Net Neutrality – Part 2

In my yesterday’s Net Neutrality post I wrote “For your ISP, a packet is a packet is a packet.”

In another forum, Howard responds:

Speaking as an ISP engineer, no, it isn’t that simple. Set aside preferential charging of source information. No ISP can afford to engineer enough bandwidth to guarantee maximum bandwidth, at all times, to every user. Above all, the ISP _must_ guarantee that network management, routing protocol, and other packets used for its own technical management get through.

Ignoring peer-to-peer for a moment, file downloads are not interactive. If there’s a crunch on bandwidth, I’ll set the highest priority for management traffic, then delay-sensitive traffic (e.g., voice and video), then interactive traffic (Web, telnet) and then bulk downloads (FTP, SMTP, POP3, etc.)

Gaming is a huge bandwidth hog, as is entertainment downloads. Quite a few universities, in the role of ISPs to their campuses, eventually have to limit student bandwidth because gaming, peer-to-peer, and entertainment consistently will take as much bandwidth as it can get. The academic and research users are the people for whom the network was installed.

This made me realize that I needed to clarify.

Howard, true I was oversimplifying just a bit.  Yes, there are infrastructure packets and then there are user payload packets, and yes there does need to be some prioritization.  I’m not arguing that my customer-generated packets are as important as, or should receive the same priority as, infrastructure packets.

Nor am I saying that the ISP owes me maximum bandwidth at all times.  I do not recall anyone seriously making that argument.

What I’m saying is that the ISP should treat my customer payload packets on one port the same as another, and on any given port they should treat the streams the same regardless of the remote destination address.

Because once the ISP starts to care about the content of my streams, I lose all my privacy.  I currently see a huge difference downloading a GB file in the clear vs the same file over a fast VPN because my secure communications are throttled.

There’s also an issue in that if Comcast or TWC charges Netflix for access, then Netflix passes that cost on to their customers.  All of their customers.  Even customers not on Comcast or TWC.  So if you are on an ISP that doesn’t have enough subscribers for Netflix to care about, and thus cannot collect the ransom from Netflix, guess what – your customers STILL bear a portion of the fees that Netflix pays to TWC and Comcast.  You just do not see any of that. Even if you do manage to collect some fees, there is likely a difference in the per-subscriber fees you collect versus those that the larger ISPs collect.  Chances are, that fee differential isn’t favorable to you as a smaller ISP and you are still screwed.

That isn’t neutrality in any sense of the word.  It is big cable companies capital funds from non-customers by externalizing their costs to independent 3rd parties.  People with no connection whatsoever to TWC or Comcast end up subsidizing those giant companies.  It is the worst kind of corporate welfare because nobody admits what it is.  It grants taxation rights to corporate entities without any representation of the people being taxed.

Note: No evidence of this in the new fees yet since the ruling was just handed down.  I’m extrapolating here from what happened in Internet Radio.  Remember Internet Radio?  Used to be anyone could stream anything?  Now, thanks to the “fair” royalty structure negotiated by large content providers, the only thing left of Internet Radio is talk shows (no royalties if you do not play copyrighted content) and those very same large providers who can afford to stream.  Bend over and grab your ankles, because here it comes again.  Were people not looking the first time?  Or do we as a society take some kind of sadistic pleasure in getting screwed by large corporations?  Because I got news, it isn’t the size of your corporation that counts, it’s how you use it.

But in many cases this is about infrastructure.  Companies with older infrastructure are faced with the choice of upgrading or replacing with fiber.  But because their margins do not anticipate replacement, they are at a competitive disadvantage with start-ups for whom investment in fiber is cost effective.  This leads to community broadband, co-ops and other alternative providers.  Unable to compete in this economic reality, the cable companies then seek to alter reality using protectionist legislation that effectively bars alternative providers.

That leads to the incredibly stupid and yet all too common case of rural communities without the population density to attract traditional ISPs but who nonetheless are barred from starting a community ISP.  Any cable company owning a franchise and refusing to serve customers in their territory should lose the right to that territory.  The interest of the public good is served more by rural doctors having access to telemedicine and rural schools having access to scholarly resources than by allowing a giant company to block Internet access until it gets around laying fiber.

Howard, you cite gaming as a huge bandwidth hog but the problem isn’t gaming.  The problem is that the ISPs sold us a bill of goods with all-you-can-eat, un-metered plans.  These plans are based on the statistical distribution of bandwidth usage across a population and building a network with a utilization target that meets the needs of some percentage of those users – say 95%.  The outliers in the top 5% use all the bandwidth but it’s generally OK for everyone else.

But then it turns out that we all want more bandwidth because instead of email, we all now want to use YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Hulu and the like.  That’s a problem for ISPs who do now see utilization capping becoming common and causing customers to consistently receive much less service than they pay for.

Rather than blackmail the service providers – using a business model that makes it harder for small content providers to break into the business – the ISP needs to renegotiate their contract with their actual customers to raise the capital required to serve those customers.

Blackmailing content providers isn’t the answer.

Enacting protectionist legislation that prevents community broadband isn’t the answer.

Looking at the content of my traffic to decide it’s value and retroactively charge me for it isn’t the answer.

Allowing large ISPs to pass capital costs to uninvolved 3rd parties who then indirectly pass it along to their customers who are not even on the network of that giant ISP isn’t the answer.

Unless, as mentioned in the first post, you are an elected representative who is either incompetent or corrupt.  For that person, these things obviously are the answer.

About T.Rob

Computer security nerd. WebSphere MQ expert. Autist. Advocate. Author. Humanist. Text-based life form. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, G+, or LinkedIn.
This entry was posted in Clue train, Global issues, Rant, Social issues, Tech and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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