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August 5, 2010 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Google and Verizon in Talks on Web Priority (nyt)

Was the FCC just offering us a Trojan Horse all along?
posted by Xurando (124 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I don't want to announce things we haven't announced yet," he said. "We have been talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on what the definition of Net neutrality is." — Eric Schmidt

Uh oh.
posted by public at 3:33 AM on August 5, 2010


There's still hope.

It (the FCC) has proposed a solution that would reclassify broadband Internet service under the Communications Act from its current designation as an “information service,” a lightly regulated designation, to a “telecommunications service,” a category that, like telephone service, is subject to stricter regulation.

This would be outside the purvey of the April ruling, from the way the NYT frames it. The EFF is worried about the whole slippery slope here. I would think if the FCC came in with "decency rules and copyright filtering" that the regulations would be subject to court rulings on those matters anyway. I don't think the FCC can just issue blanket proclamations redefining legal concepts such as obscenity.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:41 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:43 AM on August 5, 2010


Hmm, yeah. The thing is, for people who already have a cable connection, you actually have two networks going into your home. One for video, one for data. And one for your phone, probably from another provider. (or you have DSL in which case you have phone and internet from one, video from another, or whatever)

If you think about it, why not create a nation wide network that lets you select video content on your cable box from anywhere, rather then just the cable companies "On Demand" servers?

And if you think about it even more, why not just use the internet to distribute video directly to the cable companies' servers, or even just make it IP all the way.

That's basically the crux of the argument against net neutrality: Why shouldn't we be able to create secondary networks with premium content -- content that might even have a billing mechanism built in directly?

---

But the obvious problem here is that cable companies will be making money on both ends of the transaction, not just the user's monthly bill. And they'll make more money on premium content. They'll have little motivation to invest in higher raw speeds. So basically broadband in the US will stagnate even more.

The thing is, Google is actually a major player in the content industry now, with ownership of Youtube. I think I made a comment about this in another thread and got criticized for daring to question Google's commitment to network neutrality. But since Google is such a power player they have leverage in negotiations that other content providers don't. So Google will actually be able to negotiate better deals for access to user's pipes then their competitors. They actually have every reason to negotiate like this. They get a sweet deal for dropping their fight, and their competitors get soaked.

---

The thing that really pisses me off about this is the fact that Google, a for profit company gets to "negotiate" the "definition" of "Net Neutrality" in private, on behalf of everyone else. That's pretty fucked up, IMO. Who elected them? Obviously no one. In a way, everyone who got passionate about Net Neutrality got taken for a ride by Google. They benefited from the popular pushback, but when they were able to get a sweet deal for themselves, the issue was dropped.
posted by delmoi at 3:49 AM on August 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


The point of a network neutrality rule is to prevent big companies from dividing the Internet between them,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and a founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. “The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google.”

This is a nice bit of hyperbole. Verizon does not own or control the whole internet, just the last mile and just the customers they serve.

Here in Sweden, I can choose from 3 cable ISPs, 4 DSL ISPs, and 3 broadband wireless ISPs all offering very good service. If one does a deal with Google, I will move to another. If they all do a deal with Google, then we a problem (but one that can be solved through anti-competition remedies.) I support the idea that ISPs can compete with each other on terms other than bandwidth and price. More choice for consumers.

If you are in a country with a third-world communications infrastructure and Verizon is your only choice, this is the problem and it is not solved by "net neutrality." Indeed, net neutrality is likely to keep it so.
posted by three blind mice at 3:50 AM on August 5, 2010


The thing that really pisses me off about this is the fact that Google, a for profit company gets to "negotiate" the "definition" of "Net Neutrality" in private, on behalf of everyone else. That's pretty fucked up, IMO. Who elected them? Obviously no one. In a way, everyone who got passionate about Net Neutrality got taken for a ride by Google. They benefited from the popular pushback, but when they were able to get a sweet deal for themselves, the issue was dropped.

Isn't capitalism great. Hopefully people will get their heads out of their asses and realize what is going on. The days of the wild wild west are coming to a close. Google is turning out to be kind of an uncle tom. Time will tell I guess.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:57 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi, there's no need for specific companies to get preferential access to your network connection to provide the sort of media distribution you describe. It would probably be pretty useful for consumers if their ISPs had some fancy QoS systems in their backbone to provide better priority for VoIP and Video-on-Demand and so on but they don't need to filter specific providers at all.

Like you describe, net neutrality is entirely about protecting consumers from the big players trying to screw us all over. It's about Google and Verizon getting together to form a little content monopoly and reduce our choice as consumers to drive traffic through them.
posted by public at 3:57 AM on August 5, 2010


Here in Sweden, I can choose from 3 cable ISPs, 4 DSL ISPs, and 3 broadband wireless ISPs all offering very good service. If one does a deal with Google, I will move to another.

Uh, right. This has nothing to do with anyone who doesn't live in the United States. I mean, obviously the way the internet is regulated is going to be vastly different between countries like Iceland, South Korea, The U.S or Australia, China and, North Korea.
posted by delmoi at 3:58 AM on August 5, 2010


Google is turning out to be kind of an uncle tom.

One should always be suspicious of entities that go to great lengths to point out just how not evil they are. Bonus points if they point out all the "good" they do.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:59 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


delmoi, there's no need for specific companies to get preferential access to your network connection to provide the sort of media distribution you describe. It would probably be pretty useful for consumers if their ISPs had some fancy QoS systems in their backbone to provide better priority for VoIP and Video-on-Demand and so on but they don't need to filter specific providers at all.

I'm talking about specific speeds. So for example, a user might pay for 7mbps, but traffic from 'partner' sites would actually be downloaded at the maximum signal speed, or whatever they pay for, which could be hundreds of megabits. That way you'd be able to stream high definition video easily.
posted by delmoi at 4:02 AM on August 5, 2010


Yeah, I work for an ISP. I'm 100 percent in favor if net neutrality if you're talking about treating all similar sites equally, but realistically, some types of services, if they are to work at all (voip) need to get higher priority than others.
posted by empath at 4:03 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


If it ain't broke don't fix it. Too bad championing "net neutrality" is such a lost cause. It was dead about as soon as they gave it a name. In the beginning, things were good, but there's no going back. Same old story.
posted by nervousfritz at 4:03 AM on August 5, 2010


Americans are going to get screwed again. Of course. You think we'd be used to it by now.

It's just like how we have to endure commercials in the middle of our already censored movies while those smug socialists across the Atlantic enjoy their full-frontal nudity uninterrupted. It's like throwing salted lemon juice on a wound.
posted by milarepa at 4:11 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I work for an ISP. I'm 100 percent in favor if net neutrality if you're talking about treating all similar sites equally, but realistically, some types of services, if they are to work at all (voip) need to get higher priority than others.
Voip requires hardly any bandwidth at all, and anyway, how exactly will your ISP know if the packet is carrying voice or not? The only way you could 'prioritize' voip is by "blessing" certain applications, or whatever. Meanwhile things like, say, voice chat in video games, or audio/video chat in instant message programs would be prioritized.

Anyway, web cam chatting has always worked fine for me, so I'm not really sure why you're saying audio alone would even be a problem.
If it ain't broke don't fix it. Too bad championing "net neutrality" is such a lost cause. It was dead about as soon as they gave it a name. In the beginning, things were good, but there's no going back. Same old story.
What, are you talking about? Are you under the impression that net neutrality would have been kept in place if no one said anything? Because, uh, it was already going to go away. It's only because of the uproar that it stayed, and the FCC still supports it, but recently a judge has ruled that the FCC doesn't have the authority to require it. Up until now, Net Neutrality has existed due to FCC regulations.

But honestly, I have no idea why you think advocating for net neutrality somehow doomed it. If that's what your saying. Because that makes no sense at all. Do you think Verizon, at al had never thought of tiered access until people started demanding it?
posted by delmoi at 4:21 AM on August 5, 2010


What, the utter destruction of professional journalism didn't clue you in? Google is pretty damn evil. They ripped away the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of reporters, editors and designers, and the services they provided to the public, and replaced them with amateurs without the resources or desire to really get their reporting right.

It's not access to better content that's killing the newspapers and magazines. It's the peanuts and spare change that Google forces them to take for their ads.

