Cutting Through the Spin, Net Neutrality in Canada

This morning I had the chance to read a piece by Peter Nowak on the Google/Verizon Agreement and I felt I just had to respond to a few key assertions. First, read the article.

First, Peter says there are two 'bad' elements to the proposal, but largely ignores the third big problem I wrote about yesterday. That is, the NN language for what it _does_ cover, is extremely weak. Net Neutrality is a technical principle that deals with a specific disease, not a set of symptoms of that disease. The google proposal is like cough syrup for the web -- it won't do anything to cure the disease. The 'undue' language in the proposal is essentially the same as we've had in Canada since before Net Neutrality ever became a political concern. Section 27(2). Its law. For the Internet it's always been law in Canada. It is known NOT TO WORK -- and this is evidenced by Bell vs CAIP, by the protests on the hill, by all the torrent degradation and other Net Neutrality violations that continue to go on in Canada today.

Peter Nowak, in his article says "Here in Canada, net neutrality rules were created by our regulator, the CRTC, last October." ... but this isn't correct. We don't have Net Neutrality regulation in Canada at all, we have an interpretation of undue preference. When the ruling came out it was highly criticized for not doing _anything_ to prevent the BitTorrent degradation that was then, and still is, a fact of the Canadian internet experience.

This proposal from Google/Verizon does nothing to protect the future of Skype, of Hulu, of BitTorrent DNA's legitimate video business. Differentiated services, like Shaw's digital phone, are not internet. But they still compete with Skype, with Vonage, will all VoIP providers -- so no Net Neutrality for them. Video on Demand is not web streaming, so HULU is out of luck for a level playing field -- the carriers will offer HD TV while holding back the type of Internet bandwidth required to make this happen. BitTorrent DNA will continue to be relegated to degradation on the public internet in the guise of "congestion management", claims of which have never been scientifically proven.

In Canada, we have bill C-552. It is the first step towards TRUE Net Neutrality in Canada. Is it perfect? No. But it's got BitTorrent's back. Does it address differentiated services? Thats an issue for committee and the CRTC. Its not specifically spelled out, but the language is broad enough to cover them for sure.

Peter's article also seems to take the approach of if the carriers want to build a second internet, let em, it will be a spectacular failure. But I'm sorry, I just can't agree with letting the carriers have one set of rules and everyone else another. Net Neutrality has always been about preventing a two-tier internet -- anyone who's watched a video PSA on NN has seen the two-tier imagery. Further, this isn't about a second generalized pipe -- it's about specialized services like 'optimized gaming', Voice and Video... which I don't even understand how that could be anything but a Net Neutrality violation to those in the know.

I have to reiterate that Bits are Bits. Net Neutrality is not about undue preference. That's a symptom of the disease. Its about the technical principle that says, I can communicate at a given speed in any way I want with anyone else on the internet that pays for the same level of speed. This is neutrality. The future services of tomorrow _depend_ on a generalized, dumb, pipe. They cannot evolve from a starting point of de-prioritization over the technologies they intend to replace. What good is a 15% improvement on a VoIP system, if it exists in the slow-lane until it can build critical mass. A slow-lane tech will never build that critical mass, and that optimization will never happen. Net Neutrality is about INNOVATION. The freedom to innovate WITHOUT permission from the carriers, without competitive disadvantage from the carriers, without prejudice.

To call what the CRTC has read 27(2) in, as Net Neutrality regulation, entirely ignores the Tim Berners-Lee innovation without permission side of the debate.

The concerns aren't overblown, and the clauses are cough syrup at best. It's why SAVETHEINTERNET.COM, the group that started this whole thing, is calling the proposal "Worse than expected" and Adam Green is saying Google has gone 'evil'. I totally agree with those statements, despite those who would have us believe that this is all overblown and that undue preference can be equated with Net Neutrality.