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The Future of the Internet 264

bariswheel writes "An important piece written by a Columbia Law professor addresses sensitive questions about the future of the Internet: "Is it a problem if the gatekeepers (i.e. a duopoly of the local phone and cable companies) discriminate between favored and disfavored uses of the Internet? How would you take it if AT&T makes it slower and harder to reach Gmail and quicker and easier to reach Yahoo! mail? What if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special "rush-hour" lane for GM cars only? Is there something special about "carriers" and infrastructure--roads, canals, electric grids, trains, the Internet--that mandates special treatment? Should content providers like Google, or subscribers like us, pay for the bandwidth consumed?" Here's hoping that sites like Google Techtalks and Channel 9 remain 'free' and available for the next 10 years."
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The Future of the Internet

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  • What worries me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:54AM (#15254434)
    Is that the tension over US control causes a splintering of the internet. So that you would have to do something weird if you were in the US and wanted to use the "French internet". It would be like the old days, when you had to be on bitnet to send mail to someone on bitnet.
    • Re:What worries me (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leonmergen ( 807379 )

      Is that the tension over US control causes a splintering of the internet. So that you would have to do something weird if you were in the US and wanted to use the "French internet". It would be like the old days, when you had to be on bitnet to send mail to someone on bitnet.

      I personally think that the Internet as we know it now has been integrated way too much into our lives (and those of corporations) to ever let such a thing happen. The disadvantages greatly outweight the advantages for internet segm

      • You obviously don't understand the nature of greed. If the carriers can figure out ways to charge more (essentially twice) for the bits they are carrying, and get away with it, they will.

        I think they are just jealous of how the Oil companies are screwing people and want to get in on the action.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:56AM (#15254454)
    I think it might be quite problematic to offer different speeds for different services with some other countries that don't follow the same logic. Also, it might be that "throttled" content providers move across the borders and demand, as "international traffic", equal treatment.

    I could see some quite interesting lawsuits coming down that throttled road.
  • The biggest ISP decided to partner with a lot of content providers and limit that content to their customers only? I think it would be called AOL and people would jump ship and go to smaller ISPs.

    Doesn't the same apply here?
    • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vertinox ( 846076 )
      Back in the day when AOL was around (after the BBS died out 1996-2001) you could basically dial into anyone in the nation. I would call this the era of the Mom and Pop Isp. Any person with a T1 could make their own dial up service.

      There would be many competitors in your area and if you didn't mind long distance charges you could literally pick any of the thousands mom and pop ISPs anywhere in the nation.

      But with Broad band... All those places died out... The telco's and cable companies took over and the onl
    • Re:What if (Score:3, Interesting)

      AOL customers sign up for AOL and get the Internet as a side benefit. People connect to ISPs and ISPs connect to other ISPs specifically to have connectivity to whole Internet.

      As a matter of fact, AOL was around as Quantum(tm) back when the Internet was Arpanet, and didn't allow ordinary companies to connect.

      The phone companies and cable companies make exclusive deals with localities in order to bring wires into your house. Since they tend to have been granted government monopolies, they are more re
    • Re:What if (Score:5, Interesting)

      by quentin_quayle ( 868719 ) <quentin_quayle@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:36PM (#15255856)

      "What if... The biggest ISP decided to partner with a lot of content providers and limit that content to their customers only? I think it would be called AOL and people would jump ship and go to smaller ISPs.

      "Doesn't the same apply here?"
      -- missing000

      What if, in a few years, a few giant ISPs are the only ones left for 99% of USians to choose from, and they all discriminate by content, protocol, and application? Then where will people "jump ship" to? How will we even get news or viewpoints that don't conform to the commercial interests of the few big ISPs?

      Very slowly, I think, if at all.

  • by Kombat ( 93720 ) <kombat@kombat.org> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:57AM (#15254461) Homepage
    I'm not sure if similar actions are widespread in the US yet, but up here, Canadian ISPs already discriminate based on content. Ports used by popuplar P2P software is throttled to the point where throughput is almost choked off completely. Many Rogers subscribers have found a way to "hack" their torrent bandwidth back to normal, at least temporarily, by using the same port Rogers is using for their new VOIP service.

