So here’s the concept: the end-to-end nature of the Internet is not about “access for consumers”. It’s about creating a World of Ends in which all of us are at zero functional distance from each other — or close enough. That’s why I can listen in on the hearing right now from London, and IM and IRC with people all over the world. Right now, in real-enough time.
The Internet is the universal communications utility that connects us all. As a utility it will, in the long run, come to resemble roads and water systems — in the sense that all of us can connect to it, and to each other over it. The questions that matter most are the ones with answers that get us to this end state.
Right now they’re talking about competition. Two years ago at F2C, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell said that, as a former antitrust lawyer, he favored the “rule of threes” — that is, you tend to get productive compeitition when there are at least three competitors in a marketplace.
We have that at our home near Cambridge. We have Verizon FiOS, RCN and Comcast, all on the poles. The first two bring fiber to the home, and the third has a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) system, that brings coax to the home. Near as I can tell, the only one of those three bothering to compete for the Internet customer is Verizon, although its offering is hardly optimized. No “20 up, 20 down”, as I just heard somebody brag about in the ‘cast. (Was that Tom Tauke from Verizon? Think so.) We get 20 down, 5 up. Right now, if I want non-crippled service (one where I can run a server, for example, with my own IP addresses), I have to pay “business” rates, which are, in the phone company tradition, and without respect to whatever the actual costs are, a multiple of what I pay as a household — a consumer.
All three are going after TV customers primarily — trying to horn into each other’s cable TV business — and treating Internet as gravy on TV and phone service. That makes sense for providers of all three services, on a national basis, but not at the local level, where there is enormous room for innovation and real competition.
Message to Verizon and the rest: the Internet is not about “consumer choice”. We produce as well as consume. We need to be able to run our own servers. We need to be able to exercize supply as well as demand. We need symmetricality, not just neutrality.
It is essential not to frame the Net in FCC terms, or even in communications policy and law terms, which date back to the 1934 act, and beyond that to railroads. Or at least not those alone. The Net is a place, not just a shipping system for “content”, to which “the consumer” should have “access”.
Lot of back and forth about whether or not Comcast blocked BitTorrent. FWIW, I think that::: a) Comcast is still mostly right about the best efforts it makes, but is still weaseling a little bit; b) Comcast’s opponents are looking to paint its kettle black; and c) Talking about it soaks up too much time that would be better spent debating other subjects.
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