Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Net neutral...Think again.

Everything you wanted to know about net neutrality but were afraid to ask. The video is a bit old (12 months ago) but everything is still on the button. An federal election in Australia on November 24th and not a mention of Net Neutrality in any election platform. The situation in Australia where ISPs are 'responsible for' or basically control content is the dream of many policy makers around the world (In Sweden it was suggested just a couple of months ago by a government appointed inquiry). Service provision in Australia provides an idea for what ISP controlled content (as is mentioned in the video: "just like television") would look like:

Look at what happens in Australia. The biggest ISP (BigPond) is part of the biggest telco (Telstra). Telstra owns the copper network that connects most homes and business premises, so ADSL providers have to use Telstra's facilities. Some install their own DSLAMs in Telstra exchanges, others act basically as retailers of Telstra's service.

Largely due to its size and deep pockets, Telstra is able to out-market most ISPs. The 'mums and dads' market - and BigPond has been running a 'your kids need broadband' campaign for months - would probably be hard pressed to name an alternative broadband provider. IT Wire

As Lawrence Lessig points out in the video, and has written about in Free Culture (2004), radio began in a similar fashion with unregulated broadcasting up until the 1920s. Citizen broadcasting now amounts to less than 5% of broadcasting in the USA.


HOTI Dave said...

Well, it's "everything" about the subject from one tendentious point of view. Save the Internet are activists for greater regulation.

But plenty of Internet pioneers and network experts, probably even most of them, disagree.

I work for Hands Off the Internet, which is the group on the other side of the debate from STI, but I'll point you to the relevant Wikipedia section instead.

I'd also strongly recommend reading the blog by Richard Bennett, one of those networking engineers. He's covered the net neutrality debate from the let's-wait-and-see point of view better than anyone.

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Dave, I am not familiar with ‘Save the Internet’ but I have read everything that Lawrence Lessig has published in book form and I am very sympathetic to his analysis. I am not convinced that infrastructure and service need to be controlled by the same interests for the internet to be an efficient media. Here in Sweden:

“TeliaSonera claimed that its ADSL network was available to 92% of households by September 2005. Furthermore, more than half of the households in Sweden are passed by fibre infrastructure.” Sweden Broadband Market Report 2005 http://www.bbwo.org.uk/broadband-3045

This has been achieved with a mixture of public carrier (TeliaSonera) and private service provision. It is not absolutely necessary that government regulates the internet (the fear of HOTI) but rather that its diversity and accessibility is maintained and even developed. As countless lessons from history show, from the enclosures of the commons in Britain to the colonisation of the American West, to the early history of radio and television, when a new space is opened to commodification (be it representational or represented...i.e. real or virtual) it is only a matter of time before access is dominated and determined by those most powerful in the hierarchy. This should not be allowed to happen to the internet as it is a unique global opportunity to co ordinate and develop knowledge. If it does happen it will be impossible to go back and try again after all the deeds are signed and the claims owned.

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Oh, and while we are at it, Hands Off The Internet (HOTI):

The bulk of HOTI's financial support comes from the newly re-formed AT&T, which has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into HOTI ad campaigns, including extensive advertising buys across the blogosphere and in mainstream and beltway press. Nowhere throughout these ads is it disclosed that the effort is funded by the nation's largest telecommunications companies and lobbyists. Instead, HOTI ads are fashioned to look and feel like genuine grassroots efforts, backed by broad popular suport. This deceptive practice is most evident in an animated segment at www.dontregulate.org [7], produced by HOTI for broad dissemination via blog ad placements. Critics across the blogosphere and at SavetheInternet.com have condemned this animated ad as "a clever piece of industry propaganda that is riddled with half-truths and outright lies."
Center for Media and Democracy

HOTI Dave said...

No doubt, AT&T is a signifcant member of our coalition, although far from the only one, and I don't speak for them. In spite of all the times we've been called Astroturf, we list our members in our blog's sidebar, and separately on this page. So SourceWatch is simply wrong on that point.

Save the Internet, on the other hand, they're backed by the non-partisan group Free Press, whose donors aren't so clear. Funny that SourceWatch doesn't care to point that out about STI.

Anyway, back to the main point, Larry Lessig is an incredibly smart guy. We certainly have some disagreements with him on this issue, but earlier this year he wrote in Wired (and we covered on our blog) that he too wasn't completely sure that new regulations were the way to go. He based this in part on his 1990s position that Microsoft should have been broken up, which he's since changed his mind about. Definitely have to respect a guy who can change his mind and explain why.