June 30, 2006  ·  Lessig

Lots happening with Net Neutrality, most significantly that the Democrats seem to have decided that this is their issue. The extraordinary tie created in the Senate Commerce Committee (11-11) on party lines (plus the amazing Senator Snowe) seems to signal a decision by leaders of the party that this is a fight they want to lead. The slogan does have a nice right to it — “Republicans: They sold the environment to Exxon, and sold the war to Halliburton. Now they want to sell the Internet to at&t.” (yea, the new logo is no-caps. a kinder, gentler …)

In my view, this is good news and bad. Good for the Dems that they got it. Bad that the issue is now within the grips of party politics. I guess it was just a matter of time, given how much money the cable and telcos have put on the table.

Here’s John Kerry on the vote: (bravo, Senator):

Stopping the Big Giveaway — by John Kerry

Yesterday in the Senate Commerce Committee I warned that those of us who believe in net neutrality will block legislation that doesn’t get the job done.

It looks like that’s the fight we’re going to have.

The Commerce Committee voted on net neutrality and it failed on an 11-11 tie. This vote was a gift to cable and telephone companies, and a slap in the face of every Internet user and consumer. It will not stand.

I voted against this lousy bill for two reasons: because net neutrality and internet build-out are crucial to building a more modern and fair Information Society, and both were pushed aside by the Republicans.

Everyone says they don’t want the new world we’re living in to be marked by the digital divide — the term is so clichéd it’s turned to mush — but yesterday was a test of who is willing to ask corporate America to do anything to fix it, and the Commerce Committee failed miserably. Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service — in the age of the information.

This bill was passed in committee over our objections. Now we need to fight to either fix it or kill it in the full Senate. Senator Wyden has already drawn a line in the sand — putting a “hold” on the bill, which prevents it from going forward for now. But there will be a day of reckoning on this legislation soon, make no mistake about it, and we need you to get engaged — pressure your Senators, follow the issue, demand net neutrality and build-out.

  • Steve Gustafson

    I just listened to Senator Ted Stevens comments on net neutrality. It is nothing short of scary to know our senators are debating laws regarding technology without the most basic understanding of how things work!

    The audio of Steven’s comments is available here:
    http://media.publicknowledge.org/stevens-on-nn.mp3

    Be prepared to be stunned!

  • Mark Petrovic

    While we fight this battle for the network, we should be looking further down the road to network ownership by the people who use them: us. There was a time in history when a common man did not own his own home, nor dared dream of it. So it is today with networks.

    The tension of network neutrality is a manifestly good thing. It means there will be war instead of capitulation. But laws are not enough.

    Allow me

    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20060629.html

    “The obvious answer is for regular folks like you and me to own our own last mile Internet connection. This idea, which Frankston supports, is well presented by Bill St. Arnaud in a presentation you’ll find among this week’s links. (Bill is senior director of advanced networks with CANARIE, which is responsible for the coordination and implementation of Canada’s next generation optical Internet initiative.) The idea is simple: run Fiber To The Home (FTTH) and pay for it as a community of customers — a cooperative. The cost per fiber drop, according to Bill’s estimate, is $1,000-$1,500 if 40 percent of homes participate. Using the higher $1,500 figure, the cost to finance the system over 10 years at today’s prime rate would be $17.42 per month.”

    When you rent, you beg for terms. When you own, you set the terms. We must stop hoping we can live in peace with the incumbents and start providing for ourselves. Hand me the Red Pill.

  • pelo

    bravo Senator? get a sack of nuts, larry. john kery is a tool and you know it. who cares that the democrats get NN? these politicians always have an alterior motive and it never benefits anyone but themselves. it is unbelievable to me that anyone could have faith, hope, or involvement in the present political system that exists in this country and think they are acting for the common good. we should focus on changing the structure, ideaology, and purpose of our government– or better yet eliminate it. john kerry and the democratic party is part of the problem, not the solution. he is part of a (corporate) one-party system. i will say it over and over again: our political system has failed, the slave-owners that built the united states wealth were wrong and fooled even you larry with their poetics.

  • Josh Zeidner

    Mark, I believe you are following the right course of thinking here.