    Resistance seems futile, as no ISP wants their users using P2P apps. What can we do? We used to threaten to cancel our services with providers guilty of bandwidth throttling, but now they all do it, so what options are left, besides simply accepting that this is how the future of the Internet will be? Normal access to "preferred" sites that make the ISP money, and discouraged (throttled) access to sites and services that cost the ISP money. It sucks. I'm open to suggestions.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sounds like a great incentive to set up user based wireless mesh networks such as the one to be built into the One Laptop per Child boxes. With enough users / boxes caching and siphoning local and regional traffic away from them, the ISPs would have to start providing better service to compete. Competition, what a concept :-)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      South Korea and England already have laws on the books protecting network neutrality. The Telcos cry "don't regulate us - it's anti competitive" yet I don't see any problem with Korea's high speed network.

      That's what I loathe about Telco companies.
      On one hand, they are passing laws banning the creation of muni-broadband. For example in Batavia IL, millions of dollars were spent on a smear campaign to defeat a grassroots effort to build a fast municipality owned fiber network. Millions of dollars that could
    • by antiMStroll ( 664213 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:15PM (#15254601)
      There's a huge difference between blocking specific protocols and blocking specific content providers. Bittorrent and Google are as similar as apples and red.
      • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:37PM (#15255864)
        And what difference is that?

        Blocking is blocking. Period. When you start saying "well, in this case, blocking is OK", then you open up the door to what we have in front of us. It doesn't matter whether its a site, a port, or a specific protocol. In all of those cases, the ISP has inserted themselves between you and your endpoint site/host so they can make decisions for you as to what does and does not get passed between you and the other party.

        One could certainly argue that there are real positive uses of this model -- like closing port 25 on residential IP's -- but by doing this, don't forget that you give the ISP's a slippery slope that they can travel down. The way IP is designed, I should be able to get a packet of content (ANY content) from point A to point B, as long as both of those points exist. The travel route and the content of the package are irrelevant.

        That's it. That's the internet in a nutshell. Anything that is done between point A and point B (filtering, spoofing, blocking, whatever), is by nature, altering the transmission. So if you want to block, fine, but don't call it the INTERnet. Call it a "bunch of networks that might be able to talk to each other, if allowed"

        We know that every single packet from every single customer CAN be inspected and approved or denied by anyone in the middle of point A and point B. The question is: Are we, as a society, going to allow our Internet Providers to selectively choose what can and can not be sent between the endpoints?


        (I didn't mean to but I think I just gave a resounding support post for net-neutrality.)
    • I was a Rogers customer for a long time and dupmed them when they started implementing restrictions. I am now with a small local DSL provider and everything works again and the speed is fine.
    • by Wolfbone ( 668810 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:41PM (#15254848)
      Someone brought this to my attention some time ago:

      In addition to the general terms set out above, you are prohibited from using the Service for activities that include, but are not limited to:

      • Sharing of your Account UserID and password for the purpose of concurrent login sessions from the same Account.
      • Causing an Internet host to become unable to effectively service requests from other hosts.
      • Running and/or hosting server applications including but not limited to HTTP, FTP, POP, SMTP, Proxy/SOCKS, and NNTP.
      • Analyzing or penetrating an Internet host's security mechanisms.
      • Forging any part of the TCP/IP packet headers in any way.
      • Committing any act which may compromise the security of your Internet host in any way.

      From the Bell Sympatico acceptable use policy. [sympatico.ca]

      The wonderful peer to peer Internet is under attack from many directions; commercial service discrimination is just one - and IMHO, it would be more like the power company deciding how much (if any) juice and of what quality they'll supply, depending on who manufactured my toaster, kettle, TV etc. than the KFC/Pepsi analogy given by Wu.

      John Walker describes other, related threats here: http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/digital-imprimat ur/ [fourmilab.ch]

    • diogenes [phlogma.com] had no need for etorrents and idonkies when he masturbated in the marketplace.
    • by PhraudulentOne ( 217867 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:06PM (#15255098) Homepage Journal
      ...but now they all do it

      I don't, and I'm a sysadmin for an ISP. We're not a huge ISP by any means, but I *will not* filter internet traffic. If your paying my company for 3Mbit, then you can use 3Mbit.
  • by MikeMacK ( 788889 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:59AM (#15254479)
    To take a strong example, would it be a problem if AT&T makes it slower and harder to reach Gmail and quicker and easier to reach Yahoo! mail?

    I guess to me it would be a matter of how "slow" or how much "harder". I mean how do they make it "harder"...have www.gmail.com NOT go to GMail .

