November 17, 2014
Volume XLX, Issue 5
DCIA's Internet of Things (IoT) Marathon
The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) is completing preparations for a four-day marathon of demos, displays, and discussions focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) at the 2015 International CES.
The IoT is now on an unstoppable growth trajectory to surpass 50 billion smart objects by 2020.
Twelve hours of presentations addressing this newest and arguably largest ever industry phenomenon will be webcast live from the DCIA's exhibit-booth studio January 6th through 9th in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The 2015 International CES Show is the ideal place to start learning in-depth about the multiplicity of opportunities that this rapidly emerging movement offers product developers, software engineers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and other forward-looking professionals across many economic sectors.
The first five sessions will cover the design, architecture, manufacturing, marketing, and analysis of connected devices and systems to support them in five areas of deployment: Smart Objects for Fitness & Healthcare; Programmable Homes & Energy Management; Media Entertainment & Social Networking Solutions; Geolocation Services & Vehicular Automation; and Retail, Public Space & Manufacturing Environments.
The sixth session, Power Consumption, Cybersecurity & Interoperability, will cover the development and analysis of solutions for challenges that need to be addressed for the IoT to realize its full potential.
If you'd like to participate as a presenter, please contact DCIA CEO Marty Lafferty at your earliest convenience.
Obama Ignites Debate on Net Neutrality
Excerpted from CED Magazine Report by Michael Liedtke
Let's say President Barack Obama gets his way and high-speed Internet service providers (ISPs) are governed by the same US regulations imposed on telephone companies 80 years ago.
Depending on whom you listen to, the rules could unleash future innovation and create jobs — or stifle innovation and kill jobs. The divisive and often confusing debate has intensified now that Obama has entered the fray.
Obama's stance is meant to protect "Net Neutrality," the concept that everyone with an Internet connection should have equal access to all legal content online. The idea served as one of the Internet's building blocks, but its fate has been in limbo since January, when a court ruling invalidated Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines designed to treat all online traffic equally.
The FCC has already been working on a new regulatory framework, and is under no legal obligation to heed Obama's call. Nevertheless, Obama's opinion turns up the political heat on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other Commissioners who will make the final decision.
The Argument for Regulating ISPS as Utilities
Obama believes the adoption of these Depression-era rules are the best way to preserve a "free and open" Internet that gives everyone in the US the same access to any website hosting legal content, including video, music, photos, social networks, email, and maps.
Adopting these rules would empower the US government to prevent powerful online service providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable from controlling Internet traffic in a way that suits their own financial interests.
This premise assumes the service providers, if left unchecked, will create a two-tier system that funnels Internet traffic into fast and slow lanes. Only the richest companies will be able to pay the extra tolls to ensure their online content is accessible through these fast lanes, according to this hypothesis.
"It is historically important that the Internet enhances freedom for all rather than profit for a few," says Ed Black, President of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a trade group that represents many technology companies, including Internet search leader Google and social networking leader Facebook.
And major cable-TV providers that also sell high-speed Internet service might be able to diminish the quality of service to Internet-only video services such as Netflix and Hulu that might lure away their customers.
Netflix, which boasts 37 million US subscribers, is leading the charge to regulate Internet service providers like utilities.
If Net Neutrality's principles hadn't been in effect for the past 20 years, proponents contend entrepreneurs would have been discouraged from developing a wide range of online services that have created millions of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth. Preserving Net Neutrality will put more people to work and enrich more investors under this theory.
The Argument Against
If the US government becomes the Internet's traffic cop, online service providers will lose their incentive to continue investing in projects that improve their networks and expand into areas that have little or no high-speed access. This would lead to less innovation and threaten millions of jobs, according to cable and telecommunications companies spearheading the argument for little or no regulation.
Adopting Obama's approach "would threaten millions of jobs and a diverse array of stakeholders," warned Broadband for America, an industry trade group.
Internet service providers (ISPs) also argue that it would be unfair to codify regulations that would prevent them from ever recovering some of the costs for connecting to broadband hogs such as Netflix, whose service generates about one-third of US online traffic during the evening hours on weekdays.
Netflix already pays Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T an undisclosed fee for a more direct connection to their networks, an arrangement that could become unnecessary if Obama's recommendation is adopted by the FCC.
More regulation under rules created in a dramatically different era also threatens to bog down the Internet in more government bureaucracy and meddling. The 1934 Telecommunications Act would be the foundation of Net Neutrality, as envisioned by Obama, and it's not clear how much the law would be updated.
