disappointment lists

what has drawn me here is the underlying potency of the concept. brief, critical, forward-looking, entertaining if possible, disappointing almost always. but how can we improve if all we experience is affirmation? in addition to original meanderings, the following posts include reproductions of my user sites from wikipedia and wanderlist as well as a number pages originating on wanderlist.com and segments of other people's pages.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Data Carriers Face A Virtual Hurdle In Seeking Domination Of Net

Uh oh! Thanks to a year and a half old fcc decision, Verizon, Comcast and others (note their status telco industry) may soon be able to decide "which Web sites work best for you -- based on what site pays them the most." (1) These claims from the most unlikely variety of sources: prominant media industry critic Robert McChesney, populist left-wing activism site MoveOn.org, the Christian Coalition, Microsoft, and Google. I was duly taken aback by the shocking heterogeneity of the team, and signed a petition to "save the internet". Having a degree in communication, I was familiar with the political leanings of Robert McChesney, though, oddly, not so much the organizations listed with him, beyond their public relations and their penchant for market domination. The spokesperson for the alternate viewpoint, has emerged as former (democratic) White House press secretary, Mike McCurry.

Vleeptron, (Tag Line: "News, Weather, Mozart, Sports, Eurovision Love ├ćnema & Perverted Videogames from Vleeptron,") has mentioned or implied most of the real issues in the debate (the first 5 listed below), or included them through the reposting of an article "Bloggers take on telecoms giants to save spirit of Net" from Stephen Foley of The Independent (UK). The last 5 debate items are, IMO, bogus talking-points, chosen because one side or the other (or both) thought they could win converts just by mentioning it.


First, the legitimate fears for the neutralists:

1. Tiered access for internet users to internet services as determined by their telco.

2. Non-negotiable hikes in usage fees to content providers (potentially from individuals and startups on up, including giants like Microsoft and Google)

3. Tiered access to internet users as purchased through the telco for content providers (and particularly e-businesses).


Second, the legitimate fears for the telcos

4. Owners losing their rights to approve or deny uses of their infrastructure

5. "Congestion" at popular sites disallowing the high-speed access to various internet services with the current physical infrastructure and method of processing of bandwidth requests.


Third, the B.S. that actually comes from both sides:

6. Both sides claim that the other way leads straight to higher costs for consumers.

How can both be right? In fact, I'm pretty sure the answer is that nobody knows this. Neither side can predict the future, but I guess through some kind of miracle of clarity, both sides might be right. Premium internet services are expanding all the time, so that what once was free of charge is now only available for a fee. In addition, individual and household telco costs continue to rise despite decreased costs through efficiencies of scale.

7. The telco side claims that the money earned from new charges to high traffic internet destinations will go directly to infrastructure improvements. The webcos suggest abuse to be imminent.

The money collected would obviously not just go directly to any particular project, but to the corporate body in general, to be divvied up amongst their employees, contractors, executives, shareholders, and whomever else is deemed appropriate. Enshrining the promise to build in federal law may make it true, to a greater or lesser extent, for several years or whatever term is allowed. The current FCC and legislative trends (see the wikipedia entry on Spectrum Management and follow the links to the legislative acts for the paths taken in spectrum regulation) suggest that the government would prefer a self-regulating free market solution. Nevertheless, countries with more advanced networks, namely South Korea, Japan, and the UK, have each had a significant push from their respective governments to achieve that end. The government may therefore decide to fund the project, with accompanying regulations, if merely allowing a surcharge that will go in part to infrastructure does not appear to be the motivation required to create a true nationwide fiber optic network.


8. Each claims that there is a coding-oriented argument to their side.

Telcos say their new packet processing will be faster, internet sites say sites would load less reliably. Again, I suspect both sides are fucking with us. It doesn't really matter who started it, because the other side had to respond by proving their own sophistication. So why go there in the first place? Because it sounds more scientific to talk about QoS in processing data transfers (rather than broadband services) and internet applications (rather than web based services) and other stuff with engineer talk, and also because people can't argue against what they don't understand.

9. Legally speaking... Because it's so important to the application of the law and what people (particularly law makers) deem acceptable, claiming status quo has been an object of both sides.

Precedent is very important under U.S. common law. I believe this will make all the difference when it comes to the regulatory decision. Kevin Drum's brief article weighing the two sides in Washington Monthly, seems to make it fairly clear that technologically, the answer is in favor of the neutralists, and legally the answer is in favor of the telcos who want the right to charge users for specific data transfer services. This is not to say that the neutralists don't have a legal leg to stand on or vice versa. In fact, Verizon and Comcast, as well as Google, Microsoft, and Craigslist are well within their rights to debate this issue, since it hinges on telcos being able to charge webcos large amounts of money, potentially making and taking huge sums. Little of this "end of net neutrality" can truely apply to the "little people" and start ups, in the short run because it would upset too many people. Nor is "enshining net neutrality" very likely to hold in the long run, say 10 or 20 years from now, for individuals and small companies, as much as it might (if codified in law) to the big players and their very own wallets. Still, this does matter to consumers, at least in the short term, as it will decide, in my view, how fast the owners of the infrastructure take their inevitably far more proactive centralized control over terms of internet usage.

10. Freedom of speech, democracy, the free market.

Somehow all of these belong to both sides again. What malarcky. The U.S. press was never free, though it has been heavily subsidized, and neither, in it's own way, was the U.S. market. Will smaller voices get crushed? My guess is yes, regardless of neutrality and free market issues, since Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and the rest of them are already making each other much richer through marketing agreements, territorial treaties (explicit or not) and the like. How about the other side: Will a few huge corporations be allowed to charge what the market will bear for their specialized services? My guess is again, yes. This is the American Way, isn't it?

