Thursday, June 26, 2008

FYI

By Andrew Orlowski → More by this author
Published Thursday 18th January 2007 21:19 GMT

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Robert Kahn, the most senior figure in the development of the internet, has delivered a strong warning against "Net Neutrality" legislation.

Speaking to an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California at an event held in his honour, Kahn warned against legislation that inhibited experimentation and innovation where it was needed.

Kahn rejected the term "Net Neutrality", calling it "a slogan". He cautioned against dogmatic views of network architecture, saying the need for experimentation at the edges shouldn't come at the expense of improvements elsewhere in the network.

(Kahn gently reminded his audience that the internet was really about interconnecting networks, a point often lost today).

"If the goal is to encourage people to build new capabilities, then the party that takes the lead is probably only going to have it on their net to start with and it's not going to be on anyone else's net. You want to incentivize people to innovate, and they're going to innovate on their own nets or a few other nets,"

"I am totally opposed to mandating that nothing interesting can happen inside the net," he said.

So called "Neutrality" legislation posed more of a danger than fragmentation, he concluded.

With the exception of Google's man in Washington DC, Vint Cerf (with whom Kahn developed TCP/IP), most of the senior engineers responsible for developing the packet switched internetworking of today oppose "Neutrality" legislation. Dave Farber, often called the grandfather of the internet, has been the most prominent critic.

Engineers fear rash legislation would inhibit the ability of systems engineers to improve latency and jitter issues needed to move data at speed.

"The internet is still pretty fragile today," said Kahn.

Life of Kahn
Kahn's history as protocol designer is a minor note, compared to his role as a politically astute manager and advocate at key moments in the development of the technologies responsible for the internet.

When he embarked on a career in networking, peers and seniors tried to talk him out of what was then considered a crazy choice.

"People thought I was throwing my career away. People thought time sharing wouldn't take off and if it did it would only be in a few palce, so wouldn't have commercial values," he said. "If I had listened to many people in the field I would not have gone into networking."

Working on colour TV, automatic game control loops, information theory, and even microwaves were all considered "cooler" than networking.

Later, he found DARPA was a reluctant sponsor. The US Department of Defense's research agency didn't have many computers when Kahn arrived in 1972 and couldn't see much of a use for them.

Technical history is often seen as an inevitable progression, punctuated by moments of individual genius, but the gentle backroom cajoling rarely gets mentioned.

It was certainly needed. Ironically, when Kahn arrived at DARPA it was to take a break from networks, and work on factory automation research. But the hype du jour, Artificial Intelligence, was sweeping the land and Congress cut the budget for his project. Kahn began to reassemble a team of packet switching veterans.

In the early 80s he managed the gradual, and awkward transition from private defense project to public network, fighting off the cumbersome, bureaucratically-devised OSI model of internetworking.

"I fought a ten year battle to protect the name 'Internet'", he says. "It cost a million dollars and eventually the name prevailed - but we could have lost the internet."

The CRNI (Corporation for National Research Initiatives) was really essential to winning that one, he said.

Kahn urged today's engineers to "Think Big... we are at the very early stage of a revolution that's going to take most of the 21st century". He rejects any labelling as the "father of the internet", saying credit for its growth

The Internet has more than one backbone.

The Internet functions as well and cheaply as it does because the backbone networks know nothing about what is inside packets. These networks have the crucial but ultimately simple task of delivering most packets to where they’re going at the best possible average transit time. As David Isenberg explains so well, this “stupid” network architecture means that the network is a suitable carrier for applications which weren’t even dreams at the time the Internet was first designed.
In the 1990's Bulliten Board Systems, operated by individuals who would run from an early PC. These BBS's as they came to be known passed packet mail from The Northeast to the South West and most points in between on an efficient basis daily for years.
Most of these people in the Scranton area had as a daily use the web site listed as www.jaguar.us.edu
I think that was it. In any case an address very much like that got us access to the University of Scranton's server from which one could travel endlessly. Of course there was no where much to go. The World Wide Web and state of the art software such as Eudora.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