Broadband for America likened Obama's proposal to the efforts of governments in China and Russia to gain more control over the Internet.
Report from CEO Marty Lafferty
Following President Obama's remarks this week, decisions now being formulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and lawmakers regarding Net Neutrality are extremely important to the advancement of the cloud computing industry.
Ensuring an open Internet should not devolve into a partisan post-midterm election issue; and the FCC should demand the time it needs to get this right, even if that takes us well into 2015.
Columbia University Law Professor Tim Wu, credited with coining the term, said, "Net Neutrality is best defined as a network design principle, which suggests that information networks are often more valuable when they are less specialized — when they are a platform for multiple uses, present and future."
In July, the DCIA was among nearly four million organizations and individuals submitting public comments to the FCC in its 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) on how the Commission should ensure that the Internet remains open.
Our comments centered on four key regulatory strategies: 1) Take a Holistic Approach; 2) Treat Wireline and Wireless Equally; 3) Continue Using a Light Touch; and 4) Focus on Cross-Ownership as the Area for Greatest Potential Abuse.
The DCIA could not be more supportive of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's call for faster and better broadband, and for all Americans to have more competitive broadband choices.
The FCC has said that the standard for broadband should be updated from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 10 Mbps, which Chairman Wheeler has acknowledged still "doesn't fully capture the increasing demand" for high-speed Internet, especially when multiple devices use the same connection.
Depending on geography and the service tier desired, for anywhere from 37 to 75 percent of US homes, there is no choice of provider.
New technologies, fiber build-outs, the reallocation of additional unlicensed spectrum for commercial mobile broadband use, and other steps to improve the efficiency of wired and wireless broadband networks need to be taken.
Does this justify reclassifying broadband as a communications service, which would give the FCC much greater authority to regulate broadband services?
With broadband reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, theoretically the FCC could take measures to encourage more and more effective competition.
But there is no way to demonstrate that such a reclassification would actually lead to needed private sector improvements and modernization rather than the opposite.
In any consideration of Net Neutrality, it's important to bear in mind that the Internet is not controlled by individual Internet service providers (ISPs) that connect users directly to the web: it's made up of a series of interconnected networks.
It's also essential to note the growing use of the Internet by social networks for multimedia user-generated content (UGC) as well as by over-the-top (OTT) Internet protocol television (IPTV) services for streaming high-definition (HD) professional audio/video (A/V) content.
Whether to transmit video to an end-user or to communicate via email, the digital data being transferred is packetized and traverses multiple networks before it reaches its final destination.
While slight delays do not materially impact the perceived quality of text-based and static-image communications, for streaming multimedia, packet delays are very noticeable in the form of degraded performance with anomalies that include buffering and stuttering.
Various techniques have been developed and services gradually brought forth to mitigate such delays and enhance quality, but these do not treat all data packets equally, nor should they do so in order to benefit the overall performance of the Internet among all users.
We strongly urge the FCC to take no action that would discourage the ongoing investment and innovation in many quarters of the private sector, nor the good judgment of key industry players at multiple levels that are so vital to continuing this advancement.
The DCIA suggests revisiting the principles Chairman Wheeler has expounded for some time now and identifying practical, common-sense, business approaches to best achieve each of them:
Where competition exists, the Commission will protect it; where greater competition can exist, the Commission will encourage it; where meaningful competition is not available, the Commission will work to create it; and where competition cannot be expected to exist, the Commission must shoulder the responsibility of promoting the deployment of broadband for the sake of consumers and innovators.
If history can be trusted to serve as a guide, a light regulatory touch will encourage more investment from more companies and a higher degree of technological advancement in every one of these areas.
Above all, it's imperative that the FCC's involvement in Net Neutrality contribute to an Internet environment where content, applications, and services — regardless of ownership interest — receive equitable treatment.
In short, the ultimate driver for the FCC's proposed rule-making, in the DCIA's view, should be to ensure competition. Share wisely, and take care.
Pressure Mounts on FCC Chief over Net Neutrality Rules
Excerpted from NY Times Report by Edward Wyatt
Even before President Obama issued his forceful call this week for "the strongest possible rules" to protect an open Internet, Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was in a tight spot.
His quandary: trying to shape rules for an open Internet, or Net Neutrality, that would satisfy the millions of people who wrote the agency in support of strong regulation — and also would stand up in court and encourage web investment and innovation.
The challenge only grew after Mr. Obama spoke out, adding a more potent political element to the debate. Since those remarks, say people who met with Mr. Wheeler this week, he has been testy, defensive and a bit angry that he might be seen as a political pawn instead of as the head of an independent agency who is exercising his own judgment.
