Richi Jennings

Net neutrality: "not normal" sez DoJ (and mooID)

September 07, 2007 6:18 AM EDT
Here it is; Friday's IT Blogwatch: in which the DoJ warns against net neutrality regulation. Not to mention breaking "moos" on Indian photo ID...

Grant Gross reports:
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should resist calls to impose net neutrality regulations on broadband providers because such rules could hurt the Internet, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday ... [it] said net neutrality rules could "inefficiently skew investment, delay innovation, and diminish consumer welfare." Rules that would prohibit broadband providers from giving priority to their own Internet traffic and prohibit them from blocking or slowing competitors' traffic could also prevent providers from charging fees for priority service ... [and] could, in turn, cause fees to increase to all broadband users ... [and] could also discourage broadband providers from investing in new, high-speed services and keep providers from managing their networks efficiently.
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The DOJ's comments were in response to an FCC inquiry, launched in March, about whether there's a need for net neutrality regulations. Individuals and organizations have filed more than 27,800 comments in the net-neutrality inquiry, many of them from people who want the FCC to impose net-neutrality rules ... [but] Several telecom executives have complained that Internet companies are not adequately paying network owners for using their pipes. [more]
Cade Metz fills in the blanks:
In the other words, the DoJ has no problem with AT&T and Verizon charging extra for certain types of online content
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The FCC is tracking an ongoing debate between net service providers and big-name content providers like Google and Yahoo! The Googles and the Yahoo!s are calling for "net neutrality" regulations that would prevent the AT&Ts and the Verizons from building a "tiered" internet - a place where they can demand more dough when delivering certain stuff. [more]
Nate Anderson opines:
The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division has two words for all the network neutrality backers who believe that a bit of government regulation could go a long way towards keeping the Internet open: trust us ... The arguments in the paper are surprisingly lacking in depth, though one assumes that the Antitrust Division has a least some expertise in this area after examining several major telecom mergers over the last few years. Much of the filing is taken up with pointing out the incredible awesomeness of the free market.
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The DoJ points out that there have so far been few real violations of the neutrality principle in the US. When egregious examples have come to light ... they have been handled quickly ... [and that] network operators need to massively expand their capacity and consumers will be stuck paying the bill if network neutrality is enacted.
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[But] content providers do pay for access to the network; they pay vast sums of cash for bandwidth, in fact, and that money filters out to the ISPs that carry their traffic through peering and carriage arrangements.
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Instead of setting up a hot new web site, paying for plenty of bandwidth, and launching your business to the public, web site operators would need to pay not only their hosting provider but also ... a gazillion other networks that sit between them and their potential customers. Getting on the information superhighway thus becomes only the first stop on a very long toll road ... Regulation may not be called for, but the DoJ report seems rather light on solid arguments to support that claim. [more]
Karl Bode thinks it doesn't bode well: [You're fired -Ed.]
Of course, contrary to the DOJ's statement, the interest for companies like Google wasn't in laws that prevented ISPs from offering "faster or more reliable service" -- it was in laws that prevented providers from discriminating against competing content (since most ISPs are now content juggernauts) and services.
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With the hopes for passage of any meaningful network neutrality laws largely dashed for now, the often murky debate seemed to have quieted down of late ... But apparently, that peace is about to be broken ... Still, the fear of such laws has kept the mega-ISPs on their best behavior -- for the time being. [more]
Steve Hynd rolls his eyes:
Why am I not surprised that the Bush administration's heavily politicized Justice Dept. is in favor of more corporate welfare? Want to bet this is the quid pro quo for all those wire taps?
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It seems counter-intuitive to argue that allowing ISPs to provide different levels of service/speed for different content will benefit consumers. [more]
Steve Spalding doesn't channel Chicken Licken:
I am not going to say the sky is falling, but as likely as not — it is ... I am never one to hamper the progress of Capitalism, but I believe this decision made by the Justice Department is the result of a serious misunderstanding of what promotes growth in the net economy. They seem to believe that by giving ISPs the same powers to control service speed that they do the Postal Service, that this will somehow promote the growth of better backbone networks.

What they don’t seem to realize is that tiered pricing may be one of the reasons that mail is being displaced by UPS, FedEX and yes even email. If ISPs decide that their video content should have priority over their competition, for example, what is the incentive of future video aggregaters of trying to move into the space? They will always been slower than the ISPs offerings. [more]
Cynthia Brumfield digs deeper:
What’s curious about the filing is that, first, it’s an ex parte, or late, submission in the FCC’s Inquiry on Broadband Practices, most commonly known as the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding. DOJ could have filed comments along with the rest of the world by July 16, the deadline for all submissions, but it didn’t. Why DOJ waited until now is an interesting, probably unanswerable question.

Secondly, the Justice Department issued a press release to announce the ex parte filing, which just seems…a little weird, given the nature of the filing. It feels almost like a PR move, or a public political positioning, and is not in keeping with the kind of dry, legalistic press releases DOJ usually issues ... the DOJ is arguably playing politics, not unsurprising in Washington, but not the usual behavior of the normally staid Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. The document, too, doesn’t read like the usual antitrust analysis. There is little dispassionate weighing of the arguments or rigorous analysis of the facts. [more]
Sean Garrett agrees:
The Justice Department has historically been a model bureaucracy for how it approaches the seriousness of its charter, so I will give them a pass on the tone of the release. But, the timing? Oy. It's so odd that it, in fact, makes the case that the DOJ wasn't "playing politics" because no sane politician would so randomly jump in on an issue so 2006. [more]
Tish Grier has a colorful metaphor for us:
Make no mistake--the U.S. Dept of Justice is acting like the muscle for the Telco Dons.
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Excuse me...um, but, what about all that money we're paying right now for broadband access? And what about all those regions where the telcos won't go and wire-up? The bit above about "unwilling or unable to pay" is an absolute joke when companies like Verizon have not just refused to wire places, but are actively seeking to sell lines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine ... [It] speaks to a complete inability to understand how content is delivered over the Internet. [more]
But Steven Andrés is talking to himself:
My heart tells me to support Neutrality--the Internet is based on the egalitarian concept of everyone (no matter how wealthy) having equal access to information. My brain tells me that certainly we should be prioritizing some traffic (VoIP) and slowing down other traffic (SPAM). This brings me to another part of my anatomy: my gut. Unfortunately, my gut is telling me that although my brain has a good point, the way this will be corrupted by evil telco's is that a new batch of fat-bandwidth DoubleClick.net video adverts ("business" premiere customer) will be prioritized and my email to grandma will delayed (since I'm only a lowly "residential" customer).

Anyone else having these conversations with parts of their body?. [more]
Hang on, casualsax3 has a point:
This isn't net neutrality, this is the DoJ saying it's legal to have different levels and quality of service. A good analogy would be "should I have the option of paying UPS more to get my package to its destination faster". The answer is an obvious yes - there's nothing wrong with priority traffic. If you want to pay to have your data moved faster, why shouldn't you be able to? ... This whole price to performance thing has been around forever - there are already massive tiers of quality built into the internet, both on the consumer end and the content provider end. Take a look at Akamai and Limelight - you'll pay absurd amounts of money to have your content hosted on their CDN.
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Prioritizing web traffic isn't really the major issue ... the DoJ isn't coming out against Net Neutrality - they're coming out and saying this is already how [it] works, and there's nothing wrong with it. [more]
Buffer overflow:
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And finally... Cows to Get Photo IDs in India
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.