According to the Senator

The Internet functions as well and cheaply as it does because the backbone networks know nothing about what is inside packets. These networks have the crucial but ultimately simple task of delivering most packets to where they’re going at the best possible average transit time. As David Isenberg explains so well, this “stupid” network architecture means that the network is a suitable carrier for applications which weren’t even dreams at the time the Internet was first designed.
Statement of Senator Clinton on Reintroduction of Net Neutrality Legislation
Washington, DC - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton issued the following statement on the reintroduction of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Senator Clinton is an original cosponsor of the legislation. "No other communications medium in recent history has had such a profound impact on the expression of speech, education, the dissemination of information, the proliferation of commerce and the exchange of political ideas as
the Internet. However, it was under the basic principles of neutrality and non discrimination from its inception that the Internet was able to flourish. Indeed, under these conditions a small business has been able to market to the same customers as the biggest corporation. The average citizen has been able to voice their grievances in the same forum as the editors of the largest newspaper. And students, entrepreneurs and consumers have been empowered by the wealth of information and opportunities afforded by an open Internet.
It is clear that we must continue to build on the innovations brought forth by the Internet. This means ensuring more affordable broadband access and ensuring that there continues to be open, unimpaired and unencumbered Internet access for both its users and content providers. As evidenced by the diverse coalition of the consumer, business and citizen groups that span the political and ideological spectrum, and who all strongly support the concept of network neutrality, it is critical that Congress take steps to preserve the principles enshrined therein. We
need to ensure that the Internet of the 21st century opens the same doors, creates the same opportunities and fosters the same innovation that has been created by its predecessor. It is for these reasons that I am an original
cosponsor of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act to guarantee that the open and nondiscriminatory architecture of the Internet remains in tact. As the 110th Congress begins, I join my colleagues in reintroducing this important legislation and look forward to an open and substantive debate on this issue."

Monday, February 5, 2007

AT&T- Bell South- Promises; What word is out of place?

AT&T-Bell South merger and their promises on Net Neutrality.
Consumers promised some perks with AT&T merger.

AT&T's offerings to consumers as a result of its merger last month with BellSouth include $10 broadband access and free modems.To win federal approval of its colossal merger with BellSouth last month, AT&T promised certain perks to consumers -- some discounts, some enhanced services.They don't take effect immediately, however, so calling the customer service center may not yield any details just yet.AT&T has released some dates for when these offers will be available in states previously served by BellSouth, including Florida. The Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates telephone companies, said it would analyze the promises when the final order approving the merger is released by the Federal Communications Commission.Here's what AT&T has promised:

BROADBAND FOR EVERYONE: AT&T pledges BellSouth customers access to broadband high-speed Internet by the end of the year. However, not everyone will have the fastest access speeds available with DSL wire-line technology. About 89 percent of BellSouth's Florida households are now DSL capable, AT&T said. Rural subscribers may have to use satellite and other wireless broadband systems to access the Internet -- technology that could be slower and more costly.

AT&T said it would commit to completing its system to include services to rural and low-income households.
NAKED HIGH SPEED: By the end of the year, customers with DSL will be able to drop their local phone service for stand-alone DSL. Since many consumers use DSL to make phone calls, they find a traditional land line redundant. The DSL-only deal will cost $19.95 a month and last for 30 months.

$10 HIGH-SPEED SERVICE: For new AT&T and BellSouth broadband subscribers, the company will offer high-speed Internet access for $10 a month in certain areas. The company doesn't have a hard date for the launch, but it said the offer would kick in before June and will be good for 30 months. The $10 a month deal beats the company's current plan of $15 a month as well as the DSL plans offered by BellSouth. The catch: The customer cannot have had DSL with either company before.

FREE MODEMS: Starting July 1, AT&T/BellSouth customers using dial-up service can get a free modem for high-speed broadband if they agree to a 12-month subscription. This will be available only for people living in areas where dial-up services have already been available. This may not be quite the break it seems: AT&T already reimburses the cost for a modem through a mail-in rebate. The free offer ends June 30, 2008.

