Saving the Internet, One Crude Animation at a Time

Michael Giberson

Save-the-internet.gifAnti-net neutrality campaign Hands Off the Internet wants to show it, too, can be “hip” to the ways of the kids on the internet. To show how “with it” they are, they’ve put together a purposely crudely-drawn animation explaining the dangers of net neutrality. Similarly crude economic reasoning underlies their voice-over. The basic message: net neutrality means consumers will have to pay for enhancements to the internet instead of big corporations that make billions of dollars online.

One set of big companies says policy X is absolutely necessary to protect consumers. Another set of big companies says policy not-X is absolutely necessary to protect consumers. What makes me think that this whole thing is not about protecting consumers?

Pro-net neutrality campaign Savetheinternet.com says:

If Net Neutrality is so bad for consumers, why do ALL the major consumer groups support it and ALL the major phone companies oppose it? Who do you trust more to defend your Internet rights? Without meaningful protections of Net Neutrality, there will be less choice on the Internet and higher prices, at a time we’re already falling far behind the rest of the world.

Scary isn’t it? Falling behind the rest of the world, and all. But let me answer their question, “Who do I trust more to defend (my) internet rights?” My answer: the companies that I’m a paying customer of, and who I can switch away from if and when I don’t like their policies. It certainly isn’t the government that gives us politically-driven enforcement of “decency” regulations for broadcast radio and TV. Do we want the same FCC that does decency for broadcast radio and TV to be our tax-paid protector of net neutrality?

Ask me “who do I trust more to defend my movie-going rights?” I gotta go with markets. Same thing for the internet. If there were a monopoly provider of internet connections in my area, I might be worried. Maybe I’d want assurance in my contract that the ISP won’t block my choice of content. Maybe I’d even consider regulatory oversight as a possibility. But that isn’t the world we live in.

C’mon, kids, monopoly pipes and wires are soooo last century. Get with the times.


16 thoughts on “Saving the Internet, One Crude Animation at a Time

  1. I think you’re overlooking a vital point. Markets only exist where there is actual choice. You cannot choose the route the packets you send take to reach their destination. So even given choice of end-node service providers, you have to deal with the QOS policies of multiple carriers.

    In a “best effort” world, each and every packet recieves each carrier’s best effort, regardless of content, source or destination. That’s what we have now, and that’s what Net Neutrality argues for.

    In a QOS world, each packet is prioritized, and routed or dropped according to priority. But even if you pay Comcast to up the priority of your Skype packets, you can’t avoid transmitting them across Verizon and AT&T’s networks, where they may be shunted to the back of the line, or dropped all together, depending on load.

  2. Mike,

    Unfortunately, monopoly government is soooo now!

    I made my decision regarding “net neutrality” when I saw which side MoveOn.org supports.

  3. Mike,

    My trust also lies with the market and not the government to regulate anything let alone the the internet. Let’s not create a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, except for in the minds of some bloggers and MoveOn,org.

    For those people out there who see the net neutrality debate as one of David vs. Goliath and the “people” vs. corporations, take a look at this article.

    http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=9821

    Ed, since you’re obviously a big MoveOn.org fan, you may be interest to see in the article that Google has given more than $1 million to MoveOn.org, that’s a suprise.

  4. Mith: QoS doesn’t “drop” packets, does it? It sure doesn’t in my world.

    (Cisco sure doesn’t think it does; “Also important is making sure that providing priority for one or more flows does not make other flows fail.”

    A provider that drops your packets (whether intentionally or not) is going to face competition very shortly, unless the State gives them a monopoly.

    Now, if you mean only dropping packets if the network is full, well… the only difference between Best Effort and QoS is that under a QoS setup, the VoIP traffic would get dropped preferentially and plain IP would get kept on, because VoIP traffic needs low latency and doesn’t care about losing a few packets, whereas normal IP traffic (file transfers) doesn’t care about latency and can’t abide losing even one packet.)

    See here; Bennett might be curmudgeounly, but he knows his networking, from the most basic level on up, far better than almost anyone else talking about this issue.

    Even from my much lower level of knowledge of the intricacies of IP networking (which is to say, more than most people, but nothing compared to a Network God), I can tell that a lot of what the Net Neutrality people are saying is complete bull and that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about at the technical level. And the technical level is important, given that this is a technical issue.

  5. Mith: QoS doesn’t “drop” packets, does it? It sure doesn’t in my world.

    (Cisco sure doesn’t think it does; “Also important is making sure that providing priority for one or more flows does not make other flows fail.”

    A provider that drops your packets (whether intentionally or not) is going to face competition very shortly, unless the State gives them a monopoly.

    Now, if you mean only dropping packets if the network is full, well… the only difference between Best Effort and QoS is that under a QoS setup, the VoIP traffic would get dropped preferentially and plain IP would get kept on, because VoIP traffic needs low latency and doesn’t care about losing a few packets, whereas normal IP traffic (file transfers) doesn’t care about latency and can’t abide losing even one packet.)