It may come down to the question of whether telcos can harvest funds from internet service companies. It's a legal, economic, and political issue, not a technological one, though the results may include technological changes.


3 Comments:

At 5:02 PM, Blogger negativenelly said...

A recent exchange between myself and wikipedia's spinmaster general for the net neutrality article, Richard Bennett, starting with my proposal for an addition to the article.

A proposed listing of the terms of the debate (slightly editted from my personal blog)

Verifiably legitimate fears for the neutralists:

1. Tiered access for internet users to internet services as determined by their telco.

2. Non-negotiable hikes in usage fees to content providers (potentially from individuals and startups on up, including giants like Microsoft and Google)

3. Tiered access to internet users as purchased through the telco for content providers (and particularly e-businesses).


Verifiably legitimate fears for the telcos

4. Owners losing their rights to approve or deny uses of their infrastructure

5. "Congestion" at popular sites disallowing the high-speed access to various internet services with the current physical infrastructure and method of processing of bandwidth requests.


Terms of the debate with uncertain grounding.

6. Both sides claim that the other way leads straight to higher costs for consumers.

Due to the ongoing expansion of premium internet services, what once was free is now only available for a fee. In addition, individual and household telco costs continue to rise despite consolidated corporations theoretically reaping the benefits of efficiencies of scale.

7. The telco side claims that the money earned from new charges to high traffic internet destinations will go directly to infrastructure improvements. The webcos suggest abuse to be imminent.

The money collected would not go directly to any particular project, but to the corporate body in general, to be divvied up amongst employees, contractors, executives, shareholders, and whomever else is deemed appropriate. Enshrining the promise to build in federal law may, to a greater or lesser extent, enforce broadband infrastructure expansion for several years. The current FCC and legislative trends (see the wikipedia entry on Spectrum Management and follow the links to the legislative acts for the paths taken in spectrum regulation) suggest that the government would prefer a self-regulating free market solution. Nevertheless, countries with more advanced networks, namely South Korea, Japan, and the UK, have each had a significant push from their respective governments to achieve that end. The government may therefore decide to fund the project, with accompanying regulations, if it is decided that merely allowing a surcharge that will go in part to infrastructure does not appear to be the motivation required to create a true nationwide broadband network.


8. Each claims that there is a coding-oriented argument to their side.

Telcos say their new packet processing will be faster, internet sites say sites would load less reliably. These arguments are speculative in nature, and depend more on how the potential new processing is regulated (or not).

9. Legally speaking... Because it's so important to the application of the law and what people (particularly law makers) deem acceptable, claiming status quo has been an object of both sides.

Precedent is very important under U.S. common law. I believe this will make all the difference when it comes to the regulatory decision. Kevin Drum's brief article weighing the two sides in Washington Monthly, seems to make it fairly clear that technologically, the answer is in favor of the neutralists, and legally the answer is in favor of the telcos who want the right to charge users for specific data transfer services. This is not to say that the neutralists don't have a legal leg to stand on or vice versa. In fact, Verizon and Comcast, as well as Google, Microsoft, and Craigslist are well within their rights to debate this issue, since it hinges on telcos being able to charge webcos large amounts of money, potentially making and taking huge sums. Little of this "end of net neutrality" can truely apply to the "little people" and start ups, in the short run because it would upset too many people. Nor is "enshining net neutrality" very likely to hold in the long run, say 10 or 20 years from now, as much as to the big players and their very own profits.

10. Freedom of speech, democracy, the free market.

The U.S. press has been heavily subsidized, as has the U.S. market. Will smaller voices get silenced? Regardless of neutrality and free market issues, since Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, already have financial ties through marketing agreements, territorial treaties (explicit or not) and the like. Will a few corporations be allowed to charge what the market will bear for their specialized services? It may come down to the question of whether telcos can harvest funds from internet service companies. It's a legal, economic, and political issue, not a technological one, though the results may include technological changes.ben********

This isn't a "neutralists" vs. "telcos" debate, as many on the ant-regulation side are not Telcos. The Wellbert Calton is spinning the summary again, and that's going to force a POV tag if he can't be brought to heel. RichardBennett 04:25, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

Telcos=telecommunications companies, which i guess i used roughly to mean telephone and cable companies, like they are listed in forbes. are there other organizations you are thinking of that I am not considering? in retrospect, yeah the wording is probably no good, but for another reason: maybe it would be better to say webcos (and lefties) versus telcos (and righties)? the terms are clearly not perfect, but as someone else has brought up here, the telecommunication companies may make up the most economically important side of the debate, but the webcos and influencial social organizations on the other side make for a broader range of prominant organizations.
ben********

 
At 6:13 AM, Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Oh, so THIS is how you got to Vleeptron!

Did you read my re-post of The New Yorker "Talk of the Town" article on Net Neutrality? I just push it because I admire the clarity (not necessarily The Perfect Truth) of the fellow's argument.

You have the distinction of being the only foe of Net Neutrality I've read on the blogosphere to identify himself.

 
At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bob! You're my 1st commentator! Ok. Yeah that's another good reason not to trust the telcos. Hey, what? I'm not anti-"net neutrality" I'll have you know. I just feel that the legislation would have to be quite powerful and the public response so vociferous, well... And we'd also need courts that recognize this importance of this stuff. If I'm an opponent, it's because I'm a skeptic, but you might note my attempts to present the scope of the debate in a critical way. Example: my rewording of the intro to the wikipedia article included references to (1) the suggestion that highly differentiated internet users would be a threat to the market dominance of google and microsoft and (2) the economic (and political) sledgehammer that is the telecommunication companies at the heart of the "hands off" side of the debate that basically says "trust us with even more money."

 

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