Monday, May 15, 2006

The Handsoff.org Ad, Fisked

Lately a lot of people have been talking about "saving the internet:

"[sounds of crowd cheering]Save the internet! Net neutrality now! Keep the net free! We need the government to regulate the internet! [silence] chirp chirp.


Is the internet really in danger? Does the internet need saving?
Under current conditions, all internet users are treated equally, and we are all able to get content from around the world from every carrier who handles internet access with equal facility.

Some people use a lot of bandwidth for things like gaming or watching videos. Some use hardly any, for checking email or reading text on the internet. The price for accessing the internet is adjusted to make up for this usage, just like some people use public roads more, but pay the same in taxes.

But the telcos want to collect money at both ends, from customers who pay for access and from websites, like Google, who provide services. It's like charging a person to ride a ferry across a river to get to the best darn hot dog vendor on the East Side, then charging the hot dog vendor for attracting increased business to the ferry.

Then there's the analogy telcoms use, of big trucks being charged more for using toll roads. It's inapt. It's more like, as Tim Wu said, "Imagine streets working better for Ford cars than for cars made by GM or Toyota." More people may want to drive Toyotas, but precisely because so many more people want to drive Toyotas, they get charged more to make the road work adequately. Plus, the toll road company just made a deal with Ford to get more people into their cars by providing better road service. Of course you would still be able to use any ISP to access any site, but some sites would be so hindered by crappy service that they would become unusable, unused, and be silenced.

For instance, if Blogger refused to pay extortion money to Qwest, no one using fabulous high speed internet would want to spend a minute trying to access my site, so I would probably get about as much traffic as I currently get, making mine a really poor example. But you see what I mean.

Does that hurt the internet? Let's see, right now I can access any site in the world regardless of country or ISP. Without net neutrality, I get access to whatever my ISP thinks I should get access to, or those who can pay larger premiums to get it to me. Yeah, the internet loses a lot of credibility and usefulness. Thus, the internet needs saving from an industry that would change the rules which helped it to flourish in the first place.

It keeps getting faster, we keep getting more choices and pretty soon homes will be directly connected to the fiber optic backbone.
Pretty soon, yeah right. Back in 1996, the telcoms promised we would have those fiber optics by now, and they claimed they needed lots of money and incentives to build the fiber optic infrastructure. So where's that fiber optic backbone we were promised in 1996? Walter Gifford is soaking in it?

Building the next generation of the internet is going to take a lot of work and cost a lost of money, and some big corporations can't wait to use it. They plan on using a huge portion of the new bandwidth to do things like stream high definition movies.
Again, they made this promise in 1996, and never delivered. "Some big corporations" may use the already paid for infrastructure which doesn't yet exist to stream videos. Well, the telcos have profited greatly from innovations to the internet which they never paid for, but which have drawn huge amounts of traffic (and access fees) to their services. Free lunch!

They're gonna make billions, but they don't wanna pay anything. Instead, they want to stick consumers with the whole bill. And they call their plan "net neutrality?
I'll let the expert commenters at digg.com answer the "free lunch" charge:

  • "You could argue that Verizon is freeloading off of Google by charging for access to services that Google spent millions to build. Access providers wouldn't be able to sell expensive connections if other companies didn't provide compelling content and services. Nobody would pay Verizon for broadband if all they could access was Verizon content." - ebenthurston's comment
  • "That bandwidth is being paid for by end-users, or by companies that buy bandwidth from Verizon. Verizon may act as a transit AS for google's traffic, but that's the whole point of peering agreements, it's what the internet is built on. Verizon is getting free bandwidth to/from other providers because of peering agreements. If all these people start charging for transit traffic, things are going to fall apart really fast.This is simply a case of greedy companies screwing things up and destroying a good thing in the name of profit. In the long run, they are going to hurt themselves." - signal15's comment
  • "It's not google that uses the bandwidth it's us, in a good part, verizons own customers... this is short sighted nonsense." - binaryjay's comment
  • "Google pays for its access to the internet and each user pays for it. Verizon and ATandT and the like get their money by connecting up ISPs, businesses and such to such networks. Everyone has ALREADY been paid! They are claiming that by providing a service to Google(traffic) that Google and users have already paid for, that They should get paid again. As if a hotel had to pay the cab driver for dropping off the passenger, even though the passenger already paid at the airport!" - Machismo's comment


