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Why Senator Stevens is Right on Net Neutrality

Gadi Evron

[Update: After writing this it was made clear to me Senator Stevens is with the Telco's rather than with us… in that case I am just as happy that our enemy is our strongest supporter!]

Several people emailed me about the actual things the senator said and why he is off-base. I decided to listen to his speech again, and write down the points I believe are critical.

Senator Stevens who everyone is dissing on for his speech on Net Neutrality in my book spoke nothing less than brilliant. I will also tell you, in my opinion, exactly why.

You can find his speech here: http://media.publicknowledge.org/stevens-on-nn.mp3

He nailed down the subject into the point that matters: Business. It's about profit.

He was faced with techno-babble and vendor-pitches on a technical subject, and got down to the basics. What it means, and who profits from it. Much like a board of directors, his job is to understand the business and the management sides of it. Our job is to explain it.

I think he may not have understood some of how the Internet works, but he got what matters - what's being done with it. His analogies of FedEX, packages and tubes are fine as long as they got him to understand the underlying issues.

I believe that the reason some people don't like what he said is because although he had an organized list of points to make, he spoke from the heart and maybe even a bit annoyed. He wasn't very American about it, he was just straight-forward. Further, he spoke of how he got to the conclusions based on what he was told, instead of just his points, which caused some of us to think less of him.

All of his quotes are brilliant points, some get to the right conclusions, but with limited technical understanding. Examine them all and see which ones you disagree with. My only request is that you wait an hour, look at the quote you didn't agree with and try to see his point again. For example, when he speaks of a commercial net, which is secondary in his speech, he raises it as a viable option rather than how things work. When he compares the Internet to tubes he is also right, the future requires a stronger infrastructure.

I doubt you will have problems with his other quotes. Us tech guys need to realize it's all about business, and then maybe we will have an easier time seeing he understands things better than us.

In my opinion he is one of the best advocates for this issue (against the legislation and PRO Net Neutrality) I ever heard, and he is pretty frustrated with what's going on.

I can only wish some of us understood the Internet as well as he does.

Quotes of relevance, starting from when he was interrupted:

"No, I'm not finished. I've listened for quite some time!"

"Those people who want to support these things are the people who want to use the Internet for the end use of their profit, not for the consumer."

"They are charging in effect [for] what they are [already] delivering."

"I think network security [and] independence are absolutely essential."

"The wrong regulatory approach, and posing an heavy-handed regulation before there is a demonstrated need, is wrong."

"You are asking for regulation."

"The people who are streaming for 12 movies at a time or whole books at a time are not you and me, they are not the consumers, they're providers."

"These providers use the Internet as a delivery service rather than communication."

"I don't think that anyone here has defined what Net Neutrality is."

"We've heard that 'we're slipping behind. This bill is designed to let let us go ahead. To expand the whole concept of communication' and here we have this one situation where enormous entities want to use the Internet for their purposes, doing what they are [already] doing now!"

"The Internet is not something that you just dump something on, it's not a big truck. It's tubes!"

"We have a separate Department of Defense network now, do you know why? Because they have to get their [information] delivered immediately, they can't afford to be delayed by other people. The security of the United States requires a separate network for defense."

"I think these people are arguing over whether they can dump all this stuff on the Internet. Maybe they are to build a network themselves, maybe there is a place for a commercial net."

"The whole concept is [that] we should not go into this until someone shows there is something that's been done that really is a violation of that neutrality."

By Gadi Evron, Security Strategist
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Re: Why Senator Stevens is Right on Net Neutrality John Berryhill  –  Jul 06, 2006 4:54 PM PDT

I agree strongly with the last quote.  Net neutrality legislation of some kind may eventually be needed, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of Congress getting its hands on these issues on the basis of hypothetical harms, rather than an actual demonstrated harm.

Every law, regulation, or rule, has unintended consequences and unforeseen distortive effects.  I don't have any strong feeling one way or the other about the present proposal, but it simply strikes me as an effort to fix something that is not yet broken.

Re: Why Senator Stevens is Right on Net Neutrality Gadi Evron  –  Jul 06, 2006 6:41 PM PDT

John, if we are to stray from the subject for a moment, in a way it is broken.
ISP's today utilize QoS tools to limit connectivity and Quality of Service to their users. P2P, VoIP, etc. are truncated at low speeds. Users are often forced to use dialers so that their connection can be monitored, they are disconnected if they are too active, etc.
There is a problem with how ISP's currently deal with these issues.

On the other hand, ISP's are facing costs by the move to broadband as well as bandwidth intensive services. An ISP over-sells a connection figuringa user would not utilize it completely. Taking money for it while providing with a praction of the service.
Today that model starts to fail, and they indeed have to deal with it. That said, I don't see how it is the consumer's problem.

Re: Why Senator Stevens is Right on Net Neutrality Jordan  –  Jul 12, 2006 10:28 AM PDT

My own personal arguments with these points that have stood up to your tests.

