Electronic Design: Chronic Over-Regulation: Get Ready For Net Neutrality

Robert Stratton bob at stratton.net
Thu May 13 16:53:01 CDT 2010

On May 13, 2010, at 4:27 PM, Mike O'Dell wrote:

> there is a very clever game of Newspeak going on here around the
> word "competition" and it goes back to my first paragraph.
> to a consumer, "competition" means multiple suppliers trying to
> curry favor with the customers by providing a superior value
> proporsition.
> the carriers use the word "competition" to mean that they have
> been afforded their divine right to try and pick the consumers
> clean to the bone without the meddling of other companies
> with the same idea.

That's a perfect summary.

I tend to be very reluctant to force the hand of people who have to  
spend millions on capital expenditures for buildouts, BUT...

At a minimum it's appropriate for the USG to insist on full disclosure  
of policies that impact users' traffic in anything other than a  
universal way. Given that, we might at least be able to exercise some  
*choice* in the selection of providers who are less offensive or more  
responsive to customers than others. This is rapidly becoming my "best  
for which we can hope" public policy position.

For example:
-If you're  (the carrier) going to block ports, even for reasonable  
purposes like preventing grandmom from sharing her whole filesystem to  
the world or sending zombie traffic, I have a right to know that.

-If you're going to block traffic to prevent me from using a VOIP  
provider other than you, you're a dirtbag, but you should at least  
admit it. (That's really the one concrete example with which consumer  
advocates have to work, and the ISP in question happily got a smack  
for it.)

-If you're using deep packet inspection to serve me ads, I have a  
right to know that.

-If you're going to use my failed DNS queries to serve me ads, I have  
a right to know that. (If you have any sense, you'll provide a  
different set of nameservers)

-If you're going to use traffic shaping to ship my FTP sessions or  
software updates with longer latency, I have a right to know that.

-If you allow some customers (like law enforcement) to violate your  
AUP by forging traffic or , I have a right to know that (if only as a  
matter of basic contract law) though not the specifics.

-You should disclose all of those things straightforwardly BEFORE I  
buy your service.

Is this _that_ difficult?
Right now, it's not unlike a bait-and-switch.

The vision of some of the loudest net neutrality opponents isn't  
necessarily a consumer utopia, however. Being unregulated was one of  
the things that let the ISPs actually get things done, and there's a  
lot to be said for that. Heaven knows what would have happened if  
UUNET hadn't been able to credibly position itself as an "enhanced  
service provider" in the context of the Modified Final Judgement.

As it was, the whole crazy thing where ILEC Internet customers had to  
pick a transit routing provider as they would a long distance provider  
was ridiculous if not painful.

We have, however, reached the point where there is a lack of even  
basic transparency in ISP policies. If you're lucky, AFTER you buy the  
service, you'll find these policies in 12 different documents buried  
in their website or in a filing cabinet in the basement tucked in a  
disused lavatory behind a sign reading "Beware of the leopard."


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