Tag Archives: network 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.




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).

“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.



Filed under government, net neutrality

Net Neutrality in a Nutshell

Here’s the backgrounder I pulled together for the BCLA Resolution on Network (Net) Neutrality. A great debt is owed to Danielle Dennie (of LibrarianActivist fame) for her assistance in writing both the resolution and this backgrounder. Yes, this has been cross-posted in a couple of other places. -Greyson

Net Neutrality in a Nutshell:
Backgrounder for the BCLA AGM, April 19, 2008

What is “Net Neutrality”?
Network (“Net”) Neutrality is “the principle that all information that is sent over the Internet should be treated equally.” This means that:

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs, like Telus, Shaw, Rogers or Bell) shouldn’t interfere in web content getting to you
  • All sites and formats should be treated the same by ISPs
  • Users are free to go where they want on the Internet, and access whatever information they wish

Who is opposed to Net Neutrality, and why?
The primary opponents of regulation to require net neutrality are telecommunications and cable companies. They argue that they need the ability to block or filter their networks in order to prevent illegal file sharing, viruses and spam, and congestion due to bandwidth-intensive traffic (such as video streaming). Net neutrality regulation would also prevent ISPs from levying surcharges on users or content providers who want premium (fast or equal) access to their networks.

Who supports Net Neutrality, and why?
The National Union of Public and General Employees (which represents more than 340,000 workers across the country), the Council of Canadians, the Campaign for Democratic Media, and the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, and the Independent Film and Television Alliance, to name a few. The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage also raised concerns about non-neutrality’s impact on Canadian heritage, in their recent report.

Primary arguments for net neutrality are that both the Internet and Canadian Telecommunications Policy rely on the principle of “common carriage” – that public networks shouldn’t discriminate among content. Supporters of net neutrality don’t want to see the Internet run by a bidding war, with fast access sold to the highest bidder. As Michael Geist warns, “imagine a world in which Chapters cannot compete in the online book space because its content is on the slow lane while Amazon is on the fast lane.” That is a world without net neutrality.

What are some examples of non-neutrality?
Non-neutrality is often likened to a highway with a toll fast lane for content providers who pay a premium, and a regular slow lane for the rest of us. Here are just a few exampled of violations of net neutrality in Canada:

Do any existing laws or regulations pertain to Net Neutrality?
The principle of Common Carriage is enshrined in Canada’s Telecommunications Act (1993), Sec. 27(2): “No Canadian carrier shall, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service or the charging of a rate for it, unjustly discriminate or give an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage.”

But in 1999 the CRTC decided that regulating the Internet was beyond its scope. The CRTC is currently reviewing its jurisdiction over new media and their report should be released in May. Several organizations and individuals are filing submissions to the CRTC this spring, and there is a call for public hearings on the issue.

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Filed under media democracy, net neutrality