1.“Those people who want to support these things are the people who want to use the Internet for the end use of their profit, not for the consumer.”
People pay for bandwidth, buisnesses pay for bandwidth.  You can pay the ISP's this cost, or you can pay fex ex.  One gets you the file faster and is a cheeper delivery service.  So paying fedex $8 bucks for shipping is a good thing when you've already paid for a month of bandwidth.  This costs the consumer more. 

2.“They are charging in effect [for] what they are [already] delivering.”
They are already charging for what they are delivering.  Buisness accounts pay money to the ISP's, users pay money to the ISP's.  They already recieve money for their services.  It's a flat out lie to make the assumption that they aren't charging money and making billions already.

3.“I think network security [and] independence are absolutely essential.”
That's nice senator, I think the net neutrality crowd will aggree with you there.  What does this have do do with the issues?  Nothing, next…

4.“The wrong regulatory approach, and posing an heavy-handed regulation before there is a demonstrated need, is wrong.”
Probably the most valid point i'll admit, however you'd have to ignore all recorded history of the communications industury for the last 100 years in order to believe that the telco's have never tried to abuse their position. 

5.“You are asking for regulation.”
See above.

6.“The people who are streaming for 12 movies at a time or whole books at a time are not you and me, they are not the consumers, they’re providers.”
Streaming has to have a recipiant to work.  The consumer that is receiving this file is, if he paid for it, a consumer, and streaming a movie/book/whatever.  You are either upstream or downstream.  Thus his statment is a flat out lie.

7.“These providers use the Internet as a delivery service rather than communication.”
Yes they do.  And they pay for the delivery costs in bandwidth fees.  And the consumer pays for the delivery costs in bandwidth fees.  This seems to be the way all buisnesses work.

8.“I don’t think that anyone here has defined what Net Neutrality is.”
Do they not have wikipedia there, or google?  Perhaps no one in that room at the time knew the definition of net neutrality, but that isn't to say that it wasn't defined.  Perhaps he should take make a 5 seccond search on the internet, to find out what he's taking a stand against.  He's basically saying in this quote that he has no idea what he's talking about, and i'm having a hard time taking it any other way.

9.“We’ve heard that ‘we’re slipping behind. This bill is designed to let let us go ahead. To expand the whole concept of communication’ and here we have this one situation where enormous entities want to use the Internet for their purposes, doing what they are [already] doing now!”
So a bunch of small buisness want to keep doing buisness, and you'd like to pass a law that forces them to have to pay more to do what they're already doing, while letting big buisness pay less.  I fail to see how this is in the best intrests of the country you're passing this law onto.

10.“The Internet is not something that you just dump something on, it’s not a big truck. It’s tubes!”
Technically no, but the analogy is accurate enough.  You can't just dump things into the internet, you have to feed them in through "tubes".  If you want to pay more you can have bigger "tubes".  If you pay less, you might be stuck with dial-up "tubes".  We're currently paying for this based on the size of the "tube" we want to have in our house or in our buisness.  We like this setup and don't want it to change.  Thus the Net Neutrality movement.

11.“We have a separate Department of Defense network now, do you know why? Because they have to get their [information] delivered immediately, they can’t afford to be delayed by other people. The security of the United States requires a separate network for defense.”
Ummm… that's nice.  Your network will be secure if you don't let anyone on it.  How does this relate to a commercial network?  As far as I can tell it doesn't.  Maybe he's trying to get the point acrost that there is a problem.  Yes there is a problem.  Bandwidth is limited.  Here's an analogy of my own.  You are waiting in line at McDonalds.  There is a long line.  Is the answer to open up another register, or throw large wads of cash at the manager so you can cut in line.  I know which system the manager would prefer.

12.“I think these people are arguing over whether they can dump all this stuff on the Internet. Maybe they are to build a network themselves, maybe there is a place for a commercial net.”
He is starting with the assumption that the internet as it is now shouldn't be used for buisness.  The same logic should hold true for all telecommunications like telephones.  Stupidity, pure plain stupidity.

13.“The whole concept is [that] we should not go into this until someone shows there is something that’s been done that really is a violation of that neutrality.”
Again, remember history?  Remember Ma Bell?  Besides this point, should we wait to see if anyone will commit murder to see if we need a law against it?  It's like putting a kid in a candy store and expecting him not to eat something when he's told he can do what ever he likes.  It's stupidity, and it's not gonna happen.  Can he not see that the telcos would reap billions upon billions of dollars at the expense of thousands of small buisness owners and the jobs they provide?  All so that a few CEO's can buy a small island in the carribean.

Stupidity.

Re: Why Senator Stevens is Right on Net Neutrality Dave Siegel  –  Jul 13, 2006 12:11 PM PDT

you gotta love Jon Stewart

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DClkE64nFDY

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