    • Re:How slow? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:05PM (#15254524) Homepage Journal
      No, but they could just make it slow; cut the total throughput to Google's servers, or maybe inject some latency into every connection.

      With GMail as it currently exists this might not seem like a big threat, but look at where "webmail" is headed. GMail already includes instant messenging / chat, and in a few years I could see it becoming much more interactive; instead of firing up Skype to make a VoIP call, you might just navigate to a particular web page.

      AJAX and future interactive technologies could be greatly affected by network conditions, and two competing websites might be perceived very differently by consumers if one was always much faster or more responsive than the other. It doesn't take much to give something a reputation for slowness or unreliability, and that's a big turn-off to potential customers. (And not one that you can really argue against -- you as Google could say "it's not our fault, it's your cable company doing it!" to which the customer says "So, what? You're still slow and Yahoo is still fast, so I'm using Yahoo.")
    • how do they make it "harder"...have www.gmail.com NOT go to GMail

      Don't give them any ideas. Fiddling with their DNS servers so that www.gmail.com goes to mail.yahoo.com every 3rd try isn't beyond them. They could make DNS lookups of affiliate sites faster than lookups to sites that haven't paid the protection money. Some of us can remember 64.233.161.83, 64.233.171.83 and 216.239.57.83, but most users can't.
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:59AM (#15254481) Homepage
    "...Should content providers like Google, or subscribers like us, pay for the bandwidth consumed?""

    Again, both consumers, via the monthly charges to their ISP, and Google, via the presumably large charges from whoever provides their bandwidth, are already paying for bandwidth consumed.

    Why do people keep repeating this absurd claim?

    • by eyrieowl ( 881195 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:14PM (#15254593)
      Amen. I got some nasty responses to a similar comment I made on a net-neutrality post on digg. We pay for bandwidth consumed. In fact, most of us, the VAST majority of internet users, pay for MORE bandwidth than we actually consume. Now, I'm sure that the prices reflect that to some extent, but, there is no escaping the fundamental fact that this whole debate is not about fairness, it is simply about greed. I have not heard anything remotely convincing that the network providers are *losing* money...if they were, they would be sure to charge the users more money. But they aren't, and this isn't about them needing to rescue their business model somehow. It would be a terrible thing if *any* societal infrastructure were made non-neutral. There is no way that this would benefit consumers, it would ONLY benefit corporations.
    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:19PM (#15254642)
      Why do people keep repeating this absurd claim?
      "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it"

      (I'll skip the attribution to avoid invoking Godwin's Law. Besides, the original context isn't important in this case anyway since it applies regardless.)
      • I'll skip the attribution to avoid invoking Godwin's Law

        Usually the "Big Lie" quote is attributed to Goebbels, actually. However, Goebbels kept extensive diaries, and I've never seen it attributed there or otherwise to an actual written or durably recorded quote. It's cynical, it's catchy, it was certainly very apropos for the regime and its architects, but I suspect it's also apocryphal. I'd love to be corrected, if anyone has actual hard information as to the attribution.

    • Why does everyone that states your comment say "Google is obviously paying for their bandwith. They're getting it from.... someone,"? Nobody seems to actually know where Google et al.'s bandwith is comming from.

      Perhaps that's part of it.
    • What you and the jokers who modded you insightful fail to recognize is that is the mantra that all successful bandwidth/wire providers live by:

      "Bandwidth is a service."

      You can reasonably charge some customers more than some smaller bandwidth consumer and they will pay it. If they don't pay then maybe their service suffers a little until the big-bandwidth consumer sees the light and agrees to pay a little more. You have to have money to pay for the bandwidth provider's obscene CEO compensation package right
    • I'm a content provider, albeit a small one (www.McHenryAreaChess.org if you're into chess, but please don't slashdot my server otherwise). I pay my hosting company for the server space and the bandwidth I use or may use. The people who use my site pay their hosting ISP for the bandwidth they consume or may consume in getting to me. If my popularity grows beyond the agreed upon limits, I have to pay for a bigger pipe. Fair enough. Those resources cost money, and I'll pay for the services provided.

      But my sma
  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:00PM (#15254485) Homepage Journal
    Just another persona totally irrelevant to internet and speaks on things he has no clue about.

