December 15, 2008  ·  Lessig

I got off the plane from Boston to find my inbox filled with anger about an article in the Wall Street Journal. To those who were angry, I hope you will direct any anger at the Wall Street Journal after you read what follows.

The article is an indirect effort to gin up a drama about a drama about an alleged shift in Obama’s policies about network neutrality. What’s the evidence for the shift? That Google allegedly is negotiating for faster service on some network pipes. And that “prominent Internet scholars, some of whom have advised President-elect Barack Obama on technology issues, have softened their views on the subject.”

Who are these “Internet scholars”? Me. And of course, because I have “softened” my views about network neutrality, and because I advised the Obama campaign about technology issues during the primary, it follows (and obviously so) that Obama too must be going soft on network neutrality.

I don’t know what Google is doing, though if they are trying to negotiate exclusive deals for privileged access, that shows exactly why we need network neutrality regulation. (Though note, the article doesn’t say the deal Google was striking was exclusive).

And I’ve not seen anything during the Obama campaign or from the transition to indicate it has shifted its view about network neutrality at all.

But I do know something about my own views, and what the Journal has done here is really extraordinary.

It is true, as the Journal reports, that I have stated that network providers should be free to charge different rates for different service — “so long,” the Journal quotes, “as the faster service at a higher price is available to anyone willing to pay it.”

But the whole punch of the story comes from the suggestion that my position is something new. As the Journal states,

Lawrence Lessig, an Internet law professor at Stanford University and an influential proponent of network neutrality, recently shifted gears by saying at a conference that content providers should be able to pay for faster service.

And:

Stanford’s Mr. Lessig, for one, has softened his opposition to variable service tiers.

Missing from the article, however, is the evidence that my view is a “shift” or “soften[ing]” of earlier views. That’s because there isn’t any such evidence. My view is the view I have always had — whether or not it is the view of others in this debate.

For example, in April, 2008, I testified before the Senate Commerce Committee. This is what I said:

As I testified in 2006, in my view that minimal strategy right now marries the basic principles of “Internet Freedom” first outlined by Chairman Michael Powell, and modified more recently by the FCC, to one additional requirement — a ban on discriminatory access tiering. While broadband providers should be free, in my view, to price consumer access to the Internet differently — setting a higher price, for example, for faster or greater access — they should not be free to apply discriminatory surcharges to those who make content or applications available on the Internet. As I testified, in my view, such “access tiering” risks creating a strong incentive among Internet providers to favor some companies over others; that incentive in turn tends to support business models that exploit scarcity rather than abundance. If Google, for example, knew it could buy a kind of access for its video content that iFilm couldn’t, then it could exploit its advantage to create an even greater disadvantage for its competitors; network providers in turn could deliver on that disadvantage only if the non-privileged service was inferior to the privileged service.

That’s the same thing I said to the FCC in its hearing at Stanford. You can hear what I said beginning at minute 18:20 here. There I distinguish between “zero price regulations” (such as Markey’s bill (which I say I am against)) and what I called “zero discriminatory surcharge rules” (which I say I am for). The zero discriminatory surcharge rules are just that — rules against discriminatory surcharges — charging Google something different from what a network charges iFilm. The regulation I call for is a “MFN” requirement — that everyone has the right to the rates of the most favored nation.

This is precisely the position that the Journal breathlessly attributes to me today. It represents no change — no “softening” no “shift” in my views.

Now no doubt my position might be wrong. Some friends in the network neutrality movement as well as some scholars believe it is wrong — that it doesn’t go far enough. But the suggestion that the position is “recent” is baseless. If I’m wrong, I’ve always been wrong.

