George Ou, another blogger here at ZD Net, persists in insisting that the Net neutrality position is deeply flawed. I'm responding to his comments on another post in this new posting because we have, at last, come to the nut of the dispute. The infrastructure works because it is shared. The spirit of the Net neutrality position is that sharing requires equal treatment. I intended to put this to bed days ago, but back comes George, like certain Star Trek space aliens who think one thought and never deviate from it.
I am comfortable being in the same camp on this issue as Tim Berners-Lee, the architect of the World Wide Web, and Vint Cerf, one of the network scientists who initially developed the TCP/IP-based Internet. These are not people whose credentials George would dare question. I know, though, that you, George, will be back, attempting to assimilate me, again.
George refuses to acknowledge that the text of amendments submitted in the House and Senate (click the links to read the texts) are tempered by existing law. There are "Preserved Rights and Exceptions" in the amendments that limit the language he claims requires a universal ban on QoS, specifically that allow the carriers to "offer varied service plans to users at defined levels of bandwidth and different prices." The word "defined" is the key, for what would QoS be without a defined level of bandwidth? Granted, it isn't a technical definition of QoS, but it is political speak for allowing such services to exist on dedicated or "private" circuits.
In response to my having pointed out that he had abandoned one line of questioning, that Net neutrality requires the "banning of QoS (quality of service agreements, which ensure a specific throughput and reliability)" across the Net, he writes:
For you to say I'm changing my tune is a lie. You're the only one jumping from imaginary language to external sources for your arguments. I've always been against the Markey and Snowe-Dorgan amendment for the reason that they would outlaw the sale of QoS. The fact that you imagine it only outlaws the sale of QoS on the backbone is irrelevant because:
A) You can't make a reasonable argument that it is only applicable to the backbone. Citing language external to the Markey and Snowe-Dorgan bill or language you imagine wouldn't fly in court. Otherwise why in the world would Markey and Snowe-Dorgan rely on built-in disclaimers? The fact of the matter is, an amendment has to be able to stand on its own merit or else it's worthless. The Snowe-Dorgan and Markey amendments that you keep advocating were worthless.
George, I have made the argument that the amendments would not ban QoS everywhere, you simply haven't refuted it. My observation is that you changed your tune while continuing to sing the same, refuted song. Making me out to be a "liar" in response is simplistic hyperbole. We are each entitled to our opinions and I believe I am informed enough about your arguments to note when they change.
The backbone should be "neutral" because it is essential to the architecture of the network. If you refuse to acknowledge that blocked paths and administrative latency associated with dynamic billing would substantially reduce the performance of all networked services, you're not living in reality.
As for my understanding of the Net, it is not for you to judge when you fail to acknowledge the reaities of the paragraph immediately preceeding this one.
B) The sale of QoS shouldn't be banned anywhere, not on the backbone and not on the last mile. QoS works best when it's enabled on every leg of the trip a packet takes. Banning the sale of something perfectly legal anywhere is just wrong.
C) It's clear you don't understand the Internet because if you did, you would know that it's impossible to define what is a backbone or what is the last mile. Plenty of companies connect directly to the "backbone" by placing their own equipment in Internet peering hotels and negotiate their own connections with multiple Tier 1 providers. The idea that you could apply different rules to the "backbone" or "last mile" is based on pure ignorance of the way the Internet works.
"Net neutrality" is quite clear on this issue, as you point out when you say "QoS works best when it's enabled on every leg of the trip a packet takes": On a dedicated circuit you can charge for QoS, but on shared circuits you have to treat all packets equally. This would mean that some of the last-mile segments that are shared, such as cable companies offer, would have no QoS, but they don't today, either. Under "Net neutrality," the cable company could, however, install a port in the home that was, for example, a "Google Port" that was dedicated to Google services and offered sustained 100 Mbps services—if they could support those speeds. They could charge Google whatever they wanted for that, if Google would pay.
The infrastructure works because it is shared. The spirit of the Net neutrality position is that sharing requires equal treatment on those shared legs.
You persist in basing your arguments in an attack on my knowledge, but you continue to demonstrate how inflexibly committed to carrier "economics" you are. I'm sincerely asking you to re-examine your notions rather than become more set in them. I have considered your arguments and responded to them, explaining when and how they are wrong. The rest of us have actually paid attention to what those "economics" have done when applied without regulation to the marketplace evolving on the Internet. Throughout this engagement, you have repeatedly used the notion I am a fool and a liar as your primary argument.
At last, you've responded to the question I put to you and this is your answer. We should be able to put this to bed—agreeing to disagree without having to accuse the other of lying or stupidity—with this posting, which you and anyone else should feel free to respond to constructively and politely. I don't have time for people who begin an argument with "liar" and "fool," nor do our readers.
Hey, it's like an Update before I posted: In fact, since I published the comment on which this posting is based, George is back in comments, calling me ignorant again and pointing to his sustained attack on our fellow ZD Net blogger, Russell Shaw, in which he says:
Russell, of course you don't think this is a good idea when you have no understanding of traffic engineering (the usual dismissal of the opponent by a propagandist).... I'm proposing exactly what the true spirit of Net neutrality should be (the typical usurptation of the opponent's position by a propagandist). Instead of having the ISP adding infrastructure to only suit their highest paying customers, I would mandate at least half of that new infrastructure is designated to general purpose "best effort" class Internet to benefit everyone. If you're suggesting that any new infrastructure should be completely given to the general purpose Internet, then you are naive because you're never going to get any new infrastructure without some financial incentives for the people investing in the new infrastructure.
Now, the amazing thing is, we almost agree, but George's is a position that refuses to acknowledge the political and business realities in which "traffic engineering" exists. The infrastructure today is not "completely given over to the general purpose Internet," either, and the Net neutrality amendments explicitly say that in the "Preserved Rights and Exceptions" sections. In fact, the "general use Internet" is precisely what the Net neutrality position hopes to preserve, by ensuring a "general use Internet" exists with rules that provide fair and equal access to the market—any company may still buy dedicated circuits to bring them logically close to their customers. It is the obligation of the common carriers to make sure that, if there is a shared hop in the network, all traffic travels at the same throughput and reliability.
Also, George is intent on disliking me because I am a "liberal" and because I gave him as good as he served and more. I don't blame him for not liking me, since I can be a jerk, too. Dismissing your opposition by dismissing them personally or their politics generally rather than dealing fully with the realities of the issue is intellectually bankrupt. I'm trying, George, to address your position. You aren't ignorant, but you are refusing to deal with everything involved.
Specifically, George is refusing to deal with the growing barriers to competition at several layers of the Net, from basic connectivity (what if, for example, third-party DSL carriers were effectively blocked from the local loop by carriers imposing QoS fees in the last mile for their traffic?), applications (the "tax" a carrier could place on a packet from a Web services provider that they charge extra to deliver at the best effort speed, let alone increased speed—and George, I am using the word "speed" in the loosest sense so that I don't have to define throughput and QoS here), and in content markets, where the same carrier tax could be applied or access blocked, as demonstrated here by Verizon. George has not commented on that posting, probably because it is damning of his political position, which needs to be reconciled with his technical arguments.
We're talking about a simple idea, that when you haven't paid for dedicated capacity at a given throughput and reliability (again, shorthand, George, so deal with the principles in your response) your traffic will travel at the same speed and with the same reliability as everyone else's traffic. The carriers' position is that they should be able to define that freedom of access. It is the long and successful tradition of the United States that it does not allow a monopoly or duopoly to operate free of regulations which define a minimum common good that they must fulfill in exchange for their market positions.
George is from all appearances against the tradition of freedom that made the Net a transformative economic phenomenon.