    The obvious answer is for regular folks like you and me to own our own last mile Internet connection.

    This issue that you raise has historically been referred to as Common Carrier. My contention is that these problems that are being raised concerning security( DoS ), content( child pronography ), and delivery problems( QoS ) of IP networking are wholly irrelavent given adequate oversight to telecom regulations. There are few costs in wide-area delivery. There already exists an enormous availability of backbone bandwidth. The problem always has been the legendary ‘last mile’. These battles were already fought, we just need to revive this portion of history. What we need is a Bandwidth Common Carrier, which is a specially regulated public utility which works to offer consumers maximum choice in ‘provider’. How do you think it is possible that you can change your phone company without having to dig up your yard? It has not always been this way. Oh, and BTW, Bush’s FCC has changed the name of the Common Carrier bureau to Wireline Competition Bureau( reminiscent of Arthur Anderson changing thier name to Accenture after Enron! ).

    The fact is that current technology offers the possibility of such low cost communications it has turned the tables on the entire industry. The cost parameters of long distance communications has changed drastically due to the invention of fiber optics. If we look at the movement of cash in the telco industry what we see are things that don’t really make a lot of sense.

    Finally, in order to maximize bandwidth utilization, managment policies and QoS should in some given cases be the jurisdiction of the private carrier. These arguments make sense in certain venues, but the problem is that the costs of bulk bandwidth are not being emphasized, and the metrics which guide our competition policies are totally irrational given our current technological environment. So the quality of logic is there for the QoS crowd, but it fails to support the argument at a broader level when the true costs are examined.

    Now, I had mentioned in the last post that the issues do have an underlying ‘National Security’ element to them. What the explicit relationships between major telcos like at&t and agencies like the NSA are will most likely remain obscured to the public, but to deny thier existence I believe is, depending on who you speak to, either ignorance or perjury. Support the EFF, they are a truly great American organization.

    A few points on the Democrats… this issue has historically belonged to the Democrats and they will likely be the ones to run it home( there are some things we can love the Dems for! ). As far as thier general viability in US politics as a whole, I believe what they are lacking is viable approach to modern global trade economics( im not sure if the term ‘trade’ is even still valid ), and a coming to terms with real and current American age and race demographics( in particular new Asian-American identities ), and finally solution to the illegal alien problem that is fair for working people.

    jmz

  • Josh Zeidner

    one more point to illustrate my argument… Im not sure if most people understand where we are at in terms of Internet technology and to what level of depth and magnitude suveillance is possible. Here is an article on the gear that the NSA uses for reconnaisance. One commenter writes that it is possible to examine the sematics of 40,000 simultaneous DSL connections with one of these devices. This includes record and playback of media streams, VOIP, etc. Also the machine is capable of analysing millions of messages for ‘semantic content’ in a relatively small timeframe. A few of these machines could tell me for instance, who are all the people in california who have an interest in Venezuela. Perhaps some of you here have the vision to understand what someone could do with this capability.

    The Naurus 6400

  • Josh Zeidner
  • three blind mice

    Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live.

    well, this is right out of the democratic book of tired old rhetoric: “BLANK” is something all americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live.

    Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

    expected? or forced? when you take away the incentives with heavy-handed legislation how is this supposed to happen?

    why not let the government do it senator: congress can design it, haliburton can build it (with no-bid contracts), FEMA can manage it, and focus on the family can provide the government approved (cc) content.

  • Josh Zeidner

    When you rent, you beg for terms. When you own, you set the terms.

    Not really, it makes sense to rent when there is a surplus of housing. It is profitable to own when there is a demand for housing( in a particular locale ). These economic principles carry over to the world of telecom. The fundamentals are totally out of whack. You have the likes of at&t trying to simultaneously convince the kangaroo court that the means of telecom are both expensive to produce and difficult to maintain. The kangaroo court is maintained by parties who prefer the existence of a monopoly. I would rather rent telecom service if it were properly managed( not selling my emails to the Republicans ), and costs scaled to the open market. Our current situation however is not refecting on technological, political and economic reality. Telephone should be dirt cheap if not free( remember that copper wiring was a significant portion of telecom cost basis prior to 1980s ). Internet should be ubiquitous and cost/quality of point-to-point connections should not significantly vary over national or state geography.

