Tag Archives: net neutrality

Net neutrality & tiered pricing structures

It’s come to my attention that AWMarco at Team Awesome wrote about the recent Harpham and Greyson net neutrality articles in Feliciter (<– pdf warning) and seems to think that I conflate the issues of data packet neutrality and access to unlimited bandwidth in my article.  I don’t agree that I conflated those issues in my article, although I concede the AWMarco and I may have different definitions of “throttling” and I should have clearly defined the term in my article.

I stand by my statement that a neutral net is both content- and protocol-agnostic. I do not agree that being protocol-agnostic necessarily means letting one high-bandwidth user eat up your entire network. I pay my ISP for a certain mb/s speed and a certain GB/month data limit per month, and I do not expect that my use will be tampered with as long as I stay within the limits of my subscription – no matter what (legal) content I access or publish, and no matter what protocols I may use. If my ISP has oversold their capabilities it is on them to increase capacity otherwise come clean with customers.

I do, however, think the issues of content neutrality and tiered pricing for different levels of service are commonly conflated. Given that I actually found the above blog post while writing a long email to someone just last week about how tiered pricing structures are not the same thing as net neutrality, I figured I ought to set the record straight by repurposing some of those emailed words for the blog.

Here’s the thing:

Some people do include tiered pricing (paying more for faster access/more bandwidth) under the umbrella of “non neutrality.” I do not, and to my knowledge my library associations have not either. Rather, we have focused on differential treatment of types of info or protocols. I recommend staying with this tighter definition, and not getting into the area of tiered pricing for speed.

While tiered pricing is not equitable, it does not (IMO) violate the
principle of network neutrality, which I define as a network that is
neutral to the info sent over it, in accordance with common carriage.
To extend a metaphor, I can send you a book via air mail instead of surface mail and get it there faster if I pay Canada Post more $, but it’s not okay for Canada Post charge me more $ for sending a book of political propaganda than a book of fairy tales (or a French book more than an English book) sent via the same mode.

Canada Post should not treat my package differently based on what is inside. The fact that some people cannot afford express air mail prices, while inequitable, is a different issue than slowing down mail because you don’t like what’s inside.

It’s a little tricky, in terms of semantics, because sometimes you do hear people use “tiered pricing” in terms of access to portions of the Internet — in a non-neutral net an ISP might hypothetically charge end-users a premium for non-throttled or non-blocked access to the Internet. But mostly when you hear “tiered pricing” you think paying more for faster Internet access, which is pretty much the norm right now, and not usually included in the net neutrality basket.

I know that excessive prices for decent bandwidth can be a library issue, certainly.  That’s why we have the CAP program, much like library book rate with Canada Post. However, when we’re talking about neutrality, I think we should steer clear of talking about tiered pricing for speed, and focus on content/protocol neutrality at every access level.

-Greyson

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Filed under net neutrality, Other blogs, technology

CRTC issues net neutrality ruling

And here it is.

I won’t have time to fully parse the policy decision till tonight, but my initial impression is that it’s a feeble gesture in the right direction (that being net neutrality), clad in nationalist bombast (“Canada is the first country to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to internet traffic management practices”).

At a glance, it seems that ISPs are still allowed to “traffic shape” but out and out throttling is discouraged unless the ISP feels it’s really necessary. Consumers are now supposed to be informed if their ISP is going to change traffic shaping practices, and consumers can complain, which will then possible trigger an investigation that will ask the ISP to explain what and why. There are also some new privacy guidelines for deep packet inspection.

So ISPs are still allowed to throttle, and to conduct deep packet inspection, but they have to jump through a few more hoops to do so now than they did before. There are also some new restrictions about wholesale ISP services, which I hope will help small ISPs remain competitive and viable.

Any other thoughts on the ruling would be very welcome.

Some initial coverage:

CBC coverage here (CBC’s been hot on the NN file since the throttling of Next Great Prime Mnister).
Excerpt:

“Big telecommunications companies such as Bell and Rogers can interfere with internet traffic only as a last resort, the CRTC says. Instead, they should use “economic measures” such as new investment and usage limits to combat congestion on their networks.”

Michael Geist’s take is here (Geist obviously knew some things I didn’t know about what was coming down the pipe on this one!  <–Unsurprising):

Impressively optimistic excerpt:

“The CRTC’s net neutrality (aka traffic management) decision is out and though it does not go as far as some advocates might hope, it unquestionably advances the ball forward on several important fronts…Today’s CRTC decision signifies that traffic management is not a free-for-all and the days of ISPs arguing that they can do whatever they please on their networks is over.  That said, it also guarantees that traffic management practices such as throttling will continue and it is going to take more complaints to concretely address the issue.”

More to come, after I’ve had a chance to read & digest more.

-Greyson

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Unicorns don’t exist; net neutrality is just distastefully fair

The top story on the CBC News website this evening is “Net Neutrality doesn’t exist, CRTC told.

Laugh or cry?

Internet congestion is inevitable and net neutrality does not exist, Canada’s internet regulator was told Monday at hearings on how internet providers control and manage internet traffic and speed.

But here’s the best part:

Congestion is a natural occurrence on the internet, partly due to unexpected events such as Michael Jackson’s death, said Don Bowman, chief technology officer for the network technology company Sandvine Inc.            

Got that?  It is Michael Jackson’s fault that you are being throttled! Hee.

According to the same CBC coverage, Bowman also asserts that deep packet inspection is necessary in order to keep VOIP from breaking up due to congestion.  I’m no ISP, but I have a hunch there are other options here…for example deploying other “shaping” technologies that don’t invade customer privacy, or the radical path of increasing available bandwidth.(On this note, I am quite intrigued by Scott Stevens’ suggestion “that some internet traffic management could be carried out by customers themselves rather than the ISPs” and interested in how that could work!)

