Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Striking the Spark for a Net Revolt

Sparking the Revolt
Here are my notes from the network neutrality call I hosted on Friday with Stanford University’s Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy and my colleague at Free Press, Ben Scott. The audio file is now available here.

I’ll be writing and posting a 1,000 word op-ed on this in the next couple of days. For a sampling of some of the best podcasts, blogging and other reporting coming out of the event, check out:
  1. MediaGeek's outstanding analysis of network neutrality and what's at stake in Washington.

  2. At the National Journal, Beltway Blogroll's overview of the blogosphere's response.

  3. Sandhill Trek's call to arms to stop ISP providers from taking Americans "even further into a second class swamp of deteriorating end-to-end service."

  4. Bob Morris boils net neutrality down to "three flash-point issues."

As major communications companies plan to control and profit from our broadband future, bloggers, independent media makers and their audiences need to remain vigilant and encourage a real debate about protecting the free flow of information and ideas.

Free Press has started to convene monthly blogger calls at the intersection of media and policy. With this series, we hope we can spark a serious debate about what the future of the Internet -- and all digital media -- will be.

Here are some memorable quotes from the first call.

Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School:
"What's happening here is not that people have been calling for new regulation of the Internet. What's happened is that there has been a radical change in the underlying regulatory infrastructure for telecommunications."

"Last August the FCC took the final step to remove those principals of neutrality from any part of the broadband network... that neutrality principle has been central to guaranteeing that outsiders can begin to build new applications and content for the Internet."

"All of the major innovations in the history of the Internet are by non Americans and kids, right, these are outsiders. That's because the architecture of the Internet, built upon this value of end-to-end neutrality, invited outsiders in to innovate. Now that's threatened by this change. What will happen when this principal of neutrality is removed from the network is that the network will increasingly auction off the highest value chunks of broadband network to the highest bidders. The next generation of applications and services will find it harder to compete against today's applications and services."

Jeff Chester, founder of the Center for Digital Democracy:
"The future of the Internet and our entire digital media environment is at risk with profound implications for democracy, civic participation, dissent and equity... We need Congress to step in now to help save the Internet's democratic and competitive potential."

"The cable and telephone industry have successfully led a political campaign to get to this place. They specifically want to undo the public policies that support the open end-to-end architecture that's been at the core of the possibilities for the Internet."

"They have a huge incentive now to discriminate because the government has now created as a result of their lobbying a broadband monopoly controlled by either the cable or telephone companies."

Ben Scott, policy director, Free Press:
"Now is the moment when legislation on the future of the Internet will be written, If there's ever a moment for a ruckus to be raised and the public to become seriously involved in the details of how Congress makes policy to decide the fate of the Internet, now is the moment."

"We need to bring as many people into the biggest possible movement we can muster to register with policy makers and the mainstream media that this issue of network neutrality is of central importance to us and that citizens and consumers will not stand for a Internet that's turned into the private property of the telephone companies and cable companies."

"If business were as usual, [the telecom companies] would win this. But there have been important instances where grassroots resistance has actually stopped major changes in public policy... I think a similar thing could happen here. If there really were a grassroots opposition to this, that raised a lot of anger and passion around it, I think there are a lot of politicians who would pick up on it.

"One thing I saw at the hearing, when I was testifying, is that it just didn't sit right, either with Republicans or Democrats, to imagine the Internet changed into a place where you basically could control what people had access to, or the networks had the right to control what people had access to. There really is an opportunity to do something successful in this context if there really were a movement."


directorblue said...

Great info. I'd love to get the carriers to answer these three simple questions:

1) Will you use deep packet inspection to monitor and/or meter customer behavior?

2) Will you offer tiered (e.g., "gold", "silver", and "bronze") Internet packages to customers who are otherwise operating at the same bandwidth?

3) Will you monitor, delay, and/or block voice-over-IP (VoIP), peer-to-peer file transfers, or any type of service used by customers?

The hardware that Cisco and others are pitching the carriers implies that, indeed, they are exploring new, intrusive, and anti-innovation methods of controlling what content providers can do:

Net neutrality analysis

One can also google "Cisco SEF" to start smelling what the carriers may be thinking:

"...with the Cisco SEF, service providers can treat [external] services as partners rather than competition. By creating an open network environment through which non-facility operators can ensure a more reliable customer experience for their application traffic, broadband service providers can create new revenue-sharing business models. The SEF allows service providers to efficiently and equitably identify [external content providers'] traffic streams for billing, auditing, and guaranteed performance."

Hmmmm... I think we can all read between the lines there, can't we?

Sudipta Das said...

I am confident that we can build a broadband system that allows users to decide what websites they want to see and what applications they want to use – and that also guarantees high quality service and network security. That network model has and can continue to provide economic benefits to innovators and consumers -- and to the broadband operators who will reap the rewards for providing access to such a valued network.

Free conference call