Google's Richard Whitt, George Ou, Data Foundry's Ronald Yokubaitis,
Richard Bennett, Vuze's Jay Monahan
"The other side said: We were a company that was born and raised on innovation. We were born from the internet here in Silicon Valley. We were able to take for granted the fact that we could innovate on the network without permission from anybody - any broadband company, any potential gatekeeper of the network trying to tell us what to do. We could bring innovation directly to the users and let them sort out exactly what they wanted and what they didn’t want. Why would we muck with that? Why would we create haves and have nots on the internet?"
Naturally, Larry, Sergey, and the crew went with the second option. And more than two years later, this led to a rough morning for chief policy officer Richard Whitt. The panel also included George Ou and Richard Bennett, two networking-obsessed pals who have vehemently defended Comcast's right to throttle peer-to-peer traffic, and Whitt received more than a few harsh words from Ou.
Ou is adamant that - whether it forbids ISPs from prioritizing apps and services or it forbids them from selling prioritization - neutrality regulation would actually prevent things like video and voice from flourishing on our worldwide IP network. "If you forbid prioritization, you forbid converged networks," he said. "And if you forbid converged networks, you get a bunch of tiny networks that are designed to do very specific things. Why not merge them into one fat pipe and let the consumer pick and choose what they want to run?
"Net neutrality forbids consumer choice. The consumer can't say 'Please prioritize.'"
But Ou didn't stop there. At one point, the discussion turned to the notion of network "transparency." Comcast's greatest sin was that it didn't come clean on that BitTorrent blocking, and the panel was asked if ISPs should at least be obligated to divulge their network management techniques.
"I think pretty much all of us are for transparency. But I'm for transparency not only for the network providers but also for the applications providers," Ou said. "The only American company on this panel that's been doing bad things and not telling people is Google. [They're] filtering content in China."
Cue eye-rolling from Whitt. "George, I resent you bringing this into the discussion," he said. "But the one thing we're doing in China - on search engines based in China - is filtering certain search terms. And at the bottom of the page we have a disclaimer that says 'Warning: Your content has been filtered by the government.' That is transparency."
Whichever side you come down on, one thing's for sure: the neutrality debate is always entertaining.®
> True ... there are perfectly legal uses for getting a big file more quickly than 3Mbps will allow
You show a complete lack of understanding of how torrents work - or indeed how networks work... it doesn't allow you to download at a rate faster than your broadband connection allows. If you have a 3Mbps connection, you can't download any faster than 3Mbps (in fact given latency, protocol overheads and general ADSL or Cable line quality you probably won't even get close to 3Mbps) and if you have paid for a 3Mbps connection then why can't you use as much of the 3Mbps as is possible.
I haven't used torrents much (not at all in the last 12mths at least and when I did I used the throttling option - you're not the only one Jim), but at least I understand know torrents work (for example if there are not many seeders then without using the throttle option the download speed is more likely to be around 3-14Kbps).
If the ISP is selling 3Mbps connections but their backbone can't support the number of 3Mbps connections they have provisioned, then the only people who have cause for complaint are the customers. The ISP have no right to turn around and complain that the customers are using an application that uses the full bandwidth they paid for.
I think the central issue of this net neutrality argument comes down to this:
- the ISP is selling a pipe and should have no say in what protocols / applications their customers use to shunt data through the pipe (in either direction)
If I don't want to use VOIP, email, youtube etc, but I do want to download gobs of stuff (using whatever protocol I choose), then that is my choice... I've paid for the bandwidth, and I expect to be able to choose how to use it.
I don't think anyone is against the ISP using QOS to "prioritise" certain types of traffic like VOIP that need as near to realtime as is possible, but after that, we don't want the ISP saying how we can use the bandwidth we pay for. And we don't want the ISP holding content providers to ransom either - essentially trying to charge both ends of the pipe.
While I'm sure charging both ends looks an attractive proposition to ISP's it basically amounts to extortion (we don't care that you already paid your ISP for your bandwidth, unless you agree to pay us too, we will make sure our customers can't access you properly).
"you are picking on BitTorrent unfairly"
No we're not. You're not understanding the problem properly.
Let's completely ignore the question of legality/morality of P2P content.
Let's just look at the behaviour of applications and protocols in a congested network (and, by definition, some part of the ISP or the carrier's network is going to be operating close to capacity for some non-trivial proportion of the time, or the ISP/carrier is burning money and on the way to being out of business).
Classical single threaded Internet applications behave in a "community friendly" way if packets are lost or delayed. Multi-threaded apps (download accelerators) largely do so too, give or take.
The P2P protocols I've seen don't do this graceful degradation when congestion occurs, indeed largely by design *can't* do the graceful degradation associated with single-stream TCP apps. So what's the answer? If it is accepted that something needs doing, and the existing apps aren't going to change their designs, and the existing tiny proportion of troublesome users aren't going to change their habits, you're into the land of "deep packet inspection" (expensive kit at ISPs), because the P2P abusers aren't interested in self-regulation. (Another option is PAYG tariffs, which is the option I've chosen: all my traffic is treated equally by my ISP, because I pay per GB, and all GB are equal on that basis).
As for multicast: forget it, it's not really relevant, even if any worthwhile proportion of consumer kit supported it properly (El Reg promised an article on multicast many weeks ago, where is it?)
comic book store guy writes...
"The network is neutral because it doesn't know how to be otherwise."
Possibly the most idiotic comment I have ever read at The Register or any other technology website.
Anthropomorphism is best left to children and simpletons. Let's not second-guess what the network "knows" or "wants". The network is whatever we ask our engineers to create, bounded by the laws of physics and economic practicalities. The Founding Geek himself, Robert Kahn, doesn't want to outlaw experimentation or network diversity. So if we want a better network, capable of handling VoD and VoIP, and future applications, we need to design it.
But you want to legislate so that doesn't happen.
Move over, Robb. You've had your 15 minutes of fame, and now your ignorance is really showing through.