more grist for the "pipes" debate 01.18.2006, 5:47 PM
posted by ben vershbow
A couple of interesting items:
Larry Lessig wrote an excellent post last week debunking certain myths circulating the "to regulate or not to regulate" debate in Washington, namely that introducing "net neutrality" provisions in the new Telecom bill would impose unprecedented "common carriage" regulation on network infrastructure. Of course, the infrastructure was regulated before -- when the net was accessed primarily through phone lines. Lessig asks: if an unregulated market is so good for the consumer, then why is broadband service in this country so slow and so expensive?
Also worth noting is a rough sketch from internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban of the idea of "tiered" network service. This would entail prioritizing certain uses of bandwidth. For example, your grandma's web-delivered medical diagnostics would be prioritized over the teenager downloading music videos next door (if, that is, someone shells out for the priority service). This envisions for the consumer end what cable and telephone execs have dreamed of on the client end -- i.e. charging certain web services more for faster page loads and speedier content delivery. Seems to me that either scenario would make the U.S. internet more like the U.S. healthcare system: abysmal except for those with cash.
Jesse Wilbur on January 19, 2006 3:28 PM:
Server software exists to throttle long, slow downloads similar to the Cuban proposal. The one instance I know of is at ibiblio, where people who are downloaded torrents get capped at a certain amount of bandwidth, allowing quick hits priority. This suggestion is just a network wide extension of that kind of control.
The hard question is whether this is necessary for the health of the network, or whether it's just an end-run to discriminate against competitors' content. I've found a few interesting things out there that relate to the conversation: a response to the Cuban article on ars technica; a blog post advocating market based pricing solutions, and a sort of rebuttal, pointing out that lack of federal regulation is affecting the marketplace negatively already. These last two provide contrasting views of government as the problem and the solution to disseminating broadband capability.