    Can you imagine what would happen if such things, filtering, seperate pricing, access procedures etc should be done, with hundreds of thousands sites erected each day, maybe 20 thousand and more isps active around the world, hordes of networks, satellite and telecom operators, datacenters ?

    The result would be an INFINITE and ever increasing number of protocols, prices, agreements, disagreements, filters, etc and stuff !!!

    How much cpu power would the operators need to determine what goes to where and what goes not if such mess was introduced ? Google would have to erect a new server farm to process 'filters', and it would be one that is comparable to the one it uses for search processing.

    'Pay for bandwith' my arse. The profits from bandwidth would go to maintaining endless server farms all around the world to process access limitations.

    I repeat : people should not be allowed to propose laws in an area they have no expertise, training or experience in.
  • Already we have toll roads. We have examples of where special lanes are set aside for people who are willing to pay more for better service. So how is complaining about internet providers doing the same different?

    The only time it becomes a problem is if they purposely slow down the connection. Not granting it access to the newest high speed line is not the same thing. If some provider builds up a special section of their network to provide better throughput then by all means they should have the opportu
    • The problem is that they are NOT opening up a faster lane and charging money to use it. They are artificially slowing down all the other lanes, and charging special rates to access the orriginal speeds.
    • Already we have toll roads. We have examples of where special lanes are set aside for people who are willing to pay more for better service. So how is complaining about internet providers doing the same different?

      Simple. By paying $49.95/month for Road Runner [roadrunner.com] rather than $9.99 for Blue Frog [bluefrog.net], I am already paying a $40/month "toll" to use the fast lane. I've paid for it, now fork it over.

      As for paying a "tiered" toll, I'm already there. I picked the middle tier. I get half the bandwidth for $29.95,

  • bad analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MooseTick ( 895855 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:01PM (#15254498) Homepage
    "What if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special "rush-hour" lane for GM cars only?"

    GM doesnt pay for the roads. Taxpayers do. Now if GM went a built a series of roads with their money and only allowed their cars to use those roads, would you object?
    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:09PM (#15254552) Journal
      "GM doesnt pay for the roads. Taxpayers do. Now if GM went a built a series of roads with their money and only allowed their cars to use those roads, would you object?"

      Now, if GM paid for the roads themselves out of monies earned via a legally granted monopoly, say, that only GM cars are allowed to be driven in the region, would you object?

      If the roads were partially funded by a special assessment on all drivers of GM cars, regardless of whether they choose to use those roads, would you object?
    • How about if Exxon started charging automobile manufactorers for the gas its gas stations sell to drivers? If Honda decides not to pay, all Honda vehicles filling up at Exxon stations will get a certain percentage of sugar in their tanks.
    • Re:bad analogy (Score:2, Informative)

      by lilrowdy18 ( 870767 )
      Could have sworn that these big telcos are getting government subsidies. I think currently Bellsouth gets in the area of 150 million dollars (combined) a year in subsidies from nine states. But I would have to agree that most of that money probably doesn't go to infrastructure but to buy someone a nice home in Manila.

      http://lafayetteprofiber.com/Blog/2005/10/banner-o f-hypocrisy-whose-subsidy.html [lafayetteprofiber.com]

      http://www.lafayetteprofiber.com/ [lafayetteprofiber.com]
    • As I recall, I as a taxpayer allow (not directly) easements on my own and public property for telecom lines to exist. My parents and grandparents provided tax incentives and honey-smeared deals (again, not directly) to entice telecoms to build in the first place and to allow the monopoly of Bell to persist throughout most of its first century of operation. Without this cooperation, I seriously doubt any of their precious infrastructure would have come to exist in the first place.

      So, it's basically taxpaye

    • GM doesnt pay for the roads. Taxpayers do.
      GM is a tax payer. The analogy is just fine.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:08PM (#15254541)
    Do this: Traceroute to your favorite sites. Understand that traceroute is no longer the tool it once was, ICMP ttl-exceeded messages are not always handled, and you aren't seeing things like paths over MPLS where there are tags that created switched paths across the net. But... it's the best thing the end user has, unless your broadband provider or ISP disallows it.

    On average, how many carriers did you cross? What would happen if a carrier started using Class-Based Queueing techniques just across their sections? What if they started creating tariffs, quotas, import fees of classified "bulk traffic', or started using the differentiated services model at internet peering points? I'm not talking about rate-queues and other things that guys on NANOG routinely do now, I'm talking about corporate sponsored refusal to carry types of traffic.

