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Thoughtful comments from ZDNet readers on Net neutrality

We reach some of the most technically sophisticated and aware individuals in the IT industry.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I'll admit it. Sometimes picking on Apple lovers is irresistible. It's like when you were a little kid and you knew you weren't supposed to use a magnifying glass and the sun's rays to fry a bug, but you just kind of had to, anyway. Teasing Apple lovers is like that and the result is often TalkBacks filled with annoyed, man-purse carrying Apple faithful venting their carefully coiffed rage.

But not all TalkBacks are like Apple-related TalkBacks. We also reach some of the most technically sophisticated and aware individuals in the IT industry (and I include Apple lovers, when they're not being goaded mercilessly). As a result, if you read through TalkBack posts, you can often find interesting, well-considered and well-informed perspectives.

That's the sort of gold I found in the TalkBacks from yesterday's article on the death of Net neutrality. It started with a Facebook posting by a friend of mine, Warren Selby. After reading his note, I decided to go back through the TalkBacks and found some great insights.

In this posting, I'm going to start with Warren's comments and then spotlight some of the more interesting comments I found in TalkBack. What follows are their words and their insights.

Warren's comments

I had a feeling you'd be jumping on this when I saw the news today. Having read your article, I know you realize this isn't "the death" of net neutrality. It just means Congress must now pass new laws that explicitly grant the FCC the proper permission to do what they were trying to do with laws that were designed for something else.

Now, about the topic of the story, I'm on the fence about net neutrality. On the one hand, I don't want ISPs to start acting like the cell phone industry (sorry, you have to buy your PC from us, and you're access to our network will only work with a PC you bought from us, or one of our certified partners, ala Apple and AT&T and the iPhone). Comcast blocking traffic to sites they don't like (P2P networks) is, in my opinion, a very bad thing.

On the other hand, I really don't like the idea of government regulation of the Internet. We're talking the FCC here, the government regulatory body that basically gets to decide what's allowed to be broadcast over the air. Suppose they start applying their ideas to what's allowed to be broadcast over the air to what's allowed to be transmitted over the net? Bye-bye online porn industry.

Suddenly, the government decides it's a bad thing for people to able to play video games for 12 hours straight and implements new laws that say ISPs that don't want to lose their ISP license are now required to stop people from gaming once they reach 11 hours of consecutive play? Hey, the MPAA just contributed millions of dollars to my re-election campaign, I should do something nice for them with regards to making it illegal for any ISP to allow P2P traffic on their networks.

You see how this works. There's slippery-slope arguments for both sides of net-neutrality. In my opinion, net neutrality is a good idea. I just wish we could find a way to achieve it without any kind of government regulation.

Kweebia says, "In case you forgot"

All these "new innovations" happened without government regulation. I'm sorry, but most of the places where government gets involved suddenly end up with new fees, you know to help cover the cost of governmental interference.

And the government doesn't have a great track record of creating sound regulation much less understanding most technology. I mean if you really want to talk about blocking innovation, let's talk about software patents. Another great government idea.

There are also a few things everyone is ignoring, like that Comcast didn't block traffic, they delayed BitTorrent downloads.

People also ignore the fact that less than 5% of the active subscribers were causing the problem.

As to the comment that cable companies control what services consumers can even see, I'd like you to name one that consumers can't see. I mean besides phishing sites. Sorry I guess when they block phishing sites they are bad, because they should allow you to become infected and have your data stolen.

Everybody also ignores that these are private networks, they are not paid for by the government. Cable companies, and Verizon for that matter paid for the network and pay to maintain the network.

Comcast wasn't trying to limit your access they were trying to solve a problem caused by a very small minority that was affecting the majority (over 95%).

Oh and as to no innovation, they only brought high speed internet to Millions, oh but I guess that doesn't count even though it enabled most of the services that you are talking about.

And while they didn't invent On Demand, Switched Digital video, Docsis 2.0 and 3.0, they have deployed these innovations so that people have access to them.

I mean honestly, Google didn't invent VOIP, Internet email, Internet maps or Internet documents, they are just popular. For that matter, they didn't invent Internet search. I'm not saying they are not good at those services, but they basically deployed things that were already in use.

And before you flame me, I don't work for Comcast, I just work in the industry and understand the challenges faced by the industry. I don't honestly see ISPs blocking any of these services, there is just too much competition to block them.

If they start blocking services, their competitors will start advertising that they don't. Then Comcast would lose customers. The only reason their competitors didn't make a big deal over the whole BitTorrent thing is because all broadband ISPs have to use some kind of network traffic management.

Even the FCC admitted that providers had to be able to manage traffic on their networks. The "sanction" that they were fighting in court was just a slap on the wrist so the FCC could puff out its chest and say they were doing something about it. Comcast only fought it because it is fundamentally unsound for the government to be able to, without passing any laws, suddenly expand its control of private networks.

Serpentmage on "Amazing how Obama has affected the viewpoint... "

I read all of these comments on how "business is business". Wow, because of Obama and his fight against "free enterprise" everybody has decided that Skype is freeloading and not paying dues.

Well, folks let's work on this metaphor a bit shall we. Imagine a toll road, and you pay your toll, just like like your access fee.

The problem is that Comcast wants to say, "hey you have a semi and hence I want to kick you off the road." Of course the semi is charged more, but the question becomes where do you draw the line?

The toll road has the right to charge the semi more money. But what if the toll road has decided to kick out semi's from a certain company? They made a deal to only allow certain semi companies. Would the toll company be allowed to do that? Answer NO!

The solution in the free enterprise world is to let them kick out the semi. And let the semi build another road. Wonderful idea folks, and that is what caused the railroad collapse about 150 years ago. Because companies were not willing to let other companies use their railways, railway lines were built double and triple. It was not a good idea.

But hey the free market is always better... UNTIL it hurts the pocketbook and people demand regulation!!! You can't have it two ways!

Bruizer on "Skype and VOIP have the most to gain here"

The reality is, in any Network, QoS (Quality of Service) is critically important. VOIP clients are a perfect example.

One of the serious downsides of an "all you can eat" plan like most broadband plans are, is some people will do that. Even when they are not home and this can be detriment to lighter users and degrade the performance of apps that need higher QoS, such as a VOIP app.

So heck yea, I want to be able to assign a much higher QoS to VOIP data than to highly non-time-critical peer-to-peer file sharing (or any ftp traffic for that mater).

What this might mean, is that QoS might actually start costing money.

Thanks, everyone!

This has been a great discussion on a very important topic. Keep the conversation going by adding your comments to the TalkBack section below. And a special thanks to my friend Warren along with TalkBackers Kweebia, Serpentmage, and Bruizer. If your TalkBack didn't get included, maybe it will be in a future "thoughtful comments" posting.

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