This allowed Google to become a multi-billion dollar company: taking food out of the mouths of working men and women, and leaving the public vastly under-served.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:24 AM on August 5, 2010


What, the utter destruction of professional journalism didn't clue you in? Google is pretty damn evil. They ripped away the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of reporters, editors and designers, and the services they provided to the public, and replaced them with amateurs without the resources or desire to really get their reporting right.
Are you out of your mind? Are you blaming Google for the entire internet? Or just the fact they made it searchable?

Seriously, WTF are you talking about? Did Google do anything other search engines didn't?

Not to get into a derail but the whole "making information available people is bad because it hurts people who make money as information middlemen" is pretty stupid.
posted by delmoi at 4:28 AM on August 5, 2010 [31 favorites]


I'm talking about specific speeds. So for example, a user might pay for 7mbps, but traffic from 'partner' sites would actually be downloaded at the maximum signal speed, or whatever they pay for, which could be hundreds of megabits. That way you'd be able to stream high definition video easily.

There's no difference for the ISP in terms of moving the bytes around, it costs them just as much in infrastructure. If I spend all day watching 1080p video on loop over the internet they have to put up with all that bandwidth. The only difference is that I have to pay for the content, the delivery of the content, and the pipe that delivers it rather than just the pipe and the content.

You can phrase it as your ISP giving you super-fast speeds to some places if you want but it's nonsense and exactly the PR trick the ISPs and content providers are trying to pull. It's actually just slowing down all the other traffic.
posted by public at 4:34 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh oh.

So much for "Do no evil."

The thing that really pisses me off about this is the fact that Google, a for profit company gets to "negotiate" the "definition" of "Net Neutrality" in private, on behalf of everyone else.

Interestingly, some authors argued that Google essentially did the same on everyone's behalf when they set up their books service, redistributing works with or without other's consent: "Together we'll accomplish far more than any of us could have individually, to the enduring benefit of authors, publishers, researchers and readers alike."

Perhaps the US government didn't make defending Net Neutrality enough of a priority to back the notion with concrete laws, so while it hemmed and hawed, Google now fills in an apparent vacuum of power by negotiating its own agreements. They are big enough that it seems their contracts will more or less define the arrangement for everyone else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:42 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Voip requires hardly any bandwidth at all, and anyway, how exactly will your ISP know if the packet is carrying voice or not?

The main issue with VoIP is latency and network jitter rather than bandwidth. It's really not that hard to detect the protocol and content of packets these days. We have the technology. At least assuming you stick to certain standard protocols like SIP. If you decide to go off-piste and cram random bits of audio into packets on your own for some reason, well, that's your own fault. Video-on-demand is RTMP or HTTP which is trivial to detect usually.

Of course if you want to encrypt any of this you are pretty much boned.
posted by public at 4:42 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google now fills in an apparent vacuum of power by negotiating its own agreements.

It's not an accidental vacuum. It's exactly the role the US corporatist government expects the major players to take.
posted by public at 4:44 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What, the utter destruction of professional journalism didn't clue you in? Google is pretty damn evil.

Are you under the impression that "professional journalism" was A-OK in before 1998?
posted by DU at 4:48 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Voip requires hardly any bandwidth at all, and anyway, how exactly will your ISP know if the packet is carrying voice or not?

As public says, the issue with VOIP is latency, hence the use of UDP, since dropped packets in a voice connection tends to not be a problem.
posted by opsin at 4:51 AM on August 5, 2010


There's no difference for the ISP in terms of moving the bytes around, it costs them just as much in infrastructure. If I spend all day watching 1080p video on loop over the internet they have to put up with all that bandwidth. The only difference is that I have to pay for the content, the delivery of the content, and the pipe that delivers it rather than just the pipe and the content.

You can phrase it as your ISP giving you super-fast speeds to some places if you want but it's nonsense and exactly the PR trick the ISPs and content providers are trying to pull. It's actually just slowing down all the other traffic.
Uh, I'm not sure exactly how you're disagreeing with me here. You can say that they are speeding up partner sites, or you can say they are slowing down everything except partner sites. The two statements are equivalent.
We have the technology. At least assuming you stick to certain standard protocols like SIP. If you decide to go off-piste and cram random bits of audio into packets on your own for some reason, well, that's your own fault.

Of course if you want to encrypt any of this you are pretty much boned.
Yeah I was going to say, if you use Secure Sockets Layer, then you can't tell what protocol is being used. I don't know why anyone would want to leave their voice phone calls unencrypted.
posted by delmoi at 5:02 AM on August 5, 2010


There's a difference between xbl chat and running an office of 40 people with a voip pbx. Profits are all with business accounts, not residential and isp's are going to take care of those customers traffic first.

Btw, YouTube and google already benefits from preferential treatment because lots of ISPs have peering arrangements with them that they don't have with other video sites.
posted by empath at 5:10 AM on August 5, 2010


delmoi: Uh, right. This has nothing to do with anyone who doesn't live in the United States. I mean, obviously the way the internet is regulated is going to be vastly different between countries like Iceland, South Korea, The U.S or Australia, China and, North Korea.

The only thing I would disagree with is "the way internet is regulated". What we are talking about is "they way your access to the internet is regulated" - again I maintain that competition and choice is the solution. Where you have this, net neutrality is a non-issue.

As regards VoIP (or IPTV) the issue is Quality of Service (QoS). Pretty much every edge router has the capability to provide different QoS using IETF standards such as Differentiated Services (RFC 2474) and congestion avoidance techniques such as Weighted Random Early Deletion (WRED). These are designed to have no influence on the core internet and are generally only available to private networks.

Private companies can "buy" assured QoS, why not individuals in the own homes?
posted by three blind mice at 5:23 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh, I'm not sure exactly how you're disagreeing with me here.

You can still imagine that a non-neutral internet would have benefits. I can't think of any because I think all of the logic supporting it is wrong.

The two statements are equivalent.

Not in the context of how the internet actually works at a macro level. Speeding up partner sites would require some sort of dedicated peering arrangement, which is already entirely possible and done by lots of people. This is isn't about those sorts of infrastructure investments that happen anyway. It's simply about charging providers for access to users which necessitates careful rate limiting of non-partner routes.

Yeah I was going to say, if you use Secure Sockets Layer, then you can't tell what protocol is being used. I don't know why anyone would want to leave their voice phone calls unencrypted.

There are out-of-band QoS protocols to deal with this sort of thing. IPv6 has a whole bunch of extra stuff related to it so I think provider independent QoS is still pretty feasible.
posted by public at 5:25 AM on August 5, 2010


My take on this is that Google probably knew they were going to lose this war all along. I mean, let's be honest--corporate interests always win. If I was running the goog, I would have just been anchoring to get the best deal. Can't really blame them for that.
posted by fusinski at 5:31 AM on August 5, 2010


public: "The main issue with VoIP is latency and network jitter rather than bandwidth. It's really not that hard to detect the protocol and content of packets these days. We have the technology. At least assuming you stick to certain standard protocols like SIP. If you decide to go off-piste and cram random bits of audio into packets on your own for some reason, well, that's your own fault. Video-on-demand is RTMP or HTTP which is trivial to detect usually.

Of course if you want to encrypt any of this you are pretty much boned.
"

Actually, it's even easier than that, if we can all start using the TOS field correctly. The issue with that is, of course, that your ISP has to trust that you're using the fields correctly to talk about perishability and throughput requirements. This would even work if the packets are encrypted (the IP headers cannot be encrypted if you want your packets to actually get somewhere, after all!).
posted by Xoder at 5:34 AM on August 5, 2010


Why don't we just kick all video off the internet? It's the gorilla that wants to beat everyone up. Then we can go back to what the internet was made for: exchanging recipes in ALL CAPS.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:35 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't really blame them for that.

Yes we can. In fact, we can blame them for being greedy and cowardly, instead of just being greedy.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:09 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's pretty fucked up, IMO. Who elected them?

You really trust the American people to decide this issue? Seriously? You are batshitinsane if you think 99% of the country
  1. understands the stakes
  2. gives a shit
…about any of this. Be thankful, be very fucking thankful it's a couple of Stanford eggheads that are up to bat for the rest of us, and not some asshole MBAs / asshole lawyers / asshole entitled rich kids.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:19 AM on August 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Actually, it's even easier than that, if we can all start using the TOS field correctly. The issue with that is, of course, that your ISP has to trust that you're using the fields correctly to talk about perishability and throughput requirements. This would even work if the packets are encrypted (the IP headers cannot be encrypted if you want your packets to actually get somewhere, after all!).

