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The Net is Neutral? Google Thinks so...

9:56 pm on Jan 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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“Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier,” writes Google spokesman Barry Schnitt.

“We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations,” Schnitt says.

The “net neutrality” issue has been top of mind since three of the RBOCs


12:52 am on Jan 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

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A small excerpt from the second peice Brett linked to
"I think it's a technical issue that extrapolates itself into a First Amendment issue," Citron said. Service providers that own infrastructure and deliver content or services over it now have the capability to look into the packets going to and from a customer's connection and determine what kind of service they are using and even the content of those packets, he said. It is technically possible for network operators to read e-mail, block e-mail messages based on content, and limit access to Web sites, Citron said.

In addition to anti-competitive moves against VoIP companies and other content and service providers, the problem raises censorship issues, he said.

"What happens when the media property that owns distribution is owned by a religious group?" Citron asked. Laws should be brought up to date to prevent abuse, he said.

Considering those actually behind the current moves by the US government to make search engines turn over data ..it maybe come very very important to guard the "neutrality" of the net and keep this issue to the forefront ..for other than commercial reasons ..

3:28 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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They are already charging fees from the consumers. Webmasters are also paying for their servers bandwidth. Now these suckers want to double charge us.
5:07 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This could be a huge snowball rolling down a very high mountain. If broad band can charge for bandwidth, why can't other internet properties? When do we all charge for priority access to our websites? When will Google begin to charge broadband for access to thier search?
5:59 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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BroadBand is brought to the people by government enforced monopolies.. Telephone and Cable Co.s who have been ripping off their customers for years because they lack competition.

These companies will probably use the force of government to take on google. They aren't used to competition in the market place.

Beware of more court cases, and rent seeking which is the use of litigation as your income.

10:30 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I recently moved with only one "major" downside being a downgrade from 5 megabits to 3 megabits with a bit more latency.

From my understanding people in other countries enjoy much greater amounts of bandwidth to begin with (would some non-Americans with pipes greater then 5 megabits speak up on this for me)?

On the other side of the spectrum I think there is some competition. My previous cable ISP went from 3 to 5 megabit when the DSL providers started advertising 3 megabit connections. Here in Florida the cable companies would rather keep making their 45USD a month on the basis that their internet connection is faster. So long as DSL providers keep increasing their speed the cable companies will continue to raise the bandwidth, at least thats my POV.

11:48 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The problem is the average user does not understand how or when they are being ripped in regards to Broadband.

Look at a cable bill or phone bill.... these "service providers" are charging the end users for infrastructure, investments, franchise and licensing fees, taxes and every other "cost" item they have... it won't be long before they start a line item for "Employee Benefits Fee" and "Executive Golden Parachute Fee" ---- charging end users for what they give their employees.

Most cable companies are considered "entertainment services"... they bill you in advance and shut you off in a heartbeat if you are late... your payment this month helps pay the salary of the "marketing people" who will devise a way to extract more money from you next month.

In my opinion, every cable subscriber is a "partner" in the franchise if they are paying these fees.

It looks like the only item they providers don't want anyone to share in is profit.

We would all be better off with one cable/phone/ISP company that is regulated by the government --- "We The People's Broadband Corporation"... set profit margins, public hearings, government oversight and regulation.

Sure a few pols will line their pockets, but the way it is now, the pols still line their pockets for voting for legislation that allows companies to charge consumers for every cost items including future and past development.

Competition is usually a good thing --- but for the very same reason the U.S. Highway Administration oversees / regulates intersate roads, (it was chaos before that), the "internet" needs national funding and regulation.

Sure, other people can compete --- there will always be a small few that want something "different" than everyone else, but in general, most people would be happy with decent speed IP data, VoIP and (FCC) "over the air / over the cable" style t.v. (and radio) if it all came in one pipe at a fair price.

9:39 am on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Complicated problem.

All this 100s of billions of dollars they spent on creating these networks in the first place (and went bankrupt in a lot of cases doing) was because they all expected to profit off of the internet.

Will, they bided their time, and their time has come. Money is flowing and now they want a piece of it.

They could just up the subscriber / server fees .. but that would just kill the internet.

So, they're trying to be more selective - go after the high flyers like Google, Yahoo, Ebay, and Amazon,.