  • Karl

    Thanks for addressing this issue so quickly, Dr. Lessig. I thought something was fishy in that article.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    FYI, from the other “side”, Richard Bennett agrees with you that the WSJ article is (my characterization) reporting nothing new as if it were major news.

    http://bennett.com/blog/2008/12/google-gambles-in-casablanca/

    “Google has been caught red-handed negotiating deals with ISPs to host servers inside the building, just like Akamai does. The semi-technical press thinks this is some sort of a game-changing event:”

  • http://kanai.net/weblog/ Gen Kanai

    It seems like the original WSJ article was really poorly researched and written. Google has refuted the claims in that article.

    http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2008/12/net-neutrality-and-benefits-of-caching.html

    That said, it’s hard for me to see the difference to the end user between caching (like with a CDN like Akamai) and a non-neutral network that had preferential packet routing. If everyone was allowed to build out networks like Akamai or Limelight, then everyone would (who could afford to do so.)

  • Jon

    “Those who do not read the paper are uninformed. Those who do read the paper are misinformed.”

  • Anonymous

    I have first hand experience of the WSJ interviewing me and writing an article about me and other people who do what I do. When the interviewer sent me a fact checking email, I corrected him on some facts, mostly business numbers, and told him that what he had was only partially true, but about 10% of the picture, which made the article misleading if not technically false. He said his editor didn’t want to change the focus of the story. I was pretty disappointed in the WSJ. The national attention was great, so overall it was worth it and I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the article, but it was still disappointing and I have to spend time explaining what was wrong with the article to anyone who mentions it.

  • Thomas Hill

    One must rember that the Wall Street Journal has now become another political instrument Of Rupert Murdock and as Well as the Fair and Balanced network Fox.
    So Dr.Lessig you have become a target of Mr. Murdock. To bad the rest of America could not wake up to this fact and see that our media is not run by real news people, but those who want to use it for their own political gain and wealth.
    Just one lone voice in the wilderness.

  • Will

    Another confirmation of why I suspended my subscription to the WSJ.

  • http://www.collierclan.net/mark/ Mark Collier

    What’s a newspaper?

  • http://neuronspark.com paul

    The Wall Street Journal failed to predict the economic downturn, I don’t understand why anyone would ever trust them again.

  • Rick

    ZZZZZZZZ… oh.. huh?… wassup?…..WSJ?….. drama where there in none?…… what’s new?……. ZZZZZZZZZZ…..

  • http://obvious.com obvious

    Please stop calling it the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal was sold to News Corp, the owners of Fox News. It is now the Fox Street Journal. If you simply call it by it’s proper name, it’s simple to understand what is happening to you.

    The Wall Street Journal has a fine history and reputation. Please do not confuse it with the latter day incarnation, the Fox Street Journal.

  • Anonymous

    ‘Those who do not read are uninformed. Those who read the Wall Street Journal are misinformed.’

  • Tags

    How kind of the Wall Street Journal to shift your gears for you. I hope they don’t mind if their subscribers shift as well.

  • http://realtech.burningbird.net Shelley

    The WSJ corporate, conservative bias was evident from the coverage of the election–Obama could do no right, McCain could do no wrong.

    What’s disappointing, though, is now much attention this article is getting. A note refuting the article from you and Google should be sufficient, no reason for the rest of us to pile on.

  • Adrian Lopez

    “The zero discriminatory surcharge rules are just that — rules against discriminatory surcharges — charging Google something different from what a network charges iFilm.”

    In that case, Google can offer to pay ISPs a sum it knows iFilm can’t afford, getting all the benefits of an exclusive deal with none of the liabilities. Not good.

    ISPs should not be allowed to bill twice for the same bandwidth, and content providers shouldn’t be put in a position where they need to strike deals with the myriad providers that may want a cut of your profits in exchange for not throttling your packets.

  • kt

    To add to Gen Kanai:

    Large content providers will tend to go for the akamai or limelight solution and not build their own simply to avoid keeping staff and infrastructure current. I’d suggest that those who can afford it would go the CDN route first over their own so that they don’t have to specialize in things they’re not good at. Those providers will want to deliver best experience to end user, so that advertising is maximized.

    To have end users then *paying* for extra bandwidth is just trying to make money like off of cell phone ringtones. I shouldn’t be paying for ads to be delivered to me.