Generally TOS and DSCP is intended for private networks where you can control the amount of traffic going into your various channels and plan for bandwidth allocation needs, etc. That's why ISP's always strip those bits out from customers.

On encrypted traffic -- most encrypted traffic is VPN traffic and will encapsulate a lot of other traffic that we wouldn't be able to differentiate between.

I can't speak for Verizon since I work for a regional CLEC that has a rather contentious relationship with them, but I can tell you that we have absolutely 0 interest in policing traffic or selling preferential access to websites or anything like that. We just want to make the internet work as best we can for the customers we have given the amount of bandwidth we have available, and we're generally thinking in terms of prioritizing categories of traffic, not consumers or producers of content.

Some customers REALLY want to make sure they have low latency for their XBOX's and audio chat. Some of them have a voip service they need to know will have 99.9% uptime. Some of them stream a lot of video, and so on.

All of those things can be done, but it would be a custom configuration for each customer and all along the network path to make that happen, and we'd probably have to charge some kind of premium to set things up. But in the long run, it would make for a better internet.

I don't think anyone wants to see a situation where we're going to charge more for blogs than for CNN or something ridiculous like that. It's about making sure that real-time traffic stays real time for the most part.
posted by empath at 6:24 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet another reason to use duckduckgo.com
posted by oddman at 6:24 AM on August 5, 2010


From CNET: As part of the deal, Verizon would agree not to selectively throttle Internet traffic through its pipes. That would not, however, apply to data traveling over its wireless network for mobile phones, the report says.
posted by mkb at 6:26 AM on August 5, 2010


I don't know why anyone would want to leave their voice phone calls unencrypted.

Almost no one uses encrypted voip. Even embassies.
posted by empath at 6:26 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Almost no one uses encrypted voip. Even embassies.

Well there's Skype…
posted by public at 6:37 AM on August 5, 2010


Yeah, but I"m talking about like actual cisco/polycom/aastra phones.
posted by empath at 6:42 AM on August 5, 2010


From CNET: As part of the deal, Verizon would agree not to selectively throttle Internet traffic through its pipes. That would not, however, apply to data traveling over its wireless network for mobile phones, the report says.

This is worth repeating. As cynical as I ordinarily am about corporate dealings, I'm not willing to judge the deal until it actually happens. If (incorrectly, in my view) the courts are going to decide that net neutrality is outside the regulatory purview of the executive branch and if any legislative debate about this subject will boil down to series of tubes and all of the worst kinds of lobbying, then Google will probably make a better deal for users than the US government would. If they can talk Verizon down at all, it's probably worth it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:44 AM on August 5, 2010


Yeah I'll fourth or fifth the suggestion here that this is kinda the definition of "evil," Google.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:47 AM on August 5, 2010


So they got Verizon to agree to only prioritize wireless traffic and that's evil? You all have fucked up priorities in life.
posted by empath at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'll fourth or fifth the suggestion here that this is kinda the definition of "evil," Google.

Sixth. It feels like a couple of of years ago Schmidt et al got body snatched and since then have been doing the bidding of evil aliens from the hollow carcasses of their bodies on earth.
posted by alms at 7:18 AM on August 5, 2010


So they got Verizon to agree to only prioritize wireless traffic and that's evil? You all have fucked up priorities in life.

Have you not been paying attention to the future growth of mobile?

This isn't about right now. It's about years from now.
posted by Revvy at 7:35 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


So they got Verizon to agree to only prioritize wireless traffic and that's evil? You all have fucked up priorities in life.

1) It's entirely possible to hate on more than one thing at once. I think MetaFilter alone is fairly good evidence of how far away we are from peak outrage as a culture.

2) Yeah it's still pretty evil. People will be consuming more content through mobile networks than through their desktops in a few years. It being wireless only is designed to make it look like a convenient stop-gap fix for the lack of bandwidth but will only turn into an enormous distribution monopoly when once an 4G LTE, WiMax or OFDM iPhone is released.
posted by public at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by finite at 7:37 AM on August 5, 2010


This is all Microsoft's fault. It's a sort of progress. You see, five or so years ago when everybody was still using XP they were hard pressed to be able to fully utilize their high speed pipes over internet level latency. This is because their TCP stacks sucked, and they were tuned for low-latency LANs and not for high-speed high-latency internet links. This is know as the Bandwidth Delay Product problem.

If you have fat pipes and high delay you need large transmit and receive buffers for TCP to work well because you have to keep your transmitted data in the buffer until the response from the remote end makes it back to you, only then can you flush that bit of data out of memory. This small memory limit, and small TCP window size (the number of outstanding packets you have) meant that Windows machines never were able to suck up the full bandwidth that you think they could. Even on a direct 1Gb/s dedicated circuit across the US, there was no way in hell two machines would ever reach 1Gb/s actual speeds.

Most machines were like this, it only became apparent in big research networks when you wanted to ship large amounts of data about. You think content providers worry about bandwidth to consumers? Talk to a physicist. This problem started a bit of research, most notably 'The Web100 Project'. They began working on the Linux kernel and creating patches for TCP auto-tuning, got good results, and it's been in the kernel now for quite a while. Back then you had to use sysctl to tweak a few values and patch your kernel to get the good speeds, now you don't.

This worked out so well that they started talking to Microsoft and telling them how bad their TCP stack sucked balls, and worked with them a bit to get it fixed. Of course Microsoft couldn't use the GPL code they had created (don't look at ours), and we can't check theirs, but they made it a lot better. Pretty much the same thing happened on the Mac OS X side of the equation.

So since Windows Vista/7 and the latter Mac OS X and the 6.18ish (I think) Linux kernel, all of the major OSs actually work, and they work pretty well at fully utilizing whatever pipe they are connected to for long running transfers where TCP has a chance to ramp up. The down side is, that they have the ability to fully utilize whatever pipe they are connected to. This means that if you have your broadband 10Mb/s connection, given a chance, your machine will actually use it now whereas a few years ago you would be limping along at 2Mb/s or so because your OS sucked.

The Web 100 project is pretty much officially over now, theres still some stuff going on in the standards body regarding instrumentation, but the BDP issues are history.

This I have gleaned from a few years dealing with research networking and sending large volumes of data around the globe. (I hit 500Mb/s for SoCal to Australia on a good night over a 1Gb/s shared link). And from the latest Internet2 Joint Techs conference where oddly enough one of the speakers was a big Web 100 guy back in the day, and recently got a new job that he couldn't talk about much. The take-away point was that the network now needs something and that something looks like traffic shaping and QoS. I'll give you a hint where his new job was, it starts with a 'G'.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:39 AM on August 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure how it'll be a monopoly, didn't google just guarantee the UHF block was going to be open access?

Btw, is that UHF block being used by anyone yet?
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2010


Like seriously, I suggest that you guys who think traffic shaping and QOS is evil, please, please try to maintain the infrastructure of a large network that's running near capacity without it. We're building out as fast as we can and we still hit capacity on links all over our network every day. When that happens, we have two options -- degrade service for everyone equally, or degrade service for less time sensitive traffic (like HTML) while expediting real time traffic.

I really, really don't think most of the people who want strict net neutrality know the technical issues involved well enough to have an informed opinion about it.

We'd all like to have so much bandwidth that we don't need to worry about it, but the reality is that demand is far outstripping our ability to build infrastructure to support it. Peer-to-peer is one example. Bittorrent traffic is about the most bandwidth intensive traffic imaginable, and while no ISP's want to stop it, what most ISPs would like to do is set it at bulk priority, after real-time traffic, web traffic and email. Otherwise bittorrent can very easily use up all available bandwidth all the time, especially during the day.

This wouldn't even really be customer unfriendly. At night, most ISP's have tons of spare bandwidth and bittorrent traffic would barely be impacted at all, and during the day, all other kinds of traffic would benefit from the lower latency, etc. It's got nothing to do with being against piracy, the ISP's could care less about that. It's just about managing a limited resource in the most fair way possible.
posted by empath at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't speak for Verizon since I work for a regional CLEC that has a rather contentious relationship with them, but I can tell you that we have absolutely 0 interest in policing traffic or selling preferential access to websites or anything like that.

