Here we go again. Net neutrality is not Obamacare either.

To nobody’s particular surpise, yesterday president Barack Obama endorsed a form of net neutrality. And immediately, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out swinging against it, calling it, “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Sen. Cruz appears to have either failed to read, or refused to read, the four-point proposal, which is short and simple enough to fit on an index card, if not a business card. He also failed to discuss the alternative–and there is a perfectly fair alternative to net neutrality.

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Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Read more

Verizon sabotages Netflix

I’m fed up with ISP duopolies. Why? Because Netflix paid Verizon the ransom it demanded, and yet Verizon hasn’t lived up to its side of the deal. To the contrary, evidence suggests Verizon is actively slowing down Netflix, because when Colin Nederkoorn encrypts his Netflix connection so Verizon can’t see what it is, it speeds up.

News flash: Encrypting data via VPN adds overhead, so it ought to slow the traffic down.

I’m starting to doubt whether net neutrality is enough to solve the problem. A better solution is to break these companies up, let them serve whoever they want, and let municipalities compete with them if they want.

Not that that is ever going to happen.

Stand up for net neutrality

Neocities has decided to do something about Net Neutrality–shunt the FCC into the slow lane, and post the code for doing it so the rest of us who run web sites can do it too. The original was written for Nginx; I need to give serious thought to implementing the Apache version.

Net neutrality has nothing to do with the political bent of the content–the people you may hear talking about it on the radio are wrong, which is why they’re yakking on the radio and aren’t working at ISPs or IT departments–and everything to do about raising prices. What we’re seeing now is telecommunications companies, who are already ultra-profitable, gouging companies like Netflix. And Netflix is doing exactly what a company that suddenly has to pay new taxes would do–raising prices.

The difference is that it’s old-line companies doing the taxing in this case rather than a government. That’s all.

The other objection I hear is that lots of innovation happened on the Internet without regulation, so why regulate now? The difference is that the environment in the late 1990s, when the seeds of all of this were planted and started to sprout, was very different. Back then we had hundreds of ISPs, all of whom participated in building out what we have now. None of them wanted to charge both subscribers and content providers, and none of them could have anyway. If Earthlink had tried to shake down Ebay and Amazon and make them slow, people would have switched to someone else–one of any number of regional providers, or equivalent services run by companies like IBM and the old AT&T (prior to its re-merger with Southwestern Bell). Today, many people live in areas only serviced by one broadband provider. Most people have two, but that’s not like the old days.

If I could have anything, I’d like more competition. I’d love it if the average U.S. citizen had a choice of a dozen or so broadband providers. Then we could have a truly free market. Instead, we have duopolies, a situation much like the situation with electricity and natural gas in most municipalities, and broadband providers face far less regulation than power companies do, even though as they grow in importance.

Let’s talk about net neutrality

The battles are raging over net neutrality again. Conservatives generally are against it; liberals are generally for it. I think the battle is more over misunderstanding than anything else, so I want to try to clear up that misunderstanding.

Net neutrality is in no way, shape, or form related to the political slant of the data in transit. It is not the Internet equivalent of The Fairness Doctrine, the old law that forced television and radio programmers to alternate left- and right-wing content, or equal time, which forces programmers to give equal time allotments to political candidates from both major parties. It’s completely unrelated to both of those things.

What net neutrality is really about is double-billing. Read more

What net neutrality means and why it\’s a good thing

This week, John C. Dvorak makes a good argument in favor of net neutrality.

I’m going to take it from a different angle. I am a conservative. While I rarely vote a straight Republican ticket, I am registered as a Republican. Republicans generally are against net neutrality.

They are wrong. I will assume it’s from a lack of understanding rather than bad intentions, but in this case, wrong is wrong. I’ll explain why. Read more

Net neutrality has little to do with censorship but it\’s a good idea anyway

Pearl Jam came out in favor of net neutrality after AT&T censored a broadcast a performance they did in Chicago last Sunday. I guess AT&T didn’t like Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush message.