NET NEUTRALITY: The company has agreed to adhere to ''net neutrality'' for the next 30 months. This means AT&T won't allow Internet content providers like Google to buy special access to its networks. Consumer advocates argue the sale of special access would constitute preferential treatment of big Web companies that could afford it, in effect stifling the public nature of the Internet by pricing out smaller ventures. The merger agreement puts any move like that on hold for the time being.
COMPETITION: To make competition possible, the company also agreed to sell off some of the wireless broadband licenses owned by BellSouth. That could mean savings down the road in the form of broadband and wireless services when other companies decide to enter or expand their position in the telecommunication field.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Breaking Down The Debate

WASHINGTON -- In the inflamed rhetoric of network neutrality, the debates are often cast as broadband providers versus content providers, big companies versus even larger companies and regulation of the Internet versus non-regulation.
For U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, these arguments oversimplify the issue.
Speaking at the Third Annual State of the Internet Conference Wednesday, the Virginia Democrat told a packed Capitol Hill hotel meeting room, "We can't advance content innovation at the expense of network innovation. We need both kinds of innovation."
The conference, sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus, brought together policy makers, think-tank mavens, academics and Capitol Hill staffers for a one-day conference on technology issues facing the new 110th Congress.
The top issue: network neutrality. "It is a large, unresolved debate," said Boucher, who supported a defeated network neutrality amendment to a telecom reform bill approved by the House of Representatives last year. "The Internet must remain open and accessible to all, but we don't want to hobble innovation within the network."
One concern is whether networking providers such as Verizon and AT&T would charge content and application providers extra fees based on their bandwidth usage. Critics say the idea amounts to price discrimination. Attendees here said there's more to consider in the debate.
While the Republican-controlled House passed a telecom reform bill sans network neutrality in 2006, the Senate failed to move on the legislation.
"Network neutrality kept it from going to the Senate floor," Boucher said. "Until we resolve this, compromise between the content providers and broadband providers [will be difficult]."
Breaking Down The Arguments
In a breakout session focused solely on network neutrality, panel moderator Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation called last year's debate over the issue "overly polarized," with arguments that did not "shed as much light as heat."
Turning to a panel that included Internet pioneers David Reed of M.I.T. and Dave Farber of Carnegie Mellon, along with Columbia University Law School's Tim Wu and Christopher Yoo of Vanderbilt University, Atkinson asked if the Internet is neutral today.
"The Internet is incredibly competitive. There is never neutrality in a competitive environment," said Reed, whose research includes the Internet design principle known as the "end-to-end argument," which discusses the structure and economics of networks.
"Threats to neutrality are all over the architecture, usually at the bottlenecks." Reed said, noting that broadband carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are "only providing a driveway to the Internet." And don't forget that some forms of discrimination already exist on the Internet, such as with spam-blocking techniques.
Yoo took the argument further. "Most ISPs block Port 25 [a haven for spam] and most ISPs are blocking part of ESPN," he said. "[ESPN] is pushing through video, which takes a lot of bandwidth. We have these different problems and people are already blocking." As different users require different things from the network, an "optimal level of standardization" is needed. "Let people try it and if it fails, change the rules," he said.
Academic discussions aside, Atkinson finally asked the question on everybody's mind: would be better to maintain the status quo or for Congress to pass the network neutrality legislation introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).
The bill, known as the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, would prohibit broadband carriers from discriminatory practices such as pricing in handling traffic from Internet content, application and service providers. The legislation would also require carriers to offer consumers individual broadband service that is not bundled with television or telephone service.
Yoo said there is always risk with change, particularly with a one-size-fits-all bill. Reed also stressed unanticipated consequences. But it was Farber, a networking expert and former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who helped underscore the challenges that follow federal legislation governing the Internet.
"If you pass a law telling the FCC to enforce its four network neutrality principles, my experience is that they may or may not do it anyway," he said. "When you let them get their hands all over it [the Internet], Congress tends to go ape."

Who will control the information flow?

If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level. That's all. Its up to the ISPs to make sure they interoperate so that that happens.
Net Neutrality is NOT asking for the internet for free.
Net Neutrality is NOT saying that one shouldn't pay more money for high quality of service. We always have, and we always will.
There have been suggestions that we don't need legislation because we haven't had it. These are nonsense, because in fact we have had net neutrality in the past -- it is only recently that real explicit threats have occurred.
Control of information is hugely powerful. In the US, the threat is that companies control what I can access for commercial reasons. (In China, control is by the government for political reasons.) There is a very strong short-term incentive for a company to grab control of TV distribution over the Internet even though it is against the long-term interests of the industry.
Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can't photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.
Let's see whether the United States is capable as acting according to its important values, or whether it is, as so many people are saying, run by the misguided short-term interested of large corporations.
I hope that Congress can protect net neutrality, so I can continue to innovate in the internet space. I want to see the explosion of innovations happening out there on the Web, so diverse and so exciting, continue unabated.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Gee, Even In Canada

