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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Net Neutrality

One thing any CEO or politician may be asked by internet pundits is "where they stand on net neutrality". It's a fractious issue.

Google's response to this issue is one that clearly illustrates the idea:

"Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online"

Sounds great .... but unfortunately, it's legislation that can and will be used to bring frivolous lawsuits to Google itself, who, is seemingly blind to the real issue.

Broadband companies say they aren't doing significant competitive packet routing in this manner, but, of course, they are. My dad's wig site was, briefly, blocked by Comcast because a competitor reported it as a sex site. Is this a "net neutrality" issue.... ? "No" according to advocates. Net neutrality is about QOS packets and DIFFSERV headers, and has nothing to do with content blocking.

But try to phrase legislation that way and you end up with trouble. The last 2 bills floating around Congress were short on the technical language needed to ensure that this issue was about packet routing and not spam blocking.

Ultimately, packets will get dropped if a company is saturated with traffic. The company can either increase bandwidth (easy, well known costs), or implement QOS (expensive, no increase in service) and drop packets selectively.

Because increasing bandwidth is generally a lower-cost, higher-yield solution, DiffServ - a well published standard - has not taken off. Even in an unregulated internet, it seems that "Net Neutrality" is a non-issue.

I suspect that regulators in support of Net Neutrality are so because they are in support of "regulation precedent" - which will give them more power over an uncontrolled Internet. And other less informed supporters of the law are merely supporting it because it "sounds right" without thinking through the consequences.

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