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How redefining broadband's lowest speed could be anti-competition & undermine universal broadband availability

I was surprised and concerned to read in Comm Daily today that the FCC's broadband data collection rulemaking "is expected to swap the FCC minimum speed for broadband -- 200 kbps -- for a tiered approach. The lowest tier would set 768 kbps as the minimum speed, an FCC source said."

  • I certainly hope this is not the case, as it could have a ton of negative unintended consequences which I will outline below.

How could changing the baseline minimum definition of what is broadband turn out to be anti-competition and undermine the universal availability of broadband?

Chairman Markey's Net Neutrality Wolf in Broadband Sheep's Clothing Act

The long-awaited new Net Neutrality bill is finally coming out from House Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey and Rep. Chip Pickering -- it's now called "The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008."

After reviewing the draft version circulating among the media this evening, here are my initial takeaways on the new proposed legislation.

First, the proposed legislation attempts to rebrand the controversial "net neutrality" issue as "Internet Freedom" and "broadband policy."  

  • While most all of the net neutrality buzzwords still pepper the legislation (open, discrimination, blocking, degrading, etc.) conspicuously absent from the legislation is the well-known and never fully defined "net neutrality" brand. 
  • This is odd given all the effort Markey's supporters have put into branding this issue over the last two years. 
  • It is doubtful that most people on the Hill, in industry, and in the press will stop calling it Markey's new Net Neutrality bill. 

Second, the bill's primary purpose is a bold attempt to reverse longstanding United States broadband policy by amending Title I of the 1934 Communications Act. This Markey bill would:

Net neutrality is not a Democratic vs. Republican issue -- it is a fringe vs. mainstream issue

Please don't miss the new NetCompetition.org one-pager I produced on the politics of net neutrality.

I make the case that net neutrality is:

  • A fringe issue and a factional business dispute;
  • Not sound Democratic policy; and
  • Not sound Republican policy.

I made it available at the Internet Caucus event today.   

http://netcompetition.org/Why_Net_Neutrality_is_Not_a_Mainstream_Issue.pdf

 

 

Don't miss the new Exaflood analysis by Bret Swanson and George Gilder

For anyone wanting a good forward-looking perspective about the real challenges facing the Internet, look no further than the great new study "Estimating the Exaflood" by Bret Swanson and George Gilder.

Why this study is so timely and relevant is that the real problem facing the Internet is how to keep up with the exploding capacity demands of migrating to a video-driven Internet.

  • The net neutrality utopians want to assume that bandwidth is infinite and free -- magically supplied by others for their p2p bandwidth gluttony -- with no costs to, or no affect on, others.
  • The real world does not operate that way...

The report also is an important backdrop for why broadband networks must be allowed reasonable network management.

  • Without massive investment and reasonable network management, the quality and the responsiveness of the Internet will suffer as the exaflood surges.

Speaking at the Congressional Internet Caucus Wireless panel Wednesday

I am on the Congressional Internet Caucus wireless panel Wednesday with Blair Levin of Stifel Nicolaus, Michael Calabrese of the New America Foundation, and Jason Devitt of Skydeck.

The panel is on: "Opening up 700 MHz & White Spaces" What hath the FCC wrought?"

  • Should be interesting given that I am the only panelist not under the influence of "openness"...

 

 

 

 

 

Economic downturn injects reality into net neutrality movement's nano-management petitions

Concern about an economic downturn has a powerful practical effect of rationalizing public policy priorities.

  • Net neutrality proponents failed to persuade every official body in 2006 and 2007 to support net neutrality legislation/regulation, because most every responsible official could plainly see that net neutrality was a solution in search of a problem. 
  • Now the net neutrality movement has re-focused its crusade on manufacturing and contriving a "problem" by focusing on FCC petitions against Comcast's network management of p2p and Verizon's admitted and quickly-corrected mistake concerning text messaging.   

The economic downturn now provides even more perspective of how far out of the mainstream the net neutrality movement really is.

Consumer survey exposes wireless open access as tech industrial policy

Network World has a great piece: "Open Access not as important to wireless consumers as QoS, pricing, survey finds" which exposes the Google-led tech industry's push for open access as a not-so-subtle tech-industrial policy.

  • The survey by Compete, Inc. found:
    • Only 9% of wireless users did not believe they had enough options for handsets;
    • Only 11% of wireless users believe that their carrier offered them too little content and services to meet their needs;
    • In stark contrast, 93% of wireless users believe getting a phone at a reasonable price was either important or very important.

This survey is important evidence exposing the tech industry's attempt to pass net neutrality/open access legislation/regulation as an thinly-guised tech industrial policy.

  • This tech industrial policy is asking the government to intervene and mandate engineering design and pass price-related regulations that would de facto choose tech companies as market winners and communications companies as market losers.

The tech industry has done a good job of cloaking their openness campaign as what consumers want most -- because that serves their Washington industrial policy agenda.

Super ZDNet piece opposing net neutrality -- "Save Internet Freedom -- from Regulation"

Larry Downes produced an outstanding analysis for ZDNet today which he entitled "Save Internet Freedom -- From Regulation."

I strongly recommend it as it is one of the most cogent and persuasive pieces I have read in a long time on the subject.

He does a great service by putting the issue into much clearer context -- vis-a-vis other industries and past attempts to regulate where the government shouldn't have. 

More guilty-until-proven-innocent regulation from Google's Poodles; new petition on texting regulation

The Washington Post reports that a consortium of Google's closest net neutrality allies: FreePress/Moveon.org, Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Media Access Project, are poised to petition the FCC again, this time to mandate that wireless carriers deliver all text messages to their customers, even including text messages by wireless competitors trying to sell their competing wireless services.

Great new analogy why Net neutrality is an irrational policy in a new The Hill editorial

I always enjoy learning about a new fresh take on an old issue.

Kudos to Dr. Daniel Ballon who wrote a great editorial on net neutrality for The Hill newspaper: "Net neutrality punishes everyone for Comcast's actions."  

He recounts a great analogy about how "neutral" networks on Black Monday, the stock market crash of October 19, 1987, was made worse by a traffic jam of orders that couuld not be managed in an orderly fashion to keep the stock market functioning and open.

  • "After Black Monday, exchanges recognized the need to create “express lanes” and prioritize traffic to ensure orderly market function. The chairman of the House Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass), also understood the benefits of placing “sensible speed limits on our market participants so that individual investors and our biggest market players can happily co-exist.” Markey recognized that neutral markets fail as predictably “as if we turned off all the nation’s stoplights,” and “made all speed limits voluntary.”

At its core, the policy of net neutrality, that all traffic is always treated equally no matter what is -- unreasonable, unwise, and irrational.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths