Saturday, November 05, 2011

Net Neutrality Returns—Let Landrieu know (Updated-again!)

http://www.91mobiles.com/articles/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/network_neutrality.jpgNet Neutrality (remember net neutrality?) has returned and the first shot of the latest battle is about to be fired in the Senate. And it would be nice if at least one of our Senators would stand up for the internet. The only real possibility is, sadly, Mary Landrieu. Right now no one seems to know where she stands. She needs to hear from those that care about the internet. And there is an easy way to do that.

The Situation:
First the good news: The FCC has actually promulgated rules to protect basic net neutrality. (No one is really happy with them, but they are a start.) The Washington Post has a nice, short explanation:
The rules would prevent Internet service providers from blocking Web sites and applications on Internet lines feeding into U.S. homes. Those carriers -- such as Comcast and AT&T -- could not deliberately slow down one Web site over another. The rules frown on the practice of charging Web sites for better or faster delivery, but observers say that practice would not be strictly prohibited.
Wireless networks would not be covered as broadly by the rules. An FCC official said carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel would be prohibited from blocking competing voice and videoconferencing applications. Any other practices would have to be disclosed by the carriers.

Lawsuits are in the air from both sides of the net neutrality debate with the opponents calling the idea regulatory overreach and the proponents saying they are completely inadequate.

But whatever you think of the current rules the latest gambit is dangerous and deserves to be vigorously opposed.

Dangerous Times
The anti net neutrality crowd in Congress (mostly Republicans—this too has gotten caught up in blind ideology regardless of net neutrality having an astonishingly broad backing among conservatives) has decided on a dangerous course. They are working a seldom-used gambit from the Congressional Review Act that allows them to bypass the usual checks and balances of Congress and push a "resolution of disapproval" through. Such a resolution would block even the weak proposed network neutrality rules. The White House has promised to veto any resolution and overriding such a veto in the Senate would be very difficult. But this is only the beginning of this latest round of grandstanding.

Let's let Mary Landrieu know where she needs to stand. You might want to remind her that Louisiana is already pretty disappointed in the sort of "corporations are always right" ideology caused the state to lose an already approved 80 million dollar grant to build a new fiber optic network to serve the state's poorest parishes. She needs to know that she's got support to push back against that sort of nonsense.


The easy way: Save the Internet Petition
Write directly as a constituent: Contact Senator Landrieu
The most effective way: Call Mary's office and talk to a staffer


Update: Broadband Reports shows us exactly what leaving wireless out of net neutrality leads to: an enormous incentive to make sure that your network is not really capable of carrying the traffic you've sold: Verizon has just announced, breathlessly, as if it were a good thing that it will let each user who has already paid for their bandwidth tier to pay for a "Turbo boost" each time the network is too congested to deliver decent service. This is a good thing? To pay them again each time the network fails you? Really?

I'm astonished that it is legal. Why should Verizon ever bother to make their network capable enough to consistently offer the bandwidth that they've sold? They can make lots more by nickel and dimeing everyone whose Skype can't be understood or whose video conference starts to break up. (Of course, they could just pay a lot more for the carrier's specialized version of these products...so either way, they win, you loose.)

If Landrieu and other Senators can be convinced to spike this latest attempt to hand the wrieline internet over to the corporations at least Cox (and Comcast and Time-Warner and other wireline providers) won't be able to do the same.

At least that's not going to happen here in Lafayette—at least not if you're using LUS Fiber. First, I can call the head of the company and talk to him: he's just not going to abuse his customers since they "know where he lives." (And he doesn't live in a gated community!) Second, the fiber network is generously over-provisioned: I've never experienced the sort of regular slowdowns I had with Cox when the kids got off the bus. Come to think of it maybe the second is due to the first? You think?

Update #2: 11/10/11
Mary Landrieu did us proud. You can post a note of thanks at her website.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your right on on internet neutrality. but I would like your take on the new FFC's "connect to Compete" plan. See that cox, at&t and others are part. Can I assume LUS will be one also? Don't really understand how this is funded or if the ISP's are just going to lower cost on their own. Sounds good, but I am wondering if there is some trade off we aren't being told about?