Maybe you personally, an individual employee of a regional ISP, don't - but SBC Telecommunications CEO Edward Whitacre thinks Yahoo and Google should be paying him for using his 'pipes'.

It would be one thing if there was real competition in the US residential broadband market - if I could choose between a bunch of ISPs, and I had accurate information about which websites they slowed down and which they sped up, I could choose an unrestricted service. But in the US broadband market, where a lot of people have very limited choices for reliable service? I can certainly see a case for regulatory intervention.

As someone who regularly uses a VPN to connect to computers at work, I'm not looking forward to my ISP slowing down my traffic "in order to serve customers better".
posted by Mike1024 at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how it'll be a monopoly, didn't google just guarantee the UHF block was going to be open access?

Google didn't win any UHF licenses. There are some open access provisions but that doesn't really matter, this stuff isn't going to be running on some insane anarchist mesh network.
posted by public at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2010


delmoi: Not to get into a derail but the whole "making information available people is bad because it hurts people who make money as information middlemen" is pretty stupid.

I'm totally taking your bait on this derail (I apologize to everyone else), but I don't think Slap*Happy was talking about 'information middlemen'. (S)he was probably referring to people who trafficked in knowledge professionally- you know, those people whose job it was to not just pass along information, but to gather, validate and report knowledge.

You're right that this isn't Google's fault, per se, but have you ever thought about the relatively quality of Associated Content and the Associated Press? Or Examiner.com and pretty much every mid-size city paper pre-web?

In your definition, everyone here is an 'information middleman', but it's ludicrous to say that each of those examples provides similar quality service.

*Sorry again for taking that derail and running with it. And obviously, this was probably unavoidable and might be a net benefit (PUN). But it's just annoying to see people give wholesale denials of actual complications/losses from the web.
posted by graphnerd at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2010


Like seriously, I suggest that you guys who think traffic shaping and QOS is evil, please, please try to maintain the infrastructure of a large network that's running near capacity without it. We're building out as fast as we can and we still hit capacity on links all over our network every day. When that happens, we have two options -- degrade service for everyone equally, or degrade service for less time sensitive traffic (like HTML) while expediting real time traffic.

I don't think you understand the position of most posters here. Has anyone actually complained about QoS or traffic shaping? Net neutrality is a different issue.
posted by public at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath,

How much does doing something like giving a lower priority to HTML or text email (vs. video, audio, etc.) actually affect an entire network of any decent size? I would imagine that the bandwidth require for a single thirty second YouTube video (for example) is so much larger than dozens (hundreds? more?) of HTML documents that it seems like it wouldn't make much of a difference.
posted by graphnerd at 8:06 AM on August 5, 2010


Maybe you personally, an individual employee of a regional ISP, don't - but SBC Telecommunications CEO Edward Whitacre thinks Yahoo and Google should be paying him for using his 'pipes'.

Well, he's a moron. I think that's a non-starter anyway. Yahoo and Google wouldn't pay, and customers would leave in droves if there was a showdown over it. We had to practically beg a content provider just for a peering arrangement not long ago. The idea of asking THEM to pay US money would be absurd.
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on August 5, 2010


empath,

How much does doing something like giving a lower priority to HTML or text email (vs. video, audio, etc.) actually affect an entire network of any decent size? I would imagine that the bandwidth require for a single thirty second YouTube video (for example) is so much larger than dozens (hundreds? more?) of HTML documents that it seems like it wouldn't make much of a difference.


Well, on a corporate network, voip could use up anywhere from 0% to 100% of the pipe, depending on how many people are on the phone. Without QOS, almost any HTML or youtube traffic at all could degrade voice quality, if you have a bunch of concurrent calls. It really just depends on what kind of traffic is going through that particular router at that particular time.
posted by empath at 8:09 AM on August 5, 2010


Google has traditionally been a strong proponent of net neutrality. It's obvious that a neutral net benefits Google's business. It seems odd they'd change their mind, but maybe streaming video over the cell network is so demanding and valuable they'd be willing to deal with Verizon? I don't really get it.
posted by Nelson at 8:12 AM on August 5, 2010


We'd all like to have so much bandwidth that we don't need to worry about it, but the reality is that demand is far outstripping our ability to build infrastructure to support it. Peer-to-peer is one example. Bittorrent traffic is about the most bandwidth intensive traffic imaginable, and while no ISP's want to stop it, what most ISPs would like to do is set it at bulk priority, after real-time traffic, web traffic and email. Otherwise bittorrent can very easily use up all available bandwidth all the time, especially during the day.

With BitTorrent encryption and the pirate bay VPN, do you see detecting bittorrent as a sustainable solution?
posted by Mike1024 at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2010


I don't think you understand the position of most posters here. Has anyone actually complained about QoS or traffic shaping? Net neutrality is a different issue.

No, it's the same issue. How do you think preferential treatment is going to get implemented? They aren't going to install firewalls all over the place to block Daily Kos and speed up CNN. If they start throttling traffic, it'll be with traffic shaping and QOS rules on classes of traffic, not individual websites.
posted by empath at 8:15 AM on August 5, 2010


With BitTorrent encryption and the pirate bay VPN, do you see detecting bittorrent as a sustainable solution?

That's not how QoS works. You hold the misc random data back a bit while you push the high priority stuff out. It doesn't matter if there's loads of encrypted and undetectable stuff flying around as long as you can figure out what the actually important things are. This is a perfectly desirable quality in a network regardless of your stance on network neutrality.
posted by public at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2010


Well I suppose the important part is that the customer and the ISP agree about what high priority is rather than having it decided for them In theory there's no reason the customer shouldn't be allowed to decided how to tag their packets but I expect you could write several PhDs on the game theory involved in that.
posted by public at 8:18 AM on August 5, 2010


Yeah, if it's encrypted, we couldn't single it out for special treatment, but it would still get lower priority than realtime stuff.
posted by empath at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2010


The customer and the ISP agreeing on what should be high priority is the exact thing that net neutrality proponents are trying to stop.

For example, should an ISP be allowed to sell a Gamer Package that sets up a special high priority channel just for xbox live/pc game traffic? As far as I know, that would be illegal if net neutrality were implemented.
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on August 5, 2010


I just finished my dissertation on Internet topology analysis [PDF], especially as it relates to network neutrality. This is going to look like a derail, but I think it will come back at the end.

The basic idea is that we can well-map the idea of "network neutrality" to a concern about centralization of power on the Internet - if 99% of global Internet traffic flowed to, from, and through just one ISP, then it's not really "the Internet", it's a network which belongs to that one ISP. On the other hand, if, to control even 10% of Internet traffic, you would have to suborn more than 1000 ISPs, then power is getting decentralized and we shouldn't worry about non-neutral behavior as no ISP (or small group of ISPs) can serve as a global chokepoint.

In 2001, 18 out of 10,000 ISPs could get together to control 45% of global Internet traffic. In 2010, 18 out of 30,000+ ISPs (a tripling in the size of the Internet) could get together to control 45% of Internet traffic. We could therefore say that there has been a "relative centralization" of Internet traffic flows, or we could say that there has been no "absolute centralization", but the one thing we can unambiguously state is that Internet traffic flow has not been decentralizing over time. As the Internet is growing, power is not being shared from the top of the hierarchy.

Whether 18 out of 30,000 controlling 45% represents a worrying level of centralization is up to your own political beliefs. But now we can at least argue about network neutrality from data. Note that this is 18 ISPs worldwide, and many ISPs are regional near-monopolies, which means that if you are worried about Internet connectivity in just one country, the picture is probably a bit more bleak. Even more than this, however, it points to one of the key points of the network neutrality debate.

There are actions which, when done by a little ISP struggling to survive, are okay. Some of these same actions, when done by a large monopoly, are not okay. Some actions, like examining streams and dropping packets unnecessarily, are okay in one context but not in another. Dropping old voice-over-IP (VOIP) packets is a great example of this (earlier comment about this kind of thing). As long as no other services get tunneled over VOIP protocols, it makes lots of sense to examine VOIP streams and drop old packets. The ISP doesn't carry data uselessly, and the end-user's bandwidth is not wasted carrying useless stale data. But the instant someone layers an extra service on top of VOIP, that decision may or may not make sense any more. Perhaps this new service can actually use old VOIP data to make better decisions!