    As long as I’m able to upload data, and have a relatively good connection for a small number of users, that’s what I’m for. As soon as I have a bigger audience, that I can make money from, I have no problem paying for better access for the content. Isn’t that how markets work?

    KT

  • John

    While the WSJ certainly is not the most credible and always more accurate source of news, I find that it is usually very comprehensive.

    For the detractors and people who claim that it has changed since being bought out by News Corp, what do you read? Where do you get your financial information? I would like alternatives.

  • Anonymous

    It makes no difference — if iFilm can’t afford the price that Google can pay for the fast lane.

  • zato

    It is not difficult to see a pattern in the tech reporting of the WSJ. Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft. Whatever favors Microsoft is good. Whatever news favors Apple, Google Or Linux is bad.

  • szlevi

    Thanks for the clarification, Mr Lessig though I knew from the beginning it’s a pretty obvious attempt to rewrite history – hey, what’s new here? We have an article, written by some rent-a-journo corporate shills in the FauxNews St Journal… even the old Wall Street Journal was a well-known ‘facts-laissez-faire’ publication, what else could we expect from this el-cheapo corporate mouthpiece?

    Full of lies, distortion, a classic cheap hatchet job – Karl @ DLSreports.com sums it up very well:

    http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/The-Wall-Street-Journals-Google-Hatchet-Job-99684

    “The Wall Street Journal’s Google Hatchet Job
    Opinion: paper helps cable, telcos smear their biggest enemy…
    08:08AM Monday Dec 15 2008 by Karl Bode
    tags: competition · business · Op/Ed · content · net-neutrality
    Tipped by viperlmw
    With Google being public enemy number one to cable and phone companies for their positions on network neutrality, broadband competition, and unlicensed White Space spectrum, they’ve been a constant target of attacks coming from phone and cable industry lobbyists and mouthpieces. The Wall Street Journal is playing vessel for the latest attack, pushing leaked information from the cable industry that Google is violating its position on network neutrality by promoting the idea of hosting servers on ISP networks:
    Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers…One major cable operator in talks with Google says it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal because of concern it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality.
    It’s a nice win for whichever cable company leaked the news as it paints Google as a hypocrite ahead of next year’s renewed fight over network neutrality legislation. However, the Wall Street Journal is badly distorting Google’s proposal for political effect. As the Google blog explains, Google’s talking about edge caching, an idea that would save ISPs bandwidth. That’s something that should appeal to carriers, considering they just paid PR talking head Scott Cleland to attack Google for being a bandwidth glutton. Google’s Richard Whitt explains:
    Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience. Companies like Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon’s Cloudfront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks (CDNs). Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.
    Arguments that Akamai engages in network neutrality violations because of CDN caching have been solidly deconstructed, given that the packets for such arrangements are treated just like any other packet. Similar deals have been struck for years without the Journal framing them as network neutrality infractions. According to Google, these new deals with ISPs are not exclusive, and none require that Google traffic see higher prioritization than any other content operation. Google says they remain committed to network neutrality.

    While Google certainly is no saint, the Journal’s piece stinks of manufactured controversy. Perhaps the Journal was honestly confused about the differences between caching and packet prioritization. But when two of your own sources directly dispute what you’re saying (Whitt, Lessig) and your primary anonymous source comes from an industry that’s spending millions on a campaign to smear Google at any cost — some red flags should go up.

    At best this was horrible reporting — authors Kumar and Roads conned by their cable industry source into a position that makes absolutely no sense. At worst it’s a public relations and political hit job with the Journal’s conscious support. Either way, expect many, many more of these types of disingenuous “debates” ahead of next year’s fight over network neutrality legislation. There’s a lot of money at stake in 2009, and as such — a lot of money is being spent on both sides to frame (and often distort) the debate.”

  • Adrian Lopez

    “It makes no difference — if iFilm can’t afford the price that Google can pay for the fast lane.”

