Thursday, March 30, 2006

Barton Shills for the Telcos on Network Neutrality

Texas Republican Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, did his best to stay on the telcos' good side. "Before we get too far down the road, I want to let the market kind of sort itself out, and I'm not convinced that we really have a problem with Net neutrality."

Definition: Network neutrality is the concept that broadband providers should not be able to arbitrarily filter, degrade, or block delivery of packets. The telcos want the ability, say, to charge Google or Yahoo for prioritized delivery of packets. Conversely, content providers want the current state: no blocking, filtering or degrading of packet delivery.

Yes, Joe, we do have a problem. All you need to do is spend five minutes examining the hardware that Cisco and other networking vendors are hawking to the carriers. This equipment is designed to analyze, filter, meter, and/or otherwise meddle with third-party network traffic to financially benefit the carriers.

BellWest Network Neutrality
Another fantastic "deal" from BellWest

In essence, the carriers are itching to erect tollbooths on the Internet. The problem, though, is simple to understand. How can an emerging company -- with little capitalization but great ideas -- ever compete with the big boys? How will the next Skype or Vonage or Digg or Google emerge when the game is now rigged in favor of the behemoths... those content providers who can afford to pay the new tarriffs?

The advertisement at right -- a hypothetical telco ad from the future -- implies what might be in the cards for consumers if network neutrality is killed off. In other words, artificial restrictions (network tollbooths) will likely limit consumer choice.

What the telcos want is bad for everyone... even themselves. They're just too short-sighted to see it. They envision short-term revenue gains, but in reality, they're helping to kill innovation on the Internet: the kind of innovation that keeps America at the top of the Internet pyramid.

Bolting tollgates onto the routers that make up Internet plumbing is not a value-add... it's a value-subtract.

Legislation has to be very simple and explicit - it need only state that IP traffic may not be blocked, delayed, filtered, or impeded based upon protocol, source or destination address, or any other packet-level data item.

Otherwise, the very future of American Internet innovation may hang in the balance.

Interested in helping to preserve a free Internet? Get involved by signing a petition that business and Congressional leaders will see. And get the message out.

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