I sent this to my US Senator.
Dear Senator Boxer,
I’m a constituent and a network engineer. I invented key parts of the communications systems used by your personal computers (Ethernet and WiFi,) and I’m against net neutrality regulations.
Net neutrality sounds like it’s as wonderful as motherhood and organically-grown, fair-trade apple pie. We all want our Internet to be free, fair, and open, and nobody wants any heinous tollbooths in the Info Super Highway, gatekeepers in Cyberspace, or Big Brothers deciding what blogs we can read. If the issue were that simple there wouldn’t be a debate, net neutrality laws would pass both houses by acclamation and be signed by our President with flourish and fanfare and peace would rule the planet, etc.
But public policy is not so simple, especially in a case that involves the regulation of the single most complicated machine ever built, the Internet.
The Snowe-Dorgan and Markey Amendments contain a poison pill that will stifle the evolution of the Internet, in the form of a prohibition against a Quality of Service surcharge:
If a broadband network provider prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, it must prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin or ownership of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service.
The argument in favor of this provision says that it’s needed in order to prevent the formation of a two-tier Internet, where one tier has Quality of Service and the other doesn’t, and this is somehow bad for Daily Kos and Google.
This is a false claim, because the engineering math behind Quality of Service says it can’t be applied to every stream from every user. In Lake Woebegon all the children can be above average, but on the Internet all packets can’t.
We have a two-tier Internet today where commercial customers have a full range of service plans available to them, but consumers have a very limited menu. The provision would guarantee that the consumer menu will always be severely limited. We don’t need a single- or dual-tier Internet but a multi-tiered one where every new application can get the services it needs from the network and nobody has to pay for services they don’t want. As Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web said:
We pay for connection to the Net as though it were a cloud which magically delivers our packets. We may pay for a higher or a lower quality of service. We may pay for a service which has the characteristics of being good for video, or quality audio.
That view cannot be reconciled with the provision cited.
Perhaps ironically, the old monopolists – AT&T, Verizon, Bell South – advocate expansion of consumer choice while the new monopolists – Google, et. al. – advocate for restriction of choice.
Consumers benefit from the choice that the Stevens Bill offers them, and I hope you will reverse your public position and reject the special-interest-benefiting amendments offered by the agents of the New Monopolists.
The Internet has never been regulated in the manner of the cited provision, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to bamboozle you. Don’t be misled.
In 2002, Internet framer Vint Cerf said: …we must dedicate ourselves to keeping the network unrestricted, unfettered and unregulated. That’s as true today as it was then.