Mr. Wheeler has not yet decided on how to proceed, FCC officials say. But as he tries to thread the needle of politics and public policy to safeguard the openness of the Internet, he must now also face down angry Republicans in Congress and a technology industry, generally supportive of the President, which is wary of any regulations stifling the expansion of the Internet.
Republicans in Congress sent a letter to Mr. Wheeler on Wednesday saying that reclassifying Internet service as a type of public utility, as Mr. Obama has proposed, "is beyond the scope of the FCC's authority." And the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced the same day that it would conduct an oversight hearing on December 10th focused on the Commission's consideration of Net Neutrality rules.
AT&T said it would pause its planned investments in high-speed fiber-optic broadband networks at least until the FCC decides how it will regulate Internet service.
"We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed," Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T's chief executive, said at an investment conference in New York on Wednesday.
A recent University of Delaware poll shows that a vast majority of the public agrees with the President and opposes paid prioritization — that is, allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge some Internet content companies an extra fee for fast-lane access to consumers.
According to the poll, 81 percent of those questioned said they opposed or strongly opposed paid prioritization. The poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, found Republicans and Democrats opposed to the practice in roughly equivalent proportions.
Mr. Wheeler, who was appointed by Mr. Obama, did not anticipate being caught in this situation when he was sworn in as FCC Chairman one year ago. A venture capital investor who formerly headed the cable television and wireless phone industry trade groups, he had spent much of the six months between his nomination and confirmation studying the Commission's planned auction of television airwaves for future use in mobile broadband.
But two months after he took office, a federal appeals court threw out the Commission's Open Internet rules adopted in 2010 under the previous Chairman, Julius Genachowski.
Those rules imposed disclosure, antiblocking, and antidiscrimination requirements on broadband providers. The court found that while the Commission had "general authority to regulate in this arena," its rules treated broadband providers as common carriers — the equivalent of a utility — when it had previously classified broadband as exempt from that treatment.
President Obama said that the Commission should reverse that exemption and reclassify broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act. Mr. Wheeler had been considering doing that for at least a portion of the Internet ecosystem: the relationship between ISPs and content companies.
But Mr. Wheeler was leaning toward a lighter-touch approach for the relationship between consumers and their broadband companies when Mr. Obama made his statement, calling for the whole system to be reclassified under Title II.
Shortly after Mr. Obama's call for stronger regulation, Mr. Wheeler held a previously scheduled meeting with Internet companies, including Google and Yahoo, and lawyers and trade groups representing them.
At the meeting, Mr. Wheeler said that he had not yet made a decision on how to proceed, according to people at the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their relationship with the Chairman. And he hinted, the people said, that the FCC would need more time — months, at least — to gather adequate comment and write the rules in a manner that they could not be overturned in court.
Some in attendance seemed to believe that Mr. Wheeler disagreed with Mr. Obama's approach. The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that Mr. Wheeler told the group "that he was moving in a different direction."
FCC officials flatly denied that on Wednesday. "There was absolutely nothing he said that indicated that he was going to diverge from the President," said Gigi Sohn, who serves as special counsel for external affairs to Mr. Wheeler and who was at the meeting. "What he said was all options are on the table."
Greg Schneider, the national economy and business editor for The Post, said the paper made a small change to the article after publication, after hearing from the FCC — making it clearer that Mr. Wheeler's position was a nuanced one before Mr. Obama's remarks. "Otherwise, we stand by our reporting and stand by the story," Mr. Schneider said.
Even President Obama conceded that a strict Title II approach would not by itself be sufficient because there are hundreds of rules applying to telephone service common carriers that would be inappropriate to apply to broadband, like, for example, rate regulation.
In addition, even Title II does not ban paid prioritization completely.
Rick Boucher, a former Democratic Congressman from Virginia who now heads the Internet Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit group that opposes adoption of Title II, points out that some Internet applications, like Skype and videoconferencing applications, need to be prioritized; they quickly become unusable if they get caught in Internet traffic jams. Mr. Boucher says he believes the FCC can accomplish those goals without Title II.
Whatever decision Mr. Wheeler ends up reaching, the heat is increasing for him to make it quickly. Gene Kimmelman, President of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group that supports Mr. Obama's prescription, said Wednesday that the commission has already spent months gathering opinions and data.
"It's time for the FCC to take immediate action to declare broadband a Title II service," Mr. Kimmelman said, "and work quickly to resolve all open legal and analytical questions the Commission believes deserve more attention."