What’s disturbing is that Bowman is not only acting as a CTO but speaking at this CRTC hearing, apparently without knowing that net neutrality is.  He is quoted as saying:

“In times of congestion, an unmanaged network is not a neutral network,” he said. “Inequalities in application design and user behaviour mean that an unmanaged network inherently favours certain applications and their users.”

Actually…an “unmanaged” network *is* a neutral network.  That’s pretty much the defninition, if by unmanaged you mean the ISP is not allowed to tamper with or discriminate among the content flowing across their lines.  A neutral network is a highway with no toll roads, no right to pull you over to see if you have pornography or the Little Red Book in your backpack in the passenger seat, and no ability to say that Hondas get a fast lane but Fords have to take the slow lane.

I don’t get how this guy can say net neutrality doesn’t exist.  However, if it works for him, I’m going to start declaring things I find either personally distasteful or bad for my wallet nonexistant.  Like…paying rent.  Rent payments definitely do not exist, you know.  They are but flights of fancy which we should no longer indulge. Also torture —  It doesn’t exist anymore.  And those people who say “liberry” and “I could care less” — totally fictional, you know.

Figments of the imagination.

Unicorns.

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CRTC Online “traffic management” consultation ends today!

If you are Canadian/in Canada/care about Canada and  haven’t had the chance to comment on the CRTC’s online consultation on internet traffic management, here’s your reminder that today is the last day!

(And I think the website runs on Eastern time zone, so for us left-coasters it may close before our midnight, as my posts last night were showing up stamped with today’s date.)

Even though the online process could have been better publicized, I am honestly impressed that the CRTC is trying something this new and, well, fairly innovative for government! (Wait, would lack of a neutral net hinder the CRTC’s ability to try such innovative endeavours as online consultations…?

There are 6 sections, each with a question the CRTC is soliciting feedback about. They ask about things like: impact on innovation, which “traffic management” approaches you’d find acceptable, what the CRTC’s role should be with regard to the Internet, and whether/how ISPs should notify customers about their practices.

If you tried out the M-Lab tools I wrote about a few weeks back, you can mention your results in the “Impact on User Experience” section of the consultation.

I meant to highlight this consultation earlier, but, well with the flu and all and conference season starting up, it just didn’t happen. *hangs head*

So, if nothing else, try to take a few minutes on your lunch break or something to agree or disagree with some of the posts that have been written over the past month.

Last summer we were all writing letters to the CRTC asking for a real, open public consultation, and here is the most open, accessible consultation I’ve seen yet from the CRTC, so I really felt like it was my duty to go respond in pretty much every category.

Now, after all that work, I will be really frustrated if they don’t seem to respond to the input provided on this e-consultation. And I’m fairly confident I’m not the only one. Join me?

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Am I being throttled? Yep.

(Note: I am sick as a dog with the flu, and trying to do something productive by editing and rolling out a few drafts from the past months that never made it to fully-gorwn posts.  Please forgive any grammar atrocities while I type through the fever.)

If you need any more help getting riled up about net neutrality, check out the new M-lab (Measurement lab) tools to see whether you are being throttled!  Cool!  Just last October I was at an Info Policy conference bemoaning the fact that there were no tools easy enough for lay users to manage that would tell us whether we were being throttled.

According to their “Who We Are” page,

Measurement Lab was founded by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, Google Inc. and academic researchers. M-Lab was developed in 2008 after Vint Cerf and others at Google initiated conversations with network researchers to learn more about challenges to the effective study of broadband networks.

I tried it out and it worked for me.  Of course, it’s no surprise, since my ISP is one of the many that already disclosed to the CRTC that they “traffic shape,” and we have noticed what has seemed like undue congestion while trying to stream video in the evening hours, but now I know for sure: I AM being throttled.  My deep packets are being inspected.  Hrm.

How about you?  Throttled much?  Try it out and let me know, if you have the chance.

On the Search Engine podcast (#19) from back in February in which they discussed the M-lab applications that allowed me to verify this, Jesse Brown tried to get Google to admit that they were trying to egg people on into taking action against throttling ISPs.  The Canadian Google representative on the air demurred, but I think it’s brilliant, and it’s working on me.  I want to go submit my comments to the CRTC’s traffic shaping consultation all over again. (<–Hold that thought…)

Greyson

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Filed under net neutrality, technology, tips and tools

Canadian Net Neutrality Consultation

For people who found this page while looking for info on April’s CRTC  “traffic shaping” consultation, go here.

The CRTC’s “traffic management” (throttling) consultation is accepting comments from interested individuals right now.

This is the “Net Neutrality” consultation we’ve been waiting for. Many of us have asked the CRTC to hold this public consultation and it is happening.

Let’s make our voices heard!

The CRTC says:

“Members of the public who wish merely to file written comments in this proceeding, without receiving copies of the various submissions, may do so by filing such comments with the Commission by 16 February 2009 at the address or fax number noted above, or by filling out the online form.”

I know these CRTC “public” consultations can be byzantine and hard to know how to respond to.   If you want to participate, here are two options:

  • The online form to submit comments is here.

OR

  • You can quickly & easily send a boilerplate comment via the Campaign for Democratic Media’s Save Our Net coalition, right here.


Comment period closes Feb 23, so don’t procrastinate.

Need Some Background?

  • The CRTC public notice can be found here.
  • The Save Our Net coalition has background info in language that is comprehensible by regular people here.
  • The Canadian Library Association’s 2008 resolution in support of Net Neutrality explains why this is a library issue here.
  • Michael Geist’s take and useful links on this consultation cam be read here.
  • For “Net Neutrality 101” see my backgrounder from last spring here

-Greyson

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