    It makes all the difference for the company that can’t afford to pay the artificially inflated amounts its competitors are paying. ISPs already make money from subscribers on the client end, and from content providers on the hosting end. That’s enough. Billing content providers for not throttling packets on the client end is nothing short of extortion.

  • Richard

    The Journal is looking more like the New York Post every day. Now it’s reading like the Post, too. Web site redesign sucks, too. Nice job, Rupert…

  • Kim Eakin

    The wsj has NEVER been a source of unbiased news reporting. They have always applied the spin of the wealthy. Now they apply the spin of the wealthy republican. There are NUMEROUS and BETTER news sources all over the internet. You just have to take the time to look and bookmark.

  • http://republicofinternets.com Sachin Balagopalan

    Thanks for adding an element of clarity ….

    It’s bad news for innovation IMO … http://tinyurl.com/5qfgkd

  • Omer

    ISPs & Telcos should be like utilities (or voice telephony), and charge the same rate for bandwidth/access for content providers & end-users, irrespective of the content-type (thats none of their concern), and there should be no preferential treatment arrangements for individual companies. Other wise distoriton of the internet, and anti-competitveness, and monopolies will result.
    Individual companies should not have servers deep within Telcos. All Telcos should keep the same distance from all content providers for the same reasons as above.

  • WSJ is not the enemy

    WSJ is not the enemy and goog is not the saint.

    The main points still stands:

    1) This is GOOG’s attempt to buy access that iFilm can’t.

    “If Google, for example, knew it could buy a kind of access for its video content that iFilm couldn’t, then it could exploit its advantage to create an even greater disadvantage for its competitors”

    Anyone out there believe that GOOG caches *won’t* do things unavailable to purchase by others (AKAM included)? Guys, this is a delivery land-grab by a rich, savvy content owner. Murdock would blush.

    People in this comment thread don’t understand HTTP.

  • Ura Hack

    blow me, lessig, you pathetic fraud.

  • http://none.com JT

    Nice work on this Lessig. Ura Hack, really? Which telco do you work for? I hope that job is still around when they replace you with someone else. You failed terribly with the WSJ, the article wasn’t even believable.

  • Anonymous

    >>>It makes all the difference for the company that can’t afford to pay the artificially inflated amounts its competitors are paying.

    That’s what I meant to say in the first place — I agreed with you.

    Professor Lessig is making a really fine legal point that absolutely makes zero practical difference in real life.

    It’s like how European legal scholars saying that they have this and that regulation on when and how simlocked phones are sold. Turned out that all those rules were useless against Apple for the iphone. You “must sell an unlocked iphone” — but Apple just laughed at those regulators’ face and sell them for $1200.

    Or how big of a legal victory the European Commission won against Microsoft in forcing them to sell a version of Windows XP without the media player. A few hundred copies were sold — zero practical effect at all.

  • anon

    i agree the WSJ story is wrong, but i really wish you would address the issue of how your position doesn’t facilitate something like Internet radio compulsory license rate setting scandal to determine MFN?

  • zato

    It’s all about right-wing politics and a corporate controlled world. And the ultimate control of the internet by the far right. That is the goal of Rupert Murdock and his allies, most important of which is Microsoft.

  • http://techvideoblog.com Charbax

    Cache servers should be regulated like copper lines and fiber optical lines. If Google wants to install Cache servers as close as possible to ISPs to save on their networking costs and to scale better for such things as HD video streaming on Youtube HD and for delivery of large files on the Google App Engine. Then Google should be able to install those cache servers wherever they want.

    iFilm can then if they want, buy space and bandwidth on those cache servers at regulated prices. The regulatory branch would make sure that price per GB storage and GB transfer is very close to the actual costs.

    Anyways, this is the plan of Google, to provide Google App Engine storage and bandwidth at near cost price to any large content providers and content distributors.

    Letter Google install cache servers close to ISPs will make it possible for Google to more quickly lower the cost per GB of storage and per GB of bandwidth on Google App Engine.

    iFilm can install a plugin to their system that utilizes Google App Engine to speed up their web apps and to speed up and lower the cost of HD video streaming.