    I beleive the best way is establish a digital common carrier, put in legislation that protects our civil liberties from domestic surveillance( it already there ), and make sure that the common carrier maintains a natural marketplace for domestic connectivity.

    Interestingly I believe that this current VA Laptop theft case is intentional media spectacle( this kind of thing happens all the time, why not use this as evidence against the dangers of offshoring! ). Some parties want to accentuate the importance of digital security. Security over IP networks is better executed the more the network takes on a centralized character. Large-telcos like at&t can offer this, and this will no doubt be the main case for the Republican’s interpretation of telecom law( weve already been through this ). What should and will happen is that security liability and service policy will be properly distributed throughout national, state, and local domains. Everything must hinge on a common carrier device that is both a policital and technological provision.

  • Josh Zeidner
  • Josh Zeidner

    one more item while ive got this file open…

    One important argument against NN( Im not quite sure if I am really argueing for NN rather digital common carrier ), is the sufficiency of IP networking. Remember that IP is not the only means of digital communciations( ATM, Token Ring, etc. ). It is clearly the dominant one in use, but does impose certain drawbacks, none of which pose an adequate limitation given the quantitative aspects of the contemporary telecom market. This ambiguity in underlying technology is being leveraged by the monopolists to avoid further regulation.

    Many times, such regulations have failed due to the reluctance to make a political commitment to IP as a technology. IP( which includes TCP, UDP, ICMP, * ) is adequate for all digital wireline communications in commercial, military, and private civilian use. Therefore, any adequate policy move toward a digital common carrier would have to include language that is specific to Internet Protocol networking. What is lacking in many cases is adequate council in IP networking technology and its alternatives. One would have to be very careful in how such a council is formed, because as we are all aware, technical opinions always have a political bias.

    * an optimized transport protocol for TV transmission or Telephony are also possible

  • http://b Paul M

    It really is sad NN is in the hands of party politics. It kind of leaves a real bad taste in my mouth. Just like a baby bird, the government moves in on something good and touches it and ruins it, leaving the mother bird to know it has been ruined so she flies away. Unfortunately, us humans don’t fly away, we just accept it ask for even more things to be ruined. As the little guy, I have to ask myself, who are these people in government, why are they always doing things that are not really…..sensible.

  • three blind mice

    IP( which includes TCP, UDP, ICMP, * ) is adequate for all digital wireline communications in commercial, military, and private civilian use.

    well, first of all, it’s a bit premature to say that “IP networking” is sufficient. IP is a network layer protocol used for addressing and routing packets in a packet-switched networks (any packet-switched network.) IPv4 (with a 32 bit address field and the dominant standard in use) is ALREADY insufficient which is why IPv6 is being rolled out.

    TCP/UDP/STMP/etc are transport layer protocols having, actually, very little to do with the underlying packet addressing protocol. it may also be a bit premature to say that there is nothing left to invent here too.

    second, “network ignorance” (neutrality is a misnomer) has NOTHING to do with the underlying network and transport layers. the network ignorance legislation strikes at the heart of the application layer.

    applications on the application layer, Josh Zeidner, are anything but sufficient – especially for those of us who do not steal pirated content.

    what network ignorance will do is hinder the development of new applications; applications with enough consumer draw to provide the incentive to “build-out” the network (particularly in the local loop connection.) these applications include VoIP, IPTV, and cool stuff like the lessig blog.

    TCP/UDP is, for example, more than adequate for VoIP on a lightly loaded connection. if one of the applications sharing your hub is a bittorrent server, you’re buggered. too many dropped packets, the frame erasure rate goes up, and the voice codecs go all pear shaped.

    network ignorance means that IT WILL BE ILLEGAL for your ISP to discriminate between applications and your QoS critical VoIP application will have to compete with non-QoS applications like bittorrent.

    it will create anything but a “neutral” network for the application layer – “network ignornace” will by default, for example, favor non-QoS critical applications over QoS critical ones.

    the question is really very simple: do you want the government to decide what applications are favored, or consumers?

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    IPv4 (with a 32 bit address field and the dominant standard in use) is ALREADY insufficient which is why IPv6 is being rolled out.

