Net neutrality is hard to sell

Net neutrality is hard to sell

Summary: I was a guest on Nevada Public Radio today, talking about blogging. I was pulled in early and listened to the earlier show by phone.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Telcos
12

I was a guest on Nevada Public Radio today, talking about blogging. I was pulled in early and listened to the earlier show by phone. The topic was Google as an ISP but it quickly morphed into a discussion on Net neutrality. Eli Milchman was the guest. I would have loved to jump in on the conversation.

A caller asked a question that went something like: "I don't understand how neutrality controls how fast I see something -- I thought that had to do with the kind of connection, dial-up or DSL, that I had."

That's a hard question to answer in a non-technical way. The truth is that lots of factors contribute to how "fast" you see a Web site. The problem is that laypeople tend to conflate bandwidth and latency into a single concept they call "fast." ISP marketers haven't helped matters. Latency is the delay that a packet of data experiences from point to point. Non-neutral Internet connections would probably have a larger latency spread as some packets for paying sites were treated preferentially.

This is pretty hard to get the average consumer very excited about. For many things, you wouldn't really notice. For others, like VoIP, latency is critical. The issue is really whether or not carriers ought to be able to do what ever they want.

The libertarian in you might say "well of course--they paid for it!" But it's not quite that simple. There are broad societal issues with how this all turns out and very few packets traverse the 'Net that didn't go on cables laid in public rights-of-way that, for the most part, carriers use fo free.

Here are some resources on this issue:

Topic: Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

12 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Another useful resource

    is here: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1040
    Ed Felten considers the pros and cons, from a technical perspective
    nmacehiter
  • How was the question answered?

    Quoting the question:

    A caller asked a question that went something like: "I don't understand how neutrality controls how fast I seem something?I thought that had to do with the kind of connection, dial-up or DSL, that I had."


    Here's my attempt at an answer.

    Yes, you're right. No matter what, the speed of the connection you paid for is the speed you will still get. "Net neutrality" doesn't change that at all.

    But, have you ever watched a video on the web, one that you watch as soon as it comes to your computer?
    You click on something on the web, a screen appears, and you just start watching.

    Well, you know how the video stops sometimes and you have to wait?

    Fixing that problem is what this is about.


    Now, the telephone companies are going to have to spend a lot of money so that watching something on the computer works as smoothly as watching it on television.

    They're going to make special telephone lines that carry nothing but the videos.

    The phone companies want to charge the other companies that use those lines just for video.

    The companies that are going to pay for the lines will probably be selling videos. They profit, and the telephone companies want to get some of those profits for making the service better.

    But the companies selling the videos do not want to share their profits.

    So they went to the Congress, like kids, and said, "They're trying to make me pay for something my sister doesn't have to pay for."

    And the Congress, like a parent, up to now has said, "But you're getting sopmething your sister isn't getting. So you should pay for it."

    But if Congress changes its mind and "net neutrality" passes, you and everybody else would have to pay for what these big companies are using to sell video.

    Everybody includes you. Your speed wouldn't change, what you can do on the internet wouldn't change. But how much you'd pay would increase.

    A Senator said you'd pay twice as much every month to help the video companies sell more. I don't think it's that bad, but you would pay a lot more and get nothing in return.

    Unless you paid for videos. Then you'd be able to see "Debbie Does Dallas" for a lot less.



    I know that's many times too long for broadcast. But I think it's pretty clear for everyday consumption.
    Anton Philidor
    • You left out a few important parts

      ---Now, the telephone companies are going to have to spend a lot of money so that watching something on the computer works as smoothly as watching it on television---

      What you're not telling the naive viewer is that the phone companies expect to make a ton of money from charging people for using those lines. Not the people uploading the movies, but the people downloading the movies. The phone companies want to charge both ends of the pipe, as it were, and make double the profits. The movie people are already paying for bandwidth on their end, and the phone companies want them to pay a second additional charge.

      Personally, I don't think it really matters, and the market will settle this for itself. What the phone companies don't realize is that they need the content providers as much as the content providers need them. Get rid of the content providers and the phone companies have nothing to sell customers on their expensive fast lines. If my ISP deliberately throttles some sites that I want to see, then I'll find a new ISP.
      tic swayback
      • Almost.

        One of the reasons for regulation is assuring that the telephone companies don't advantage their own video content.

        You wrote:

        "Get rid of the content providers and the phone companies have nothing to sell customers on their expensive fast lines."

        They would, as you said earlier, have their own content to sell.


        Another problem is your comment that the telephone companies want to increase costs to subscribers.

        In this case, no. They don't want the subscribers to pay for the new capacity. The cable companies have a lead and the phone companies can catch up only by being significantly lower price.

        It's not altruism, but anti-neutrality is pro home customer.

        And as for uploaders paying the telephone companies twice... well, yes.

        Once for the capacity every uploader receives and once for the dedicated capacity.

        Really two different charges.

        Assuming charges based on usage, beginning to use the new capacity should result in some savings, but the net result will be an increase.

        Get more, pay more. What's wrong with that?
        Anton Philidor
        • How many times are you willing to pay?

