Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/05/08: Net Neutrality

The Boston Tea Leaf Party
by Harold Feld


Those interested in a great eye witness account of what happened at the FCC hearing in Boston on February 25 should read fellow Wetmachiner John Sundman’s piece on the part he saw (including the reception afterwards). But after listening to the FCC’s video archive, reading the statements, and reading the coverage, I’m willing to read the Boston Tea Leaves and see where we are so far and how I think this ends up.  Speculation below . . . .   —>

Raising the stakes
by Susan Crawford
Susan Crawford Blog

[ 1 comment ]

The first panel discussion during Monday’s FCC hearing in Cambridge provided a useful summary of the first stages of what will be/already is a much bigger battle.

I think it would be a good idea to raise the stakes in this discussion. Even the most pro-public interest of the five commissioners, Cmmr. Copps, talks only about a case-by-case adjudication by the FCC of the “rules of the road” for “reasonable network management.” But that won’t get us faster, more open high-speed internet access. Commr. Adelstein makes more headway – he’s suggesting that we need to explore a “comprehensive solution” for this issue. Commr. McDowell, by contrast, slides way way back, saying internet access is (to him) “new media” that is mostly made up of people passively watching video. Even Vuze asks only for better disclosures of network management practices.

Although nothing goes away, it seems to me that these older “media” modalities of cable and telephone “services” are melting gradually (like the Wicked Witch of the West) into simple transport of bits. (Broadcast has melted into cable and scarcely counts as a separate category any more.)

Now, these modalities, these silos don’t want this, don’t have any use for such a change, and so they are hanging on to friction, management, control – and they’re saying that self-regulatory efforts are all that is needed to ensure that the public interest is served by their management efforts. We know they’re competing with the internet. They want to stay “media” companies and avoid commoditization. They’ve got enough market power to make this happen, and if the system can stay just about the way it is until the people inside these silos reach retirement age, that’s a fine goal.

Will we have a future shaped by the choices of these particular informational gatekeepers? Or will we have a general-purpose network that anyone can use for his/her own reasons? Will we replicate the models of the past, just because we’re used to them?   —>

New Technologies Challenge FCC to Evolve
by Neda Ulaby
NPR: All Things Considered

Chairman Kevin Martin’s foiled attempt to regulate cable may signal an inability for the FCC to exert influence over new technologies that will eventually become more dominant than broadcast media. The FCC will have to change to remain relevant.

The Dismal Reality of Internet Management
by Fred Goldstein

The revelation that Comcast (News – Alert) is using certain controversial practices to limit peer application traffic across its Internet service has led to calls for further regulation. To many observers, it’s a clear violation of that fuzzy concept of “network neutrality.” Comcast was caught using a system that jammed bogus “reset” packets into BitTorrent uploads, limiting the ability of its users to “seed” that popular file-sharing system, though it didn’t impede downloads. In their defense, Comcast claims that it is a “network management” practice that improves the performance of their network for vast majority of users. Companies dependent on peer file transfer of large video files, such as Vuze, naturally see it differently.

This leads to a rather interesting set of alliances. Arch-rivals Comcast and Verizon (News – Alert) are in agreement that the FCC should not step in and directly regulate Internet services. Neutrality purists and peer content providers are aligned against them. One side wants the right to control its cost of providing Internet bit transport; the other side wants the right to create and use new applications without any restriction.

This sounds like a motherhood-and-apple-pie kind of debate. Who wants their ISP to tell them what they can and cannot do? But it’s really not so simple. The Internet is fundamentally broken, and it’s getting worse. Throwing money and Moore’s Law at it has helped, but it can’t go on forever. The deep dark secret of the Internet’s business model is finally coming home to roost. Economics is sometimes called the Dismal Science, and here’s a case where the term really seems to apply.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: FCC, net neutrality

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