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Vint Cerf warns against two-tier "net neutrality" Internet

4:54 pm on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The opening shots were fired on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in a legislative battle between the US telecommunications and internet industries that both sides warned could undermine innovation and consumer choice on the internet.

Vint Cerf, one of the early pioneers of internet technology and now chief internet evangelist at Google, called on Congress to pass a law preventing telecoms companies from discriminating between the internet services that are carried over their networks.

Vint Cerf warns against two-tier "net neutrality" Internet [news.moneycentral.msn.com]

5:56 pm on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This is a pretty tricky nut to crack, that's for sure. (BTW, the author mis-capitalized "Chief Internet Evangelist", which is a title, not a simple reference.)

We've been talking about this for a long time in some circles, and there's one complicated suggestion that seems to keep rising to the top:

Different services will be 'taxed' depending on the amount of bandwidth they use, including services provided by the corporation that invests in the infrastructure, albeit at a mitigated rate.

Kind of like the U.S. highway system, the bigger the truck the more damage it does and the higher the tariffs paid by the trucking companies. Their contributions pay for the extra maintenance required.

So; ABF, Inc. invests in a new broadband line. They want to offer VoIP. XYK, LLC wants to offer VoIP, too. They get access to the new line, as required by law. If the new line can't handle the bandwidth needs, new bandwidth needs to be added. Payments from heavy-user XYK and slightly smaller payments from heavy-user ABF contribute to the construction costs ... and so on.

Smaller users, like 'normal' ISPs, either pay nothing or pay some adjusted fee for access.

All of these payments are determined by a formula that takes into account such things as regional competition, regional resource availability and the nature and level of services being requested.

As I said ... it's a really tough nut that has to be addressed pretty soon. The only issue I have with the telecom's arguments are that they are balking at investing in fibre lines ... which they will need to do to support their own service offerings in the near future. They're just worried (a) that they won't be as good at providing the services as some of their service competitors and (b) that so many mom-and-pop VoIP and media service companies will be sprouting on their circuits that they will melt down performance, and with no fee structure in place they will be forced to shoulder the burden themselves, as they currently do. They are definitely the ones the third-parties will point to as the customers start complaining ...

6:30 pm on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Ultimately, I think this is a usage charge in the wrong direction. Telco's want to pass it on to the supply side for anticompetitive reasons.

The pre-internet version would be a telephone network where you initiate the call, but the person who answers on the other end gets charged. Absurd.

6:39 pm on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It is simple. Telcos should charge their subscribers for the cost of providing the line. What? That would be uncompetitive? Welcome to the free market.

If you can't support VoIP then cut the bandwidth. Give your users a 56k connection. That's a simple solution which will make VoIP unworkable.

6:45 pm on Feb 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I agree it's completely backwards, but I can imagine why the providers are fighting for this. If they get it, there's no reason in principle why they can't extend the logic further and further, until every .com is paying every ISP for reliable access to its customers.
12:08 am on Feb 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I don't know what scares me more as a webmaster... Paying for bandwith performance, or paying for e-mail performance [webmasterworld.com]. I think there's going to be a huge backlash from consumers, who will also be affected by these changes.

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