Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Net Neutrality" - a balanced view...

Sorry Atrios, while the recent Washington Post article on "net neutrality" is a bit overblown, they do have a point, up to a point. I more agree with Richard Bennett on this than most of the lefties, to be honest. Here's why:

  • Indeed when the net was brought out, the "Quality of Service"- making sure data is delivered to you meeting certain requirements on throughput, delay, and jitter was not well thought out. The one internet standard for this, RSVP, is not well deployed at all.

  • When the internet was cooked up, nobody really did think it would be used for interactive high quality video services. It's a miracle that the jerky videos we see on Crooks and Liars work at all.

  • The true vision of the net is the decentering of traditional sources of the media, as lefties intuitively get. But this decentering won't happen if the service providers really do choke the pipe, because new applications demand more resources on the net. Information will find a way around, or will get its method out using other methods. But, as everybody who's dealt with this business really knows, in the long run, it's the applications that drive the infrastructure requirements, just like it's the expected traffic on the bridge and the length of the river that determine the structure of the bridge and the number of lanes. It's much like the "parkways" of the New York area: they were designed without accepting that buses could use them, and now buses cannot use them (overpasses are too low). Today they're as choked as the LIE.

  • There ought to be an implied warranty of usability- my battle cry against the horrendous dial-up services provided by the likes of Microsoft and others. But this is easily accomplished within the framework of the existing 'net, and buy guarantees of access and minimal standards of throughput and bandwidth.

  • Like it or not, some folks will fly first class, and like it or not, many more folks will fly coach. The trick for providers is to make first class cheaper than the competition. (That's not trivial, and it's a profoundly interesting problem that I didn't know how to solve 12 years ago.)

  • The real issue for "net neutrality" is that an advanced internet needs to be built, financed, and initiated through the government help, like it is in Korea, Japan, and China. That's why our access charges are so steep relative to these places. Put big pipes everwhere, and the high class QoS services can easily coexist with the best effort folks. That's an issue of capital infrastructure deployment and build-out, which in the US, with its lack of centralized planning for such things, doesn't exist. Hopefully rapid deployment of true competitive access schemes (Broadband Power Line, WiMax) might alleviate this problem. But that takes a new policy, committment, and intervention, with a quid-pro-quo of warranties of operability.

So let's stop the "they're going to get us" and get real technology deployment so that once and for all, we can put the kibosh on traditional broadcast media.

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