John said...

Anon,

I've looked at, but not closely, the new FCC/cable plan. As I understand it, this is something the major cable networks and the FCC have cooked up between them. It sounds good and should be a good thing for at least a limited number of folks. How large that number is and just how restrictive the terms are I still need to look into. I think it is tied to free lunch standards and the cablecos limit of commitment is 2 years. This sounds just like the plan that Comcast was required to lay out to compensate for a recent acquisition. (The idea was that they were killing some competition for low-priced alternatives by merging.)

I have to think that Comcast has not found it very onerous — maybe even beneficial and the other big cablecos have decided that it will work for them as well. I'd be interested to know the inner story on the cost/benefit analysis these guys have surely done but doubt we'll ever see that.

The big Telecos are not playing--and may not have been invited. So no AT&T. Similarly there's been no talk about the smaller cablecos (of which there are many). I doubt if any of those will participate either. So I doubt if little LUS will participate...it being both small and technologically more similar to AT&T or Verizon. On whether LUS should be doing a digital divide reach out of its own: YES. I'm on the record there. It would be a good thing both for the community and for the utility.

This project can be both a good thing for Cable and a good thing for a limited group of folks at the same time. I hope it works out well....

Speed said...

Is there any reason why consumers, and those representing them, wouldn't want regulation forcing ISPs to treat all traffic as equal? Is there something else in this legislation that caused so many reps to try to overturn it? I could see how most people want less government, especially if there isn't a problem. But ISPs throttling traffic has been in the news a lot the last few years so this practice is a real threat. I feel like I'm missing something here...

John said...

Speed,

This particular danger--foreclosing _all_ regulation--is over. (Thank goodness!) But on the larger question of the version of net neutrality that calls for all traffic to be treated equally there is a reason to oppose it that passes for rational. I'll say upfront that I don't think that reasoning holds long-term water but I'll repeat it.

The idea is that some traffic, mainly voice and video calls require low latency and that network congestion and the resent packages that result make such functions unusable without Quality Of Service (QoS) that prioritizes that traffic. There's a germ of truth in that claim. What, under any circumstances _doesn't_ hold water is the strong urge to use the deep packet inspection tools that would enable such QOS to then set up an elaborate set of charges for everything...gaming, video calling, calling, FTP downloads...anything that could be differentially identified. There is NO rational justification for such BS other than to prop up duopoly profits.

But even in the "best case" for video and audio calling I think it is awful, short-sighted policy for the reasons I gave in my first update above. It encourages those who control the lines to forgo needed upgrades and keep networks always congested in order to keep outdated infrastructure alive and profitable.

And it is NOT necessary. LUS Fiber is perfect "existence proof" of why QoS is not necessary: I use these services with local folks and NEVER have any glitch in service. Overprovisioning bandwidth is the easy and direct way to avoid needing QOS and that is what our locally-owned utility has done.

All national regulation should be set up to encourage the large corporations that are strangling our future to find it in their best interests to develop adequate infrastructure. Extending the life of DSL tech and under provisioned wireless is exactly the wrong policy.

Frankly this has a lot more to do with the political power of the major telco corporations than any rational national technology policy. The telcos are being crushed by a squeeze between the demands of the lending market and the capability of upgraded cable. The have sought government aid in maintaining their competitive position. The amount of money they invest in lobbying and campaign contributions and their deep roots in every level of government is all that sustains them.

They should be pressed by the feds to upgrade or die. Brutal but by far the best technical policy. Any individual users best policy (us) is to promote local alternatives and support politicians that won't be bought. (yea, I know, still....)

Speed said...

John,
Thanks for your explanation and I agree that QoS on internet connections is something that should not be done and could easily be abused. I have the right to implement that on my local network if I'm not paying for enough pipe, but my ISP shouldn't slow me down because it can't handle the capabilities advertised. If you get more customers and can't handle the demand, then use some money to upgrade your network. Sounds simple enough to me! QoS should not be allowed so they can please the ones who complain about their video chat while slowing down my downloads so they can squeeze us all through their limited network.