    A complex system of MPLS paths based on traffic types would result, BGP tags would get processed to have implied meanings (i.e. AT&T won't carry my SMTP messages unless they are destined for email servers in the AT&T network) and on the whole, it would get pretty messy.

    Now, the economic result of this would be that carriers would set up trade barriers to each other, not unlike nations do. And the net-net would be... market consolidation. How could it not? The small ISPs and regional carriers would eventually fall prey to larger groups who would create mutually beneficial arrangements to carry traffic and create cartels to approach the major websites, esp. the search engines, and demand that they pay up. Google would need to pay into formed groups like "the Consolodated Tier-1 providers of North America" to allow broadband users to reach Google services.

    The end result would be the fragmentation of the internet. Large parts of it would be unreachable from certain parts of the world. And that's over and above national firewalls like the Chinese have, this wouldn't be censorship - this would just be business. The board at AT&T now has the technology to really implement differentiation, and now they want to use it. To make money, at the expense of content providers and value-add information sites. I don't see how that is a good thing.
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      I'm talking about corporate sponsored refusal to carry types of traffic.

      Then they would lose their "common carrier" status, a fate VERY few of the big boys would willingly risk.


      What would happen if a carrier started using Class-Based Queueing techniques just across their sections?

      Then they would either breach their contracts with those on either side of their chunk of network, or they would voluntarily transmit less data over time, thereby making less money for that traffic.



      If you sell cinnamon
      • Then they would lose their "common carrier" status, a fate VERY few of the big boys would willingly risk.

        Perhaps, then, you should edit the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] of common carrier, since you have it right and they have it wrong.

        Then they would either breach their contracts with those on either side of their chunk of network, or they would voluntarily transmit less data over time, thereby making less money for that traffic.

        What contracts are you specifically referring to? Perhaps you also should look u
      • Then they would lose their "common carrier" status, a fate VERY few of the big boys would willingly risk.

        From my understanding, common carrier status has become much more of a burden than anything since the deregulation introduced by Telecommunications Act of 1996. Most VoIP providers have fought tooth and nail not be classified as such. Other than not being held legally responsible for the content that traverses their networks, what else is appealing about the classification?

  • I don't get it.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:11PM (#15254564) Journal
    I pay my ISP to provide me with a connection to the internet.

    Google pays their ISP to provide them with a connection to the internet.

    Why exactly should either ISP be allowed to charge extra for me to connect to Google?

    Look at it this way: If I pay for a 3 Mb connection and Google can deliver a 3 Mb downstream, I expect my ISP to allow that. Otherwise, I am NOT getting what I pay for. So basically what a number of ISPs want to do is promise their customers a connection which they will not deliver unless a given website *also* pays for their customers to get that connection.
  • Roads... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:11PM (#15254566)
    From the summary: What if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special "rush-hour" lane for GM cars only?

    I think they already do this in some states, except they discriminate by how many blow-up dolls you are transporting in your vehicle.
    • I think they already do this in some states, except they discriminate by how many blow-up dolls you are transporting in your vehicle.

      Boy howdy!

      In Phoenix, we renamed the HOV/Carpool lane the 'pervert lane'. Rush hour? I fart in your general direction!

      So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:11PM (#15254572) Journal
    Should content providers like Google, or subscribers like us, pay for the bandwidth consumed?

    Both of us already pay for our connection. I pay $45+tax+fees+basic_cable per month for a decently fat pipe coming into my house. Google pays something I don't even want to imagine for the bandwidth it consumes - and that includes the bandwidth for which I also paid to connect to Google.


    But now the telecoms have said they want even more??? Greedy bastards we should do away with, for certain. But do we need to worry about non-net-neutrality?

    Everyone talks about "imagine carrier-X favoring MSN over Google"... But Google already pays for a guaranteed bandwidth. My connection at work pays for a guaranteed bandwidth. Although I currently pay for peak bandwidth rather than guaranteed on my home connection, watch how fast consumers drop ISPs that throttle them for reasons unrelated to congestion. "But I can stream HD video from MSN? Great, fuck you too, I don't use MSN, cancel my account!"

