Wednesday, May 17, 2006

IEEE: Not just net neutrality; net symmetry also needed

I've cut some fascinating snippets from the May/June 2006 issue of industry journal IEEE Internet Computing . The focus of the article is promoting innovation not simply through net neutrality, but also via bandwidth symmetry. That is, any node on the network could theoretically provide innovative new services using symmetric upload and download speeds.

First, a little history of tiering is described:

The RBOCs already offer consumer tiering, but in their promotional material, they often tout data rates that aren’t uniformly available. For example, AT&T’s basic DSL service advertises download speeds of “up to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps)” in introductory advertising; in slightly more detailed product information, that service is described as being from 384 kilobits per second (Kbps) to 1.5 Mbps downstream and 128 to 384 Kbps upstream. But in one suburban SOHO, the incoming data rate has never gone above 384 Kbps in a two-year period...

Yes, that certainly gives us a warm-and-fuzzy. The carriers seem to be just the folks we want cutting backroom deals with content providers.

But what could be happening in other countries that are building out new fiber networks? Are they implementing multi-track networks?

Gary Bachula, vice president of Internet2, enumerated yet another new broadband project in Europe — Vienna’s plans to install a 1-Gbit symmetrical fiber network, with equal access to established service providers, as well as pioneering ventures in areas such as healthcare. The most compelling part of the Vienna announcement might be its intention to make its fiber network symmetric, letting new services flourish from any machine at any location on the network. In comparison, the debate in the US is still centered on content delivery to entire videos to its members, and Itiva, which relies on a modified streaming peer-to-peer (P2P) network.

Exactly. The same telcos who have yet to create an innovative Internet application are focused on a 1980's business model - competing with the cable companies. Here's a radical concept for the carriers: try spending a little more on R&D and a little less on lobbyists. It might actually benefit your businesses in the long run.

...veteran industry observer Doc Searls, senior editor of Linux Journal, says failing to envision every user as a possible provider of services is a long-term strategic loser. In his SuitWatch newsletter, Searls calls for the extension of “Net neutrality” beyond the current widely publicized borders of well-known content providers versus carriers. “Symmetricality has to be on the table, or Net neutrality is largely meaningless,” he says. “Asymmetricality is the non-neutrality we already have. Getting rid of it will open the market to countless new businesses and business opportunities for everybody.”

Giving the carriers unfettered access to the core plumbing of the Internet -- while simultaneously neutering the FCC -- makes about as much sense as hiring MC Hammer as your investment adviser.

Get over to Save The Internet now... and do your part.

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