Net Neutrality Rift Reaches Epic Proportions
Excerpted from TV Technology Report by Deborah McAdams
The President and his man in charge of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week split the sheet on Net Neutrality.
On Monday, President Obama called for the federal reclassification of broadband networks to make regulating them less of a legal minefield. "I'm asking the FCC to reclassify Internet service under Title II of the law known as the 'Telecommunications Act,'" Obama said in a YouTube Video Monday morning.
Hours later, the Washington Post reported that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told a room full of executives from Yahoo!, Etsy, and Google — a driving force behind Net Neutrality — that he was taking a different approach.
He was quoted as saying, "I am an independent agency," which then spawned a life of its own on Twitter.
Obama's Title II pitch video had just 673,000 hits by Wednesday, but word spread fast that the chief executive was coming down hard in favor of Net Neutrality.
Internet service providers (ISPs) are now regulated as Title I information services. Title I provides the FCC with "ancillary" jurisdiction over wired and wireless services.
Title II designates common carrier services and provides the FCC with more explicit regulatory authority. Under Title II, the Commission ostensibly could impose Net Neutrality, the concept that ISPs should keep their mitts off the bits on their own networks.
Net Neutrality emerged as an issue in 2007 after Comcast was caught throttling BitTorrent. The FCC ordered Comcast to stop. Comcast sued in federal court and won 3-0 in 2010.
The FCC then tried to push a set of voluntary tenants to prevent throttling — the practice of an ISP limiting the bitrate of an online content provider. A rulemaking to codify Network Neutrality followed and essentially languished until last May when Wheeler proposed modified rules that would allow ISPs to create "fast lanes" for bandwidth hogs.
A groundswell of objection ensued. Nearly 4 million comments have been filed on the FCC's net neutrality docket, most of them objecting to the fast-lane approach.
While the Title II reclassification would give the FCC the authority to regulate ISPs however it sees fit, getting there is another story. Verizon and AT&T immediately manned the cannons.
"Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition, and innovation," Verizon said in a statement on its public policy blog.
"That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court." AT&T took a different tack and demonstrated a capex chokehold.
According to several published reports, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said it was reeling in the fiber roll-out until the issue is settled. "We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed," he is reported to have said at an analyst conference.
The cable lobby, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, was blindsided.
"We are stunned the President would abandon the long-standing, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and calling for extreme Title II regulation," said NCTA President Michael Powell, a former FCC Chairman who supported the voluntary approach.
"We will fight vigorously against efforts to impose this backwards policy."
Verizon Believes FCC Will Make Right Decision on Net Neutrality
Excerpted from The Verge Report by Jacob Kastrenakes
The Chief Financial Officer of Verizon said he believes the FCC will make the "right decision" on how to regulate Internet service — clearly suggesting that it'll ultimately choose to use a far lighter touch than what President Obama is looking for.
"I think the independent agency of the FCC will make the right decision," Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told investors, according to Reuters.
Shammo's statement follows a report saying that even immediately after Obama's declaration of support for regulating broadband like a utility, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was telling Internet companies that he didn't favor that approach.
Wheeler's public statement echoed that, too, instead bringing up the "hybrid" approach that the Commission is now investigating. This would potentially still allow for Internet providers to offer fast lanes, and make Internet providers like Verizon much happier.
Wheeler has also continued to emphasize that the FCC is an independent agency that does not have to follow Obama's directions.
Already, other major providers have come out against Obama's plan. Comcast and T-Mobile have said that using Title II regulation will hurt future innovation, and AT&T is halting plans to roll out high-speed fiber connections to 100 cities until the FCC comes to a decision — basically using that rollout as leverage to sway the commission's decision, regardless of whether its reasoning actually makes sense.
AT&T also said it could take up to a few years for the FCC to deal with the lawsuits that would ultimately arise from providers if it were to take strong regulatory action.
Comcast Agrees with President about No Paid Priority
Excerpted from Multichannel News Report by John Eggerton
Comcast agrees with the President on Net Neutrality principles, including no paid prioritization, no blocking, no throttling, and more transparency, and says that is its practice now.
In a blog posting Tuesday, Comcast EVP David Cohen said it may be a surprise to many, but that is Comcast's position, including supporting strong rules to enforce that.
What it does not support is using Title II reclassification, a point it made soon after the President's YouTube Video announcement that he was all in for Title II as the best way to prevent paid prioritization and ensure an open Internet.
Comcast says Title II would threaten the top four ISP's $6.6 billion investment in infrastructure. "It is simply indisputable that Title II would put these significant investments in jeopardy and diminish innovation and job creation as a direct result," said Cohen.