    So this leaves AT&T with three options - breach of contract with their "supply-side" customers, or loss of constomers on the "consumer-side". Wait, I said "three", didn't I? Yep - They have one other choice. They already need to provide a certain level of service to Google and to Joe Sixpack. But they have the option of making MSN faster than the competition. Whether they do that as anticompetitive price-cuts for higher bandwidth or as network infrastructure upgrades, both would tend to drive prices down and quality up. End result, they lose their own bone barking at the dog in the stream.
    • watch how fast consumers drop ISPs that throttle them for reasons unrelated to congestion. "But I can stream HD video from MSN? Great, fuck you too, I don't use MSN, cancel my account!"

      Just curious. How many high-speed low-latency connectivity providers can you choose from where you live? More than two?

      • Just curious. How many high-speed low-latency connectivity providers can you choose from where you live? More than two?

        Cheap home broadband, only three choices (possibly four, if the ISP about a mile away offers point-to-point wireless links, but I've never looked into that).

        And no, I don't live in big city... Not the middle of nowhere, either, but the suburbs of a fairly small city (~30k people).



        But I see your point. Keep in mind, however, that cellular carriers already have the ability to offer
  • market forces (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theMerovingian ( 722983 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:12PM (#15254574) Journal
    The money that Yahoo could pay to throttle Google's web traffic is miniscule compared to Cox making $85.00 a month per family in their service area.

    ISP's make money while content companies have largely failed to live up to their Bubble-ish expectations.

    Google only makes 7-8 billion in revenue, and the amount that could be diverted to potential bandwidth-throttling is not that much compared to the money ISP's generate from maintaining existing customers.

    Other content sites aren't nearly as successful as Google, and would have even less leverage to engage in these anticompetitive practices.
  • Devil's Advocate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:14PM (#15254595)
    I think a 'tiered' internet is trouble from the start, but what about this scenerio: Your VOIP provider starts providing 911 service, and your 911 call gets squashed by your neighbor's video download. Under strict 'net neutrality', it is possible for this to happen, if unlikely.

    Additionaly, the ability of backbone providers to influence the delivery of packets is quite limited in comparison to the 'last mile' provider. The ISP customers immediately connect to, if they choose to set QOS for some type of service from some content provider, will have a great deal more effect on download/upload speeds that backbone providers. That's just how QOS out at the edge works. Yes, backbone providers can influence packet delivery, but not nearly as much as edge providers.

    The other problem with allowing provider to prioritize traffic is that once packets traverse provider boundries, all bets are off. Does anyone really think that Verizon/MCI/UUNet will treat AT&T's prioritized packets better or even on par with its own? After all, Verizon's own customers, like maybe giant-company-xyz, is paying to have their traffic prioritized, and all Verizon might have with AT&T is an aggreement that might not be worth as much as $$ from giant-company-xyz. If AT&T never sees all the router configs in Verizon's network, how can they claim that Verizon isn't honoring their QOS?

    The internet is more like an ocean than it is a bunch of lakes and canals, and the telcos want to sell good weather and smooth sailing. AT&T will sell Disney, for example, a 'higher tier' of service for their streaming video on their backbone, but unless they can get each and every edge provider to go along, and each and every other entity that runs any kind of peering link at all on the Internet, it won't make as big a difference as they claim. My point is that even if telcos sell prioritization, its likely it won't stack up like they claim, due to the nature of the Internet itself. Then everybody will have to decide how to treat legitimate priority traffic, like 911 for example.

    The entire debate looks to me as though it being framed in a misleading way.

    • Re:No No No! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:39PM (#15254826) Homepage
      Your analogy utterly fails to acknowlege reality.

      To use the same terms as your analogy:

      1: The Internet *was* an ocean that ISP's sold boating subscriptions
      2: The ocean contains wealth the ISP's have yet to harvest. That wealth will be extracted by turning the ocean into lakes. Inside each ISP's lake they will sell you the "right" to visit other lakes and see/use other features in the lake. This is the natural outcome of privitazation and "market-based" services.

      The other sh*tpipe into your home, cable/satellite TV is the proven model. The "internet" that you have grown familiar with, is but a distant memory.
    • I think a 'tiered' internet is trouble from the start, but what about this scenerio: Your VOIP provider starts providing 911 service, and your 911 call gets squashed by your neighbor's video download. Under strict 'net neutrality', it is possible for this to happen, if unlikely.

