Tech at Night

Once upon a time I used to be sleep at midnight. Of course, if I’d buckle down and get Tech at Night out the door a few hours earlier, then I’d be able to be asleep right now at midnight, I suppose. Regardless, here we go.

The FCC’s Net Neutrality vote is still on for the 21st, that is, Tuesday. Of course they’d miss the regular Tech at Night schedule after all of this. The FCC couldn’t make it easy on me, oh no. The good news though is that by now the storyline is that Republicans think the FCC is going too far, most Democrats are ready to move the heck on already, and radical Democrats think the FCC doesn’t go too far enough.

If the FCC were to try something radical, it’s clear the courts would have none of it, just as in Comcast v. FCC which started this whole mess. But that will take time and will scare off investment. Who benefits from an underinvested Internet? Nobody. So we’ve just got to push for the lightest possible touch from the FCC, but remind them that Fred Upton and company are waiting in case they try a fast one.

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Tech at Night

I’ve been saying lately that the likely Net Neutrality outcome wouldn’t be bad at all, that we’d get a compromise that disappoints the radical left far more than it disappoints us. But it’s not a done deal. We’ve got to keep the pressure up, both as activists and through the incoming Republican majority in the House. The FCC must respect the 2010 elections and their consequences.

So we need to ask: Why isn’t the FCC even talking to the key ranking members of the relevant committees: Kay Bailey Hutchison and Joe Barton? Joe Barton and Cliff Stearns even sent the FCC a letter asking them to explain where in the law they get their authority to do what they’re planning. Why are Republicans being ignored and dismissed?

Do we have to threaten to defund come next year to get anywhere? If the FCC won’t work with Republicans then I don’t see how Republicans won’t have to play hardball in return and work actively to disrupt the FCC’s ability to do anything at all. So the FCC desperately needs to work with Republicans instead of letting the far left fringe be the swing vote in all of this.

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Tech at Night

Just as I was saying copyright was soon to replace Net Neutrality as the big tech issue of the moment, circumstances prove me wrong. Instead, regardless of the results of the December FCC meeting and the future of that whole Net Neutrality debate (more later), the coming issue now is going to be peering.

Some will play word games and say it’s all covered under the blanket issue of Net Neutrality, but be careful. Net Neutrality as promoted and sold by Free Press, the FCC, Google, Verizon, and others has been all about the so-called last mile from the Internet to your home or business, including wired and wireless access. That’s what the FCC is talking about regulating as Net Neutrality, that’s been the focus of the scare stories calling the need for Net Neutrality a Crisis™, and we cannot now let them do a bait and switch.

So in your mind, I suggest separating the Comcast/Level 3/Netflix issue from the Free Press/Net Neutrality issue. The former deals with the back end of the Internet, from the user’s perspective, while the latter deals with the front end that we directly pay for and use.

They’re both important though, so here’s my explanation and view of the Comcast/Level 3 Peering controversy broken out as a separate post because it got so long. To sum it up, Comcast did the right thing, because Netflix and Level 3 were being unfair and trying to take advantage of sharing deals made in good faith.

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Comcast did the right and fair thing cutting off Level 3

On December 2, 2010, in General, by Neil Stevens

There’s a lot of heat and unfortunately not enough light being produced online with respect to the recent decision by Comcast to cut off its free peering deal with Level 3, thanks to the throwing around of the name Netflix. People like Netflix and want to know what’s going on. I even have a Netflix streaming-only account. So I’ll try to explain here what’s going on, why it matters, and why we need to keep the government from intervening in favor of Level 3 and Netflix.

Firstly, I know what the question is that many will need answered: What is peering? To understand what peering is, we must first remember that the Internet is a series of networks. We all have our networks at our homes and businesses. Those networks connect to ISPs. Those ISPs then connect their networks to each other and to ‘backbone’ providers. Those backbone providers also connect to each other. The further along the chain we go, the more of the Internet’s functioning depends on those connections. Backbone providers would not have a useful service unless their networks gave access to the entire Internet.

So what the big boys do is create peering agreements with each other, where they agree to connect to each other for free, on the grounds that the data will travel both ways, benefit both sides, and create value for all involved. Firms have to be careful though to ensure that their peers are actually trading equally and fairly, creating benefit for all instead of just leeching. That is why ISPs make contracts that specify how the peerings work, and document their policies and practices of peering. Level 3 spells it out and so does Comcast.

So what happened that was the big deal?

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