    Why is this insufficient? The internet continues to grow at an astonishing rate and only a small percentage of it is even IPV6 aware. On my own system I even have it disabled because it is so damn much added overhead, and I dare say I don’t miss a thing.

    Each network can connection to Millions more, again and again. Using IPV6 does not obviate the router requirement, it only gives more “traceable” endpoint addresses.

    The only thing IPV6 offers is more reliable opportunity to the government for eavesdropping and snooping.

  • three blind mice

    derail

    The internet continues to grow at an astonishing rate and only a small percentage of it is even IPV6 aware.

    c’mon poptones [if that is your REAL name ;-)] the significant difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the change from a 32 bit address to a 164 bit address. NAT routers only go so far.

    sure 32 bits may be “enough” for now, but in 10 years? as more and more devices communicate using IP, there is a need for more static IP addresses. we don’t see how it is more complicated than that, but…

    The only thing IPV6 offers is more reliable opportunity to the government for eavesdropping and snooping.

    what’s with the tin-foil hat? do you really think the NSA is hindered IN ANY WAY by any of this? my god man, they have satellites that can pluck your cell-phone signals out of the air anywhere on the planet and crack any encryption. the NSA doesn’t need legal taps into the networks (under the reign of king george the w, the law doesn’t apply to them.)

    on the other hand, LEGAL surveillance – the kind that follows the law and requires a warrant – would be very much assisted by more static IP addresses. if the expansion of the IP bit address field promotes legal surveillance and makes illegal surveillance less necessary isn’t this a GOOD thing?

    /derail

  • Josh Zeidner

    ok. here are a few responses to the points above…

    first off my posts were designed for a non-technical audience, if you want to get into OSI layer, etc. ok , but for non-techies be warned…

    The alternatives to IP were( for the most part ) designed to maximize bandwidth utilization. As I keep stressing, we are no longer faced with the problem of bandwidth shortage. IP was designed for maximum flexibility.

    As far as security it is true that IPv6 does strengthen security by making packet falsification difficult. It also expands the address range. But in general, I believe that the burden of security and DRM should be at the applicaiton level.

    Im not really argueing against QoS( I don’t think Im supporting the common net neutrality argument ). By commiting to IP( either Ipv4 or IPv6 ) we may introduce some limitations, there are plenty of arguments that support this. But our primary limitations as far as what is available to the customer are in bandwidth rollout, and these problems exist due to mischaracterizations in competition regulation. The limitations that monopolizaiton imply are far worse than anything that strict IP may introduce.

    I think that what we need is a policy that specifically addresses the IP packet delivery and the obligations of a provider to a consumer in terms of IP technology( obligations to privacy of packet stream, delivery time, etc. ). It is true that this does introduce technological limitations and a new set of obligations and costraints to hardware and service providers, but nothing substantial. What are these so called apps of the future that we wont get with an IP network?

    There are few if any limitationa that this commitment would introduce to the consumer, the limitations in terms of content
    and pricing that the alternatives imply are far more constraining across a broad demographic.

    There is one caveat though, if the consumer is offered a choie between a common carrier product and a ‘information service’, most likely the information service will win out in a market situation because the latter is unencumbered by regulation, while detracting from underlying and implied value to the consumer. What would likely happen are that the ‘information service’ will offer dumbed down and fluffed up services that the average consumer cannot distinuguish from a true municipal connection service. Therefore the execution of said policy would involve all carriers being forced to comply to IP common carrier engagement.

  • three blind mice

    first off my posts were designed for a non-technical audience, if you want to get into OSI layer, etc. ok , but for non-techies be warned…

    bring it on. let’s not pretend that the technical details are so complicated (they aren’t) that a “non-technical audience” can’t grasp them. lurking in this blog are more than a few people who are quite comfortable with whatever level of technical detail you want. don’t be shy.

    let’s take network stupidity to the applications themselves. google is a good example. the google search engine is an application using TCP. a user types in keywords and google returns “search results”. google is, of course, anything but neutral. instead of returning the results we want, google gives us the results advertisers and key word owners pay for. google makes money from providing biased search results and the public suffers enormous pain because of this.