      Conversely, what if your neighbor's call to 911 through their VOIP provider is squashed by your call to Aunt Martha because you chose to use the ISP's VOIP service (free for the first 30 days with any new HBO+Cinemax subscription!),
  • by davidwr ( 791652 )
    TANSTAAFL.

    As I see it there are three big "supply and demand" things on the net:
    connectivity, high-transmission-speed, and low-latency.

    Connectivity is a no brainer - that's maintenance on the wire going to your house, the cost of billing you, etc. etc.

    Transmission speed is easy to understand also: The "pipes" just aren't big enough to let everyone max out their connection all at once. If everyone got on their high-speed connection and started downloading stuff at the same time, things will slow down. Thi
  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:19PM (#15254643) Journal
    This is the basic case for network neutrality--to prevent centralized control over the future of the Internet. But there's a long-standing rebuttal that goes like this: A broadband company already has incentives to make the network neutral, because it's a better network that way. If AT&T makes money on an exclusive deal, they'll lose it somewhere else. Whatever money AT&T earns by prioritizing Google rather than Yahoo!, it will lose by making its product--broadband service--less attractive to consumers. By this logic, regulating the Bells is a waste of time. AT&T and Verizon also say that they must be free to discriminate to justify their investments in building networks. If you don't let us discriminate, they say, we won't build.

    That would assume that "consumers" actually had a choice, but as we all know, competition is a misnomer. With acquisitions and mergers, the number of carriers continues to shrink. And while you might think you can get whatever phone company you want wherever you are, think again. My folks in North Carolina have one carrier available: Sprint. They can't switch phone companies. They use calling cards for long distance, so they don't have to pay Sprint's outrageous fees or deal with their crappy customer service.

    Think cable's a good alternative? Bah! I have to use Optimuj Online through Cablevision, because I can't get Comcast (not that I really want to). There's no competition -- in my area its Cablevision or satellite, take your pick.

    If you think the Bells and or cable giants stand to lose by restricting service or charging more to some comapnies than others, think again. The customer doesn't have much of a choice in most cases.

  • There is a big difference between the roads (regulated by the State) and the information avenues (so far not really regulated all that much): one would be paternalism (a subsidized company: GM and a regulated road), one would be preferentialism.

    For me, I don't see a problem with ISPs who give preferential treatment to traffic -- just as your grocery store gets paid for better shelf placement by hundreds of product manufacturers, I think the same should be true for any free market good. In the long run, the
    • You're putting the cart before the horse:

      "The big problem is where government is already sticking their nose in my business, such as where certain providers get monopoly status (within the village or the state). In this case, there is cause for concern, but that is already the problem with government regulation: it tends to create monopolies out of preferred enterprises and really hurts the competitive market. "

      Telcos had/have a natural monopoly based upon the high infrastructure costs acting as a barri
  • My prediction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bunions ( 970377 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:21PM (#15254663)
    is that gradually the internet will become TV. ISPs already provide massively asymmetric connection with far higher down than up speeds. The EULAs already prohibit you from serving content - eventually someone'll start enforcing that. They'll start refusing to relay traffic that might expose them to liability, such as p2p networks and usenet.

    I also predict a return to BBS-like behavior based on wireless mesh networks, but that's another post.

    If this comes to pass, you all owe me a dollar.
    • Re:My prediction (Score:3, Insightful)

      by robertjw ( 728654 )
      The EULAs already prohibit you from serving content - eventually someone'll start enforcing that.

      Actually in my experience, it's been just the opposite. Enforcement of restrictions on servers have become more lax, not more strict.

      They'll start refusing to relay traffic that might expose them to liability, such as p2p networks and usenet.

      This is unlikely to happen in the near future. A large number of broadband customers have a connection just for p2p networks. The minute an ISP cuts p2p users of
  • This really brings out the lust for pure flaming in me...

    As net users we pay to be connected to the internet and for the price we pay we get a speed and (in the case of us australia users) a download limit. And as companies groups like google and yahoo pay for their connections and data they send to the internet.

