Net Neutrality bill introduced

From today’s Benton Communications-related Headlines:

[SOURCE: Multichannel News, AUTHOR: Ted Hearn]
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would ban cable operators, phone companies and other providers of broadband Internet access from engaging in discriminatory management of their networks to the commercial disadvantage of Web-based providers of content and applications. The Dorgan-Snowe bill resumes the so-called network-neutrality debate after major telecommunications legislation collapsed in the Senate last year over whether it was necessary to protect Internet giants like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and eBay and their customers from potentially discriminatory conduct, such as the intentional blocking or slowdown of unaffiliated services that hadn’t paid to use additional network capacity. Such discrimination would “fundamentally change the way the Internet has operated and threatens to derail the democratic nature of the Internet,” Sen Dorgan said in a prepared statement with Sen Snowe. Sens Dorgan and Snowe said the bill would require broadband providers to “operate the network in a nondiscriminatory manner, but [they] would remain free to manage the network to protect the security of the network or to offer different levels of broadband connection to users.” In another provision, the bill would mandate that consumers have the right to purchase a “stand-alone broadband connection that is not bundled with cable, phone or voice-over-Internet-protocol service.” In addition to Dorgan and Snowe, co-sponsors include Sens John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Barack Obama (D-IL). (Story here. / Read the bill.)

At a glance this looks like a solid idea, but I find myself wondering on a couple fronts. First off, ever since the Telecom Act of 1996 was introduced, telecom has been one of the very issues on which the GOP has sided with the angels (while the Dems were siding mostly with their old-boy network buddies at AT&T). So I find myself being inherently suspicious of this crew (Snowe is Republican but the rest of the sponsors are Democrats). (AT&T EVP of Federal Relations Tim McKone squealed like a stuck pig at the idea, so that’s a positive sign.)

Second, I keep thinking back to how the telecoms have worked to derail municipal broadband initiatives (I think the one that initially caught my attention involved Verizon and Philadelphia, but at the moment I’m too damned lazy to hunt up a link; also, I’m betting that boztopia has a couple memorized). Which has me wondering if we aren’t, in true American fashion, asking all the wrong questions on the issue. Is “net neutrality,” as currently framed, merely a way of deciding how we’ll let the telecom monsters rape us instead of acting in a way that truly benefits the citizenry? (And for those of you haven’t seen the word “citizen” and its derivations before, it’s kind of like “consumer,” only without the money part.)

Somebody, please, enlighten me.



9 thoughts on “Net Neutrality bill introduced

  1. Have you noticed that since Judge Greene broke up Ma Bell in 1982, that it has been slowly reassembling itself. The only difference, is that all of the end user stuff isn’t made in the USA by Western Electric, but is cheaply made in China. I think in a few more years, Ma Bell will be back in full force, with their monoply intact. I have more to fear from that, than anything else. I also worry that this new monoply will be unregulated, despite who’s in power.

  2. The basic idea behind Net Neutrality is this:
    You are a telecommunications company. You are in the business of providing wires, sending signals over those wires, and billing for the use based on distance transmitted, number of wires used, and other criteria based on transmission.
    You are not in the business of charging someone more for making calls to Sears than making calls to Grandma, or for charging someone more for holding a conversation in Korean than a conversation in English.
    In other words: telecom companies charge for the use of the equipment, not for what you’re transmitting.
    The problem, as I see it, is the cable companies. They’re used to the idea of charging for “premium” channels. But the idea breaks down when you look more closely: they’re not charging you more based on the content of the signal. You actually get the whole signal. You just can’t decrypt it. But cable really isn’t really a telecommunications technology. Cable is a broadcast medium. It’s radio-over-wire, effectively. They’re not transmitting data, not even cable-modems.
    Cable modems are receiver-broadcasters. They receive data from you, then broadcast the response — the response to your data, for you — to everyone.
    There’s a reason why Net Neutrality is so important, Sammy. The
    IP-protocol is content-blind. It’s a data transmission format.
    It doesn’t care what the data is, by design. That’s
    one of it’s strengths. That’s why, “The Internet,” has been so
    successful: the equipment does not care what kind of data it’s sending, only where it’s going.
    Try to eliminate Net Neutrality, and you have to change the entire IP-stack. All of that equipment, too. And, making those sorts of changes will weaken security of the IP-protocol. Eliminate Net Neutrality, and you break The Internet.
    Let me repeat that:
    Eliminate Net Neutrality, and you break The Internet, at its fundamental level.

  3. Hey, I’m not lobbying to eliminate NN. I’m wondering if the issue is even bigger, and framed incorrectly. I guess I’m asking if NN is a subset of the problem.

  4. Here, we have a choice of cable or regualr phone line. I got rid of my regular phone line and use cable and Vonage. I save a little money, but not much. I like the idea of long distance being basically free. When I was a kid in the 60’s, long distance really cost a lot of money, like $0.45/minute interstate, and higher intrastate rates. That’s when a good wage was $150/week before taxes.

  5. A bit more on Net Neutrality, inspired by an article I was reading in one of the Comp-Sci journals this evening:
    The argument made by the Telco & Cable companies is that Yahoo, Google, Amazon, et. al. are using their (the Telco/Cable) lines “for free.”
    Let’s look at that, shall we?
    Last I knew, when you wanted Internet-access, you paid an ISP of some sort for it. If you were a larger entity (like a corporation), then you pay the ISP for larger lines. If you need more bandwidth than the pipe you bought … then you can’t send the excess data. Gotta buy more bandwidth, possibly even paying the Telco to lay more lines for you.
    So, it sounds to me like Google, eBay, Amazon, and everyone else is paying for using the pipes. Unless, of course, AT&T, Cablevision, Verison, et. al. want to randomly restrict bandwidth of companies when said companies start making more money from their internet access, until said companies pay the Telcos more. But, last I heard, that’s called “extortion”.
    Now, for your readers, there’s another issue involved in Net Neutrality, and it has to do with how networking itself functions. Bear with me.
    When you browse the web, send an email, or do anything else involving networking, your application takes your data, wraps it in a little electronic-shipping-box, sticks on a label, and sends it to the Operating System. The OS puts this into another electronic-shipping-box, the kind used by the Internet, sticks address labels on it, and hands it to the network card. The network card (wait for it) puts this into its own kinda box, with its own kinda label, then turns the whole thing into an electronic signal that it transmits over the wire.
    When another network card gets that signal, it turns it back into that data-shipping-box (beam me up, Scotty!), and looks at the address label. if it’s not addressed to that card, the hardware ignores it.
    If it is, it opens the box, and hands the contents to the Internet-handling-parts of the hardware (which could be another PC in your house, or equipment in your ISP’s network). That Inernet-layer looks at the address label on its special-kinda-box, and looks up where it should send it next. It goes back to the network card, which puts things into a new network-layer-box, slaps on a new label, and beams the whole thing over the wire.
    Lather. Rinse. Repeat. When the e-box gets to its final destination, only then does it get fully unwrapped … by the application it’s being sent to.
    Note that, at no time, does any of the hardware open up all of the nested boxes and look at what’s inside. They only open what’s addressed to them and leave the insides alone. Same for all of the “layers” inside each piece of hardware. You only open what’s addressed to you, so you can figure out what to do with what’s inside.
    That’s Net Neutrality. The hardware handling your data doesn’t snoop the data.
    To get rid of Net Neutrality, ATT, Verison, et. al. would have to “open the e-packages” they’re sending over their wires.Understand now why I say getting rid of NN would fundamentally break the Internet? Security aside, can you imagine the extra load all of that snooping would put on the infrastructure?!?!

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