Sunday, 2 November 2008

Net Neutrality



new post on labs blog: http://labs.is.co.za/justinspratt/2008/11/net-neutrality

"Net Neutrality" is the push by lobby groups to keep the internet "open" by regulation. "Open" means any traffic can traverse any network. (Interestingly, network neutrality movement started on telegraph networks and was first promulgated back in 1860. The latest internet push started in 2000.)

The opposing side are the carriers and ISP's who want to charge toll fees for certain types of traffic that traverses their network, through a method called "Deep Packet Inspection". Essentially some of the carriers want to create gated internet communities that they control. Very horrible scenario indeed.

The rationale behind it is simple: content providers and web sites are making revenues from traffic that is sent across the carriers "expensive networks" and the carriers therefore believe they should get a cut of the revenues generated.

My view is that it wont be as bad as people think or say. Most of the lobbyists are blowhard, tree hugger types, which really doesnt help the cause. Interestingly, they are funded (clearly - tree huggers dont have jobs) by some big names, not least of which is Google.

But there is significant public pressure (for now) to keep the carriers and ISP's in check – Comcast tried this for instance, then revoked and toned down what they were trying to do. Vodacom also tried it here in South Africa by blocking MXit - the latter winning a high court ruling.

So these gated communities are highly unlikely in my view.

The "Black Swan" (rare outlying event) however, would be if the global macro economic deterioration is so bad the carriers start going broke... They would then have a strong argument to boost revenues using this toll gate method. If this does happen, then clearly this will be a significant impediment to innovation on The Net.

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recent news:
WSJ article on Google wanting special treatment - "we want a fast lane for our services"

Rebuttal from Google - "we merely want to build a CDN (content delivery network)"

And separately, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. have withdrawn quietly from a coalition formed two years ago to protect network neutrality. Each company has forged partnerships with the phone and cable companies. In addition, prominent Internet scholars, some of whom have advised President-elect Barack Obama on technology issues, have softened their views on the
subject.
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