Comcast is subject to the FCC's Open Internet order rules, even the ones thrown out earlier this year by the court, because the FCC made them conditions of the NBCU deal.
"In sum, we unequivocally support rules that put in place the necessary protections of transparency, no blocking, non-discrimination rules, and no "fast lanes" — but there is no upside gained by imposing Title II reclassification as a way to put these protections in place, only substantial risk of harm," said Cohen.
AT&T to Pause Gigabit Internet Rollout until Net Neutrality Is Settled
Excerpted from PC Magazine Report by Chloe Albanesius
AT&T said this week that it will "pause" its gigabit Internet rollout until it has a better idea of what the government will do regarding Net Neutrality.
In April, AT&T committed to expanding its ultra-fast fiber network to cover up to 100 cities nationwide, including 21 major metropolitan areas.
But on Monday, President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than an information service in its upcoming Net Neutrality rules. The move would give the FCC more power to regulate ISPs (like AT&T) and wireless carriers.
Not surprisingly, the industry had a fit. But AT&T is apparently doing more than complaining — it's pausing the rollout of gigabit Internet.
"We can't go out and just invest that kind of money, deploying fiber to 100 cities other than these two million covered by the DirecTV deal, not knowing under what rules that investment will be governed," AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said during an appearance at a Wells Fargo conference, according to a transcript provided by AT&T. "And so, we have to pause, and we have to just put a stop on those kind of investments that we're doing today."
By reclassifying broadband — a move known in DC-speak as Title II — "It becomes unclear even how those kind of services would be regulated," Stephenson said. "And so, we just think it's prudent to just pause. Let's pause; let's make sure that we have line of sight and understanding as to what this process looks like, where these rules can conceivably land, what those rules would look like, and then let's reevaluate. But we're in a pause moment right now on those kind of investments."
AT&T U-verse with GigaPower is already available in Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. It also had plans to expand to Cupertino, Nashville, Raleigh, and more.
AT&T declined to comment on specifics of the pause. But Stephenson said, "I hope we're not sitting here on pause for an extended period of time until we have line of sight."
As for what that line of sight should include, Title II is the wrong approach, Stephenson said. For 20 years now, established rules have said that telecom and wireless is an information service, not a telecom service, he argued.
"Twenty years, multiple administrations, multiple Chairmen and FCCs have supported that ruling, and then that has been actually upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States," he said.
"So, if you want to go down this path and allow the FCC to make this determination, that these are in fact regulated services, there is a mechanism at the FCC to do that."
But if they do it, Stephenson warned, the FCC will probably get sued. "There is no doubt whatever happens here, either way, is going to be litigated," he said.
The road to classifying broadband as an information service made its way to the Supreme Court via the Brand X case, so he probably has a point.
It's not a guarantee that the FCC will take the approach suggested by Obama. As the president pointed out, "the FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone."
According to the Washington Post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told industry officials that he was "moving in a different direction" from the President's proposal.
"What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn't affect your business," Wheeler told reps from major tech firms, according to the Post. "What I've got to figure out is how to split the baby."
According to Stephenson, Wheeler has been "diligent" in trying to craft rules on which all sides can agree. But the President's proposal is "effective end-to-end regulation of the Internet," and that's not something AT&T can support.
Wheeler said publicly this week that he would take the President's proposal into consideration, but that whatever happens, he was going to take his time, so don't expect a resolution before year's end.
AT&T's pause, meanwhile, is perhaps Google's gain. Its Google Fiber rollout continues, and it recently announced plans for a business version of the service in Kansas City. For more cities with gigabit Internet, click here.
Net Neutrality Is Misguided, Because the Internet Doesn't Exist
Excerpted from Streaming Media Global Report by Dom Robinson
"Net Neutrality" is absolutely the most misused and abused term on the Internet today. It makes the term "cloud" look positively well-defined, which is saying something.
Although there is a very formal definition, which I'll get to in a moment, the term has become highly politicized to further a wide variety of agendas that meander a long, long way from where the term first originated. Today, you'll find "Net Neutrality" defined as a way to guarantee free speech on the Internet, or even as a synonym for the "principle of the Open Internet," which is how the US Federal Communications Commission defines it.
I can never decide if Net Neutrality is a topic on which everyone secretly harbors an opinion, or if it's a topic people generally don't feel qualified to discuss. It's not a discussion I hear many people having, but when you do, most folks seem to agree that Net Neutrality must be a good, fair thing for the public at large.