I don’t know if Pearl Jam’s sudden embrace of net neutrality is out of ignorance, or if it’s retaliation. It doesn’t really matter because it should help bring some more awareness to the issue.Here’s the issue with net neutrality, in a nutshell. AT&T wants to charge companies like Amazon, eBay, and Google when people like you and me access their web pages. And if the companies don’t pay, AT&T will make the web sites slower. The idea is that if one company doesn’t pay the fees but a competitor does, AT&T customers will probably opt to use the faster services.

Proponents say AT&T built the infrastructure, so they have the right to charge whoever uses it.

There are two problems with that logic.

They’re already paying to use it.

When a company decides to go online, they buy an Internet connection. That connection might be owned by AT&T, or it might be owned by some other provider. It isn’t cheap. While a 1.5-megabit cable modem connection might cost a consumer $30, a commercial-grade 1.5-megabit T1 connection will cost more on the order of $500 a month. A company like Google needs a lot more than one of these connections. Google most likely is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, every month for the privilege of being on the Internet.

Without content, an Internet connection has no value.

AT&T knows nothing about how online services work, because they haven’t been in the business long. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to go online, you didn’t use the Internet unless you were a college student. You subscribed to a service like AOL or Compuserve or Prodigy, who sent you a disk and a local phone number that you called with your modem, and then when you wanted to go online, you connected to their service. It had e-mail and forums and downloads and news, kind of like the Internet does today, but it was smaller. You could interact with other subscribers but that was pretty much it. E-mail was limited, for the most part, to other members of the same service.

Compuserve was the biggest and most expensive service, but it survived because it had the most features. AOL and Prodigy survived because they were easy to use. GEnie, a competing service operated by General Electric, survived primarily because it was cheaper than the others. Each had a niche. In these cases, the company providing access also provided the content. It was a closed system.

The Internet is an open system. AT&T isn’t providing all of the content. AT&T is my Internet provider, and I never touch any of their content, except when my credit card expires and I get a new one and I have to go to att.com to update my account with the new expiration date for my automatic bill-pay.

If it weren’t for the companies like eBay and Amazon and Google, nobody would want an Internet connection in the first place, because without those providers, an Internet connection is pretty much useless. The only reason the Internet took off in the first place was because companies like AOL and CompuServe couldn’t offer services that were as good as what Google and Amazon and eBay.

That’s why AOL went from a blue-chip stock to a drag on Time-Warner’s share price in less than a decade.

People buy Internet connections so they can use Google and Amazon and eBay. Very few people care about the mostly sterile content AT&T puts on the Internet. I’m sure some people enjoy watching concerts in the AT&T blue room, but I’ve never heard of anyone watching anything there. But I hear every day about what someone bought or sold on eBay, or a story that showed up on Google News or CNN.com, or a book someone bought on Amazon.

And when they use e-mail, people increasingly are using e-mail from Google or Yahoo or Microsoft instead of the one from their Internet provider. That way they can read their mail anywhere, and they can keep their e-mail address even if they move or change Internet providers. So Internet providers aren’t even the primary source of the most basic services anymore.

If anything, AT&T should be paying the companies that produce the content. Not the other way around.

AT&T isn’t selling content. It’s selling a pipe that content travels to. Lest AT&T get a big head, all AT&T has to offer is plumbing.

So what does this have to do with censorship?

Net neutrality has very little to do with censorship. I suppose someone with contrarian views operating a blog on a shoestring who can’t afford to pay for both an Internet connection and the privilege of running in AT&T’s fast lane is a victim of a form of censorship. Or if Google doesn’t pay to be in the fast lane but Yahoo does, then in a way Google is being censored in favor of Yahoo.

But if AT&T chooses to drop the audio out of a Pearl Jam concert, net neutrality isn’t going to stop that. In that case, AT&T is the provider, not just the company providing the plumbing.

But net neutrality is a good thing because without it, what’s going to happen is higher prices for the things you buy on Amazon and eBay, and less content on news sites because the news providers can’t afford as many writers because now they’re having to pay AT&T and every other company that sells digital plumbing. You get less, so that Randall Stephenson gets a higher salary and a more attractive stock options.

Stephenson made $14.6 million last year, before he got promoted to CEO.

I don’t think you and I need to make any more sacrifices in order to give this fat cat a bigger raise.

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