    So both groups have paid their dues to those who control the networks...So all of this bullshit (and lets not beat around the bush here) is that network providers want to double dip without raisi
  • No matter what Congress decides. Wireless modems and cell phone modems, traffic that does not go thru cell towers or central servers unless there's no other way, and network traffic decentralized and out of the control of big bloodsuckers.
    No backbone until it comes time to leave the local urban area - no local ISPs at all. Networking becomes networking, not nodeworking.
    There would be no way to charge for local access at all, and long distance could only be charged by the backbone providers that your box a
  • Perhaps it is time to take back *our* Internet, and more importantly, *MY* Internet. While I am only a generic sysadmin, and not Vinton Cerf, I did help build the Internet in what it is today. I worked at ISPs, webshops, and software huts. I took care of Internet customers. I told everyone how useful the Internet was. I posted to Usenet, sent emails, published videos [seattlewireless.net], toyed with mashups [wifimaps.com], and other things. I helped make the Internet work, even if only in a teensy tiny small way.

    I want to continue to experime
  • We already get filtered, snooped, tracked and wiretapped.
    So there is little worse than this but shutting the network down!
    Freedom is an illusion.
    Real freedom double so!
  • If 4 weeks ago when I submitted info on this the US Slashdot users had been activated we might have been able to kill the actions of a number of Represenatives while these actions were still in committee. I do understand that at the time a number of people regarded this as just so much BS. Heck even in my LUG I had problems getting people to believe that Larry Lessig and others really were fighting this fight. Now however the fight will be much larger. I might also point out that it is something that wil
  • If legislation doesn't solve the lack of network neutrality (and not in poison-pill form [slashdot.org], either), the people will solve it for them, probably by use of anonymizing distributed surfing apps like Tor which will render traffic types and sources/destinations indistinguishable from each other. That'd be Big Brother's big nightmare, so if the Homeland Security folks in Congress want to keep snooping on us, they'd better fix network neutrality without all this Broadcast Flag bullshit tagging along.
  • As always with infrastructure, it's basically absurd for it to be in private hands or, at best, it's not at all clear whether the advantages of what little competition there is oughtweigh the disadvantages of the profit motive.

    So, either renationalise the telcos (which has its problems, but at least the government can't absolve itself of responsibility), or tell them pretty clearly what they can and can't do. Given that lobbyists pay for the legislation of their choice, the latter option might not be so gre
  • This issue must be raised in every town hall across the country where the telecoms are applying for new video over IP cable TV franchises.

    If a telecom has applied for a franchise in your town the do this:
    Show up at the local council meeting and ask your local government to ask the telecoms what their position is on keeping the internet a level playing field?

    This issue needs to work from the local governments up; not from the federal level down. The telecom's money is useless at the local level.

    Raising the
  • bandwidth (Score:3, Informative)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:03PM (#15255071)
    On the most recent This Week in Tech, it was mentioned that YouTube is burning a million dollars a month in bandwidth fees (yes, a million). My question is, who are they paying that money to? I'm assuming it's the very same telco that is claiming that they're not making any money off of YouTube...
  • The 'problem' here is only one in the US. This is what the companies in the US want to do. And this is what the people YOU voted in are going to let them do. So STFU and educate yourself to who is voting for these things in YOUR name.

    If your not turned on to politics, politics will turn on you.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:18PM (#15255200)
    Common carrier status, in the telco world, affords some protections to carriers regarding the use of their networks. Carriers can not be held responsible for the content that crosses their networks, but in exchange, they must carry each other's content.

    Law makers should allow carriers to decide if they want to be "net neutral". After all, businesses don't like to be told what to do, so let businesses decide.

    Lawmakers should offer a choice to carriers:

    1. Claim common carrier status, and carry all traffic equally.

    2. Refuse common carrier status, carry any traffic you like, in any manner you choose, - but be held responsible for all illegal traffic and use of the network.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't pick and choose the data that crosses your network, but claim you know nothing about the data.

    -ted
  • Comparing degradation to an Interstate is the wrong way to go. AT&T is not a government entity.

    What we should be focusing on:

    - Bandwidth is already paid for. The consumer and producer pay their respective Internet Service Providers. This has already been discussed above.

    - AT&T (and other telephone companies) get tax breaks, tax incentives, and right-of-way because they are common-carrier and a utility. If AT&T wants to start degrading service to individuals unless a fee is paid, then AT&T sh
  • I feel odd saying this being that I am in law school and the article was written by a law professor... But anyway, his example in the summary is flawed--cable and telephone companies are not government entities. Even being government regulated doesn't make it a government entity. I-95, on the other hand, is a government project. I-95 can't say what cars drive where; it can't say anything at all--it's a road. The government says who drives where on I-95. The government is not allowed to discriminate in

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