House Subcommittee hearing on Network Neutrality on C-SPAN 3. I’m listening to it in the background. Really important subject for everybody who uses the Internet, some great comments by Amazon’s Misener and Comptel’s Earl Comstock. The Internet is a part of the fabric of our society, if Congress messes around with network neutrality, I think we can kiss the Internet as we know it goodbye. Timothy Wu, Columbia Law Professor, makes the point that the Internet is an almost perfect free market, someone talented with a good blog can get more readers than the New York Times tomorrow, someone with a great idea and a website can become a huge jobs creator and billion dollar company.
If you don’t have time now, I’ll post the archive link when it becomes available.
UPDATE: Walter McCormick, U.S. Telecom Association, President & CEO, makes an absolutely misplaced analogy between network neutrality and featured vendors on Amazon.com. At first, McCormick’s comments sound harmless: “We will not block, impair, or degrade content or services.” “The functionality you have today you will have tomorrow.” …..but, he goes on to mention that carriers should be allowed to differentiate service in the same way a website like Amazon.com features selected vendors. Big difference, carriers are infrastructure, Amazon.com and Google are services.
UPDATE: Points to Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) she’s a representative well informed about the internet - refers to Google founders by first name. Her questions point to the fact that some carriers have threatened to build a separate “controlled” network. Timothy Wu, responds, “this neutral internet has been good for everybody”
UPDATE: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) frames the question by making an analogy to a “private road”. McCormick then takes this analogy and makes another wild (mis)statement about the Internet as a single-lane public road. Here’s his line of reasoning: “The Internet is like a single lane road. If someone wants to expand capacity of that single lane highway, if they want to ship goods with a numer of large 18-wheelers, who should pay for the expansion of the road? McCormick thinks that Amazon.com should pay for the privilege of shipping those goods with “18-wheelers”?” It sounds crazy, because it is crazy. Amazon.com isn’t shipping traffic to me, I am specifically asking them to send me packets. Word games.
UPDATE: Comstock talks of Verizon’s FIOS home service. The line they install in your house has a capacity of 1 GB/s (his words), they reserve the bulk of that capacity for cable TV service and reserve a tiny fraction of that service for your “broadband”. Timothy Wu talks about the nightmare scenario for cable companies, where the bandwidth of these lines is free and the consumer can by video content directly from a provider over the internet at as high a quality as a cable service.
UPDATE: McCormick again brings up Google sponsored links as some sort of preferential treatment. It looks like McCormick is trying to justify tiered discriminatory sservice by pointing to content providers. Timothy Wu responds, the carriers are moving to a discriminatory approach/tiered services, this might be marginally more profitable, but “the neutral internet has floated all boats”. Timothy Wu: Google runs a neutral search, they have advertisements which Mccormick calls a “priority lane”. Wu says that McCormick is trying to confuse the issue, search engine market is incredibly competitive. Wu thinks McCormick is trying to confuse the issue, possibly captializing on Google’s recent China publicity. Wu suggests that even discussing this is a waste of the committee’s time.
UPDATE: Paul Misener of Amazon, foreign carriers specifically DT, already on the record saying that they will try to extract fees for access from Google, EBay, Amazon.
UPDATE: Timothy Wu: if we move toward a discriminatory network, the products consumers prefer may not be the applications that work as well on the network this is the short-term threat. Long-term threat, when competition becomes a question of who has the best connection with the gatekeepers you will no longer have the level of innovation we currently have. Mentions innovation like A9, new innovations to the internet space. That’s the trade off of allowing carriers to discriminate
UPDATE: Because this issue is under the jurisdiction of the FCC, these questions are usually viewed as geeky distractions or as a fight at a “star trek” convention. Issues like this are national macroeconomic issues, not just technology.
Adjourned. Sorry for the non-Java distraction, this issue affects every technologist no matter what language they use.