    Google OpenEdge does sound like its an open standard, thus anyone else should be able to rent more space close to the ISP internal network, thus Microsoft or Yahoo can rent space as well and thus add capacity but they as well have to resell capacity and bandwidth on those.

  • http://none.com TC

    Dr. Lessig:
    You’re now saying that it’s fine to charge content providers on a tiered basis, as long as “everyone has the right to the rates of the most favored nation.”

    This directly conflicts with your 2006 Congressional testimony, where you state that “the only companies that could afford to buy access… are companies like Google and Yahoo!… This restriction in competition would fundamentally weaken the growth of the Internet.”.

    Any reasonable person can clearly see that these statements suggest profoundly different directions from a policy perspective. The first, most recent, comment suggests that tiered pricing is fine as long as all players are allowed to pay identical rates per tier. The second, original, comment suggests that the very existence of tiered pricing limits competition and would “fundamentally weaken the growth of the Internet.”.

    Can you reconcile these two statements for us?

    Here’s the complete quote from your 2006 testimony:
    “And the fourth point that I don’t think anybody can really deny, the changes that are being described, not by the very reasonable people who testified in the earlier panel, but by the leaders of Verizon and the leaders of AT&T, the changes that are being described would radically reduce competition in applications and content on the Internet, radically reduce that competition because as they set up fast lanes on the Internet, the only companies that could afford to buy access to the fast lanes on the Internet are companies like Google and Yahoo! and Microsoft and the content companies that already have succeeded in the marketplace. The next generation Yahoos! and Googles cannot buy access to the fast lane, because they would face a barrier to entry that would restrict competition. This restriction in competition would fundamentally weaken the growth of the Internet.

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

    There actually is a story here, and it’s the evolving views on what network neutrality is and how to enforce it, an always tricky subject. Certainly, Google is doing nothing wrong from a technical perspective; getting traffic off the public Internet is good. But they are blurring a line that they’ve asked Congress and the FCC to enforce on ISPs by bundling an expedited delivery service with proprietary content. I happen to think anyone should be allowed to bundle this way, even if they have to make a deal with an ISP to do it; but the central claim of NN advocates is that it should not be permissible to bundle monopoly infrastructure with content.

    NN advocates need to explain how this doesn’t contradict every regulation they’ve demanded over the last three years or more, or they’re never going to be taken seriously in the future.

  • http://www.ForMortals.com George Ou

    “The regulation I call for is a “MFN” requirement — that everyone has the right to the rates of the most favored nation”

    So based on your principle, would everyone be entitled to the same bandwidth rate as Google? Small ISPs currently have to pay 30 times more per megabit/second of bandwidth than the rate that Google pays and that would seem to violate your “MFM” requirement that everyone should pay the same rate.

    I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with Google paying a lower rate than everyone else, but your same rate principle needs to factor in and permit the concept of bulk discounts.

  • http://www.greenscreencinema.com GreenScreenCinema

    Professor Lessig, I think you need to clarify something. Does your stance “The regulation I call for is a “MFN” requirement — that everyone has the right to the rates of the most favored nation.” suggest that network providers could charge both parties in a transmission as long as those charges were equitably distributed? Since Google pays for its own bandwidth (up to their provider’s backbone), why would AT&T ever be able to charge them anything without a violation of network neutrality principals? If a content provider were at any time required to pay a fee to the consumer’s network provider it would give them market advantage over content providers that could afford no more than their own bandwidth fees.

    What Google is requesting with its edge caching proposal is not really at the heart of your MFN requirement. The two concepts are orthogonal: only technically competent/complimentary companies with sufficient bandwidth needs should be allowed into the AT&T datacenter to edge cache, so most “nations” would be excluded from this kind of arrangement. But if consumer charges are the same, it has no impact on the neutral routing of data.

