Thursday, July 26, 2007

WiLS World - Net Neutrality

Bob Bocher, my e-rate hero, did a great presentation based on his work on the ALA level. (He is second from left in the photo I linked to.)

He posted his presentation before the program (way to go!), but did have paper handouts. His defense of the paper handouts (so 20th Century) was that the paper industry is important to the Wisconsin economy.

Common carriage dates to the Middle Ages when the crown required that "public service" entities like those managing river crossings, could not refuse service to those who have ability to pay. This carried over to telecommunication including AT&T (the old "Ma Bell") in the 1930s when the New Deal began to regulate telephones.

Bob gave a great overview of the underlying structure for telecommunications services in the US today. [It reminded me why he was so good as the Chair of the E-Rate Task Force a couple of years ago.]

The power point includes a great chart showing the growth of DSL and death of dial-up. He notes that the FCC considers "broadband" as 200K, and that is a fairly low level, "but of course the FCC often operates at a fairly low level."

Net neutrality is critical for who controls what happens, right now, end users control what happens on the network (gaming, for instance), but with out net neutrality, the provider of the pipe/fiber may exercise control over the priority for service across the Internet.

Innovation is at the edges of the network. What new and exciting innovations have come from telcos or cable companies? None. Innovations come from the edge of the network.

There are some real concerns which the network providers have. They must be able to manage the network: security, traffic management, illegal content. They also need a return on their infrastructure investments.

Have there been abuses or discrimination? Net neutrality was in effect from September 2005 - 2006, so that there has not been a long history. There is an allegation from Vonage that some carriers are refusing to allow Vonage packets.

Roadblocks are more possible the further the message goes. The more networks touched, the more the possibility that one network [controller of a circuit] may choose to not pass the information (packets) quickly. Question was asked, who would investigate, and there is not a good answer nor is there much trust that the FCC and FTC would effectively investigate.

If net neutrality breaks down, it would mean that libraries (and consumers) would be in a more difficult position in choosing a provider since you would need to ask about all their special deals.

The FCC did require ATT to adhere to net neutrality as part of its purchase/merger with SBC. This has tempered the rush to a legislative solution.

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