Thursday, April 06, 2006

Network Neutrality: Condition Uh Oh

Last evening, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have regulated network neutrality. However, thanks to some pressure exerted on the GOP members of the subcommittee, new additions to the bill gives the FCC the power to vet complaints of network neutrality within 90 days. The FCC can levy fines of up to $500K per violation. That's a good start.

I'd like a bit more regulation. Put simply, the current state of network neutrality must be maintained - even if the regulation is as simple as stating that carriers, "...shall not filter, impede, block, delay, or otherwise interfere with packets based upon packet-type, -source or -destination..."

The Internet2 backbone proves that, with sufficient bandwidth, best-effort packet delivery is more than sufficient. And one of the inventors of TCP/IP, Bob Kahn, is on record as saying -- essentially -- that if you tier the Internet, well, you don't have the Internet. I think I'd go with Kahn -- rather than pointy-headed bosses at the telcos on this one.

Cisco's Service Exchange Framework (SEF) -- being pitched to the carriers -- is highly ominous in what it proposes.

Bottom line: Google, Skype, Vonage, Digg... all of these businesses (and many more) created value where none existed. They did so by building layers 4-7 applications.

Adding tollbooths and prioritization gates to the Internet subtracts value.

If the telcos can't make their business model work to compete with cable companies: tough s**t. Find a business model -- one that hopefully creates value -- that does work. And stop trying to call off VoIP, peer-to-peer, and other emerging technologies before they even get started. Because that's what this is all about - not "prioritization of video".

Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas, Contact) chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, while Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI, Contact) chairs the Internet Subcommittee. I urge you to call Rep. Barton (202-225-2002) and Rep. Upton (202-225-3761), as I did, and relay the following message:

As a GOP supporter, I want to express my extreme disappointment in your apparent willingness to side with the telcos in the matter of network neutrality. At risk is America's leadership role as the premier source of Internet innovation. Google, eBay, Amazon and others create value, evident through their market capitalization values. Erecting tollbooths on the Internet does the opposite - it subtracts value.

And the telcos -- through their spokespersons and the hardware they plan to purchase -- clearly intend to create artificial tollbooths that go well beyond "prioritizing video."

How would a startup (a Digg, Vonage, Skype) compete with large companies who are able to pay prioritization tarriffs? What will prevent a telco from entering any market and blocking competitive traffic? The risks of ending network neutrality are simply too high.

The wording of prospective neutrality legislation can be clear and direct: blocking, monitoring, filtering, or impeding packets based upon type, source, or destination should be strictly forbidden.

America's national security and economic well-being hang in the balance. I -- and many other members of the GOP -- urge you to strengthen the FCC's ability to enforce network neutrality.

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