September 19, 2006 12:04 PM PDT

Tech manufacturers rally against Net neutrality

WASHINGTON--Producers of networking hardware and applications gathered around a podium at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday with a single message: Not all "high-tech" companies support so-called Net neutrality legislation.

At a press conference here, more than a dozen representatives from companies like Corning, Tyco and Motorola urged the U.S. Senate to pass a massive communications bill--attacked by Net neutrality fans for failing to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment of Internet content--as soon as possible.

Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat and a primary sponsor of a narrower House of Representatives measure approved in June by a 321 to 101 vote, joined the industry representatives in calling for Senate action "right away." He stressed that the legislation will "deliver much-needed relief to cable rates" sought by his Chicago-area constituents.

Supporters say the Senate measure, which was approved by a committee vote in June but has since gotten hung up chiefly over Net neutrality, is crucial because it would make it easier for new video service providers--such as telephone companies hoping to roll out IPTV--to enter the market, increase competition for cable, and thus spur lower prices. Among other benefits, they say, it would also permit municipalities to offer their own broadband services.

"There are a lot of good things in this bill," Tim Regan, a vice president with fiber optic cable manufacturer Corning Inc., said of the Senate's efforts. "Let's not let this get tied up over the most contentious thing out there, which is Net neutrality."

"Don't be confused by these spurious complaints about Net neutrality," Rush said. "Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem."

Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem.
--U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, Illinois Democrat

There are some Net neutrality rules in the Senate bill that would grant more authority to the Federal Communications Commission, but not as much as companies like Google and eBay would like.

Rush's stance differs from that of many of his Democratic colleagues. He told reporters after the press conference that no new legislation is needed both because no problem exists and the FCC has shown it can quickly deal with any complaints. In a 2005 case, a small telephone company agreed to stop blocking voice over Internet Protocol calls after the regulators stepped in.

Not to be upstaged by the recent lobbying efforts of Net neutrality fans, opponents of the regulations have stepped up their activities this week.

Opponents ramping up
On Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee's Republican members, who generally oppose protections sought by Internet companies and consumer groups, presented the findings (click for PDF) of a poll of 800 registered voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The survey found that 91 percent of respondents had never heard of Net neutrality, although 78 percent said it was important to enact a "consumer bill of rights" that guarantees them full access to legal Internet content and prohibits providers from blocking or interfering with the data they send and receive.

In connection with Tuesday's press conference, more than 100 companies from the networking and communications sector, including Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Qualcomm, also signed their names to a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Democratic Leader Harry Reid. The one-page document encouraged them to schedule a vote "in the very near future," adding that it was "too soon to enact network neutrality legislation."

The "consumer bill of rights" approach embedded in the Senate bill is sufficient to protect consumer concerns over access to Web content and services, the companies said. Opponents of the provision, such as Google, and a broad coalition of consumer and advocacy groups, have said it falls short because it would not restrict network operators like Verizon and AT&T from favoring their own content or brokering deals with Internet content companies for special treatment, potentially squeezing out garage innovators who can't afford to pay for such perks.

An aide to Frist said Tuesday that it remains unclear when a vote will be scheduled. She said Frist is still waiting on Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, the communications bill's chief sponsor, to confirm he has the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.

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The idea that content providers should pay for something already paid for by internet subscribers is a joke.

That's the whole idea behind this - the companies that provide internet services feel they should be paid twice for the same infrastructure.

When you subscribe to broadband, your cable or dsl provider in turn pays a subscribtion to the big players for access to their network.

What the opposition to net neutrality want is to charge content providers an additional fee if you choose to download what they consider bandwidth hogging data, such as video.

The problem here is that if they refuse, you the internet subscriber will be the loser - because the high speed connection you're indirectly paying for will be reduced to a second tier system.

The fact that this hasn't happened yet - because the big players haven't got around to doing it - is hardly evidence that it won't happen in the future.

That's like saying Microsoft shouldn't be regulated because they haven't abused their position from the sale of Vista yet.

Yes these companies should be prevented from forcing us to pay additional costs for full access to a network we're already paying for in huge broadband subscription fees. The only reason this hasn't happened yet is the systems aren't in place to do it, not because of their altruistic motives behind owning the backbone of the internet.

If you pay a plumber to install a bath you've already bought from a hardware store - is it fair for the hardware store to charge the plumber a fee because they're going to earn money from the installation?

If you pay a moving company a fee to move your furniture to a new home, should the furniture store be allowed to charge them an additional fee for profiting from the furniture they've already sold to you?

That is the same thing. The local internet providers that aren't Verizon or AT&T, and don't own a part of the larger network, pay a subscription fee on your behalf to access that network. The fact they don't subscribe to enough bandwidth to cover the number of high speed customers they have is not the fault of content providers. The fact they've relied on people to not use the full bandwidth they subscribe to, so they can derive a profit from charging low fees for high speed access is something your internet provider doesn't want complicated. So they in turn are siding with the large network providers because they stand to win from not having to pay for additional bandwidth to provide every one who pays for a 3 or 5 mbit connection constant use of the internet at that speed.

At the moment it's like airlines who over subscribe cheap seats in the hope that some people won't turn up and they get to keep the money - instead of having to pay another airline to transport you (as they used obligated to do) or give you free upgrades when you can't get on board.

In the end the loser will be the person sitting at home with an internet connection that won't run at the speed they're paying for - and your provider is fine with that because they haven't subscribed to enough bandwidth to allow every one of their customers to have that access 24/7.

They will say the reason for the slow down isn't they're fault, isn't AT&T or Verizon or Comcast or whoever's fault - it's the fault of the site you're trying to access because they're not paying for you using your connection to access their website at full speed.

