, then another option in legislation is to provide for a process in which anti-competitive and discriminatory access practices can be adjudicated. Of particular concern is that users of the Internet have the freedom to choose what application providers they wish to use without discrimination or interference by the access providers.


On Aug 30, 2009, at 3:20 AM, Richard Bennett wrote:

Thanks for proving the point, Lauren. From your LA Times article:

"Network operators want to set priorities for users, rather than letting all data flow freely and equally.

"At the same time, a pay-for-play system would create a tier of "super providers" that enjoy a competitive edge over rivals that lack the resources for speedier service. This also would make it harder for entrepreneurs to even enter the market.

""You're essentially ghettoizing Internet content that cannot pay to play," said Scott at Free Press."

That's the argument for "all packets are equal" in black and white.


[ No Richard, you're misprepresenting the argument.  Nobody of note
  that I know of on the "network neutrality" side of current debates
  is saying that customers should be able to buy OC-192 speeds for
  the same price as a consumer DSL line, nor that time-sensitive
  payloads (like VoiP) shouldn't be able to have appropriate
  priorities over, say, conventional browsing.  But the question is,
  do all comers have access to these facilities at a competitive
  price and on equivalent terms, or do the ISPs favor their own
  content and services and those of their partners?

  The dominant carriers, most of whom now have highly valuable
  content (mostly video) that they want to deliver "out of band" in
  relation to other traffic, are also the ones who are able to
  arbitrarily set the pricing, TOSes, restrictions, and virtually all
  other parameters for access services which allow for competition
  with these ISPs' own content.  Bandwidth caps, which would only
  affect external Internet traffic (including all Internet video
  competitors) but not cable-company provided video fed (via the
  same protocols in most cases) on the companies' own video on
  demand and pay per view systems, are an obvious example of
  the problem.

  In other words, in the absence of reasonable regulation, the major
  ISPs not only may have a direct conflict of interest in terms of
  content, but also control all the balls relating to the ability of
  potential content and service competitors to compete in terms of
  speed and pricing.

  With the appeals court ruling a couple of days ago voiding the FCC
  rule limiting the size of the giant cable companies, this
  situation can only be expected to become far worse in an
  unregulated Internet access ecosystem.

    -- Lauren Weinstein
       NNSquad Moderator ]

- - -

Lauren Weinstein wrote:
"We can't be neutral on net neutrality"

"The snooze-worthy phrase is about something vital to all: whether the
companies that control the pipes through which data flow can dictate
terms to the websites that originate the data ..."

Full Article (8/30/09):

--Lauren-- NNSquad Moderator

-- Richard Bennett Research Fellow Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Washington, DC

-- Richard Bennett Research Fellow Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Washington, DC