    Your application of MFN to the Google proposal raises the issue, however. Yes, the WSJ is nefarious in it’s depiction of Google, but I would like to hear how you look upon the “both sides pay” scenario that WSJ envisioned. Is there any valid reason for a company that holds the consumer captive (AT&T) to be able to charge content providers, for anything? I would argue that there is no time at which traffic should be double charged; I would argue that what we really need is “routing neutrality”. This would prevent content companies and network providers from conspiring together, a nerve which the WSJ has hit upon.

  • Still concerned

    Dr. Lessig,

    As a web entrepreneur, I remain concerned that your position (which is important because of your stature in the industry) does indeed fall short. My understanding of your position (and if it’s incorrect, I apologize) is this: As long as carriers do not discriminate in the surcharges that they apply, they should be allowed to provide tiered levels of access speed to content providers.

    If my understanding of your position is correct, this is problematic for two reasons:
    1. The “surcharges” could well be high enough to price startups out of the market. If iFilm cannot pay what Google can, that in itself is a disadvantage for iFilm.
    2. Discounts based on the volume of business will apply. The pricing tiers will be such that the big guys like Google, who have a lot of content, will end up paying lower per KB, even with a common, supposedly non-discriminatory pricing structure. We have seen Microsoft use these tactics to kill the competition.
    3. Your position does not go far enough to make public the actual pricing information from the contracts that Google and Comcast (for example) get into.

    Unfortunately, there will not be widespread protests from end consumers because most of the sites they access will not be affected (they’ll have the resources to pay for higher priority traffic).

  • http://frem.wordpress.com James

    zato
    “It is not difficult to see a pattern in the tech reporting of the WSJ. Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft. Whatever favors Microsoft is good. Whatever news favors Apple, Google Or Linux is bad.”

    Um, really? Last time I read Mossberg, he favored most Apple products over stuff from Microsoft, and he liked several Google services. His reporting on Linux-based products is admittedly somewhat slim, but he’s been quite fair in his reviews overall.

  • Maimonatease

    Interesting points from TC and GreenScreenCinema, above. I subscribe to the WSJ and generally think they do a pretty decent job. I read the article an it confirmed my sense that Mr. Lessig has moved from a utopian vision of an Internet where all packets are equal to a more pragmatic vision where network operators can charge all they want for access but simply must not “play favorites”. From a practical matter this is a major shift. Maybe Mr. Lessig held this position all along, but for whatever reason I never got that message. Maybe he had been misquoted and misconstrued these last few years. Or maybe he shaped a certain media image which was very favorable for him but in truth held much more ‘pragmatic’ views. Perhaps it is not disingenuous for Mr. Lessig to say that he held the ‘mfn’ position all along. Or maybe he and Google, like so many big names from the past year, have decided to face the world as it is rather than as it should be.

    As a long-time cable hater I have to confess that Google broke my heart when they failed to provide universal Wi-Fi. It seemed to me that they could have easily enough broken the cable monopoly, at least in major metropolitan areas, if they wanted to, through spectrum. When they didn’t, I figured it would be only so long before they partnered with the likes of (shiver) Comcast. Its heartbreaking because I love Google, and basically run my entire life through Google apps. But, as with cable, I’m in a take-it-or-leave-it situation, and Google knows it. There’s still nothing better, nothing easier or more convenient.

  • Ralph Newman

    Net non-neutrality means ‘magic carpool lanes’ for content. Edge caching means living closer to where you work. The ‘magic lane’ harms everyone else. The shorter commute frees the roads up for everyone.

  • http://www.ForMortals.com George Ou

    Ralph Newman says: “Net non-neutrality means ‘magic carpool lanes’ for content. Edge caching means living closer to where you work. The ‘magic lane’ harms everyone else. The shorter commute frees the roads up for everyone.”

    Ralph, if you understood how network management and QoS worked, you wouldn’t be under this misguided interpretation. This whole concept of a “magic lane” has nothing to do with network prioritization because QoS has almost no advantage in content delivery and no one would ever buy it over caching services.