As long as the Internet can still detect censorship and bad behavior as damage and route around them, everything should be fine. But the numbers remain stuck at 18 companies controlling 45% of Internet traffic flow (to, from, or through). Is 18 a large enough number that bad behavior can be routed around? Well, I suppose that with our feckless FCC and toothless FTC, we will find out!
posted by pmb at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Do you like the internet how it is right now and want to maintain the status quo experience?

You are for net neutrality.

Everyone is for that. Everyone across the political spectrum when you explain it accurately. Unfortunately, conservative media corporations explain it differently to their flock of sheep so here we are in a world where what everyone actually wants probably won't be what we get.

I can understand the necessities of traffic shaping and QOS, especially for stuff like BitTorrent which is just pirates anyway, but that is as far as it should go.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:33 AM on August 5, 2010


I don't think Slap*Happy was talking about 'information middlemen'. (S)he was probably referring to people who trafficked in knowledge professionally- you know, those people whose job it was to not just pass along information, but to gather, validate and report knowledge.

On one hand, I can see your point; a few days ago there was a lot of coverage of a rise in the number of sexually active 11-year-olds being prescribed oral contraceptives. The report was repeated in a lot of places - none of which can have fact-checked the story in much detail, because it wasn't true.

So, I can certainly see a case for people to do 'boring' work like fact-checking so blogs/the media don't just become an 'echo chamber' uncritically repeating press releases and incorrect 'common knowledge'.

On the other hand, the fact that the telegraph and the daily mail were among those distributing the incorrect reports makes me think that maybe print journalists aren't any better at this "accurate reporting" lark than bloggers.
posted by Mike1024 at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2010


Do you like the internet how it is right now and want to maintain the status quo experience?

You are for net neutrality.


This is a stupid argument.

How would you have answered that question 10 years ago? The internet isn't supposed to stay the same. It's supposed to get better.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on August 5, 2010


That's not how QoS works. You hold the misc random data back a bit while you push the high priority stuff out. It doesn't matter if there's loads of encrypted and undetectable stuff flying around as long as you can figure out what the actually important things are. This is a perfectly desirable quality in a network regardless of your stance on network neutrality.

The pirate bay offers a VPN service - and given the provider, some piracy could be involved; what you think of as low-priority things.

My work requires that I use a VPN service to connect to their internal network. When it's connected - which is a lot of the time I'm on my home computer - all my traffic goes over the VPN. My traffic may include VoIP; what you think of as high-priority things.

Will my traffic get the same second-class treatment as piratebay traffic?
posted by Mike1024 at 8:44 AM on August 5, 2010


http://twitter.com/googlepubpolicy/status/20393606477

"@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet."
posted by mrbill at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this article has so many presuppositions I can't really take it seriously. If some companies come to an agreement the FCC will just say "Oh, nevermind then." It rings false, and it gets Google into a publicity nightmare, in addition to not really helping them. Their business model relies on an open and healthy internet more than it relies on getting Youtube to run faster than their competitors. I don't buy it.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:51 AM on August 5, 2010


I don't have hope in my theory, but it's fun to think about:

Google claimed to be FOR net neutrality previously, right?

And Repubs (and some bluedogs) are like "pfft - why should we have that? it would interfere w/commerce, but also... nobody is actually doing it anyways, why make a law for something that's not a problem?"

So, what if it's a bluff? What if Google is STILL for neutrality but is doing this to corce the issue... No longer can they say "it won't happen, no-one is talking about it"...

A boy could dream.
posted by symbioid at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2010


For example, should an ISP be allowed to sell a Gamer Package that sets up a special high priority channel just for xbox live/pc game traffic? As far as I know, that would be illegal if net neutrality were implemented.

Net neutrality is about preventing collusion between content providers and ISPs. If a customer wants some of their own traffic given priority over some other bits of their own traffic and an ISP is willing to provide that service for them as far as it can I see no reason to stop them. If I want to maim my own internet connection by using a QoS router on my network I am allowed to do that. If my ISP was kind enough to honor those settings within it's own network then that'd be a nice bonus.

Net neutrality really means a lot of different things to different people but I think most people agree that having to pay extra to your ISP for Hulu would suck. Paying extra to your ISP because you specifically want the convenience of being able to watch VoD in general while running some torrents without having to go and pause them first? I don't see an ethical problem there.

Mike Will my traffic get the same second-class treatment as piratebay traffic?

If you choose to QoS some traffic over others, and then you go and use a VPN and watch some Hulu videos at the same time, why would you complain about your Hulu video working perfectly and your VPN latency going up a little bit?
posted by public at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, he's a moron. I think that's a non-starter anyway.

This argument is not persuasive. When he (or someone like him) starts to implement pay-for-play it will not occur with the big brands everyone is familiar with (which would, as you note, garner a significant backlash), it will begin with smaller sites and will spread from there. Eventually it'll be common enough that they can really start to turn the screws. Remember how patent trolls attack weaker companies first? Same thing.

This is not a slippery-slope argument, this is how companies do business.

Having said all of that, I remain relatively unconcerned by the Verizon-Google rumors, as none of us have seen the purported agreement. Once it has been announced, then we can decide if it's freakout time or not. For the record, I suspect that it is not freakout time.
posted by aramaic at 9:01 AM on August 5, 2010


If I want to maim my own internet connection by using a QoS router on my network I am allowed to do that.

Well you can do this somewhat with your own router, but setting up traffic shaping on your router really only impacts upstream traffic from your connection to the ISP. If you want incoming traffic to you to get prioritized, it needs to be prioritized on the ISP side of the link.

The real question is whether QOS should be allowed in the infrastructure, not over your particular connection, I think.

It's a complicated problem and being for 'net neutrality' is not enough of an answer to resolve anything.
posted by empath at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2010


I can't help but think this will stifle competition. Download speed is immensely important in whether or not a website succeeds or not. This makes it much harder for those who can't pay Verizon to compete with those who can, thus entrenching players with the most cash on hand.
posted by chaz at 9:08 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This argument is not persuasive. When he (or someone like him) starts to implement pay-for-play it will not occur with the big brands everyone is familiar with (which would, as you note, garner a significant backlash), it will begin with smaller sites and will spread from there. Eventually it'll be common enough that they can really start to turn the screws. Remember how patent trolls attack weaker companies first? Same thing.

Well, before I worked for an ISP, I worked for a small hosted voip pbx company. All of the ISP's treated our traffic like any other traffic, which meant that we were constantly dealing with dropped packets, latency, jitter and so on. For a lot of our problem customers, we'd have been thrilled to pay for an end to end high-priority connection to them, and in a few cases we did. Every 'content provider' who didn't pay for that connection was getting slightly worse service because of that. Did that violate net-neutrality?

I really, really don't think that 'pay to play' in the sense of charging people for access as a middle is in the cards for any ISP. The only thing that's going to happen is prioritization of certain traffic, and yes, certain people will pay extra for that.
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on August 5, 2010


If you choose to QoS some traffic over others, and then you go and use a VPN and watch some Hulu videos at the same time, why would you complain about your Hulu video working perfectly and your VPN latency going up a little bit?

Perhaps I wasn't clear.

I'm using VoIP over a VPN. If my VPN latency goes up, it could disrupt my VoIP.

If one of my ISP's other clients uses Hulu, which works perfectly for them but puts my VPN latency up, my VoIP connection will have higher latency, yes?
posted by Mike1024 at 9:11 AM on August 5, 2010


Just saw this tweet from @googlepubpolicy:

@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Download speed is immensely important in whether or not a website succeeds or not.

Do you think it's fair that most large ISP's have direct peering connections with Youtube, but not with Vimeo or Dailymotion? Should that be illegal? That's going to have far more impact on relative speeds than any traffic shaping on classes of service is going to have.
posted by empath at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2010


Deny, deny, deny.
posted by swift at 9:15 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


If one of my ISP's other clients uses Hulu, which works perfectly for them but puts my VPN latency up, my VoIP connection will have higher latency, yes?

Depending on how QOS is configured yes, and this is exactly what would be solved by allowing people to purchase QOS packages to prioritize important traffic to them. Right now, it's just random. If all your neighbors are hammering the local backbone with bittorrent and hulu traffic and you're just trying to make a phone call, you're fucked.
posted by empath at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2010


> They aren't going to install firewalls all over the place to block Daily Kos and speed up CNN. If they start throttling traffic, it'll be with traffic shaping and QOS rules on classes of traffic, not individual websites.