    See here; Bennett might be curmudgeounly, but he knows his networking, from the most basic level on up, far better than almost anyone else talking about this issue.

    Even from my much lower level of knowledge of the intricacies of IP networking (which is to say, more than most people, but nothing compared to a Network God), I can tell that a lot of what the Net Neutrality people are saying is complete bull and that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about at the technical level. And the technical level is important, given that this is a technical issue.

  6. Sigivald,

    I wish it was only a technical issue. However, it has become a political issue, with some of the “outliers” taking strong positions. It is fine when technology works the way they want it to work. However, when it does not, they squeal like stuck pigs and thrash around in the muck until nobody can see what’s going on anymore. Fortunately, most techies know to stay upwind of the fan when the politicos get involved.

  7. Sigivald,

    I wish it was only a technical issue. However, it has become a political issue, with some of the “outliers” taking strong positions. It is fine when technology works the way they want it to work. However, when it does not, they squeal like stuck pigs and thrash around in the muck until nobody can see what’s going on anymore. Fortunately, most techies know to stay upwind of the fan when the politicos get involved.

  8. Sigivald,

    I wish it was only a technical issue. However, it has become a political issue, with some of the “outliers” taking strong positions. It is fine when technology works the way they want it to work. However, when it does not, they squeal like stuck pigs and thrash around in the muck until nobody can see what’s going on anymore. Fortunately, most techies know to stay upwind of the fan when the politicos get involved.

  9. I don’t think all the net neutrality folks are technically incompetent. Vint Cerf is certainly not technically incompetent! Cerf’s point is that the Internet grew because it has no center — it is all on the edge; allowing for unlimited innovation and preventing isolated proprietary spaces from forming. We used to have such isolated networks — they were called BBS-es. You could dial into and join any BBS you wanted, but none of them could talk to each other. One may say that by Misesian analysis, the players rationally should have wanted to interconnect, but be that as it may, it is not what happened.

    There are two issues here. (a) we don’t want to create isolated BBS type of networks that cannot communicate, ending up with perhaps one to two big players and high barriers to entry (b) we should certainly not want to limit the use of QoS technology, nor restrict ISPs for charging for it in some way if they want.

    A Hayekian (rather than Misesian) solution perhaps is not to ban QoS charges, but simply find some way to have disclosure of all commercial arrangments that a carrier enters into regarding packet prioritization an the prices for such services. This will tend to discourage the kind of insidious behavior that would eventually lead to a single big player (or two) like in the Operating Systems market.

    Mises said that ultimately we should do nothing. Hayek said that it is impossible to do nothing so we need to figure out what to do, and hence had his general principle of using legislation to form rules that ban coercive or fraudulent behaviour of various kinds (that large players are sometimes able to get away with because of their power). I agree most legislation is bone headed, but agree with Hayek that it is necessary. To avoid being illiberal, laws should be negative (banning rather than “allowing”), universally applicable to all, and for the purpose of making illegal all forms of coercion or fraud. His famous example was of a monopoly owner of an oasis in a desert city. Instead of the state taking over the oasis, he suggested that a law requiring him to have a price list would prevent him from having power to coerce people (e.g. make them call him God before he gives them water, or whatever). It is not an end of legislation we need, but simply to follow the principles of legislation that created a classically liberal society in the first place.

    -Karun.

  10. I don’t think all the net neutrality folks are technically incompetent. Vint Cerf is certainly not technically incompetent! Cerf’s point is that the Internet grew because it has no center — it is all on the edge; allowing for unlimited innovation and preventing isolated proprietary spaces from forming. We used to have such isolated networks — they were called BBS-es. You could dial into and join any BBS you wanted, but none of them could talk to each other. One may say that by Misesian analysis, the players rationally should have wanted to interconnect, but be that as it may, it is not what happened.

    There are two issues here. (a) we don’t want to create isolated BBS type of networks that cannot communicate, ending up with perhaps one to two big players and high barriers to entry (b) we should certainly not want to limit the use of QoS technology, nor restrict ISPs for charging for it in some way if they want.

    A Hayekian (rather than Misesian) solution perhaps is not to ban QoS charges, but simply find some way to have disclosure of all commercial arrangments that a carrier enters into regarding packet prioritization an the prices for such services. This will tend to discourage the kind of insidious behavior that would eventually lead to a single big player (or two) like in the Operating Systems market.

    Mises said that ultimately we should do nothing. Hayek said that it is impossible to do nothing so we need to figure out what to do, and hence had his general principle of using legislation to form rules that ban coercive or fraudulent behaviour of various kinds (that large players are sometimes able to get away with because of their power). I agree most legislation is bone headed, but agree with Hayek that it is necessary. To avoid being illiberal, laws should be negative (banning rather than “allowing”), universally applicable to all, and for the purpose of making illegal all forms of coercion or fraud. His famous example was of a monopoly owner of an oasis in a desert city. Instead of the state taking over the oasis, he suggested that a law requiring him to have a price list would prevent him from having power to coerce people (e.g. make them call him God before he gives them water, or whatever). It is not an end of legislation we need, but simply to follow the principles of legislation that created a classically liberal society in the first place.