    This is precisely why I’ve released a report debunking these myths about network management and QoS technology. http://www.itif.org/index.php?id=205

    Network management with QoS prioritization technology has 3 goals.

    1. It means equitable bandwidth for customers of the same service tier. Equitable bandwidth doesn’t mean equal bandwidth at any instantaneous point in time; it means we try to ensure that everyone gets equal average bandwidth over an interval of time such as 15 minutes.

    2. QoS makes networks better at multitasking and support multiple applications with the best performance possible for all users and applications. That means real-time low-bandwidth applications get higher priority than interactive high bandwidth applications like web browsing. Then low duration interactive applications like web browsing should get higher priority over background applications with high duration. That is not discrimination towards background applications like Peer-to-peer (P2P) because the the P2P application still gets higher average bandwidth from the network without the toxicity to other applications.

    3. QoS fixes the jitter problem which can occur at very low network utilization levels. This is where some applications will burst on the network and monopolize the packet queue and starve all other applications for hundred of milliseconds which disrupts real-time applications like VoIP and online gaming.

    The argument that Net Neutrality proponents such as Larry Lessig have made is that premium for-fee delivery services mean that only large companies with the ability to pay will be able to deliver content to end-users and those who don’t have the ability to pay will be left out in the cold. That argument would be most applicable to content caching because that is the ultimate premium delivery service for large and wealthy companies and it is not applicable to QoS priority because QoS priority doesn’t work as a large-scale premium delivery service. Yet the Net Neutrality proponents argue that QoS prioritization should be banned and caching prioritization should be legal which makes no sense.

    Despite the fact that Lessig in 2008 says he opposes the Markey Net Neutrality bill, his statements from 2006 are used as an argument to pass these bills which would ban network prioritization.

  • Paulo

    Thomas Hill:

    “Of Rupert Murdock … So Dr.Lessig you have become a target of Mr. Murdock.”

    Zato:

    “It’s all about right-wing politics and a corporate controlled world. And the ultimate control of the internet by the far right. That is the goal of Rupert Murdock and his allies”

    You would think people who worry about the media would be able to spell Murdoch.

    Is this dingbat corner? The Captcha’s make more sense than a lot of posters on here.

  • Dave

    So, you, Richard Whitt, Save the Internet, Public Knowledge, David Isenberg, Wired and others have disagreed enough with what the WSJ reported as fact that you all have posted public comments to that effect…

    …And still no comment from the WSJ or the authors? The Internet isn’t killing old media; old media is killing itself.

  • szlevi

    By Paulo:

    “You would think people who worry about the media would be able to spell Murdoch.”

    You’d think someone must be unemployed and left without family to spend time posting idiotic nitpicking posts about spelling errors…

    “Is this dingbat corner? The Captcha’s make more sense than a lot of posters on here.”

    Well then it didn’t do a good job with you either – there’s nothing more pathetic than a loser who types up the post, types in his details, types in the Captcha etc but all this only to post a completely useless post about spelling errors while complaining about worthless posts…

    …sweet irony – too bad your kind of dingbats are immune because your post was priceless!

  • Daniel Stern

    Thank you George Ou, for bringing an important level of granularity that no one else is talking about in this debate. The devils truly are in the details, and I encourage everyone to download and read the report you link to in your comment!

  • test

    Professor Lessig,

    Please take a look at this.

    http://crookedtimber.org/2008/12/15/mainly-its-servants/

  • http://www.funchords.com/ Robb Topolski

    @Daniel Stern, George Ou

    George imagines a network that prefers certain protocols because they are light and others because they are bulk, without regard for the fact that there’s nothing light or bulk about the protocols — it’s the content.

    We use HTTP a lot today, and that’s because it’s better. Imagine what would happen if we still used Gopher today, and operators all prioritized Gopher. HTTP couldn’t win on a network that prioritized gopher.

    The network must be neutral for natural winners to emerge. Efficiency at 8-ball isn’t in tilting the table, it’s in making the most holes in the fewest number of shots.

    And before someone takes this oversimplification into a statement that QoS has no place on the Internet, that’s wrong. QoS (or ToS, DiffServ, etc.) has plenty of place — as long as it’s done IAW the Internet Standards — which tend to require the operators to respect the handling directives of the customers, not to decide these things for themselves.

  • http://www.ForMortals.com George Ou

    Robb Topolski says: “And before someone takes this oversimplification into a statement that QoS has no place on the Internet, that’s wrong. QoS (or ToS, DiffServ, etc.) has plenty of place — as long as it’s done IAW the Internet Standards — which tend to require the operators to respect the handling directives of the customers, not to decide these things for themselves.”

    Sure, and I argue that the ISP should have a default setting that should be overridden by the priority labels set by the application default or the consumer when they are within the priority budget they’ve paid for. We can’t assume that most consumers know how to set up QoS so there has to be reasonable defaults. QoS has to have reasonable budgets for varying levels of priority or else everyone would simply label 100% of their packets as top priority so they can get a leg up on everyone else. If you look at how QoS works in the market place, there are always contractual limits on how many packets can be labeled a certain class of priority.

    The Markey type Net Neutrality bill (similar to Snowe/Dorgan), which Professor Lessig now clearly states he opposes, effectively breaks QoS because if everything has priority, then nothing has priority.

  • geewhizbatman

    > For the detractors and people who claim that
    > it has changed since being bought out by News
    > Corp, what do you read? Where do you get your
    > financial information? I would like alternatives.

    The Economist

  • AH

    No offense to anyone, but I think Professor Lessig’s title is Professor, not Dr. Last I checked a JD, even from Yale, doesn’t get someone the title of doctor. Either that, or Prof. Lessig is the first academic I’ve seen to omit a PhD or M.D. from his CV.

    As to the substance of the post, it’s dead-on, the WSJ is grasping at straws. Their understanding of the issues is closer to “the Internet as a series of tubes” than a deep understanding of what is going on.

  • http://connectme.typepad.com Brian Hayashi

    It appears that Google is offering to help fund the construction of “private highways” co-located within the network provider’s facilities. (Ironically, this approach is the same strategy used by the original Worldcom business unit LDDS to grow rapidly and ultimately gobble up MCI — but that’s a story for another day.)

    (As far as my credentials, I was one of the first 12 people to work on a little startup called @Home — itself a content caching business, optimizing data delivery via cable operators — starting in December 1993, as an employee for TCI Technology Ventures in partnership with Kleiner Perkins.)

    To say that Google would start emulating what Akamai and Limelight have been doing for years is not correct — in fact, Google is and has been a world leader in content caching pretty much since its inception. And unlike Akamai, AWS, Limelight, etc. — which generally use HTTP to accelerate content on a fair and equal basis — Google routinely appends metadata to content which promotes its linking business.

    Of course other companies could do it — if they could afford to, that is. A CDN costs billions to deploy in a positive economy. The recession has eviscerated network operator’s access to credit, making them more willing to contemplate a Faustian bargain, in essence granting preferential (or even most-favored nation) access without having to call it discriminatory access tiering. In return, the network operator gets cash and gets to decide how to prioritize Google’s access. While it doesn’t automatically lead to priority access, I’ve seen enough of these deals to know that they have the potential of degrading other communication streams, which is the premise that Net Neutrality advocates are most passionate about.

    If Google were serious about maintaining its stance on network neutrality, they should render their access agreements transparent to the public, and demonstrate how they their implementation would support non-preferential FIFO access.

  • Stanford

    As a Stanford undergraduate, I see all of this liberal trash on a daily basis. Your pal Obama has completely screwed the US economy through his liberal agenda that he incorrectly labels a “stimulus.” Stanford professors are overwhelmingly liberal and also overwhelmingly ignorant. On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal provides insightful commentary. Take your socialist junk out of my country. You have ruined it.