Four Steps to Fixing Net Neutrality – A Dummies Guide

Note:  Sorry about the formatting issues, we are moving servers and all content from 2006 trying not to create a black hole along the way, or did I say that already.


By a Dummy

15 November, 2014
Loren W
Melbourne Australia

  Why Me?

  •  I saw an opportunity in 1994 where   business users could benefit from   consumer broadband services being tweaked for business and my 15  seconds of fame began.
  • I was what they called a Product Manager, for one of the largest telcos in the world British Telecom. For me I would listen to no one, or I would listen to everyone or something in between, to introduce and market a new product or service that if successful would make my company a lot of many, I did. I had good timing and loved the Internet and knew what it was becoming.
  • Every country in the world has evolved differently in how they went from offering the original expensive Internet services used by governments and big business (at around $35k per year in 1993) down to consumer products including broadband for both Corporate, SME/SMB and home use.
  • In the UK, expensive Internet services over copper were dedicated then ISDN based, broadband was adopted by home users later business adopted it later. That was me, this again was slightly different around the world. I did not invent the Internet, I just introduced new Internet services like business broadband and cloud services, I had some good ideas an unlimited budget and great bosses, and good timing.
  • This was pre-dotcom bust we had team meetings in Disneyland Paris, we booked the entire London Zoo for our Xmas party, or an entire theme park times were tough then.   
  • Also in the UK at this time 1991, my  incumbent Telco BT, was moving out of being 100% government owned to being regulated by a government ombudsmen that has changed as the nature of the Internet and related services has evolved as well.
  • At the other end of the spectrum I was creating services for every corporate company in the world that wanted Internet or server capacity to the UK. They wheeled me in as the guru to close the big deals, they got comission, (HUGE) I got 15 secs of fame and was able to keep introducing every new Internet service I wanted (that I could cost justify on a 12 or 24 month ROI). I had a few tricks that helped. 
  • BT were a duopoly on Internet with WorldCom in the UK at this time that was all about to change.

Net Neutrality or Is It? 🙂

  • I am no expert on Net neutrality as silly as that might sound.
  • I and my team introduced Business Broadband in 1994 to an unsuspecting world (a product offering specific features of the already exiting and more expensive Internet).
  • It was a quieter, gentler time, we did have a big issue with peering arrangements that was how different ISPs managed traffic across our networks. 
  • I personally evangelized everything from the regulatory, legal and commercial offering, marketing campaign and training the original sales teams across the UK, Europe and the US tweaking the $15k a year services that was the Internet and making it a $2k a year service. It then became the commodity we all know and love today. I did NOT invent the internet, I just made it cheaper and more accessible to businesses as an alternative to fixed internet or ISDN.

What is Net Neutrality?

  • There is the question for the ages. Everyone has a view on what it is or what it is not.
  • The fathers of the Internet Vinton Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee have spoken out in favor of net neutrality
  • A simple view is that all Internet usage / viewing should be treated equally.
  • However for things to be open for all SOMEONE HAS TO ADDRESS THE COSTS ! !
  • In 2014 Netflix had 50 million customers, and 32% of all video streaming in the US is via Netflix, requiring some sort infrastructure management and costs to handle this.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in March 2014, after a long dispute they had paid Comcast and others not for Network Neutrality but for ‘Interconnection fees’;

  • Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience. When we do so, we don’t pay for priority access against competitors, just for interconnection.
  • The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don’t restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient.
  • Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge.
  • That is no carrier should slow down a service like Netflix. Netflix also said about peering arrangements
  • Some ISPs say that Netflix is unilaterally “dumping as much volume” (Verizon CFO) as it wants onto their networks. Netflix isn’t “dumping” data; it’s satisfying requests made by ISP customers who pay a lot of money for high speed Internet. Netflix doesn’t send data unless members request a movie or TV show.
  • Interestingly, there is one special case where no-fee interconnection is embraced by the big ISPs — when they are connecting among themselves. They argue this is because roughly the same amount of data comes and goes between their networks. But when we ask them if we too would qualify for no-fee interconnect if we changed our service to upload as much data as we download** [** in other words, moving to peer-to-peer content delivery] – thus filling their upstream networks and nearly doubling our total traffic — there is an uncomfortable silence. That’s because the ISP argument isn’t sensible. Big ISPs aren’t paying money to services like online backup that generate more upstream than downstream traffic. Data direction, in other words, has nothing to do with costs.

Show Me the Money and a Bad Analogy by Me

This is the one that gets me going.

  • A lot of the debate on Net neutrality has not been on freedom but cost.
  • In early 2014 Comcast offered a comment on the Netflix comment

“The Open Internet rules never were designed to deal with peering and Internet interconnection, which have been an essential part of the growth of the Internet for two decades. Edge providers like Netflix have always paid for their interconnection to the Internet and have always had ample options to ensure that their customers receive an optimal performance through all ISPs. We are happy that Comcast and Netflix were able to reach an amicable, market-based solution to our interconnection issues and believe that our agreement demonstrates the effectiveness of the market as a mechanism to deal with these matters.”

This above is so relevant. The original Internet cost models pre-dated heavy individual users providing heavy demanding users the content. If you built a data centre at your business the power provider if needing to upgrade their power feed would incur large costs for doing that, it would be crazy to expect them to absorb all the cost they are a company and need to make profit on that specific business transaction. In this day of net neutrality people are ignoring the costs.

How to Fix Net neutrality

  •  So again as I am no expert, but like many I have an opinion
  • Many believe that the Telcos are not capable of self-regulation
  • Others believe that government cannot react fast enough or impartial enough to act in the best interest of the consumer.
  • This all might be true.
  • You need to define as with any business who needs to pay for the cost of service.
  • What worked in the UK though not perfect offers a simplistic view.
  1. The telecommunications act is way out of date and a re-write updating it needs to be addressed. Due to the length of time this would take introducing new guidelines, under the remit of a new ombudsman that offers a layer of protections and guides on the top of the FCC Telecoms act of 1996 can put a short term fix in place. This ombudsman (a buffer between the carriers and the government) acting on behalf of anyone complaining about carriers will hold the carriers accountable, for dubious acts, and have the bite of the Federal Government and be able to move faster than the government as was done in the UK with. In the UK Ofcom covered, TV/ Radio/ Internet/ and Spectrum Licensing. When a new Internet service was introduced OFCOM had to be notified and consulted.

    Ofcom presides over licensing, research, codes and policies, complaints, competition and protecting the radio spectrum from abuse in the UK

  2. All content providers need to pay for peering agreements (transit, peer or customer), also called pay swap, or sell. See wiki peering. For what peering is.
  3. All Telco services offered need to be transparent, (prices are on the Internet), how the service works needs to be transparent as in the UK.
  4. Where there is no individual provider of traffic (e.g. bit torrents) those costs if large enough should be paid by the user (a P2P tax) or pay as you go.

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