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August 01, 2008

Comments

I have this little fantasy world, in which free "public" internet access is widely available and completely open, thus putting pressure on the private pay providers to truly add value while also maintaining some degree of openness. Think the public school model, but applied to internet.

I also envision unicorns and leprechauns and universal health care and day care, but that's another story...

Publius,

I don't dispute your reading of the FCC's powers, but a few years working at a telco do leave me wondering how you think telcos are supposed to manage an ever-growing streams of traffic. Some sorts of traffic are small (normal webpages) and/or time-critical (Voice calls). Given that bandwidth is a scarce resource, and is becoming increasingly squeezed by a small minority of users throwing ever bigger Peer-to-Peer files at each other (which are massive and typically not time-critical), what exactly is wrong with prioritising the HTML and VoIP traffic that matters to the vast majority of users? Is it really fair to make telcos pay to expand the networks to carry this stuff, when you can be sure that the aforementioned small number of heavy users won't be paying for that? It will be funded either from the ordinary users or the stockholders.

I'll admit that some of the things that have been talked about (deprioritising particular web-pages because they don't pay) are wrong, but from my point of view, rate-shaping P2P is something we do in an honest attempt to benefit the majority of our customers. And I'm fairly sure that a government-owned service would do the same.

John - that's why "neutrality" isn't a very good word that should frankly be cast aside.

No one has any problem with prioritizing VoIP or other time-sensitive applications. also, not all that many people have problems charging for bandwidth consumption (assuming it's transparent).

the fear is more about the way these things get prioritized. for instance, making sure all VoIP goes first - fine. making vonage pay out the arse for that benefit - not fine. same way - generally-applicable bandwidth limits, fine.

i think the real fear -- looking down the road -- is video competition. and bandwidth is an issue to worry about. but, i think the answer to that is to create incentives to improve capacity and to develop end applications that compress. without some sort of nondiscrimination/openness/neutrality requirement, broadband providers don't have all that much incentive to increase capacity AT THE RATE THEY COULD b/c they just charge people higher rates for guaranteed delivery.

i mean, imagine a busy interstate. then imagine we let a private company run it. rather than adding lanes. they proceeded to block off two lanes and only let "gold members" in. for the rest of hte people, the transportation is far more crappy, so crappy that you'll use it less

that's not a perfect analogy, but that's the idea

Is it really fair to make telcos pay to expand the networks to carry this stuff, when you can be sure that the aforementioned small number of heavy users won't be paying for that?

When a bunch of local organizations attempted to create a public a fiber optic network, the local cable and telephone companies (essential monopolies for their respective provisions) told the communities that were contemplating it that they would provide high-speed access to their citizens. Five years later, there are still places in urban Utah where you can't get anything remotely high speed, and the people I talk to want it. The only way I can see these companies following through in their implied commitments is through governmental regulation, indirect or otherwise.

So yes, I don't care that they'll have to invest in the infrastructure to meet this requirement. It's the price they pay for controlling the infrastructure that is essentially a public good, not unlike the airwaves.

Of course, I think they should be more like roads in ownership and maintenance than they are.

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