In fact, some of the Net Neutrality discussion highlights fears that we have for the future of the Internet. The notion of Net Neutrality is often used by regulators and the governments that influence those regulators to raise issues of civil liberties online. A more cynical form of that notion could be used divisively for the purpose of fear mongering.
Net Neutrality is often cited as somehow central to the Comcast and Netflix debate, and before that Verizon and Google. There is a concern that a network owner could unfairly use its market position to influence a customer's access to the services provided on a remote network.
Thomas Wu is credited with first using the expression Network Neutrality in 2003, when he was talking of a design principle to "maximize the opportunity for public information sharing."
Vint Cerf, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist and one of the Internet's key early figures, is eager to ensure that the topic is kept focused on being "anti-discriminatory" so that operators do not favor certain services over others.
But Bob Kahn, who co-authored the TCP/ IP protocol with Cerf, is against the concept of having any mandates at all — including one of neutrality. As he put it in a speech in 2007, "I am totally opposed to mandating that nothing interesting can happen inside the net."
Some years ago I completed an ISOC NGL course looking at various aspects of Internet governance; as part of this course there was a seminar and various discourses around Net Neutrality. I have spoken with Cerf on a number of occasions and I reached out to invite him to join a discussion two years ago as part of an ISOC NGL course I was taking.
His arguments are compelling, but while I deeply respect Cerf and am a huge fan of his multi-stakeholder approach to Internet policy, on this one issue I strongly fall into Kahn's camp.
A reader could argue that my perception is tainted by virtue of being deeply embedded in the industry that stands to gain the most from a lack of regulation around the Net Neutrality issue. I cannot tell if my view is formed simply because I am tainted by 18 years in the content delivery network (CDN) and online content delivery world, or if that involvement gives me particular insight into the issue.
The effort to create a regulatory framework mandating "Net Neutrality" is, quite simply, misguided. For instance, the statement "President Obama declared himself fully committed to Net Neutrality" sounds as absurd to me as "Dom Robinson declared himself fully committed to unicorn neutrality."
You see, as much as we all use the term "the Internet," no such thing exists.
Yep. I am going to commit that to paper again, for the record: there is no such thing as the Internet, or even an Internet.
There are millions of networks that each connect to a few others, and in such a way that you can quickly jump from one to another and back with messages, or even content. But that is not, in any way, shape, or form one network. At most, "the Internet" can be considered to be a network of networks.
In fact, I would venture that the confusion stems in part from Wu's 2003 announcement of his design principle. Had he spoken about "web neutrality," it might have all tied in more closely to the sentiment of open publishing and the right to speak online on the web or consume content without discrimination. That web focus, I believe, is at the heart of Wu's argument, and Cerf's. Indeed, even to this day most people talk about the web as synonymous with the Internet, but they are distinct concepts.
When Wu announced this design principle he glossed over the fact that the network of networks was actually formed not for sharing public information, but for sharing military applications, academic research, file transfers, and so on, and the potential revenues from those activities subsidized the existence of the telecoms networks over which they developed their protocols and applications.
These networks were by nature discriminatory and set-up for specific tasks.
I personally recall using the Starlink IP network node at Sussex University between 1990 and 1993. The node had linked up all the major Astronomical Observatories since 1988. Access to that network was most certainly not in any way for any public information service. It was a secure and expensive IP network with highly controlled access to other IP networks. It was used to control telescopes, run CCDs, spin and mine remote tape stores, and similar activities. And there was NO web at the time.
So the notion of the Internet as being limited to a public information service is a very myopic view, essentially seeing the Internet as just the worldwide web, and the web itself as just an evolved version of a MiniTel or Prestel bulletin board service.
The fact is that I say what goes on within my home network, just so long as I don't break any of the laws of my land. What network owners want to do on the network they own is surely their autonomous decision. That won't ever change without a radical overhaul of civil liberties. No one can dictate if I can or cannot make myself available on Skype, or use UPNP on my LAN etc.
Similarly, your ISP has an acceptable user policy and a contract with you for what they offer in return for your fees.
If they fail to deliver on the contract, then that is between you and them. If you fail to understand that contract, they don't have to adjust their service to meet your expectations, just so long as you are free to exit the contract if they are not delivering what they agree.
Obviously there are some areas with incumbent monopolies, where there may not be a choice to switch providers. That might venture into competition law issues that apply to all businesses, not just ISPs.
