In recent hours, Slashdot users have been commenting a lot on yesterday's post in which I referred to an atmosphere of distrust some Vonage users have been directing toward Comcast. I first noticed this in a Vonage Forum thread I linked to.
Posts run the gamut, but there's one that really grabbed me. I was especially seized by it because the proportion of libertarian-minded thought on Slashdot is way out of proportion to the popularity of libertarian thinking in the general electorate.
The post I am referring to was composed by Slashdot reader bigpat.
He chooses to comment on an earlier post that said in part: "All these ideas are entirely possible but it could simply be that Comcast doesn't provide the kind of broadband consistently necessary to use VoIP."
Here's what bigpat writes:
Well, there is an easy test. If their VOIP works fine and other people's don't then they are probably gumming up the lines with QoS. ISPs have been working on different levels of service for differently labeled packet s of data for a while now and I think it should be clear to everyone that QoS really stands for "pick your pocket", not "quality of service". Quality of Service is fine when companies like Comcast don't have local monopolies or don't collude with their only other competitor... potentially that would be Verizon in my area, in order to fix service offerings.
I am libertarian, but QoS (or whatever they want to relabel it as) is an area which needs regulation. Make them simple regulations, make them so that they promote competition. Unfortunately maybe the only way to do this is to prevent ISPs from offering any add on services at all, other than basic bandwidth, addressibility and letting them charge flat published and competitive rates for QoS which get charged directly to the customer and aren't a part of secret deals. Otherwise it will be nearly impossible to prevent them from deciding which services succeed and which ones fail if they control the playing field, the referees and have their players in the game all at the same time. If gone unchecked, they could prevent other companies and other services from being provided to their customers, literally, at the flip of a switch.
Now for a typical Slashdot libertarian to call for QoS regulation- indeed any regulation - that's like a religious conservative all of a sudden coming out as a Wiccan.