Saying "goodbye" to the Net

The Senate Commerce Committee has rejected Net neutrality language, setting the stage for carriers to run rampant.

The Senate Commerce Committee, splitting 11 to 11 and therefore rejecting compromise language, set the stage for a carrier-controlled Internet. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the President, you can kiss the Net you know "goodbye." Farewell, open networks and open standards. Soon every packet will be subject to inspection and surcharges based on what it carries and who sent it or where it is going.

The compromise language would have guaranteed that all traffic sent Farewell, open networks and open standards. Soon every packet will be subject to inspection and surcharges.over carrier backbones would be treated equally, regardless of its source or destination. Carriers will be free to target especially profitable traffic for surcharges.

In the Republicans' version of the bill, which will likely be passed, there is a "consumers' bill of rights" (click for the draft legislation) within a new universal service regime based on carrier services that are "as competitively and technologically neutral as possible." Unfortunately, the legislation leaves the definition of what's possible to the carriers. "Broadband service" is defined by the Republicans as "at least 200 Kbps in at least one direction." In other words, anything over 200 Kbps is unregulated territory when it comes to pricing.

The Republicans are reported to be supportive of a measure that would allow anti-trust prosecution of predatory pricing by carriers, but that's an approach that requires years of exhorbitantly expensive court action to pursue. Network innovation would still be choked off in any reasonable horizon for a viable business competitor to a carrier-approved service, as the history of Microsoft has shown.

The vote was down party lines, except for Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, who had co-sponsored the compromise and voted with Democrats. This fall, if you want to reverse this pending legislation, you can see for yourself how to vote. 

I urge you to take a look at the thread between myself and commenter Anton Philidor, who argues in favor of the carrier's position, in this posting from Monday. We were able to approach agreement about what's fair, and it falls within the Net neutrality framework we need to preserve to keep new services flowing over the Internet without carriers forcing new content or Web service providers to pay surcharges.

If only the Senate would take the time to look at this issue before acting.

Carriers are already free to charge for dedicated services. The Internet is not architected on a foundation favorable for dedicated services, which is where the carriers want to ghettoize Web services that won't pay a surcharge for their success. At the same time, the carriers enjoy monopoly or duopoly pricing power at both ends of their network. All the Senate is doing is clearing the way for carriers, which are already very profitable, to make more money without any additional investments in improved services. 

Pro-carrier advocates like to argue that it is the telco and cable companies' network so they should be able to do with it what they want. Indeed, we've handed it over to them in a tragic giveaway to duopolists that fight any upstart network or network service. It's their network now.