Jacks Net Neutrality Blog:

Who would have ever thought that the kindly, provincial Canadians would hop on this money train? From our neighbors in the great white North:
TORONTO - The battle in the United States by major telecom companies to control Web content has arrived in Canada with little fanfare - and it's a fight that could forever change the Internet as we know it.
It's being waged over something called Net neutrality, dubbed the First Amendment of the Internet in the United States. Net neutrality aims to ensure the public can view the smallest blogs just as easily as the largest corporate websites.
"Right now, the Internet is almost a perfect, universal democracy," says Pippa Lawson, the executive director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Law Clinic. "The smallest bloggers can be accessed as easily and as quickly as the websites of major corporations."
That could change drastically if telecommunications companies including Bell and Telus in Canada have their way. Following the lead of their American counterparts like Verizon and AT&T, Canadian telecom companies are pushing to have more control over the web - and to make a lot more money doing so.
Industry Minister Maxime Bernier is currently poring over a report by the federally appointed Telecommunications Policy Review Panel that recommends changes to the Telecommunications Act, including replacing a clause on "unjust discrimination" that does little to either uphold the principles of Net neutrality or prevent it from being violated.
"Our position on network diversity/neutrality is that it should be determined by market forces, not regulation," Jacqueline Michelis, a spokeswoman for Bell Canada, said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.
In other words, says Lawson, the fight is on.
"There's a big push in Canada right now to allow those sort of discriminatory practices," she says.
"The companies that own the pipes of the Internet - the telecom companies - haven't liked sitting back and watching big content providers like Google and Yahoo make-billions of dollars. They want a piece of the pie, and they want to be able to favour their own content or the content of the corporations that would pay them big money."
Telecom companies want to determine which websites load fast or slow and which don't load at all - and, especially, to promote their own content, says Ben Scott of the American media watchdog Free Press and SavetheInternet.com.
"If I'm Telus and I've just created my own Telus iTunes and I decide I want my Telus iTunes to work better than Apple's, well, too bad for Apple," says Scott in a telephone interview from Washington, DC.
"Essentially they set themselves up as gatekeepers and they say: 'Well, we own the wires and instead of treating all bits alike in a non-discriminatory fashion, we're going to set up special deals and if you have the money, you can pay us to make your websites go much faster. And you can pay us to set up an exclusive deal where your website goes very fast and your competitor's doesn't.'"
That's something big content providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are dead set against, arguing it will destroy the free and open nature of the Internet and also create a tiered, dollar-driven Net that favours the wealthiest corporations over everyone else.
"Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do on-line," Google vice-president Vint Cerf said last year.
In the United States, the telecom companies were successful last summer in gutting the Net neutrality law that specified no provider of physical infrastructure - from roads to railways to electrical or telephone companies - could have any say over the content and services flowing over their networks.
"So your electrical company cannot say that Sony CD players operate better than Panasonic CD players when you plug them into the wall - they just deliver an electrical charge and it still works exactly the same way," says Scott.
"The Internet has always worked that way. In the U.S., it always worked that way because we had a law that said it had to work that way, and they took away that law."
Congress is currently reviewing their decision to scrap the law, and for now, says Scott, the big U.S. telecom companies are on their best behaviour as they await a final green light.
Some might wonder why consumers unhappy with the behaviour of their ISPs couldn't simply switch companies. But as Scott points out, it's a lot more difficult to switch over to Rogers, say, from Bell Sympatico than it is to switch search engines - particularly in regions where telecom companies have monopolies. That's a situation that exists in many parts of North America.
"If Google were to attempt to give preferential treatment to corporate clients, you could just switch to a different search engine in two seconds," he says. "Google and Yahoo wouldn't dare start doing that, because they know you'd drop them like a hot rock. It's a real hassle and a lot tougher to switch service providers than it is to switch search engines."
For Scott, the end of Net neutrality could very well sound the death knell for the heady days of the Internet as a wide-open information frontier.
"The beauty of the Internet is that you have a completely unfettered communications and commerce system," he says. "There are no barriers to entry and nobody to ask permission - you just put up a website and if you've got a good idea, people will come and read your stuff and buy your stuff and you will be successful. That is seriously in jeopardy if these companies succeed."
Save the Internet

Jack jbm125@icontech.com