These corporations are asking Congress to create volumes of new regulations to control how content is delivered over the internet. Should politicians and bureaucrats replace network administrators?
The opposite is true. Regulations over the internet which already existed were ended by the FCC just last year, and will go into effect at the end of this summer, which is why we now have a scramble to create a definite law to cover the internet.

It will be the first major government regulation of the internet and it will fundamentally change how the internet works.
ISPs have been protected under the common carrier law since the internet was first developed. It's the big telcos who want to change the way the internet has been working.

Try this for a "first:"

For the first time, the companies that own the equipment that delivers the Internet to your office, cubicle, den and dorm room could, for a price, give one company priority on their networks over another.

This represents a break with the commercial meritocracy that has ruled the Internet until now. We've come to expect that the people who own the phone and cable lines remain "neutral," doing nothing to influence the content on your computer screen. And may the best Web site win.
These big corporations and the "save the internet" campaign want the government to take control of the internet.
We want to keep the controls that have been on it and helped it flourish over the last couple of decades.

They say it's to prevent websites from being blocked, but they can only cite two examples of internet providers who have blocked websites, and they were both in Canada.
Actually, I saw four, two in the U.S. (not how they say "blocked websites," because then they don't have to mention the U.S. examples which were not blocked websites) But there haven't been too much in the U.S. because of ... wait for it ... net neutrality.

The net neutrality issue is a fundamental question about who should control the internet, the people or the government.
This is actually an issue about content versus infrastructure, because the issue of who should control the infrastructure is long settled law -- the common law and later codified law of the common carrier (this is an interesting 1994 article by Eli M. Noam on the impending doom of common carriage because of developments in the internet infrastructure).

The internet is a public resource controlled by private entities, in the same way as seaports, railroads or telecoms. Private companies own the infrastructure, but they are not allowed to discriminate in who uses them, because the industry they operate in has too much effect on other industries, and the economy as a whole.

It's an old principle of common law. Heck, even the Romans recognized the principle. People who offer services for the "common good" are required to give those services equally to everyone. "Equal" is a subjective term, apparently. The analogy the telcos use is flying coach versus flying business class. Problem with that analogy ... even though business class is in the front of the plane, you don't really get to your destination any faster than coach, you just get better snacks and a more comfy seat. That means Disney World doesn't suffer a loss of business because it takes a day longer for the people in coach to get to Orlando. It also means Disney World doesn't have to pay for everyone to fly business class, or charge $2000/person to get in the park.

And it's a fight about who's going to pay. Multibillion dollar corporations or you.
We've already paid, thank you. Telcos were allowed to collect higher phone rates and get tax breaks to the tune of $200 billion dollars to do what they claim they are being hindered from doing. The U.S. is far from #1 in broadband service because the phone companies pocketed their profits, and trillions more was lost to the U.S. economy because new services and technologies were developed overseas, rather than here.

Speaking of new technologies being developed, not only have telcos hurt the U.S. since breaking their 1996 promise, they would continue hurting domestic innovation in the future for the sake of their own short-term profit. (Via if:book)

Congress is about to vote on net neutrality. Make up your own mind.
It's hard for people who aren't experts in the internet or law to make up their own minds. That's what the telcos are relying on. In trying to figure this out by doing extensive reading, I was almost convinced for a short time that the telcos were right.

It's about the future of the internet.

For more, go to handsoff.org
These last parts are unequivocally true. But make sure to compare their member organizations with those at savetheinternet.com. I know it's a guilt by association fallacy, but it was handsoff.org who first used it when claiming net neutrality is backed by multibillion dollar corporations. A lot more of "the little guys" back net neutrality.

***

The unaltered transcript and link to video through MyDD is here.
An examination of Mike McCurry's pimpled ass is here and here.

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