Empath, I'd like to believe that this is correct. From a business perspective, though, I don't see why it would be-- or, more to the point, why, over time, it would remain so.

You're apparently in the ISP business. Why do you believe that specific sites will never be throttled, only classes of traffic? And given the rampant success and political impact of media consolidation, why should we not expect the same thing to happen with ISPs, ten years from now?
posted by darth_tedious at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2010


Google and Verizon Deny Internet Traffic Deal
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2010


Empath, I'd like to believe that this is correct. From a business perspective, though, I don't see why it would be-- or, more to the point, why, over time, it would remain so.

You're apparently in the ISP business. Why do you believe that specific sites will never be throttled, only classes of traffic?


Because the technology isn't in place to do that and there is no demand for it.
posted by empath at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2010


What I mean is, ISP's have been installing switches and routers that have the capability of doing traffic shaping on classes of traffic for years and years. They haven't been putting in place switches and routers that have the ability to easily classify traffic based on which website or provider you're visiting, and they don't have firewalls to block traffic, and don't log which websites you're visiting, etc. It would be a huge investment to add all that capability in, to not very much benefit.

CEO's and VP's may think that they have that capability, and they may be seeing $$$ and may see themselves as gatekeepers, but a lot of executives are fucking clueless about the technological issues involved.
posted by empath at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


but a lot of executives are fucking clueless about the technological issues involved.

Truer words are rarely spoken.
posted by aramaic at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2010


Especially considering that any high volume provider is going to have many many ip addresses, will have servers spread all over the world, and will often share those servers with other websites and services. How do you think they're going to handle throttling a site that's using Akamai, Amazon or the Google cloud for hosting?
posted by empath at 9:40 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you think it's fair that most large ISP's have direct peering connections with Youtube, but not with Vimeo or Dailymotion?

Doesn't that become because of consumer demand, not because YouTube has paid a higher rate to get higher priority traffic?
posted by chaz at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2010


> "Google and Verizon have negotiated an agreement on how to handle Web traffic, according to a report by Bloomberg on Wednesday.... When reached for comment, a Verizon spokesman offered this statement: 'We've been working with Google for 10 months to reach an agreement on broadband policy.' "

tl;dr: Broadband to the home would be net-neutral, traffic over cell networks would not be.
posted by ardgedee at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2010


>Because the technology isn't in place to do that and there is no demand for it.

Given an agenda, compiling a simple list of A sites versus B sites would, I think, be trivial; is there really a technological barrier, or do you just not believe that some parties would be motivated to do this?

In a similar vein, you write that there is no demand for this. I can certainly understand there being no bottom-up, consumer desire for it, and no ISP-level desire for it. But as pmb pointed out in a detailed post above, ISP aggregation is a real possibility. And where ISP's can be aggregated, then large-scale decisions can be made about what is encouraged and what is not. Granted, this has not happened yet, but it seems to me that there is every incentive, in terms of political power, for this to happen. Remember, the US media has a vast industry of subsidized news organizations and publishing houses and think tanks that exist not to make a direct profit, but to guide the political discourse in ways that are profitable for these entities' owners. It seems to me inevitable that, given the chance, similar forces will eventually operate on network traffic. This is especially so, because attention on the web is so minutely tracked, and gets ever more so.

We like to think of the web as anarchic, a play zone-- a place where everything is free and fast and easy. Actually, it's the place where everything you do gets tested, tracked, analyzed, and databased. Given these factors, why is traffic filtering-- not as it's proposed, because everything nefarious is proposed in the most anodyne way possible-- but as it likely will be, not a problem?
posted by darth_tedious at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2010


Verizon Policy Blog: New York Times' Story is Mistaken
The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken. It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."
PC World: Net Neutrality Deal May Not See Wider Support
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on talks between her company and Verizon, but she denied a New York Times report that said the two companies were negotiating a tiered service agreement that would give Google services faster network speeds than some competitors. That story "is quite simply wrong," said Mistique Cano, manager of global communications and public affairs at Google. "We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet."
posted by krinklyfig at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2010


Given an agenda, compiling a simple list of A sites versus B sites would, I think, be trivial; is there really a technological barrier, or do you just not believe that some parties would be motivated to do this?

Really? How many sites are there in the world? Where are you going to check this list? How often? How do you update it?
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on August 5, 2010


The denials from Google about these reports is very interesting to me.

On one hand, it could just be the case that Google is lying to the public about its part in these secret negotiations, to stave off the negative publicity. On the other hand, it's also a very real possibility that the press has been duped by a fake news leak calculated as part of one of the other party's broader negotiation strategies.

It's not an entirely unheard of "aggressive" negotiating strategy: companies hoping to reach certain favorable arrangements with another party have been known to use the press to place and promulgate false accounts of "secret deals" in order to exert pressure on the other parties to negotiate on better terms. The basic idea behind the tactic is this: if there's already a widespread perception that one of the parties involved in potential or ongoing negotiations has compromised on their original position, then that party has a lot less to lose by actually compromising on that position. A single somewhat credible news account can be all it takes to create that impression in much of the public.

And if the perception begins to spread that, one way or another, an eventual compromise is inevitable, then that puts the other party on a significantly weaker footing when/if they are approached to actually begin negotiation.

It's a tricky thing to prove. But I suspect this kind of maneuvering and perception manipulation happens a lot more often than we realize. How would any of us go about personally verifying the claims made in these reports? In fact, we can't. So what ends up happening when there are denials like those coming from Google now is that people who are very favorably inclined toward Google might accept them at face value, but anyone who held any existing doubts about Google's motives or its corporate integrity would tend to see the denials as further evidence of Google's dishonesty.

Let's consider the source. The Times article says only this about the source for these reports:
People close to the negotiations who were not authorized to speak publicly about them said an agreement could be reached as soon as next week.
A couple of things strike me as interesting about this particular characterization of the sources of the story.

One, it's impossible to tell if those sources alleged to be "people close to the negotiations" represent Google or Verizon. It's quite possible all the sources cited in this story had direct ties to only one of the two parties characterized as being party to negotiations. Technically speaking, if Verizon wanted to enter into negotiations with Google like those described in these reports, then any personnel assigned to be part of the team charged with making those negotiations happen might choose to characterize themselves dishonestly in this way by simply mischaracterizing the reality of the situation.

Two, we already know that whoever the sources of this story are, they are liars, because their explicit claim is that they were not authorized to speak publicly about this deal, and yet, here they are speaking about the deal in the most public way imaginable (although they are doing so from comfortably behind a shield of anonymity). Since they are liars by their own account, it seems hard to judge how far they might be willing to carry further uses of deception in their "negotiations" with Google.

There are of course lots of other possibilities. It could be the story really is true. It could be that Google orchestrated the leak in order to deliberately sabotage real negotiations or to gin up more controversy around the issues. It could be something else completely.

There are all sorts of possibilities here. I'd be reluctant to accept any of them at face value, though, and I would point out that, if it were the case now, it would not be the first time that the NY Times has been manipulated by anonymous sources.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Really? How many sites are there in the world? Where are you going to check this list? How often? How do you update it?

How many sites are there in the world? Too many to count.

How many sites regularly and systematically impact the progress of a given group's agenda? Probably two or three dozen; this list might need updating every six months or so.

Bear in mind that the same technology that causes users to see "42 Year-Old Divorced Mom in [YOUR CITY] Makes It Big with Forex!" ads will, I suspect, eventually start showing up not just in the selection of the news articles people are shown, but in the subtle slant within those articles. People will be shown what they are expected to like. And in some cases, will be shown what is useful to others that they believe.

Remember, the cost of implementing these changes, and campaigning for their acceptance, is trivial compared to the benefit of getting the laws and political results you desire.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


> There are of course lots of other possibilities. It could be the story really is true. It could be that Google orchestrated the leak in order to deliberately sabotage real negotiations or to gin up more controversy around the issues. It could be something else completely.

