[eDebate] Save theinternet!!

Brian M. Smith Brian.M.Smith
Wed Apr 26 01:59:59 CDT 2006

So I know very little about Internet regulation, but this story makes no sense to me

The claim that infrastructure companies need to regulate what traffic gets priority seems extremely specious.  From what I can tell it rests on the idea that if they cannot do that then users will overwhelm the network and degrade quality for anyone.  First of all I dont really understand why priority systems resolve this (instead of just limiting it to competition between rich folk and screwing poor folk permanently).  Unless the infrastructure companies built enough bandwidth to handle the largest needs of all the "priority" customers they would face the same problem.  Second, this is the classic yogi berra "its so crowded nobody goes there anymore" argument.  The logic employed here is that because so many people will sign on to video services that people will find that their quality is degraded because bandwidth is taken up by the neighbors. This degraded quality means nobody will buy the services and so the internet companies won't be able to make enough money to support investment.  Hold up, the whole reason this is a problem is that you have too many customers, not too few.  If its really true that you cant make money cuz you have too many customers, the modern corporation developed a solution to this long ago.  Its called price.  You raise the price, you get more money, and less customers, and as you said, thats what you really want.  A two-teired pricing scheme isnt needed to limit your customers if thats really what you are into.  Also, i really doubt anyone would buy the "low priority" service given the obvious alternatives to get tv, phone, and internet (more on this in a moment)

This argument also ignores who the early adopters are.  They aren't normal rich people who you make all your money off of.  Those people fear new tech and won't do it until the rich Jones' down the street do.  The early adopters are techies who think its so cool that you get everything over the internet (you might say its too expensive for them, but I will address how thats a negative in a moment) and really really rich people who will buy whatever.  

The whole benefit described to this system is "convergence", but "Convergence" as explained by the linked article is not necessarily a good.  Getting phone, TV, and internet all through one cable seems awesome, dont get me wrong, but we have lived without it for a while now and I think we can continue.  The real potential benefit is its more efficient so its cheaper for consumers (and maybe its better to have less different lines having to be strung everywhere). If the claim is true that without the ability to prioritize packets convergence won't happen cuz it will be too expensive, then convergence doesnt reduce prices for consumers.  If its really true that it costs nearly $600 a month to provide HDTV over the internet, then why are we trying to do it? If needed, I can point out some of these truly "advanced" companies who have managed to provide TV, phone, and internet all for less than $600 a month.  

So why is this being promoted? I think the answer ironcially lies with the explanation explicitly given: because "wall street" will punish telecom companies otherwise.  This scheme seems solely about share price, not about "saving the internet." Maybe if telecom share prices decline the internet will die (presumably the argument behind the "save the internet" subject line), um, no way. I think thats a sufficient response.

The spillover argument seems very compelling to me.  If we let internet companies control what goes over the lines they can stop us from viewing anything.  They can sign agreements with different news companies (sorry you can only see CNN, not NYTimes), search engines (MSN Search it is, sorry, Google didnt get the contract in your area), game companies, the list is endless (including some way more sensitive ones like pornography, information about GLTBQ issues, abortion, etc.).  Kerpen dismisses it by saying if they got content blocked people would just give up the internet.  This response is far from sufficient.  The idea that people in our day and age (much less the uber digital future) could just give up the internet cuz they got a bad deal from their company truly ignores how integral the internet has become in our lives.  

the only person I have yet to see use apocalyptic rhetoric about the end of the internet is kerpen, see subject line

The model for development of new telecom technology shouldnt be allow telecom companies to control what we look at on the internet forever so that in the short term they can be sufficiently "incentivized" to develop a new way to send us something we've been getting just fine since the 60s.

feeling a bit reactionary today I guess

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