But what seems to happen in the Net Neutrality debate resembles a form of selective deafness from the proponents of "committing to Net Neutrality." They seem to forget that there are already laws and regulations that prevent unfair practice, and instead they seek to re-create a new regulatory policy framework to regulate "the" Internet as if it were a single thing, or even one set of agreed-upon things that could indeed be regulated.
Let's think philosophically for a moment: why would folks want mandated Net Neutrality, even if it were technically possible to deliver?
Well, I would liken it to the world of pain that patents bring. Indulge me for a moment here. To "patent" literally means to "lay open," and it came about as the idea that an inventor could publish his or her ideas openly, and still assert rights and leverage royalties with state backing. The idea behind this was to encourage innovation by ensuring that inventors did not bury their ideas for fear of losing them to anyone who could copy them.
Today, patents achieve exactly the opposite of those intentions — they stifle innovation. Any attempt you might have to realize a good idea in today's IT sector will generally stand the risk of being atomized by the lawyers of a large blue-chip companies with nothing else to do than simply own and restrict the rights — by state-enforced monopoly control — of the core patent. So-called patent trolling is all too familiar to those in all sectors.
In a similar way, the "open Internet" folks are working up political lobbies to try to bring in mandated Net Neutrality legislation in the US and you can be sure the EU and others will follow soon after. The eventual outcome of this will potentially criminalize the very way the "the Internet" has evolved.
It will stifle innovation and civil societies' ability to deploy services properly in their own networks — the one thing that advocates of Net Neutrality proclaim they are proponents of.
In my mind, there is mostly confusion because actually both sides are broadly in violent agreement, but a few parties have simply got the wrong end of the stick and become entrenched in their confused, and thus ill-defended, debating positions. Their intransigence is really at the core here.
To correct the mess, we have to start by educating a huge number of people with a few basic facts:
"The Internet" is much more than Facebook and a web browser.
"The Internet" doesn't actually exist.
Without a doubt, Net Neutrality is something that is always going to rear its head. It is really a philosophical debate about a Platonic ideal of the "Internet connection," that we could all wax lyrical about forever, even though it doesn't exist.
If anything, Net Neutrality is a bandwagon some folks have jumped on rather publically without really understanding what it means. Those who advocate mandating it through legislation are actually jeopardizing the very values they hold most dear.
It is in practice a very convenient subject for politicians and newspaper editors to use to sound like a "technically competent authority" to "civil society" (the technical word for the general public), when in fact those of us in the real technical community see such pseudo-technical politicians beginning to look like unicorn farmers.
Will an Open Internet Policy Emerge?
Excerpted from OpenSource Report by Melanie Chernoff
Daniel Alvarez, Legal Advisor for Wireline, Public Safety, and Homeland Security at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), spoke at a forum last week with the North Carolina Technology Association about the FCC's deliberations on a framework to "protect and promote Internet openness."
Alvarez provided some insight into the public comment process regarding the FCC's draft Open Internet Order, his surprise at the partisan reactions to the term "Net Neutrality," and the struggles of the FCC to come up with regulations that will be both reasonable and legally enforceable.
The FCC regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable, as provided in the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996). Title I of the Act covers information services, which includes services that utilize or make available content via telecommunications.
Title II covers telecommunications services — essentially, the management or provision of the telecommunication system itself. Under the Act, Title II telecommunications service providers are subject to "common carrier" regulations, which among other things prohibits unreasonable discrimination in charges for telephone or cable service. T
Title I information services, which currently includes broadband Internet services, have historically not been very heavily regulated, and are not subject to the obligations of common carriers.
Over the past decade, the FCC has made a few attempts to provide guidelines or regulations that would prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or discriminating against certain online services, especially from competitors.
In January 2014, the DC Circuit court held that while the FCC generally has authority to regulate broadband pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination provisions of its Open Internet Order were Title II regulations that could not be applied to Title I services.
In response to the court's decision, the FCC released is proposal for a Revised Order in May and requested public comments through September.
To date, the FCC has received about 3.9 million comments. One of the most popular proposals among consumers (but not, of course, among ISPs) is the notion of reclassifying ISPs as Title II "common carrier" services.
According to Alvarez, the FCC Chairman "wants to move this as soon as possible," although he acknowledges that no date has been set. Speculation has been that the FCC could release a new Order by the end of the year.
Alvarez, and the FCC, are clear on the goals of a Net Neutrality policy. He described the "virtuous cycle" of innovation spurred by the Internet, saying: "How do we keep that going, and protect that and promote that?"
Through an open Internet policy, the FCC hopes to protect both consumers and new entrants into the broadband and content delivery services markets.
