An Indiscriminate Internet?

Most of those supporting NN either purposely inflame or have been inflamed by the liberal use of the very perjorative words "discrimination" and "non-discrimination requirements" in the NN debate. Clearly in a human context, "discrimination" against people on the basis of things out of their control is wrong, deplorable and will never be defended here.    
However, in an economic-regulation and network-design context, the term non-discrimination applied to a competitive marketplace is a misnomer. Promoting non-discrimination in a competitive market is essentially promoting an indiscriminate Internet. 

Washington Decorum: Note to Google co-founder Sergey Brin:

Billionaire-ness aside, Senators and Representatives generally view the informality of wearing jeans and tennis shoes on a lobbying visit to the Nation’s Capitol as disrespectful to both the institution, the process, and to them. Dressing like you don’t care what others think -- communicates that exact point.

Even billionaire wannabe, Anna Nicole Smith had the good sense to dress formally and respectfully when she visited Washington recently for her Supreme Court appearance on the legality of her potential inheritance.

The practical limits of e-politics

The net neutrality crowd apparently has fallen into the common trap of “bubble thinking” that because everyone they talk to supports NN, everyone must surely see it that way. While blogging maybe the future, Washington and Congress have never been early adopters. Congress still communicates largely the old-fashioned way: in person, in meetings, over the phone, through hearings and briefings by experts and professionals, at special events or town meetings, and through personal letters and personalized emails.

Last Thursday, the House voted 269-152 against NN; in other words after getting deluged with NN emails, 64% of the people’s representatives voted against NN. How could that be? Well, a must-read Washington Post article from today has exposed some of the practical limits of e-politics.

  • Jeffery Birnbaum, in his K Street Confidential column, explains that Congress believes it is effectively being spammed by groups pushing a variety of agendas.
  • In response, Congress is erecting elaborate technical hoops to try and thwart what I call the political spammers from overwhelming their small constituent support staffs. Surprise. Surprise. Congress doesn’t like political spam any more than the average person likes spam or junk mail.

Horrors! How could anyone consider mass political emails…spam? Isn’t that the essence of e-democracy!  Where any online citizen can write their Representative and Senators, (and everyone else’s too) many times a day? And isn’t it particularly persuasive if lots and lots of different people and computer email programs all deluge Congress at once on the same topic? That will surely convince them!

Congress couldn’t have caught on yet that all those emails are free? Or could they have?

Chairman Stevens Holds Strong

I am heartened that Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens’ newest draft of the communications bill did not change on Net Neutrality. That means the Chairman’s draft bill has very good language on net neutrality, i.e. that the FCC should study it to see if there are any real problems and report back to the Senate.

This current Senate language is even better than the acceptable House language passed last week. My real preference would be for no legislative reference to NN at all, since it is potentially the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.”

Network Neutrality? Welcome to the stupid Internet

There is a must read op-ed in today’s San Jose Mercury News by Tom Giovanetti. The article, Network Neutrality? Welcome to the stupid Internet does a very good job explaining why net neutrality regulation is obsolete and is an attempt by companies like Google to limit competition.

“What's really going on is that major content companies like Google, Yahoo, eBay and want to use the strong arm of government to lock in the certainty of their existing business models. And they've enlisted an army of anti-corporate activists to stir up a frenzy in the name of ``saving the Internet.''

The Wisdom of American Democracy

We applaud the House's wise and convincing rejection of the Markey net neutrality amendment 269-152. It was also very heartening that a majority of Democrats joined almost all Republicans in voting for the final Barton net neutrality language in the COPE Act (321-102) that wisely prevents the FCC from regulating the Internet.
We have no illusions that this convincing defeat in the most representative body of Congress will slow net neutrality proponents quest to create a Big Government "Socialized-Internet." Fortunately net neutrality proponents can no longer claim that their position is the politically popular one. The House saw through the net neutrality fear-mongering and stayed the course on promoting competition and reducing regulation.

Increasing competition and innovation online make Network Neutrality regulation obsolete

Early on in Internet history, when there was little competition and technological innovation, network neutrality was a necessary regulation against monopolies.

However, in 1993, Congress passed a law that network neutrality was unnecessary for competitive wireless.

Then, the 1996, the Telecom Act promoted competition and de-regulation, setting up the phase-out of net neutrality regulations and real competition emerged. That’s why net neutrality was never imposed on cable modems and why the FCC decided August 2005 to phase out net neutrality for DSL.

Regulating Net Neutrality Would Destroy the Internet’s Essence: A Mutual Self-Interest to Cooperate

Net neutrality proponents don’t realize that forcing a non-consensus design principle on all the private networks that comprise the Internet could rip apart the consensus-of-self-interest and cooperation that keeps the Internet universally-accepted today.

Net neutrality could “kill the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg.”

Government coercion did not make the Internet what it is today. Free and open mutual-self-interest and industry cooperation created today’s Internet. The proposed network neutrality regulation would endanger this successful system.

Net neutrality: shaking the election-year money tree

It's becoming increasingly obvious that the net neutrality movement is not about policy substance, reality, or building a political consensus, but simply election-year opportunism.

The net neutrality fear-mongering and woeful lack of policy substance belie that the soul of the net neutrality movement is really about generating on-line political donations for the mid-term elections and the 2008 presidential election.
What better way is there to cheaply agitate potential online donors than sending them lots of free scary emails that the Internet is about to be ruined and that there are greedy lobbyists in Washington that want to make the Internet only for the rich.

Net Neutrality is not a universal operating “principle" of the Internet today

Unlike the universally-accepted consensus standards discussed in my earlier blog post Myth: The Internet Is Public Property, it is obvious from the extreme controversy that net neutrality is neither a universally-accepted nor consensus Internet practice.

For example, the ~20 million American cable broadband users have never had network neutrality; and ~200 million American cell phone users also have managed just fine without network neutrality.

Far from a consensus “principle,” net neutrality is a highly-contentious political clash over network design theory and preference, where “edge” Internet companies like Google, Amazon, and eBay are trying to get the government to permanently impose their end-to end network design on competitive “network” Internet companies.

And if you listen to the FCC Chairman's latest comments on the issue, it appears that he agrees:

"Consumers need to be able to access all the content that’s available over the Internet without being impeded by the access provider. But at the same time, we recognized that the people that are deploying these networks may offer differentiated speeds and differentiated products to the consumer. … And if you offer different tiers of speeds, a consumer chooses the lowest tier, and he wants to access content that would require higher speeds than he has purchased, he’s not being blocked from access. He just hasn’t purchased the speed that’s necessary."