Net Neutrality, part 4: Technical Solutions vs Rent Seeking

An interesting article was posted over at CircleID explaining why network neutrality would be a bad thing. I am cross posting my comment here, because I think it is probably the shortest and most direct way of illuminating the current confusion over network neutrality.

I agree with the technical analysis that the current Internet is not neutral and that neutrality of the nature described is not beneficial. The problem is that there are two issues with one name being attached: the first is network management and innovation, which would be a horrible thing to curtail as discussed. The second is rent seeking based on non-technical issues.

This latter issue arises because there are large companies that act as the conduit most packets that travel the Internet, and they see the possibility of affecting (either delaying or accelerating) packets based on source as a additional revenue stream. The problems with this rent seeking should be obvious to anyone who has enjoyed the massive technical innovation that rides on top of the technical innovation of the networking itself.

Of course, it is politically difficult to say up front that you plan on extortion as a revenue stream ("wouldn't it be a shame if something happened to your packets there" is unlikely to be spoken) but nonetheless the same *impact* can be achieved by couching network management "solutions" properly, especially when many of the incumbents are strongly motivated to see some of the new Internet based services fail (seeing these services as direct competitors to their other core businesses: telecommunications and video delivery).

This lack of distinction between the non-technical motivations for breaking network neutrality and the technical needs for non neutral networks (as networks are *not* neutral even today in a technical sense) it probably the source of much of the talking past one another that is happening regarding the issue. Unfortunately, many of the technical people in the field are poorly making this distinction and making it confusing for outsiders because they assume such distinctions are understood.

(An example of a non-technically motivated company being honest).