Recycling Garbage Abroad

Advocates of network neutrality regulations have been largely unsuccessful in advancing their agenda in the US. The one case in which they claim to have secured a victory was the Vuze vs. Comcast action in the FCC, which was severely tainted by Vuze turning to porn to resuscitate its dying business:

In a bid to increase their revenue, among other things, Vuze has added a catalog of HD adult videos to their BitTorrent client. For a few dollars a month Vuze users can subscribe to the latest hotness. Of course, all torrents on the erotica network are well seeded.

The same FCC commissioners who levied an unlawful fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction ordered Comcast to give free bandwidth to a porn site. (Feeling good about that, Chairman Copps? [ed: OK, that was a cheap shot, but Copps and I know each other.])

Not deterred by this spotty track record, wannabe neutrality regulator Cory Doctorow trots out the well-worn arguments for the overseas audience in a Guardian column that stinks of Dow Chemical’s overseas pesticide dumping:

Take the Telcoms Package now before the EU: among other things, the package paves the way for ISPs and Quangos to block or slow access to websites and services on an arbitrary basis. At the same time, ISPs are instituting and enforcing strict bandwidth limits on their customers, citing shocking statistics about the bandwidth hogs who consume vastly more resources than the average punter.

Between filtering, fiddling connection speeds and capping usage, ISPs are pulling the rug out from under the nations that have sustained them with generous subsidies and regulation.

Doctorow supports his arguments with a series of fanciful metaphors since there aren’t any real abuses for UK subjects to be upset about. Here’s a portion of my reaction in the comments:

Let’s take a closer look at Doctorow’s non-metaphoric claims:

“Between these three factors – (1) reducing the perceived value of the net, (2) reducing the ability of new entrants to disrupt incumbents, and (3) penalizing those who explore new services on the net – we are at risk of scaring people away from the network, of giving competitive advantage to firms in better-regulated nations, of making it harder for people to use the net to weather disasters, to talk to their government and to each other.”

I’ve numbered them for easy reference. So where’s the proof that these things are happening? For (1) we have this:

“ISPs would also like to be able to arbitrarily slow or degrade our network connections depending on what we’re doing and with whom. In the classic “traffic shaping” scenario, a company like Virgin Media strikes a deal with Yahoo…”

How do we know that ISPs want to slow or degrade our access, which would seem to drive us to a different ISP? The metaphoric example is offered as the proof. See the relevance?

For problem (2) , Doctorow offers:

“Unless, that is, the cost of entry into the market goes up by four or five orders of magnitude, growing to encompass the cost of a horde of gladhanding negotiators who must first secure the permission of gatekeepers at the telcoms giants…”

The problem with this, of course, is that the barriers to entry for new search and video services are the edge caches Google would like to install in the ISP networks, which do in fact give them a fast lane to the consumer (why else would Google want them?) and raise obstacles to start-ups. But American neutralists say these entry barriers are good because their friend Google wants to erect them, not a telco. Double standard.

And for (3), the evils of metered billing, we have this lovely little thing:

“Before you clicked on this article, you had no way of knowing how many bytes your computer would consume before clicking on it. And now that you’ve clicked on it, chances are that you still don’t know how many bytes you’ve consumed..”

Please. Metered billing systems aren’t going to operate on the differences between web pages. If Doctorow believed what he said about the Pareto Curve, he’d certainly be able to appreciate the difference between reading a thousand web pages vs watching a thousand videos. High bandwidth consumers aren’t doing anything “innovative,” they’re most likely downloading free porn. Who is this guy kidding?

Doctorow’s fiction may be very enjoyable, but his understanding of the Internet and his policy prescriptions are nonsense. Read the book, take a pass on the law.

What’s especially sad is how Doctorow tries to pander to the overseas audience by using a tonne of Brit slang, going on about “punters,” “Quangos,” pounds and pence, and making a tube reference; NN is all about tribal ID, and he gets just that much of it.

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4 Responses to Recycling Garbage Abroad

  1. Felix says:

    Doctorow lives in London, so it’s likely that he’s just picked up these words from Londoners, rather than seeing ‘Brit slang’ as a key to an in-crowd. The Guardian is also a British broadsheet newspaper, which is why he’s using pounds stirling.

    “How do we know that ISPs want to slow or degrade our access, which would seem to drive us to a different ISP?”

    ISPs have a monopoly in many areas, so customers don’t have a choice. I’m not sure why you ask this question when they’re clearly already degrading service, as Cory says: “instituting and enforcing strict bandwidth limits on their customers”.

  2. Matt says:

    My flatmate just showed me your horribly written article, lol.

    “The same FCC commissioners who levied an unlawful fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction ordered Comcast to give free bandwidth to a porn site. (Feeling good about that, Chairman Copps?)”

    Haha, the good ol’ moral argument against porn. Porn = bad, it’s obcene! The fact it’s a billion dollar indsutry enjoyed by people across the world is irrelevant! Giving equal treatment to businesses selling porn is immoral!

    The FCC fine was voided in July ’08, and CBS broadcast Janet Jackson’s nipple without warning during a family show. This is completely different to selling HD porno downloads. People don’t accidentally sign up to adult content, accidentally put in their credit card details, accidentally click through all the ‘over-18s only’ warnings, accidentally download 1Gb of porn and then accidentally watch it.

    And it’s not free bandwidth either, it’s part of Vuze’s contract to use that bandwidth. You make it sound like the FCC inadvertantly subsidised a porn channel.

  3. What a wonderfully written rejoinder, Matt, I’m impressed that you figured out that I was saying the FCC inadvertently subsidized a porn channel.

    How very astute of you!

    And Felix, thank you for your insight as well. I never would have known the Guardian had anything to do with Britain, or that ISPs have no competition over there despite that whole retail/wholesale division within BT or the existence of cable Internet from Virgin, or any of that stuff. Gosh, what brilliance you boys have.

    Do you two live in a little cottage with a thatched roof?

  4. BG says:

    Cory Doctorow is typical of the pseudo-intellectuals that fuel the net neutrality bandwagon. Have never understood why anyone takes this guy seriously.

    In Cory’s world it’s all about Cory — how else can one explain the selfishness of burdening his daughter with the unfortunate name Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow.

    Hah hah hah… How witty and funny and just kind of quirky and creative that Cory is.

    It’s just more typical navel-gazing from the severely net self-absorbed.

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