The FCC requested comments from the public on the concept of network neutrality. I was interested enough in this that I submitted two sets of comments (I was one of reportedly several million commenters). I am in favor of network neutrality.
Since the FCC decision yesterday that supports the concept of network neutrality (NN), there has been two basic classes of reaction. Pro-NN people were saying it was a victory for ordinary people and most business, and anti-NN people we thundering that it was government control of the Internet and would cost business millions, and stifle innovation.
You can separate “the Internet” into a couple segments. One segment is the backbones of the net, which consists essentially of a set of very high capacity network connections that run between major hubs, and typically radiate out from major hubs to smaller hubs with a set of high capacity network connections, and from the small hubs to even smaller hubs, eventually terminating at houses and businesses. I say “backbones”, because each of the Internet service providers (ISPs) have their own backbone. There are interconnect points between the backbones so that each house or business doesn’t have to contract with every ISP to be able to reach every other house or business.
ISPs sell access to houses and businesses, and they have every right to charge different amounts depending on how much data you want to pay for. A customer who wants to fire up their computer each night, read some news, and check email, clearly uses less bandwidth than Google, and so pays less. That is not the issue with NN.
Say Google contracts for an OC-3 connection via AT&T. They pay money to AT&T for that bandwidth. But while some of that traffic goes to and from AT&T to other AT&T customers, some of it also goes to Cox Cable customers, and it is a lot of traffic. Under NN, Cox has to carry that traffic regardless, and without impeding it.
But what the ISPs wanted was to eliminate the concept of NN. In this example, Cox wanted to charge Google for that traffic that originated on the AT&T network, or be able to throttle Google traffic down to a smaller amount of bandwidth. The claim is that it is for cost recovery. But in reality, Cox has to keep its backbone large enough to satisfy all of it’s customers, and they surely have their own high-traffic customer (say, Bing), and some of that Bing traffic goes over to AT&T, who wanted to charge Bing a premium. It’s really a scheme to charge twice for some traffic while paying once for the infrastructure.
This doesn’t cost ISPs any more. And it sure does not stifle innovation. Think on this: Google came up with a nifty search scheme, and millions use it. To keep those users happy, Google pays AT&T for more and more bandwidth, and so pays for that extra traffic. Any other company that comes up with a good idea can do the same, and the ISPs will be paid to give the extra access.
And the argument of “government regulation” of the Internet is just bogus. The FCC issuing rules that guarantee NN has NOTHING to do with government regulation of the Internet. As a side note, it’s ridiculous for any Member of Congress to complain that an the FCC NN ruling is regulation of the Internet, and at the same time support NSA or the police capturing and storing Internet traffic from people who are not suspects in any crime (warrantless wiretaps, data vacuuming).
So the FCC is actually putting a stop to ISPs being able to double-bill some big bandwidth users. It’s a good decision.