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Non-Neutral about Neutrality

October 14th, 2009 · 11 Comments

Speaking of (1) old stuff I’d meant to comment on, and (2) journalistic objectivity… Saul Hansell is, on the whole, a solid tech reporter, but golly, what do you think his view on net neutrality regulation might be?

F.C.C. Seeks to Protect Free Flow of Internet Data

In a move to make good on one of President Obama’s campaign promises, Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will propose Monday that the agency expand and formalize rules meant to keep Internet providers from discriminating against certain content flowing over their networks, according to several officials briefed on his plans.

Dude, just hand your keyboard to Ben Scott if you’re going to roll like that.

Tags: Tech and Tech Policy



11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DH // Oct 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Given all the useless bodies at the NYT, he may not have written that hed.

  • 2 Julian Sanchez // Oct 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Probably not; they usually don’t. But the lede is tendentious as well.

  • 3 DivisionByZero // Oct 15, 2009 at 6:54 am

    I am curious as to what you think is unobjective about that statement? Are you troubled because it implies the telcos are attempting to do what the rules will prevent?

  • 4 Julian Sanchez // Oct 15, 2009 at 8:43 am

    No; neutrality boosters are the only ones who talk about “discriminating against” content as though routing policy was Jim Crow. Even bracketing that association, neutrality rules would cover a whole bunch of policies that no reasonable person would think of in those terms.

    Even in the crude case of “preferencing their own content” it’s not necessarily apt. Suppose Apple does a deal with Comcast that says users get to download iTunes content at 10 Mbps even if they’re only paying for a 4 Mbps connection. (Maybe Apple hopes people will buy more HD TV shows and movies if they can get them quickly.) Unambiguously a violation of neutrality, and if you want to be cute and sophistic about it you can say they’re “discriminating against” the entire rest of the Internet, but no normal person would.

  • 5 Barry // Oct 15, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Julian, if you think that Comcast didn’t, um, ‘suggest’ such a deal to Apple, perhaps you should learn more about Comcast.

  • 6 Julian Sanchez // Oct 15, 2009 at 11:06 am

    But that’s not my point. My point is that it would be tendentious and weird to describe the kind of deal I sketch above as “discriminating against” content. Neutrality rules would obviously cover practices that are reasonably described as “discriminating against” content, but in most forms, it would also cover a whole boatload of stuff that isn’t. Now, if advocates want to use “content discrimination” as a shorthand for what they want to prohibit, that’s fine, they’re advocates, whatever. But I don’t expect reporters to pick it up any more than they’d use “death tax” in a lede.

  • 7 JackFrost // Oct 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    you clearly do not know much about routing and the internet, how bandwidth is created and managed. You seem to be coming at this from a purely language semantic point without understanding the technical fundamentals, leading to just vapid ramblings.

    So lets start on this baseline: at any one moment in time the conduit leading to your computer has finite bandwidth. Any preference of one type or another for certain packets automatically reduces the available bandwidth for everything else. So, yes, any boost to any one type of traffic makes everything else slower by definition.

  • 8 Julian Sanchez // Oct 15, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Since I don’t have time to waste arguing with douchebags, I’ll allow you to draw on your vast technical knowledge to come up with the obvious response.

  • 9 DH // Oct 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Moving on swiftly …

    I don’t find the lede troubling, but it could have been better put. Perhaps talking about traffic instead of content would have helped.

    I get the image of an ISP using deep packet inspection to block traffic using certain protocols (Bittorrent, for example) or blocking downloads of 700MB .avi files.

    In short: I don’t find the lede problematic.

  • 10 Kevin // Oct 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    So if a restaurant served both blacks and whites, but always served whites first, then not only would it not be discriminating against blacks, but the phrase “preferencing whites” wouldn’t even be apt?

    That just doesn’t seem obvious to me. Perhaps a different example that doesn’t have Comcast serving one customer 2.5 times as fast as another might seem less discriminatory.

  • 11 Barry // Oct 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Julian Sanchez

    “But that’s not my point. My point is that it would be tendentious and weird to describe the kind of deal I sketch above as “discriminating against” content.”

    When it comes to common carriers, perhaps things are different.