It is a really hard problem. On one hand, I think the carriers need to be paid their fair share and the government should not be allowed to intervene.

On the other hand, there is a lot of potential for abuse here. The message *IS* the medium. We must not forget that.

Hopefully a thoughtful balance will be struck. In any case, I'm believe Google should pay the piper.

3:00 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The message *IS* the medium. We must not forget that.

A more appropriate (Marshall) McLuhan-ism* may be:

"The road is our major architectural form".

Although he didn't live to see the term "information super-highway" coined, I beleive he would have agreed that the electronic conduit for information is nothing more than a road.

The message is NOT the medium.

The medium is NOT the message.

A road is nothing more than a road.

Traffic is traffic.

The point? We are talking infrastructure, not content.

I am not defending Google alone. The idea of "QOS fees", (surcharges, penalties, whatever).. are just another attempt by corporate America to gouge the consumer, (the costs will be "passed along" somehow).

It would be like saying: "Water will be delivered to consumers at $0.01 per gallon for hygienic or consumption purposes, BUT, if consumers use the water to make Iced Tea the municipal water system will charge 4C, Lipton and Nestea a surcharge"

*Source: Marchall McLuhan website: [marshallmcluhan.com...]


3:17 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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...a side note: McLuhan (and Fiore's) book was titled, The Medium is the Massage, (not "message").

The Medium is the Massage (1967)
Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
Bantam Books / Random House.

We could discuss what we think the title means, but that would diverge from the topic at hand; QOS fees.


4:06 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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> The idea of "QOS fees"

That and the passing mention of "broadband video services" in the PCWorld article, and the "Google Says No to QOS Fees" title of the Light Reading article are really the main point of this disccusion, but one which has been ignored by non-technical writers and the public in general.

Some services, such as video-on-demand (VOD) and voice over IP (VOIP), need a minimum guranteed 'quality of service' (QOS) in order to function properly. Insufficient connection quality on video would lead to missing frames and artifacts in the video. Packet loss can defeat the entire basis of video compression using 'delta coding' where only the changes from one frame to the next are transmitted, rather than an entire new bitmap per frame. Packet loss or delay on delta-coded material is a potentially-'fatal' error, and requires even more bandwidth for recovery.

For voice over IP, the problem is not as severe, but insufficient connection 'quality' would lead to clicks, pops, and voice dropouts in the transmission.

The answer to these problems was QOS or Quality Of Service. QOS allows packets to be tagged indicating whether they are time-sensitive and delivery-order-sensitive or not. Video and voice are both sensitive to delivery delay (latency) and order of packet delivery, whereas downloaded data files, typical Web pages, e-mail, and IM packets are not particularly sensitive in this regard; standard packet retransmission and reassembly techniques are entirely sufficient for these services.

For an example of QOS, see Network Connections->Local Area Connection->Local Area Connection Status->Properties->QOS Packet Scheduler on recent Windows PCs. If you've got this service installed, then your local area network's behaviour is modified: Let's say you are playing a video from a file hosted on another computer on your network. Meanwhile, the person who shares your office space is copying files to another computer on the same network. Without QOS, your office mate's file transfer packets compete directly for access to the network. If his machine or NIC is faster and your network is busy, your video may appear choppy, and may stop occasionally and start 'buffering' in an attempt to prefetch enough data to play it seamlessly for you.

However, with QOS enabled on all machines, and supported by the switches and routers, your network 'knows' that your packets are video, and are therfore time- and delivery-order-sensitive; they are therefore given network priority over the packets sent by your co-worker to transfer files.

So the argument now is that the telecoms are saying that if they are to support this new QOS standard, they want to be paid for the additional infrastructure that it demands (essentially adding 'tollbooths' at the entry points to a separate high-speed lane on the highway). However, rather than offering a "QOS" service to customers who actually use these video and VOIP services and who want higher-quality (guaranteed low-latency and packet delivery) connections, they are trying to open up a new revenue channel by charging the suppliers of these services. In part, I suspect they're doing this to cover large roll-out costs while avoiding having to explain to Joe User just what this extra charges is for. It also neatly adds costs for their voice telecommunication competition --the VOIP providers-- making them less competitive. On the other hand, charging the service provider makes sense in one respect: The locations of the QOS gateways are relatively fixed on the service providers' end... Not so much so on the consumer's end.

