[governance] FW: [Netneutrality] Organic Net Neutrality: David Weinberger

Ang Peng Hwa (Prof) TPHANG at ntu.edu.sg
Mon Dec 8 22:16:13 EST 2014

(Now and then I get an email from the list going outside of my “Smart” mailbox, which I might read weeks later. Not sure why it happens but it makes for interesting digressions.)

Pardon me for stating the blindingly obvious but net neutrality is a complex issue.

1. Many people are surprised when I tell them to speed up the Internet, traffic is “managed” or “shaped”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_shaping
In other words, left to its “organic” self in this Weinberger sense, we will actually have slower Internet speed than if we manage the data.

I listen to Tim Wu, who coined the term, and found that he was very careful about this point. He never says no traffic discrimination at all. Some discrimination (i.e. Traffic shaping) in fact is good for the community.

But once you do that, it’s a small step to throttling other services that are not in your interests.

2. Net neutrality is an intrusion into the rights of the owner of the pipe/system/network. We can intrude into someone’s property rights if the benefits to society at large are greater than the costs of the intrusion. An example is copyright. It is a monopoly right but there are limits to what the owner can do.

3. So between #1 and #2, we have a tricky question of balancing needs, demands and interests. It also indicates that net neutrality is not an absolute. Some non-neutrality is good. Where it crosses to bad, and IMHO only when it does so, should we say that the owner’s right to do what it wants with its pipe ends and society’s interests override.

My 2 cents.


Peng Hwa ANG

[cid:E2C743EB-73A7-40AF-A9FF-D0F5D1DF1571]Peng Hwa ANG (Professor) | Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information | Nanyang Technological University | WKWSCI 02-17, 31 Nanyang Link, Singapore 639798  | Tel: (65) 67906109 GMT+8h | Fax: (65) 6792-7526 | Web: http://www.sirc.ntu.edu.sg/Home@SiRC/Pages/Team.aspx

President Elect-Select 2014 ICA


On 9/12/14 10:23 am, "michael gurstein" <gurstein at gmail.com<mailto:gurstein at gmail.com>> wrote:

-----Original Message-----
From: Netneutrality [mailto:netneutrality-bounces at intgovforum.org] On Behalf Of Seth Johnson
Sent: Monday, December 08, 2014 11:14 PM
To: netneutrality at intgovforum.org<mailto:netneutrality at intgovforum.org>; nncoalition at mailman.edri.org<mailto:nncoalition at mailman.edri.org>; bestbits
Subject: [Netneutrality] Organic Net Neutrality: David Weinberger

David Weinberger coins a term and makes a critical point:

Organic Net Neutrality

There are two types of Net Neutrality. Supporters of it (like me) spend most of their time arguing for Artificial Net Neutrality: a government policy that regulates the few dominant providers of access to the Internet. In fact, we should be spending more of our time reminding people that before Artificial Net Neutrality the Internet came by its neutrality naturally, even organically.

To see the difference, you have to keep in mind, (as my friend Doc Searls frequently reminds me) that Net Neutrality refers not only to a policy but to a fundamental characteristic of the Internet. The Internet is an inter-network: local networks agree to pass data (divided into packets) without discriminating among them, so that no matter what participating network you’re plugged into, you can always get and send information anywhere else on the Net. That’s the magic of the Net: It doesn’t care how you’ve plugged in, where you are, or what sort of information you’re looking for. It will all get to you, no matter where it’s coming from, what it’s about, or what type of application created it.

In fact, it’s because the creators of the Internet didn’t try to anticipate what people would use it for that it has become the greatest engine of creativity and wealth in recorded history. For example, if the Internet had been designed primarily for connecting static pages, it would have become less suitable for phone calls or video. If the current Internet access providers decide that videos are their highest priority traffic, then online games might suffer, and it would be harder to establish the next new idea — maybe it’s holograms or some new high-def audio stream or a web of astronomers working on data shared around the world.

In short, we don’t want the businesses that sell us access to the Internet to have the power to decide what gets priority on the Internet…especially since many of them are also in the content business and thus would be tempted to give preference to their own videos and music streams. Artificial Net Neutrality as a policy is intended to preserve the Internet’s non-discriminatory nature by regulating the access providers.

Even the most fervent supporters of Net Neutrality policies usually favor it only because we now have so few access providers (also known as Internet Service Providers, or ISPs). Before a series of decisions by the U.S. Federal Communications Commision beginning in 2002, and a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2005, there were more than 9,000 ISPs in that country. Now the ones that remain are either serving small, often remote, areas or are one of the tiny handful of absolute giants.

When you talk about Net Neutrality with Seth Johnson, a tireless advocate presently working at the international level to defend the Internet, he explains that before 2005, when there was a vibrant, competitive market for ISPs, the Internet was naturally neutral. Back when the Internet was composed of relatively small local networks, if an ISP wanted to promise its subscribers that it would provide a “fast lane” for movies, or games, or singing telegrams, or whatever, it could only provide that favorable discrimination within its own small network. The many other networks those packets passed through wouldn’t know or care about that one network’s preferences. Zipping packets through the last couple of miles to your house would be like speeding up a jet for the last hundred meters of its flight: it wouldn’t make any noticeable difference.

That was then. We need a Net Neutrality policy now because the giant ISPs’ own networks are so extensive that a packet of data may spend most of its time within a single network. That network can institute discriminatory practices that are noticeable. A Net Neutrality policy prevents them from giving in to this commercial temptation.

Many of us Net Neutrality advocates, including Seth and Doc, would far rather see the Internet’s natural infrastructure restored — a big network composed of many smaller networks — which would in turn restore natural Net Neutrality. We lost that infrastructure through a political process. We could get it back the same way, by once again treating the wires and cables through which Internet packets flow as a public resource, open to thousands of competing ISPs, none of which would be able to effectively discriminate among packets.

It’s a shame that we’ve let the market for ISPs become so non-competitive that we have to resort to government policies to preserve the Net’s natural neutrality. As with peaches and whole grains, an organically neutral Internet would be even better for the entire system.

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