Doing that, however, is not without controversy. "Net Neutrality has become a partisan idea," he said. "When the proposal first came out, some people thought it was a corporate takeover of the Internet. Other people thought it was a government takeover of the Internet. It can't be both. And actually, it wasn't either."
The FCC is confident that it has the authority to reclassify ISPs as Title II common carriers if required. However, reclassification isn't a given. "What we want the rules to do will determine whether or not we reclassify or what authority we rely on," said Alvarez.
He's currently having two or three meetings a week with various stakeholders to evaluate the legal enforceability of various options. According to a recent NY Times article, the FCC is considering four different proposals, including a hybrid approach for wholesale as opposed to retail services.
The FCC's priority is implementing a framework that, unlike its last two attempts, will hold up in court. Doing so is a challenge, but Alvarez was adamant that the FCC's goals of protecting consumers and spurring innovation make it worth the effort.
"We're trying to drive competition and innovation," Alvarez said. Historically, "When there is competition, the consumer benefits through lower prices and better services."
When asked what that meant in terms of the burden imposed on ISPs, he replied, "There will be a burden on providers. The question is, 'Is that burden justified?' And I think our answer is 'Yes.'"
FCC Confirms Delay of Net Neutrality Decision until 2015
Excerpted from Daily Dot Report by Kevin Collier
President Obama's heralded push to preserve Net Neutrality won't result in any meaningful progress, at least not this year.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government regulatory body that's spent much of 2014 deliberating whether to make the Internet a public utility, will abandon its earlier promise to make a decision on new net neutrality rules this year.
Instead, FCC Press Secretary Kim Hart told the Daily Dot, "There will not be a vote on open Internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalized in 2015."
Obama campaigned on a promise of Net Neutrality, the general concept that Internet providers shouldn't be able to dictate the rules of how fast customers can access certain sites. But Internet freedom advocates' optimism that the President would deliver waned as years of his presidency passed without any progress. And they threw up their hands when he appointed Tom Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, to head the FCC.
Since then, the issue has become almost stereotypically political. Though Wheeler was Obama's pick, the FCC is an independent body. After the Democrats were shellacked in the midterm elections last week, Obama on Tuesday launched a campaign to enshrine Net Neutrality into law, and openly called on Wheeler to make the Internet a utility.
But Wheeler fired back with a press release that effectively called Obama just another of the almost four million Americans who had written to the FCC to express an opinion on the issue. (It's worth noting that, except for those written by Internet providers, comments were almost unanimously in favor of Net Neutrality.)
News that the FCC will delay its decision is particularly devastating for Net Neutrality proponents, because the issue has suddenly become more partisan than before the most recent election, and is very unlikely to improve with a Republican-held Congress.
In one heavily-mocked tweet, Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Net Neutrality "Obamacare for the Internet," a statement so nonsensical that Cruz deleted it some hours later. Other powerful Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and 2015 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), also expressed their opposition to Obama's plan.
Coming Events of Interest
Government IT Sales Summit — November 20th in McLean, VA. Focused exclusively on companies that sell technology to the public sector, this one-day event brings together solution providers, systems integrators, and manufacturers for a full day of market information and networking.
PDCAT 2014 — December 9th-11th in Hong Kong. The 16th International Conference on Parallel and Distributed Computing, Applications and Technologies (PDCAT 2014) is a major forum for scientists, engineers, and practitioners throughout the world to present their latest research, results, ideas, developments and applications in all areas of parallel and distributed computing.
Storage Visions Conference — January 4th-5th in Las Vegas, NV. The fourteenth annual conference theme is: Storage with Intense Network Growth (SWING). Storage Visions Awards presented there cover significant products, services, and companies in many digital storage markets.
International CES — January 6th-9th in Las Vegas, NV. The International CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. Held in Las Vegas every year, it has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for more than 40 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.
The DCIA's IoT Marathon — January 6th-9th in Las Vegas, NV. Twelve hours of demos, displays, and discussions of the Internet of Things (IoT) in daily segments webcast live from the DCIA's CES 2015 exhibit-booth studio in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Internet of Things Conference — April 15th-17th in San Diego, CA. The IoT Con will focus on how companies are using a variety of technologies, including ZigBee radios, Wi-Fi, and machine-to-machine (M2M)software, to connect things to the Internet, and how they are achieving real business benefits from doing so.
Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) — October (2015 Dates TBD) in Dubai, UAE. IoTWF is an exclusive event that brings together the best and brightest thinkers, practitioners, and innovators from business, government, and academia to accelerate the market adoption of the Internet of Things.