So, this isn't a simple 'shakedown' manuever on the part of the telecoms; The datacenter costs associated with QOS are real, and someone will have to pay them in order to support the emerging high-speed video and VOIP services. The media have been disingenuous in reporting this as a 'threatened slowdown' of common Web sites; It is really a needed 'speed-up' of services that place large demands on the existing infrastructure -- most visibly, the video and voice services.

I certainly don't have enough information to say what is fair, but maybe injecting a little bit of technical background will make this discussion more productive. Having worked in telecom, my gut feel is that the telecoms can afford the extra costs if they provision their networks in an unhurried and deliberate way -- Profit margins in telecom are 'very, very good' in well-managed companies I just hope to see some in-depth and responsible reporting on this issue before it's decided based on erroneous and over-simplified reportage.


P.S. Whatever happened to Google's reputed 'dark fiber' purchases? Are we going to see this QOS debate become the catalyst for Google, the QOS Telecommunications Provider? ;)

6:40 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Nice post Jim.

It does seem the media and the government use sound-bite scare tactics to garner influence for most deep issues.

VoIP and Video-over-IP are bandwidth hogs.. but so was sending even a simple .GIF or .JPG not too long ago, (yes, I can remember seeing a .GIF paint a few dozen scan lines, stall, paint, blurt, stall, finish... I am old).

While the scenario paints the content or service providers as the big users, I can easily see how end-users will also require large amounts of "prioritized" bandwidth, (ie- Junior replies to Grandma's 15 minute "Happy Birthday" audio video email with his own 15 minute "Thank You" AVeM, (Audio Video eMail --- an acronym I may have just coined)...

If technology allows end users to originate and receive such "AVeM's", then the transmission bandwidth falls on the parties' ISP's.

Most cable providers are now selling tiered levels of bandwith, and those who have a need for speed are paying the premiums.

As for deploying routers and other hardware capable of discriminating "priority" transmissions and passing them through the pipe in a manner that facilitates the technology; Isn't that what "competition" is all about?

Look at the ISP's that sell based on "X times faster than AOL at $X.XX less per month".

If ISP's had charged high traffic sites that made large binary files available to end users, we would all still be running LYNX and waiting for the mail sweeper to run at 4:00am...

The market (and the Telco's) will survive and absorb the traffic. Those with foresight to invest in infrastructure will gain market share, and those who need the end-user capability will pay for increased bandwidth. If "QOS" becomes a line item or surcharge fee, it will never disappear.

I live in Boston. We have a road called the "MassPike" (I90), they built the road with bond money that was supposed to be paid off 20 years ago --- but they have managed to spend more every year on road, and now the $14 billion "BigDig" project... yesterday I paid $7.20 in tolls to drive my brother to the airport 20 miles from my house... the tolls will never be taken down, they are a cash cow.

Why should anyone have to support Telco's investment in infrastructure? If they need to raise capital to keep up or move ahead of the technology, they can always sell stock --- at least then the investors have a share in the profits. I see QOS as an unfair means to offset "startup costs" while not having any obligation to share profit with the "investors".

Maybe the government will make it a "tax" --- all they need to do is start a PR campaign for "The War Against Low Bandwidth".

7:04 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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> I see QOS as an unfair means to offset "startup costs"

Again, I'm still ambivalent on this subject, simply having insufficient information and time to think about it, but the main point of my post is that QOS is not "a means to raise prices," it is basically a protocol extension -- As noted, it's listed in your Windows Network protocols dialog box if you're on XP -- unless youi removed it.

Apparently, the main reason that the telcos want to charge service providers is that that is the only end of the pipe where an obviously-high concentration of high-QOS traffic will originate or terminate. They're going after the easily-identifiable high-QOS traffic points, in other words. And of course, these high-bandwidth-usage content providers have deeper pockets than Joe User, on average. And as noted, this way the telcos can make VOIP providers less competitive with their traditional phone networks as well -- and that may actually be the purpose of the whole exercise...

But until we see some technically-accurate in-depth reporting on what the real costs and network impact are, it's just the telcos saying they need to cover their costs versus consumers (and some content providers) claiming price gouging.


10:05 pm on Jan 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Now these suckers want to double charge us.

If bandwidth costs money and if you use more bandwidth, shouldn't you pay more? Or should all of us pay more so that you can use more?


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