          ---They would, as you said earlier, have their own content to sell.---

          I don't think I said this earlier, but regardless, what content is that? I get your point on VOIP and such, but are phone companies really going to start their own Amazon, Google, YouTube, iTunes, etc? Would you realistically expect any of them to replace the companies that people are used to using, that have proven themselves over time?

          ---Another problem is your comment that the telephone companies want to increase costs to subscribers---

          Funny, I have Verizon FIOS service at home. And their subscription rates go up as you increase speeds. So they're already charging customers more for increased capacity.

          ---It's not altruism, but anti-neutrality is pro home customer.---

          Not if content companies don't buy in. I don't want a drop in my internet service. I don't want to have to wait longer for Google to load because Google won't pay Verizon.

          ---Really two different charges---

          And to me that's a problem. Content companies are being charged twice, once for their own hosting and uploading, and once again at the other end of the wire, for insured fast downloads. Seems a bit greedy to me.

          ---Get more, pay more. What's wrong with that?---

          I get that part of it, but I'm unsure that the right people are being asked to pay, and too many people are being asked to pay for the same thing. If I'm paying for faster service, should Google have to pay as well to get their page to me faster? If Google is paying for faster loads for me, why should I have to pay too?
          tic swayback
  • This is a rampant myth

    "Non-neutral Internet connections would probably have a larger latency spread as some packets for paying sites were treated preferentially"

    There is no such thing as an enhanced QoS contract that accelerates bulk content like Video or Websites. This is a rampant myth of people who don't understand the purpose of QoS. QoS contracts are only meant for a small percentage of traffic of what you deem most important. If you are a QoS customer and you tag a larger percentage of packets as priority, your provider will start ignoring the priority of packets that are exceeding your quota.

    Furthermore, anyone looking for faster and more responsible websites are going to buy more Tier 1 connections and let the BGP protocol figure out where the lowest latency path is. Bigger companies like Google will strategically place data centers around the country and the world to minimize the distance between them and their customers. Anyone looking for better video or download delivery will team up with Akamai. The idea anyone would use QoS to gain advantage is simply nonsense. QoS isn?t sold that way and it simply can?t deliver the kind of advantage that the Net Neutrality lets-outlaw-QoS crowd fears.
    georgeou
    • Typo correction

      anyone looking for faster and more responsible websites are

      should be

      anyone looking for faster and more responsive websites are
      georgeou
    • George you keep getting it wrong.

      And so does Mitch. This has nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with QoS. This is all about competitive advantage. If I'm AT&T I want to charge Vonnage extra to do VOIP. If I'm Comcast I want to charge Yahoo or Google extra to stream video. That gives either company (the "duopoly") an advantage in selling their own service since they don't have to charge themselves.

      While I'm at this let's set this "let the market decide" trash to rest also. I would totally agree with you on that if there was any open market competetion going on amongest the ISPs The truth is that they are all regulated monopolies to start with. There is no free market in operation here. If there was I'd be using Brand X as an ISP instead of AT&T. I don't have that choice. So while I don't like the government fooling with a free market, that train left the station long ago.
      slopoke
      • I agree

        I got sucked into the QoS vortex by George and stayed there. As I said to George, this isn't about QoS, the bills aren't about QoS, it is about control and freedom of access.

        We currently provision the network from the edge, through individual purchases of throughput. The users are in control. The carriers want to be in control. That's what this is all about.
        Mitch Ratcliffe
      • How can you say it isn't when it's the key proposals?

        Here's the exact quote from the Net Neutrality amendments:

        Markey proposal:
        SECTION 201. NETWORK NEUTRALITY.
        (3) if the provider prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, to prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service;


        Snowe-Dorgan proposal:
        (5) only prioritize content, applications, or services accessed by a user that is made available via the Internet within the network of such broadband service provider based on the type of content, applications, or services and the level of service purchased by the user, without charge for such prioritization;


        This is about as explicit as it gets. It explicitly prohibits the sale of QoS.
        georgeou
      • Your examples are illegal

        "If I'm AT&T I want to charge Vonnage extra to do VOIP. If I'm Comcast I want to charge Yahoo or Google extra to stream video."

        That would be illegal under the House telecom bill that passed. It would also be illegal under the Stevens bill in the Senate. The FCC has demonstrated its will to stop this nonsense in the Madison case and the telecom bills in the House and Senate adds more teeth.

        The only remaining issue under contention is the sale of QoS, and I've posted substantial proof in the previous post.
        georgeou
        • Not at all.

          Using your QoS situation, Vonage gets no QoS, and neither does Google. All of AT&T's VoIP gets QoS by default. All of Comcast's video gets QoS by default - they own the pipes and thus get to provide aboost to their own content.

          By default Google and Vonage are at a competitive disadvantage simply because they don't own the pipes. No law has been broken since Google and Vonage's services aren't being degraded.


          If you don't believe this could happen, you need look no further than Canada for exactly the scenario I described for VoIP. There is an ISP (Shaw) that charges you a fee for QoS if you use Vonage and want it to sound good. Their own VoIP service has no such burden.
          Letophoro