    -Karun.

  11. Ed: Right, but my point was that laws based on lack of knowledge (or outright false knowledge) of the technical level are almost inevitably going to be bad laws, and that it’s best to simply not add more laws based on such a condition.

    Karun: Of course, they’re not all incompetent (though you should see what Bennett says about Cerf; which boils down to an accusation of enhanced ego and cluelessness about the current and future needs of the modern internet, as opposed to his admittedly vital work in the Dusty Old Days of IP.)…

    But the center (or more accurately, middle) does exist. Edges can’t talk to each other without going through the middle, and if the middle gets borked by congestion because we can’t use QoS, then the edges are of no import.

    I also don’t think there’s any probability of ending up with “BBS-style” networks that can’t talk to each other, even without any legislation at all. QoS and preferential service for money don’t entail that, and customer demand acts very, very strongly against it.

  12. Ed: Right, but my point was that laws based on lack of knowledge (or outright false knowledge) of the technical level are almost inevitably going to be bad laws, and that it’s best to simply not add more laws based on such a condition.

    Karun: Of course, they’re not all incompetent (though you should see what Bennett says about Cerf; which boils down to an accusation of enhanced ego and cluelessness about the current and future needs of the modern internet, as opposed to his admittedly vital work in the Dusty Old Days of IP.)…

    But the center (or more accurately, middle) does exist. Edges can’t talk to each other without going through the middle, and if the middle gets borked by congestion because we can’t use QoS, then the edges are of no import.

    I also don’t think there’s any probability of ending up with “BBS-style” networks that can’t talk to each other, even without any legislation at all. QoS and preferential service for money don’t entail that, and customer demand acts very, very strongly against it.

  13. Ed: Right, but my point was that laws based on lack of knowledge (or outright false knowledge) of the technical level are almost inevitably going to be bad laws, and that it’s best to simply not add more laws based on such a condition.

    Karun: Of course, they’re not all incompetent (though you should see what Bennett says about Cerf; which boils down to an accusation of enhanced ego and cluelessness about the current and future needs of the modern internet, as opposed to his admittedly vital work in the Dusty Old Days of IP.)…

    But the center (or more accurately, middle) does exist. Edges can’t talk to each other without going through the middle, and if the middle gets borked by congestion because we can’t use QoS, then the edges are of no import.

    I also don’t think there’s any probability of ending up with “BBS-style” networks that can’t talk to each other, even without any legislation at all. QoS and preferential service for money don’t entail that, and customer demand acts very, very strongly against it.

  14. You are lucky if you have a choice between Internet providers. Contrary to your assertion that such is the existing situation everywhere, there are many, many communities that have zero or only one provider. You say you trust the markets to regulate whether they are being neutral or not. Do you keep foxes in the henhouse much? The market is the very forces that stand to profit from a lack of net neutrality principles. Why do you think they are pushing it? It’s not for our rights to free speech, I can guarantee you that.

    Net neutrality is not new. It’s not extra regulation, and it’s not asking for anything to be different than how it is now. Net neutrality is the only way to preserve the open internet that currently exists. Recent legislation has allowed the convergence of phone companies to provide video service and voip and now the phone companies want to ensure that end users get preferential access to their own content over that of their competitors. Is that so hard to understand? What’s good for Verizon is NOT good for America, in this case. Get a clue.

  15. You are lucky if you have a choice between Internet providers. Contrary to your assertion that such is the existing situation everywhere, there are many, many communities that have zero or only one provider. You say you trust the markets to regulate whether they are being neutral or not. Do you keep foxes in the henhouse much? The market is the very forces that stand to profit from a lack of net neutrality principles. Why do you think they are pushing it? It’s not for our rights to free speech, I can guarantee you that.

    Net neutrality is not new. It’s not extra regulation, and it’s not asking for anything to be different than how it is now. Net neutrality is the only way to preserve the open internet that currently exists. Recent legislation has allowed the convergence of phone companies to provide video service and voip and now the phone companies want to ensure that end users get preferential access to their own content over that of their competitors. Is that so hard to understand? What’s good for Verizon is NOT good for America, in this case. Get a clue.

  16. Sigivald:
    “Now, if you mean only dropping packets if the network is full, well… the only difference between Best Effort and QoS is that under a QoS setup, the VoIP traffic would get dropped preferentially and plain IP would get kept on, because VoIP traffic needs low latency and doesn’t care about losing a few packets, whereas normal IP traffic (file transfers) doesn’t care about latency and can’t abide losing even one packet.)”

    You’ve got that backwards. QoS gives latency and jitter-sensitive traffic higher priority and drops the best-effort IP traffic because VoIP *can’t* retransmit while normal TCP traffic can afford to wait for retransmission.

    To see how QoS is effectively engineered in a real network, see this post.

    Any version of net neutrality that makes QoS illegal is absurd.

    (The link on my name is to an index of my net neutrality posts that emphasize fact over emotional propaganda.)

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