AKA: Problems with the Markey Net Neutrality bill, as written...
I lay out some of the problems I have with the Markey Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, HR 3458, which in my opinion is a little too myopic and perhaps suffers from just a little bit too much input from Telco and Cable giants' lobbyists.
Net neutrality is the only way we are going to keep sites like Daily Kos alive and well. Please recommend this diary if you believe that a discussion about real net neutrality is important.
The 800 LB Gorilla in the room is that any internet that has telcos and cable companies utilizing the lion's share of the network for their tv and phone services, is not even close to neutral.
There are a few major problems with this bill. First of all, it still contains language that is much too ISP centric. I'm not talking about the old time ISPs--small mom and pop companies that used to provide internet service. those were all murdered by the anti-fairness collocation section of the 1996 telecommunications act. I'm talking about ISPs such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner, Cox, etc.
This bill assumes an environment where no end user is really on line, but has their connection to the rest of americans "provided" to them by a giant telco. Furthermore it expects to recruit the Telcos and cable monopolies as "net police" who have to assure that we are all "lawfully using" the internet.
Don't even get me started about how this violates due process and privacy rights. it is just bad legislation.
It is as if road paving companies were recruited to "make sure all drivers were obeying the law" in such a way that it would be necessary to stop every single vehicle every few hundred feet to search for contraband. luckily road pavers are not in the business of checking out the trunks of our cars. That should also be the case for any kind of internet service providers or network operators as well.
Worse, we have a situation now, where those road pavers, aka companies that lay cable, have also been granted very special and absolutely NOT neutral privileges, to utilize the networks they have built on public lands, through public rights of way, to provide their own content service, often hogging vast portions of the available bandwidth for their tv, phone, and on-demand movie services.
It is as if the cable companies have been bequeathed public lands to build a superhighway, for themselves, and they have been so generous to give a tiny, leftover portion of the remaining bandwidth to us internet users. so instead of an information superhighway, we have an information dirt sidewalk.
What was the secret sauce that made the internet grow organically, as fast as technological innovations would allow?
For one thing there were collocation rules. If you wanted to be an isp, you could put your equipment in a telco central office and they would not be allowed to charge you more money than they charge their own subsidiaries for bandwidth. Again, that ended in 1996, and really more in the wake of the millennium copyright act, which did even more damage in that department.
Another major factor was the mandatory interconnection rules. Anybody on the internet was required to interconnect with anybody else who wanted to participate in the network. Share, and share alike. That also means that if a packet comes your way, you must pass it on, without looking inside of it, to the next server on the way to that packet's final destination. that's gone in the era of giant monopolist isps who don't want to connect to each other. instead, now, we have what is called tromboning, where for example, to make a local connection to somebody who is on a different service, your signal must travel many miles first, to find a node that finally interconnects the source and destination. that is killing the internet.
One of the most important factors missing from this law and that made the original internet thrive is that we are to have a standards based internet, with standards based devices. When there are standards based devices such as phones, computers, cables, connectors, routers, etc. then anybody anywhere can add to the network's capacity, in any way, such as by adding equipment, cables, routers, software, servers, allowing the internet to grow. In this ISP owned age though, the last 5 miles is no longer adhering to public standards, but instead to proprietary standards such as DOCSIS. the law, being ISP centered, requires isps to allow people to connect any devices they want, but that is not good enough. it should require network operators to follow public protocols, so for example, if i purchase a faster cable modem, and so does a friend in kansas, we will be able to communicate faster, without having to wait 10-20 years for marketing people at monopoly cable companies to decide to allow people to have faster equipment.
Also important is how these standards are devised. the "stakeholders" in this issue should NOT be existing phone and cable companies. they have already proven that what they want and what we need for a neutral internet are two completely different things. left to their own devices, we'd revert back to a communications system from times before Bell Telephone was broken up, or times before the internet was made public, where we would pay for our connection times, for each email, for special services, like movie downloads, phone service, etc.
Instead we should adhere to the successful RFC process and the ones devising the best standards should be scientists, universities, and interested citizens who are striving to advance innovation, network speed, and all the other things that make the internet great.
It is a direct conflict of interest for any company to both be able to lay cable on public lands and through public rights of way, as well as be in any kind of communications or content business.
It should be required for cable and phone companies to divest their cable laying operations, or their phone/tv/content/isp businesses... that way what would remain from such a breakup would be one company, which must follow common carrier laws, who lays cables and many other companies offering content or internet service, which by the way wouldn't be necessary if we had real Ethernet connections into the internet, as an example, going to the home. This way anybody who wanted to be in the tv business would be able to get onto the same network as anybody else, just like we have with websites today. the cable laying company would have absolutely no right to pick favorites, give discounts, or special privileges to any one company over any other.
They would also have the incentive, with all their clients clamoring for improvements, to constantly speed the network up. If they don't then perhaps the government should administer that portion of the internet, just like it does for the federal highway system.
This is a major national security issue. If we have choke points of huge isps/cable layers/phone/tv monopolies then the entire network can easily be compromised in many ways, physically, and politically. Imagine how things would have been for Iranians who wanted to protest if they could only communicate through an easily controlled monopoly internet provider. The power of the internet, originally, is its decentralization. If instead of being hooked up through one provider, we instead were all hooked up to each other, in a fish-net sort of mesh of fiber optic connections, data would find is way from source to destination, and nobody would be able to stop it. That is how it ought to be.
Also, of utmost importance is the sanctity of a packet of information. On the internet, a packets are how data get transferred. everything you send and receive is broken up into small chunks, and then each chunk travels through the network to get to its destination. a packet should be as sacred as a sealed envelope. while in transit, it should be a felony to try to look inside a packet. the way the network is moving towards isp control, they are looking at our packets, and shaping our traffic. something they simply should not be allowed to do at all.
Look at Internet2, which Bush seriously reduced the funding of in 2001. Just like the internet 1 pre-1993, it is hardly more than a laboratory curiosity, available to a few university and government users, yet because there are no huge ISPs to get in the way, the technology for it has been advancing at the normal speed that technology moves forward. they are now upgrading from 10 Gigabits UP/DOWN per user to 100 Gigabits. at 100 Gigabits, that is 1000 times faster download, and 6,700 times faster, upload than the fastest $100/month internet service now offered in the USA from cablevision, at 100mbit/15mbit. It is more like 100,000 times faster than the fastest service that Verizon offers, which is only 20mbit/5mbit. (this, in spite of the fact that a verizon tech told the new york times a few months ago that they could change one setting and give each and every user 400mbit up/down service instantly for no extra cost to them whatsoever, but they choose not to at this time....)
So the bottom line, is that this legislation needs help. it needs to be purged of all those ISP-centric clauses that will only serve to trample the constitution and slow down the network, all while keeping people from just connecting to each other at will.
Real Net Neutrality doesn't and shouldn't have anything for ISPs in it, one way or the other.