I would study closely how the denials are phrased. Neither side is issuing direct, simple statements. "We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet." is not a denial that they've been negotiating access. It only denies that Google and Verizon are negotiating for (a) cash exchange for (b) data transmission. There's a fair amount of wiggle room. Slot (a) has room for, say, quid-pro-quo trade of marketing or services, or some kind of sales/discount arrangement with Android phones (since Verizon is the biggest Android reseller in the States), or discounted broadband to Android users. Slot (b) has room for, say, deprecated bandwidth for everybody-who's-not-Google (although that's probably a stretch), content exclusive to Verizon customers, data centers built within Verizon's subnet, giving its users faster access to Google services than non-Verizon users, or some arrangement favoring Android users.

This is a paranoid way to look at the statements, and I'm pulling the hypothetical scenarios out of a very poorly informed netherspace. But I'd keep an eye on further statements to see if they close any of these loopholes, or make other readings more plausible.
posted by ardgedee at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many sites regularly and systematically impact the progress of a given group's agenda?

This is pure paranoia.
posted by empath at 10:39 AM on August 5, 2010


Bear in mind that the same technology that causes users to see "42 Year-Old Divorced Mom in [YOUR CITY] Makes It Big with Forex!" ads will, I suspect, eventually start showing up not just in the selection of the news articles people are shown, but in the subtle slant within those articles. People will be shown what they are expected to like. And in some cases, will be shown what is useful to others that they believe.

It's not ISP's that are showing those ads.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on August 5, 2010


I agree Google's denial is interesting, saulgoodman. It's quite clear and direct, and Google is saying they are not negotiating "about paying for carriage of our traffic". I don't think Google would outright lie about that; it's not their way and it'd just backfire when the truth came out. But there is room in that statement for Verizon imposing some sort of QoS shaping to Google traffic. Verizon's denial seems to say nothing at all.

Of course this leak is part of a negotiation. You don't call up the NYT and WSJ and give them a scoop on a deal like this because you're doing your buddy a favour. It annoys me that the best newspapers in the US would play along.
posted by Nelson at 10:41 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, think about it: why would anyone go through the trouble to actually negotiate difficult deals over thorny issues when all they really need are a few credible-seeming reports based on anonymous sources in a major media outlets that suggest a deal is already done? Already, despite the denials, the conventional wisdom sweeping the internet is something like this:

Google decides it can be evil, sells out on net neutrality

(To be fair, that KOS post linked above does now have an update that acknowledges Google's denials, but the headline is what most people will notice and remember. And as everyone knows, a company like Google might deny the story even if it were true.)

I would study closely how the denials are phrased. Neither side is issuing direct, simple statements. "We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic.

Here's Google's statement in response to the post I linked above. It seems pretty unambiguous to me, but I'm interested to know if anyone has a different take.
Google: "The NYT is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet."
posted by saulgoodman at 10:42 AM on August 5, 2010


I guess the way I see it, the real issue here is that many ISPs have monopoly power or near-monopoly power, and that political muscle would be better spent making sure that more ISPs can compete in more areas. For example, while Verizon is forced to lease copper to the homes to CLEC's, there's no such rule about all the fiber they're laying currently.

If ISPs start censoring the web or otherwise abusing their power, the best solution is having more ISPs, and especially more local ISPs that are more in tune with what their customers want. I could care less what Comcast does to their customers if I can just sign up for Mom & Pop's ISP instead and get better service.
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2010


> It's not ISP's that are showing those ads.

No, you're right-- they aren't showing those ads.

Literally, ISPs aren't in the ad business. Yet.

Neither are they coordinated with those who sell ads or promote opinions. Yet.

Sophisticated online ads and ISPs have both been around less than twenty years; in fact, Adwords has only been around ten years. Online social networking and politics only really started becoming integrated in 2004.

Let's give all these things time to find each other.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2010


There's a lot of buzz about this story today, but I think it's knocking out of the news a far more worrying story.

At Techonomy yesterday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt claimed that "true anonymity is too dangerous." He also talks about the application of machine learning and AI to publicly available data. Computers can predict where people are going to be in the future given a history of their location, they can identify a person with good accuracy given a small sample of pictures of them, etc.

This is why some of us are so worried about public surveillance, even for public safety reasons. The software can easily turn the architecture of a hardware camera net into an architecture of control.

It's really worrying that Schmidt, somebody who has the ear of the White House, appears to think anonymity is bad.
posted by formless at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


>If ISPs start censoring the web or otherwise abusing their power, the best solution is having more ISPs, and especially more local ISPs

Yes, but that seems to be the problem itself:

Monopolies tend to crush Mom and Pop shops, almost by definition.

In most cases, efficiencies of scale beat boutique offerings... and for purposes of influence, you don't need to reach everyone, only more than your competitors.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2010


A couple other links:

Senator Al Franken on Net Neutrality
The internet was developed at taxpayer expense to benefit the public interest. If we let corporations prioritize some content over others, we'll lose what makes it so valuable to our economy, our democracy and our daily lives.

Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it's the key to preserving the internet as we know it -- and it's the most important First Amendment issue of our time.


That net neutrality image from last year.

I've found that this image is a good way to explain to people exactly why Net Neutrality is important.
posted by Katrel at 11:10 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Google CEO Eric Schmidt claimed that "true anonymity is too dangerous."

Why did the reporter select out that phrase out of what one presumes was an entire sentence? I'm betting the context makes that seem less insidious.
posted by empath at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The issue isn't "don't use QoS to make the network work better", it's "don't use QoS to fuck people over".
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2010


#GoogleFail
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2010


Terrible reporting by the NYT.
We have been talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on the definition of what net neutrality is. We’re trying to find solutions that bridge between the hardcore net neutrality view and the telecom view. I want to be clear what we mean by net neutrality. What we mean is if you have one data type like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. But it’s OK to discriminate across different types, so you could prioritize voice over video, and there is general agreement with Verizon and Google on that issue. The issues of wireless vs. wireline get very messy because of the issue of Type I vs Type II regulation and that is an FCC issue not a Google issue.
--Eric Schmidt

http://gigaom.com/2010/08/05/google-ceo-dishes-on-google-wave-verizon-social-strategy/
posted by base_16 at 11:53 AM on August 5, 2010


(Not that corrections like this will ever get any attention, and everyone will continue to whine about "evil")
posted by base_16 at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2010


Why did the reporter select out that phrase out of what one presumes was an entire sentence? I'm betting the context makes that seem less insidious.

From the sound of it, most of his talk was about society not being ready for the technological changes. It could be inferred from some of his previous sentences that he is referring to the fact that governments will think that anonymity itself is too dangerous and it's not his view, but I'm not so sure. ReadWriteWeb has a fuller quote:

"The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it." .

But "asynchronous threats" sounds too much like spook speak to me. My guess is he's been meeting with intelligence officials lately. Who else uses that phrase, except for spooks and people (like reporters) trying to suck up to and join the spook club?
posted by formless at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2010


empath: It's just about managing a limited resource in the most fair way possible.

You've managed to paint network providers as benevolent groups, striving for the public good.
But to rewrite your statement so that it is true: "It's just about making a buck."
posted by coolguymichael at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2010


You can make a buck and be fair.

We’re trying to find solutions that bridge between the hardcore net neutrality view and the telecom view. I want to be clear what we mean by net neutrality. What we mean is if you have one data type like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another

Exactly this.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can make a buck and be fair.

Yes, but you can't make a billion bucks and be fair.
posted by one_bean at 12:57 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


How many sites regularly and systematically impact the progress of a given group's agenda?

This is pure paranoia.


I don't see why it has to be. If there's a group of 50 sites an ISP wants to screw -- and that's not hard to imagine, even if you remove political motives -- what's stopping them from doing it? What's stopping an ISP owned by some fairly leftist exec from screwing over redstate.com, to give a trivial example? (Or vice versa?) It's not hard to imagine routers colo'd with a farm serving up blacklists and whitelists, especially not if there was money to be made exploiting small but profitable websites.

I guess the way I see it, the real issue here is that many ISPs have monopoly power or near-monopoly power, and that political muscle would be better spent making sure that more ISPs can compete in more areas. For example, while Verizon is forced to lease copper to the homes to CLEC's, there's no such rule about all the fiber they're laying currently.

This, on the other hand, is right on the mark.
posted by zvs at 1:17 PM on August 5, 2010


I don't see why it has to be. If there's a group of 50 sites an ISP wants to screw -- and that's not hard to imagine, even if you remove political motives -- what's stopping them from doing it? What's stopping an ISP owned by some fairly leftist exec from screwing over redstate.com, to give a trivial example? (Or vice versa?) It's not hard to imagine routers colo'd with a farm serving up blacklists and whitelists, especially not if there was money to be made exploiting small but profitable websites.