    try to use google to find the URL of a hotel in paris…. you are forced to sift through hundreds of “paid for” placements by travel agents and hotel booking sites searching for what you really want. (which is why google as a search engine is becoming increasingly worthless… but that’s our own opinion.)

    let’s extend the “network neutrality” to the application itself. let’s make it illegal for google to present biased results. after all, it’s not fair that rich corporations buy up all of the key words after all. instead of receiving the search results we want, google gives us what rich corporations pay for us to see.

    let’s say the RIAA buys the keywords “lessig blog” so anyone using google to find the professor’s blog isn’t able to find it. is this fair? wouldn’t it be better if google were forced by law to be “neutral”? this would no doubt make google a better search engine, but it would also rob google of revenue and possibly drive them out of business.

    now let’s apply john kerry’s statement at the applicaiton level: being equally visible to search engines is something all americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live.

    hopefully, we all agree that this is absurd and that such a law would hinder the growth and buildout in applications.

    now take it down to the next layer in the OSI stack and see if it is any less absurd.

  • Josh Zeidner

    3BM,

    You are looking for some kind of totalistic resolution to this argument. As many experts know, telecom is a neverending struggle between centralization and market economics. Do I suggest that the above proposal is the last and final piece of telecom law we will ever codify? Not in the least. I say this is what is appropriate at this point in time. You cannot deny the problems that these monopolists are causing. I want balance, not the apocolypse.

    I think once the Dems get some clarity here they will seize this issue, this is clearly a concern of at&t.

    as far as technical details go, there are plenty of forums on these topics. If you want hard-core techie and politics stuff I recommend:

    http://www.benton.org

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Josh, you continue to blow my mind. You say: “You cannot deny the problems that these monopolists are causing.”

    Wow. In the first place, the Telcos (plural) are no longer monopolists: none of them has anything near the market share Google has.

    In the second place the entire net neutrality regulatory orgy isn’t based on real problems anybody has today, but on supposed problems that might happen someday if we don’t quickly make BGP obey common carrier law.

    That whole Craig’s List thing was a lie.
    Dude, you need to sober up.

  • Josh Zeidner

    Richard, it is obvious that at this point you are primarily interested in repairing your reputation due to a drastic oversight coupled with a totally tactless statement. Go away, go bother someone else.

  • three blind mice

    Richard, it is obvious that at this point you are primarily interested in repairing your reputation due to a drastic oversight coupled with a totally tactless statement.

    avoiding the question, Josh Zeidner?

    it seems Richard Bennett is making a fair point.

    can you identify even one significant PRESENT problem that this legislation solves? this legislation (paid for by google ads) seems to be chasing windmills that it has made out to be giants.

    why do so many shill for google?

    btw, “telcos” is such a quaint term. it is sad that america is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet connectivity. america isn’t the leader here. it’s not even in the quarter finals. the leaders are finland, south korea, sweden where “telcos” compete with “cablecos” and “wirelesscos” for business.

    to our knowledge, there is no such legislation in sweden – and absolutely no need for it because of the choices available to consumers.

    instead of fighting to keep your dirt roads “neutral” shouldn’t you be asking yourself why you only have dirt roads?

  • Josh Zeidner

    can you identify even one significant PRESENT problem that this legislation solves?

    what legislation?

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Josh, do you live under a rock?

    This whole discussion is about the net neutrality legislation sponsored by Markey, Sensenbrenner, Snowe-Dorgan, and Wyden. It seeks to prohibit ISPs from offering Quality-of-Service plans to customers and third parties for fee.

  • three blind mice

    what legislation?

    QED.

    keep trying Josh Zeidner. you’re making this too easy.

    a lot of people are making this too easy. alaska’s ted stephens opposes the bill, without having the faintest idea of what it means or how it will impact commerce. his opposition is an embarassment.

    on the other hand, dems might “get it” (i.e., understand what the bill means) but that doesn’t mean that they are correct.

  • http://zeidnernews.ning.com/ Josh Zeidner

    keep trying Josh Zeidner. you’re making this too easy.

    making what too easy?

  • Silent Sam

    making what too easy?

    The comment board spamming 3BM is paid to do.