Craig of Craigslists spars Net Neutrality with telecom lobbyist on NPR

Craig of Craigslists spars Net Neutrality with telecom lobbyist on NPR

Summary: Had Scott Cleland, Chairman at Netcompetition.org (an outfit that is funded by the telecom industry), not forwarded me a link to his editorial on National Public Radio, I would have never heard it, and, quite frankly, would not have run for the Mylanta as quickly as I did.

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TOPICS: Government
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Had Scott Cleland, Chairman at Netcompetition.org (an outfit that is funded by the telecom industry), not forwarded me a link to his editorial on National Public Radio, I would have never heard it, and, quite frankly, would not have run for the Mylanta as quickly as I did.  He was however kind enough to tell me that a rebuttal from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark would be broadcast today.  I listened to both and am providing a partial transcription in each case.  If you listen to these (and you should), I think you need to put them in the context of who is doing the talking.  On one hand, you have Cleland who is talking on behalf of an industry that's scrambling to figure out how to survive the disruptive technologies like VoIP that are ripping the rugs from under it.  On the other, you have an Internet entrepreneur who actually started, ran and built a business that has done a fair amount of disrupting. 

Yesterday, Cleland got to go first:

.....Net competition proponents like me believe the best way to guard a free and open internet is to maintain the free and open competition that exists today... .Not create a new government monitored socialized Internet... Did you know Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are lobbying for Net neutrality? If they're successful, they'll get a special low government set price for the bandwidth they use while everyone else -- consumers, businesses, and government -- will have to pay a competitive price for bandwidth.  It doesn't sound very neutral to me. Net neutrality would be a 180 degree reversal of the governments highly successful policy to promote competition and not regulate the internet.  .....Over time we would end up with a slower internet and higher broadband prices for taxes and consumers, less broadband choice, and slower broadband deployment to all americans and it would also mean less privacy for all American as net neutrality would require more government monitoring and surveillance of Internet traffic. ... the idea is rotten to the core....

Although I  transcribed well beyond the first line, Cleland completely lost me (actually, cue the nausea) when he said the best way to guard a free and open Internet was to maintain the free and open competition that exists today.  Free and open competition?  Where do they make stuff like this up? Last time I checked, you could not openly compete to drop a wire to my house.  A modicum of competition actually existed until an FCC decision denied companies like AOL and Earthlink the level-playing field (wholesale bandwidth) they needed to compete against the local duopoloy (the phone and cable companies).  I'm sorry, but two players a competition does not make.

But it gets worse (hon, can you run to CVS for another bottle of the white chalky stuff?). Then he says "If they're successful, they'll get a special low government set price for the bandwidth they use while everyone else -- consumers, businesses, and government -- will have to pay a competitive price for bandwidth."  It's about the most clever piece of wordsmithing I've ever seen.  The best fuzzy math I can come up with is that if one or two broadband ISPs that monopolize the last mile to your house don't get to charge Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (GYM) for every byte of traffic that flows across that last mile (to or from GYM), the fact that they generate more bytes than everybody else (by orders of magnitude) whose bytes flow across the same network means they're paying less per byte. In other words, everyone else is paying more.  This of course neglects to point out that GYM and others are already paying a traffic premium for their own last mile. Then he says the government is promoting competition.  Sorry, from my point of view, particularly with the FCCs recent decision, it's the other way around.  It's sanctioning monopolies.

Then today, Newmark got last licks:

.....Right now you can start a business on the net, you place a server somewhere, and you have an equal shot at serving customers well. However, execs at big telecoms, they want to create a system of privilege for people who can pay more. Here's an example, if we apply this idea to the phone system. Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. Would that be fair?  The telcom execs tell us they can be trusted to play fair and not extend privileges unfairly.  These guys forget that they get the use of public resources like airwaves and public rights of way. They've built their businesses on our resources and made a lot of money. The telecom and cable guys say don't worry, trust us. But have they earned that trust? Consider, why do the telecom companies block some hi-tech services on reaching our cell phones.....

Trust a T-Rex (predator) that's on the brink of extinction?

