Saturday, January 18, 2014

Even Relatively Balanced Net Neutrality Commentaries Miss the Point

It appears that much of the hysterical reaction to a U.S. Appeals Court ruling in Verizon v. FCC willfully or inadvertently confuses two very different principles: actual blocking of lawful content by an Internet access provider, and quality of service mechanisms. 

They aren't by any means exclusive, anti-consumer or damaging to application provider ability to innovate, though they create business advantages, as do content delivery networks.   

But you haven't heard anybody at all argue that CDNs should be outlawed because they lead to "blocking" of end user access to lawful applications. Content delivery networks improve end user quality of experience. 

And, yes, unless a content provider or application provider creates or pays for CDN services, that quality of packet delivery feature is not available. But it is a choice.

Some app providers use CDNs, but probably most do not. CDNs have not destroyed the openness of the Internet. CDNs are not "blocking."

Everybody agrees, from the Federal Communications Commission to the smallest U.S. ISP, that lawful applications cannot be blocked. The FCC has, as part of its Open Internet Principles, stated in plain language that lawful applications cannot be blocked, period.

In the one or two instances where actual blocking ever has occurred, the Commission worked quickly to intervene. So the FCC already has shown its lawful authority to prevent content or application blocking. 

"Blocking" is not the issue. Quality of service is the issue, as CDNs are about quality of service as well. 

Many of us would argue that application and content providers have the right of freedom of speech. They should not be interfered with simply because a government or private entity is irritated by what they say or the lawful services they provide.

That remains true whether or not any application owner chooses to use a CDN or not. No freedom is lost, either way, whether you believe the "right to freedom" protects the speaker, or the audience.

The "best effort" Internet exists side by side with the existence of quality of service mechanisms that ensure packet delivery in an expedited way. Today. Now. 

So long as the best effort Internet continues to exist, and all ISPs support that principle because the FCC says they must, freedom is maintained. 

But it is untruthful--simply untruthful--to argue that the best effort and expedited packet delivery access do not already coexist, today,  with no apparent ill effects.

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