Because someone would call the ISP and say, hey I can't get to Redstate. And then either they fix it or Redstate raises hell about it, but either way, it's not worth the trouble.

AT&T took 4chan offline for a while because of a DDOS attack, and it was national news.

If ISP's began blocking sites, I assume the news would get out quickly. You guys are jumping at shadows here. Until an ISP actually starts abusing their power (which they are perfectly within their legal rights to do right now), I think it's a little early to start calling for regulation, don't you?
posted by empath at 1:50 PM on August 5, 2010


See Update.
posted by cucumber at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2010


Not in the context of how the internet actually works at a macro level. Speeding up partner sites would require some sort of dedicated peering arrangement, which is already entirely possible and done by lots of people.
I don't think you're thinking clearly about this at all. There's no difference between "speeding up partner sites" or "slowing down non-partner sites". The effect is exactly the same.

And no, you don't need peering agreements to increase the bandwidth at the end point. All you have to do is add some code to the routers at the ISP. All you do is count up the number of packets that come from a non-partner IP address, and if too many are coming through, you throttle them back so that the user has the "bandwidth" they signed up for. But, if the packet is from a partner site it goes through. You need peering agreements to reduce the latency, and peering agreements will help if the bandwidth is getting saturated somewhere further up the line.

But increasing the raw, end-point speed simply requires changes to the routers at the ISP to shape traffic between partner and non-partner IPs differently.

Anyway, I'm obviously a supporter of net neutrality. I'm only trying to point out what the ISP's arguments are so that I can explain why they're wrong and why they would cause problems.
…about any of this. Be thankful, be very fucking thankful it's a couple of Stanford eggheads that are up to bat for the rest of us, and not some asshole MBAs / asshole lawyers / asshole entitled rich kids.
No offense, but are you out of your mind? What makes you think these "Stanford egghead" CEOs are going to be any better then "Entitled rich kid MBA Lawyer" CEOs? The problem isn't the worldview of people negotiating, it's their incentives. Google CEOs get rewarded for making as much money for Google as possible. Not for keeping the Internet free and open. Except for extreme cases, almost everyone is going to go for the bucks, especially people who have been as successful as the people running Google.
I can't speak for Verizon since I work for a regional CLEC that has a rather contentious relationship with them, but I can tell you that we have absolutely 0 interest in policing traffic or selling preferential access to websites or anything like that. We just want to make the internet work as best we can for the customers we have given the amount of bandwidth we have available, and we're generally thinking in terms of prioritizing categories of traffic, not consumers or producers of content.
Well, that's nice. It isn't yet known how much money there is in partnering agreements, so it might not even be worthwhile for a smaller ISP to make the technical investments needed. But if this works out for companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, the technology to do it will become more standardized and simple to implement. And despite what you think of your company, few of them are just going to leave free money on the table here.
Almost no one uses encrypted voip. Even embassies.
No one uses Skype?

I understand what you mean about corporate users who want to run their phones over their internet connections, but that should be something that the customer would choose, and it has nothing to do with who they're making their calls too.
You're right that this isn't Google's fault, per se, but have you ever thought about the relatively quality of Associated Content and the Associated Press? Or Examiner.com and pretty much every mid-size city paper pre-web?

In your definition, everyone here is an 'information middleman', but it's ludicrous to say that each of those examples provides similar quality service.
Right... but what does any of that have to do with Google? They didn't create the web, they just indexed it. They happened to have a particularly good index. People make the argument that the Internet has ruined journalism. That's not an argument that I agree with. But however you feel about it, it's not Google's fault. Some people in the media just seem to want a single, sueable entity to blame.
Really? How many sites are there in the world? Where are you going to check this list? How often? How do you update it?
Sites like Alexa and quantcast have "lists" of millions of sites, with detailed traffic stats for all of them. In any event, you would only need to do this for the top few bandwidth sucking sites -- based on IP address, obviously, and everyone else would be be in the slow lane.

I think the argument that this is somehow technically infeasible is kind of surprising. How could it be difficult to shape traffic based on a few hundred or thousand IP address blocks? From a software perspective, it would be easy. The challenge would be scaling it up for high bandwidth applications. But if there were a demand from major buyers, companies like Cisco would be happy to sell it.
We have been talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on the definition of what net neutrality is. We’re trying to find solutions that bridge between the hardcore net neutrality view and the telecom view. I want to be clear what we mean by net neutrality.
That's all well and good, but the question is who decided that these two massive, self-interested corporations get to sit around in secret and "agree" about the definition of net neutrality? It really should be an open process.


---

Some people talking about censoring unpopular views, or whatever, are kind of missing the point. It's not about censoring things that are unpopular or piss off the powerful. The problem here is simple ability to communicate at the same level as powerful corporations. Since youtube really got going, there's been a lot of really great, independently produced video content out there. Do we want to force people to use youtube, with youtube's ads for everyone's content, or should people be able to host their own videos with their own bandwidth over a P2P network as well?

You could make a P2P video streaming site, like youtube if you wanted too, for non-copyrighted amateur videos.

Or who knows what kind of new applications could be developed. But if you have ISPs shaping traffic so that the most profitable content is delivered faster, and splitting the money with the content providers, that's going to cause a distortion.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2010


Google:
@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.

NYTimes:
@googlepubpolicy comment about @nytimes story refutes something The Times story didn’t say. NYT stands by the reporting.

So while reading that Times article, keep in mind that they don't believe Google ever held talks with Verizon about paying for carriage of their content no do they believe Google gave up its commitment to an open internet.
posted by SAC at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If ISP's began blocking sites, I assume the news would get out quickly. You guys are jumping at shadows here.

If a website were simply slowed down a lot, it would be hard for ISP customers to prove that was going on.

Personally I think a free-market solution to net neutrality could work under the right conditions - but ISPs would have to be open about the exact details of what content they slow down and what they don't. You want to slow down HTTP from www.youtube.com that's fine - but customers should know that before they enter into a year-long contract.

If throttling techniques have to be simplified so that consumers can understand them and make an informed ISP choice, that might be the only fair thing to do - and a legislative approach might be needed if the industry can't self-regulate effectively.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2010


Re-reading the article, the Times seems to be hanging their reputation on the word "could". Go back, read the NYTimes article, and whenever you hit the word "could", skip to the next sentence. See how different the article becomes.

Seriously, they're standing by that shit?
posted by SAC at 5:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sooo, Google and Verizon want to create a sort of walled garden?
posted by nomadicink at 5:55 PM on August 5, 2010


I don't think Slap*Happy was talking about 'information middlemen'. (S)he was probably referring to people who trafficked in knowledge professionally- you know, those people whose job it was to not just pass along information, but to gather, validate and report knowledge.

Local issue coverage in my area has been vastly improved by a network of semi-professional bloggers, neighborhood listservs and Facebook groups. Local news in my area was a joke before. We had one part time journalist assigned to cover 180K people. Most of their breaking investigative journalism was just muckraking for the paper's conservative editorial board or a press release from the chamber of commerce.
posted by humanfont at 12:53 AM on August 6, 2010


Tim Wu is probably worth listening to on the subject of Net Neutrality.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:36 PM on August 6, 2010


After protesting vehemently that they weren't holding talks, Google and Verizon hold a press conference to announce their joint net neutrality proposal.

It sounds like it amounts to, "sure, we'll support net neutrality over wires for all the services that have already been invented, but net neutrality won't apply to wireless broadband or to any services that get invented in the future."

That, plus they have a bridge to sell us.
posted by alms at 11:29 AM on August 9, 2010


As discussed above, Google was very careful in its denial: "We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic." They never "protested vehemently that they weren't holding talks".
posted by Nelson at 3:38 PM on August 9, 2010


As discussed above, Google was very careful in its denial.

Yes, it was a standard weasel denial, where they hope that readers aren't paying attention and read it as a denial when in fact it is a confirmation. So you're right. I should have said something like this:
After taking great offense at reports that they were working on a net neutrality proposal, and unsuccessfully pretending to deny those reports, Google and Verizon have announced their net neutrality proposal.
posted by alms at 6:57 AM on August 10, 2010


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