Broadband / Featured Blogs

U.S. VoIP and Broadband Policy: Today's Debate is Off the Mark!

Despite rather rapid growth in broadband access, the U.S. is falling further and further behind other countries -- we're now ranked #16 in the world. What's slowing the U.S. down? Two threads dominate U.S. broadband policy debate today. The first focuses on traditional telecom regulation -- reciprocal compensation, universal service, e911, and CALEA (wiretap capabilities). The second focuses on "Internet freedoms," i.e., guarantees that your broadband access provider won't block or inhibit specific applications like VoIP. more

The Search for Net Neutrality

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, freely available version) examines the growing trend toward a two-tiered Internet, which upends the longstanding principle of network neutrality under which ISPs treat all data equally. I argue that the network neutrality principle has served ISPs, Internet companies, and Internet users well. It has enabled ISPs to plausibly argue that they function much like common carriers and that they should therefore be exempt from liability for the content that passes through their systems. ...Notwithstanding its benefits, in recent months ISPs have begun to chip away at the principle. more

Flushing the 'Net Down the Tubes

Doc Searls has written a brilliant piece framing the battle for the 'Net at Linux Journal. The piece is long, but if you take the time to read just one essay on the 'Net and the politics surround it this year, read this one. If you're involved in public policy, it's especially important that you take the time to understand what's at stake here. One of Doc's main points: we haven't framed the conversation correctly and our poor choice of words makes the argument seem overly technical and arcane when it's really about freedom, markets, and innovation. more

Would the Real Network Neutrality Please Stand Up?

I'm sure this is something that's been raked over before, but I don't see a common understanding of what 'Net Neutrality' actually is. Despite many of the Internetorati demanding it by law. There appear to be several different camps, which you could paint as "bottom of IP", "middle" and "top". The bottomistas would see enforced Internet Protocol itself as a premature optimisation and violation of the end-to-end principle. Unhappy that you only get IPv4 or IPv6? Still grumpy that you only have IPv4 and not even IPv6? Really miserable that your VoIP packets are staggering under the poisonous load of IPv6 headers? You're a bottomista. more

Vint Cerf Speaking Out on Internet Neutrality

In a U.S. congress hearing held yesterday November 9th, significant focus was projected on "network neutrality" and a new telecommunications bill affecting the Internet. "This bill could fundamentally alter the fabulously successful end-to-end Internet," says Alan Davidson in the post on Google blog. Vint Cerf was not able to testify because of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony at the White House, but submitted the following letter to the hearing... more

The Great Internet Transformation? A First Stab

Is it just a coincidence that some of the leading Internet-based application companies are pushing aggressively into network connectivity at exactly the same time the major telephone companies are pushing into content? Or are we witnessing the end of the Internet as we know it? Think back to the online world fifteen years ago. There was AOL, there was Compuserve, there was Prodigy, and there was Apple's eWorld. Sure, there were researchers and students posting to Usenet newsgroups and navigating through Gopher sites, but the Internet was a sideshow for individuals and business users. ...the online world of those days was fragmented and small. Every online service was an island. Are we going back to those days? more

Monetizing the Internet

What would duopoly providers of internet access really like to have? They'd really like to be paid for providing non-commodity services. They'd really like to be rewarded for running the network, top to bottom. "But that's not possible," you say. No provider can tell one packet from another. Providers can only block the ports used by applications they don't like, and that's a clumsy, unwinnable arms race. The applications can always switch to common and useful ports, and no provider wants to alienate its subscriber base. But what if providers could inspect the contents of packets, without using too much computational power, and discriminate among applications? "Naah," you say. "They can't possibly do that."... more

It's About Connectivity Not The Internet!

I've been trying to avoid writing about the Internet as such. With as "At the Edge" I'm looking at larger issues but can't escape writing more directly about the Internet. It seems as if everyone wants a say in Internet policy without distinguishing between technical and social issues. Today the term "The Internet" or, for many simply "Internet" is more of brand than a term for a specific technology and its implications. It has become too easy to talk about the Internet in lieu of understanding. We also see the converse -- a failure to recognize "Internet" issues. more