Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Net-Neutrality Deception

Those opposed to net-neutrality like to make the claim that they require "freedom" from regulation to foster innovation. Furthermore, they claim that since the packets flow on their networks, that they have an implicit right to manage the network. Especially the need to use engineering to solve network congestion problems.

On the surface, these assertions appear reasonable. These assertions, however, are bogus when you investigate. Like Bill Clinton's famous phrase "It depends on the meaning of "sex"". We need to demand an explanation  from the ISPs how they intend to use "freedom". So far, those opposed to net-neutrality never mention their responsibilities nor the rights of the network users. Freedom without responsibility, to me, is anathema.

But, I digress. At TechDirt I recently saw one of those rare posts that leaks the real intent of how "freedom" would be used by the network providers. Not for effective data flow based on valid engineering principles, but for managing the the flow of data for self-serving corporate reasons. Bas Grasmayer writes: "Although the below image has been circulating the internet as a satirical warning for some time now, Dutch telco KPN recently announced that it's actually going to implement something like this due to declining revenue. ... The company stated that starting this summer it will be blocking chat-messaging applications such as WhatsApp (competes with SMS), VoIP services (competes with calls) and heavy streaming services. All these services will get their own price tag, just like what is currently the case with calling and text messaging. The problem with that logic of course is that calling and SMS are actually different services that the telco offers; but in the case of creating pay packages for internet services, probably none of the services are from the telco itself. Some other telcos, such as Vodafone, already stated that it, too, is interested in plans like these (Vodafone is already blocking VoIP and selling access to VoIP services for 5 EUR per month)." (Emphasis Added)

Back in 2009 Mike Masnick wrote in the post "Clearwire Supports Net Neutrality? Does No One Remember Its History?" that "A few years back, it was blocking VoIP and streaming media and proudly promised to block any type of traffic or application it didn't like. It also tried to get VoIP providers to get "certified" before promising they could work on Clearwire's network."

The term "freedom" in the best Orwellian tradition of Newspeak is not the promised fair and equitable handling of a users data stream, but the active management of that data by the network providers for their benefit. In the cases cited above, by blocking user access to certain services.

PS: I didn't delve into other network mismanagement concerns such as filtering, censorship, deep packet inspection, and due process.