500 LB Gorillas: An Overview

The Internet may be the one thing so many countries and people got right the last fifteen years.  Now if our culture and education could catch-up with the rest of the global economy, a competitive edge would at least be possible once again.   Today the big money is sorting out the difference between content you receive from your wire-line and wireless Internet provider is the new battlefield for mega giants like Google and pick any phone company.  Verizon, AT&T. Comcast and the rest of them are trying to assuage our politicians that they don’t need to understand the details, with stories told behind closed doors.  The public has yet to hear why it is Google and Verizon were even allowed to discuss decisions that could easily be considered against the public trust in an attempt to stifle markets.  Perhaps they will issue an IPO with our air waves.  You remember, those things we were supposed to own?

What’s that you say, Mr. President, the nation turns its eyes to you

Nothing threatens our economy more than the destruction of the fundamental structure of the Internet as a free open Net Neutral (NN) enterprise; nothing threatens the open competitive markets more than the obstruction of free trade and communications.  Evidence of this is the security and communications industry itself.  It is a vital piece of the economy and it’s done a bloody good job so far.  If only we ever got that fiber connection the telcom industry blew, while other nations had no problem.

Few in Washington, or around the country, seem interested in stopping the juggernaut from transforming the technology landscape.  The argument now pivots on reversing the change under Bush’s FCC  to treat telcoms like networks able to carve little fiefdoms of their own.  This is one of those square pegs in round hole exhibits as the legislation around the Internet today may not be salvageable under a global communications enterprise.  Yet we may be stuck with trying to get the petrol back down the well, after the top blows off it.

On the side with vocal support for NN.  “Consumer groups and Net neutrality advocates have been calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would make all the old regulation for the regular phone network apply to broadband.”

“Two FCC Commissioners and one US Senator slammed the Google-Verizon joint policy agreement and strongly endorsed the principle of net neutrality last night at a hearing before hundreds of citizens in Minneapolis, giving the Chairman of the federal agency Julius Genachowski all of the support he would need to regulate broadband Internet, if he so chose.  Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn both endorsed the reclassification of broadband as a communications service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Copps said simply, “It’s calling an apple an apple.”

If Genachowski does what he said he would do, there will be the votes to pass the policy change. Genachowski and the FCC are weighing the polls, apparently, as that seems to be the only thing we see on important decisions.  The Titan’s deal “would eliminate any openness provisions over wireless, which is where all Internet applications are going,” said Copps.

Here is what Clyburn wrote:

“The Federal Communications Commission has been considering how to ensure that we all continue to have access to lawful information, services, and applications available on the Internet, without service providers blocking or degrading such access, or favoring some content (such as their own) over others. This is not about regulating the Internet. It’s about ensuring that consumers, rather than gatekeeper corporations, maintain control over their online experience.

“The conversation about protecting consumers and their access to an open Internet is important — and should not occur just in Washington, D.C. For that reason, when Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and Main Street Project approached us about participating in a town hall meeting in Minneapolis to discuss the importance of an open Internet with the public, we both signed up immediately. We hope you will do so, too.”

And here is what Dave Dayen at Firedoglake emphatically adds, firmly putting the ball in FCC’s reach:

– “this public display of support for net neutrality makes perfectly clear that two votes exist on the FCC for strong regulatory authority over broadband in all its forms. Only three votes would be needed for passage, so really, it’s all up to Chairman Genachowski.”

We are really living in a binary world with only a bunch of bit players, so to speak

From the NYTimes article,

“The silence of big media companies like Comcast and the News Corporation on the issue has been noticeable. Media companies’ traditional business models have been about controlled pathways to the customer, and they may see benefits in restoring some of that control.

Diller calls the Google-Verizon proposal a “sham” and says it “doesn’t preserve ‘net neutrality,’ full stop, or anything like it.” The asked him “if other media executives were staying quiet because they stand to gain from a less open Internet, he said simply, “Yes.”

So on the side of NN it sounds clear cut but not everyone agrees in the details, where the devil lives.  An argument offered by Robert E. Litan and Hal J. Singer  on Friday August 13, 2010 explains it this way:

“At its core, net neutrality seeks to ensure that ISPs (like Verizon) do not advantage one content provider (like Google) over another (like Yahoo!). But instead of looking to the widely accepted and proven non-discrimination provisions in other areas of communications (such as cable programming), the FCC has crafted a brand new concept of non-discrimination. Non-discrimination under the FCC’s net neutrality proposal means that ISPs cannot offer enhanced services beyond the plain-vanilla access service to content providers at any price.”

Their view is that packets needing special treatment would require additional handlers, since ISP’s would be prevented from providing that service.  Here is what they admit would happen, though they look at the ramifications as a positive:

“The recent Google-Verizon framework represents a large step in the right direction. In particular, it would:
“bolster the FCC’s authority to enforce its open-Internet principles based on Congressional authority; establish the concept of a case-by-case approach, forbid the FCC from promulgating detailed rules on the kind of conduct that is permitted, and immunize wireless ISPs from any net neutrality requirements.”

I don’t like the sound of at least two of their points listed as giveaways to these poor telcom giants, but wait, it gets much better.  Here is the line I love best in a quote from  telecom analyst Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research, “the imposition of net neutrality rules, Verizon FiOS "would be stopped in its tracks," and AT&T’s U-Verse "deployments would slow." Outcomes like these clearly would not serve the interests of the business community.”

Others have weighed in and here are a few of the prominent opinions …

Josh Silver, chief executive of the nonprofit group Free Press, said the exemptions amounted to “the cable-ization of the Internet,” NYTimes
“Silver’s group is promoting a petition to the F.C.C. titled “Don’t Let Google Be Evil.” Silicon Valley investors have expressed trepidation that the new rules, if adopted, could put a damper on innovation, particularly for mobile start-ups.”  Both sides on this claim their position is best for innovation, the question might be, which direction should these “innovations” moving?  If they are innovating ways to tax bits over any of the Internet channels, no thanks.

“Broadband that’s not the Internet? I don’t know what they’re talking about,” said David A. Patterson, a professor of computer science at Cal Berkeley.

Matt Cohler, a general partner at Benchmark Capital, a venture firm who knows a few things about start-ups:
“It is as important to have the right protections in place for the newer platform as it is for the older platform.”

Here you really need to ask yourself, how it is so many other countries have passed us by?  The ISP’s and telecoms and cable primates have had carte blanche the last hundred years, yet we are #45 in providing services to our people?  These guys get the license to print money, and they get to write the rules for the future.

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White Paper: Scale-out NAS Unifies the Technical Enterprise
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Clearly, this is a monumental task that requires open dialog between all sides:  “The chairman clearly stated that the agency is not looking to regulate broadband pricing or require broadband infrastructure owners to share their network elements with competitors. This has been a big fear among broadband providers. Under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, telephony networks are required to share their infrastructure and the government has set prices on how much operators can charge for access to that infrastructure.”

The market place is the best decision maker on where the toll booths are placed.  For the wireless Internet the global market place must decide.  But first we need the site map, the topography and the big picture.  We need the public and business represented and education and government to function and communicate.  We also have to discuss how the digital trade will work across borders.  This is not the time to stifle trade or expand xenophobia or isolationism.  This is the time to compete.

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