The fact these site owners do pay themselves for their own access is not a consideration - the opponents to net neutrality want them to pay for the connection you've already paid for, and will twist that so that it sounds like they're getting away with something for free - that your provider is somehow out of pocket because they can only sell your connection package to you, rather than every content provider you want to download from, a content provider that has paid their own subscription fee to their own provider for high speed upload connections.

Its a big con, and in the end the consumer will be the person that ends up paying a second time (probably incorporated into some kind of content rental fee) to actually get the internet connection they're already paying for.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There's a term for this.
Remember the term "protection money"?

From what I see, it's the same damn thing.

One other question: Why the hell do they need to be discriminate in what we download? People who go over their limits (set by these companies anyway) already have to pay more money.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Like explaining TCP-IP to your mother.
Just try to explain this to a politician, I dare you. Remember, it is people who don't quite understand how email works that will be deciding this.

When you call your senator or representative remember to use the word extortion. I think they may understand that.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Masters Of Fraud
The network neutrality provisions will certainly be needed when you consider the history of broken promises and unfettered avarice in the teleco industry. What happened to the promised 45mb fiber optic broadband promised in 1996 by the telecoms to be delivered by 2006 in exchange for $200 billion in tax breaks, fee increases, and other considerations? The fact of the matter is they delivered none of it! They took the money and cross subsidized other areas of their business operations to compete unfairly and through merger consolidation walked away from their obligations. They essentially stole $2000 from every family in America and gave a few crappy slow DSL. <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> Now this collection of the worlds biggest welfare bums is back for more!
If the telecoms get their way then they basically "own" the Internet. The incentive will be to packet sniff and traffic shape every bit traveling their corner of the net. They will set up "deals" with certain content providers that will work wonderfully over their own system. Competitor's bit streams will be channeled low priority therefore discouraging users within their system. As each fiefdom traffic shapes and prioritizes as they see fit the differing decisions play havoc with those users tempted to cross the ether outside their ISP's control. Users will be driven to data stream encryption to get around the constraints imposed on them by the prying eyes of their ISP's. Still the ISP can degrade or block competitors to reinforce the value of their own "services". They can offer premium "packages" that give higher payers less latency and prioritized streams within the ISP's fiefdom. As consumers find it increasingly frustrating trying to connect to content outside the system they will frequent the sites paying extortion for premium connection within the system. Lower tiered subscribers will reluctantly "upgrade" to premium tiers to get the Internet to work the way it used to.
Artificially created bandwidth restriction will be too irresistible for ISP's. They have already neglected to invest in the infrastructure of theInternet. The US is ranked about 16th and falling in roll out , speed, and price of broadband world wide. We have diminished economic competitive standing while a handful of Federally anointed duopolies is literally given a license to print money.
If you think "competition" will prevent this from happening you are kidding yourself. There are few choices for broadband for most people and the ones available all know the real money is in content delivery. None of the ISP's are interested in a cut-throat competition to just provide bandwidth!
If this isn't the business plan the telecoms are setting up right now then why the opposition to Net Neutrality? NN will still allow them to have different broadband tiers and flexibility in pricing and usage fees. ISP's can offer all the content and streams they want. It just says treat all the bits equally as they travel through their network. No playing favorites! After all, the ISP's are paid for every bit of bandwidth that is used. If an ISP's system is inadequate to handle the bandwidth they have charged for then the incentive is to supply more. Those that offer compelling content can expect success. No need to rig the system to essentially compete unfairly. So why the vehement position against Net Neutrality by a handful of corporations? If their intentions were good I would think they would be promoting it to avoid the unfair business positioning of potential competitors. Or is there really competition?

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://*******.com/moz3m" target="_newWindow">http://*******.com/moz3m</a>
Posted by zanzzz (138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
zanzzz is right.... again. ;-)
Zanzzz, I feel like I'm following you to the same articles. You were right in the last one I supported your commentary on, and you are right again.

You must work in the industry because you are so very on point it is scary.

Face it people. This is extortion no matter how you look at it. We the consumers have already paid for the connection to whatever website we want. Making the Googles of the world pay again is just extortion.

The telcos say they might stop enhancing the net if they dont get this money. FINE! The net became what it is without their help in the first place.
Posted by Axiomatic13 (24 comments )
Link Flag
Net Netrality Poll - Karl Rove like ??
Well everything I know about polling invalidates this Net Neutrality poll. Random means completely random throughout U.S. and usually requires a minimum of 1,000 validated study group and the same questions are asked 2 or 3 different ways to validate the results. This is so Karl Rove like - manipulate (we all have gotten use to this Republican administation's methods), to get their intended results literally reeks with political inuendo ! Good luck to Net Neutrality proponents as there is not a level playing field - but, then that is how Karl Rove suceeds. Did you know Karl Roves' stepfather was gay ?

Dangling Wrangler
Independent/unaffiliated registered voter
You must do more than just vote
Posted by danglingwrangler (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Net Neutrality Poll - Karl Rove like ??
Well everything I know about polling invalidates this Net Neutrality poll. Random means completely random throughout U.S. and usually requires a minimum of 1,000 validated study group and the same questions are asked 2 or 3 different ways to validate the results. This is so Karl Rove like - manipulate (we all have gotten use to this Republican administation's methods), to get their intended results literally reeks with political inuendo ! Good luck to Net Neutrality proponents as there is not a level playing field - but, then that is how Karl Rove suceeds. Did you know Karl Roves' stepfather was gay ?

Dangling Wrangler
Independent/unaffiliated registered voter
You must do more than just vote
Posted by danglingwrangler (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good luck to Net Neutrality
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Ipod Apple (152 comments )
Link Flag

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