Monday, January 22, 2007

Net Neutrality Redux

Legislation is starting again. The context at the start of this article is truly interesting.
The current Internet supports many popular and valuable services. But experts agree that an updated Internet could offer a wide range of new and improved services, including better security against viruses, worms, denial-of-service attacks and zombie computers; services that require high levels of reliability, such as medical monitoring; and those that cannot tolerate network delays, such as voice and streaming video. To provide these services, both the architecture of the Internet and the business models through which services are delivered will probably have to change.
I love the contention that the service providers would in reality take on any of these protections. They have an interest to stop bad acting systems and DoS attacks, because they cut into their bottom dollar. As for the real time monitoring, let's be realistic. Medical monitoring will never be a concern of the service providers, because frankly, they'll never accept the liability that would go with it. Streaming video and Voice are both things that they want because they can make more money on the services with limited liability.
Network neutrality is supposed to promote continuing Internet innovation by restricting the ability of network owners to give certain traffic priority based on the content or application being carried or on the sender's willingness to pay. The problem is that these restrictions would prohibit practices that could increase the value of the Internet for customers.

Traffic management is a prime example. When traffic surges beyond the ability of the network to carry it, something is going to be delayed. When choosing what gets delayed, it makes sense to allow a network to favor traffic from, say, a patient's heart monitor over traffic delivering a music download. It also makes sense to allow network operators to restrict traffic that is downright harmful, such as viruses, worms and spam.

Right. And the network provider is going to assume the liability associated with deciding what service deserves what bandwidth? Not likely. They'll be deciding based on who ponies up the most cash. Network operators already have the right to restrict, nay stop, harmful traffic types. It's disingenuous to try and posture that as a drawback on net neutrality. By stopping problem traffic, they assure better quality of service to those that are paying.
Pricing raises similar issues. To date, Internet pricing has been relatively simple. Based on experience in similar markets, we expect that, if left alone, pricing and service models will probably evolve. For example, new services with guaranteed delivery quality might emerge to support applications such as medical monitoring that require higher levels of reliability than the current Internet can guarantee. Suppliers could be expected to charge higher prices for these premium services.

Blocking premium pricing in the name of neutrality might have the unintended effect of blocking the premium services from which customers would benefit. No one would propose that the U.S. Postal Service be prohibited from offering Express Mail because a "fast lane" mail service is "undemocratic." Yet some current proposals would do exactly this for Internet services.

This shows an extreme lack of understanding of how the internet actually works. Their post office analogy is completely false. In fact, most Internet traffic that passes over long distances has to pass through multiple service providers. By their post office analogy, it would be like demanding that the USPS pass priority mail to UPS for handling and demanding that they do so with no additional costs. In fact the USPS charges you for priority mail just as the service provider charges you for bandwidth. Priority mail costs more because you are using more bandwidth.

That isn't what net neutrality is trying to restrain. Large use services, such as google, would be held to providing payment to every service provider, for access to the core network, irrespective of the source of the network traffic. The reason this doesn't work now is because the network providers refuse to give priority access to traffic from other service providers over their own local traffic. There is a method called QoS for marking high priority traffic, they just choose not to control the traffic that is marked for high priority. And even with allowances for the "new Internet" there isn't any assurance that they would do this either.

The present payment scheme for the Internet is based on a bandwidth scheme. The change would allow services providers to charge everyone multiple times for access through their section of the core. So google would have to pay a higher price for access because they are popular, rather than paying for a level of bandwidth that their local service provider is paid to provide, and that that local provider pays adjacent providers for access to the core.

The issue with congestion won't be solved by keeping the same sized pipes and giving better access to those that pay the most. It will be solved by building bigger pipes and charging for the increased access. The nay-sayers continue to say that the core providers haven't any reason to increase bandwidth, which is fascinating, since they can most certainly charge more for it. Instead they propose to leave the core bandwidth the same and then charge users more for priority access.

Makes you wonder how many times the advocates of the change believe a core service provider should be allowed to charge for the use of the same bandwidth? Say uses X amount of bandwidth now. With the change allowing to charge for better service, they would have to pay the same amount for the bandwidth and then more based on getting good service during times of contention for core bandwidth. So in reality they don't really get the bandwidth they pay for unless they pay for a quality factor as well.

Wonderful logic that.

1 comment:

BobG said...

"Makes you wonder how many times the advocates of the change believe a core service provider should be allowed to charge for the use of the same bandwidth?"

Maybe they're looking at the government model. How many times can the government tax the dollars that you earn? It is taxed when you earn it, and then it is taxed when you spend it.