Disclosure: In the spirit of media transparency, I want to disclose that in addition to my day job at ZDNet, I'm also a co-organizer of Mashup Camp and Mashup University. Microsoft and Google, both of whom are mentioned in this story, are sponsors of one or both upcoming events. For more information on my involvement with these events, see the special disclosure page that I've prepared and published here on ZDNet.

Topic: Government

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8 comments
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  • What's Craig talking about?

    "Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you here is a messaging saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. Would that be fair?"

    Craig, if Joe's Pizza buys a 1.5 mbps T1 line, and Pizza Hut buys 2 45 mbps DS3 connections with BGP redundancy and shortest path capability, no duh! Of course you're going to have a lousy link and a lot more wait time on Joe?s pizza! That is how the Internet has always worked. You seem to be confused with equal treatment for equal results.

    So long as no one deliberately degrades your connection from "Best effort" or blocks your site, then no one has broken any laws. Yes this is already being enforced by the FCC and the fines will be jacked up even higher. But this isn?t what the Net neutrality extremists are seeking; you?re seeking a ban on charges for enhanced tiered services. This whole business of scaring people about sites being blocked is a lie, just like the whole Craigslist conspiracy is a lie.
    georgeou
    • One Word: Prodigy!

      [b]> This whole business of scaring people about sites being blocked is a lie, just like the whole Craigslist conspiracy is a lie.[/b]

      I think AOL attempted this "Plus Services" thing too, where you'd have to pay extra for access to premium sites... The only difference here is the idea that ISP's would stick the bill to the sites instead of their customers. When P! started that crap, I had them dumped and started my own BBS (this was 1992, Internet wasn't popular in NH yet).

      I know the whole Craigslist thing is BS, a server error on their part that he is too embarrassed to acknowledge. I don't think any particular ISP in the US is deliberately trying to block services to legit sites, however, the game has been played before and I wouldn't be surprised to see someone try it again.

      I trust you George; I'll rest in complacency with the knowledge that we have enough laws to deal with this kind of behavior and they are effective, but that's no reason to not pay attention to what the big companies are pushing for from Congress. Cable & Telephone companies can't limit services at the minute, but they will if and when they can; it just makes business sense.
      ---
      "Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems." -Scott Adams
      D-cat
      • Yeah, AOL was and still is ugly

        I am not trusting the Telcos and I do like the sensible laws like Sen. Stevens bill. The $500,000 fines per incident of blocking or degrading a site will do just fine. We just don't need to ban charges on premium services which effectively eliminates premium services.
        georgeou
        • Dead Letter

          [i]The $500,000 fines per incident of blocking or degrading a site will do just fine.[/i]

          They're completely meaningless without a right of private action. We have shelves full of books specifying Draconian penalties for common acts that are never enforced.

          As long as you're dependent on a prosecutor whose idea of "important" is defined by whether it gets him either:
          1) Face time on the evening news, or
          2) Campaign contributions
          you might as well not have a law.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Not to mention who...

            the prosecutor reports to and the implications at that level (of prosecuting or not).

            db
            dberlind
          • WRONG!

            The law passed in the House of Representatives state that ALL complaints shall be vetted by the FCC within 90 days, and the fine was moved up to $750,000 per infraction. Check your facts please.

            If this isn't enough, nothing will ever be enough. Passing extremist laws that outlaw the sale of QoS is simply stupid.
            georgeou
    • Not sure you understood Craig

      Sites wouldn't be blocked necessarily. They don't have to be.
      They can be obscured and passed over by higher paying
      businesses. So Craig's company could be denied entry into the
      market if he doesn't play nice with the telcoms. Do we really
      want to give them that control?
      They want the "freedom" to be able to charge more for certain
      kinds of traffic, from what I gather, so best effort has nothing to
      do with this. If the current system was maintained, that would be
      fine, but their overall goal is to be able to charge people more
      for "better effort" for certain content that they define.
      That would be handing one small group of companies a lot of
      say on what gets into my house. That has great implications in
      my opinion and I'm not sure that the Senate committee currently
      appreciates or understands those implications.
      jeromatron
      • You mean like Google search results?

        "They don't have to be. They can be obscured and passed over by higher paying businesses."

        You mean like Google search results? And don't give me this business that you can go to other search engines. You get blacklisted from Google because Google doesn't like you, and you're basically dead. On the other hand, you can't give a single example of abuse.
        georgeou