No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Google/Verizon “Net Neutrality” agreement – pros and cons

by @ 12:36 on September 27, 2010. Filed under Business, Politics - National, Technology.

Recently, Google and Verizon made an agreement-in-principle on what forms of new regulation on internet service providers they were willing to and unwilling to accept. The summary from Google’s and Verizon’s CEOs sound completely high-minded, but as always, the potential devils are in the details. Let’s take a quick look at each of the key elements:

  • Consumer protections – The key word here is “lawful”. I’m leery of overextending this provision as just about any activity, including activity that continuously maxes out the contractually-available bandwith like, say, hosting a web server or watching YouTube videos 24/7, can be on either side of that line. Businesses that self-host web servers do pay a premium for consistent access to said server.
  • Non-discrimination requirement –The first part, preventing undue discrimination of traffic causing harm to competition, is indeed a worthy goal. A non-binding presumption against prioritization of network traffic is a wee bit inconsistent with another item in the proposal allowing for prioritization of network traffic (which I’ll deal with in a bit).
  • Transparency –To put it simply, clarity is good.
  • Network management –Take it from someone who has been at conferences where there has simply been too much traffic for the available wi-fi – this tool is absolutely, positively necessary for ISPs. Indeed, one of the tools allowed is a by-general-class prioritization of network traffic.
  • Additional online services –As long as the ISP delivers its contractually-obligated speeds for the general internet, all the more power to it if it also uses the network for a faster product. Of course, the way this is written, The Mouse might not be too happy because it would make the current execution of ESPN3.com illegal.
  • Wireless broadband –I’m shocked, SHOCKED to see that business partners Google and Verizon Wireless don’t want most of these new regulations on wireless broadband, and most-specifically the non-discrimination requirement.
  • Case-by-case enforcement –I like the idea of limiting the FCC’s role to enforcing the law, and the encouragement of third-party resolution processes.
  • Regulatory authority –If I’m reading that portion correctly, it establishes a very bright line of what the FCC can (ISPs) and cannot (content and software) regulate, and what other regulatory authorities cannot (ISPs) regulate. As someone who is wary of what some of those pushing for “neutrality” see “neutrality” as, I really like the idea of keeping the FCC out of the content-regulation business.
  • Broadband access for Americans –What is this doing in here? Seriously, why do ISPs have to bear the burden of making sure content is usable by those with disabilities? Shouldn’t that be left to the makers of consumer hardware that connects to the Internet?

On balance, the agreement could be a bit better, but leaving it solely in the hands of government would almost certainly make things a whole lot worse.

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