Conversation with Erik Cecil on Network Neutrality
Conversation with Erik Cecil on escape from the false dichotomy of Network Neuetrality:Yes or No27-Nov-2009

I wrote the following in response to Erik's post.

To cut to the chase we’re being distracted by a false dichotomy: “NN yes or no”. The real issue is bits vs. services.

What do we do when we have a Regulatorium whose defining premise is at odds with reality. We now understand that bits are fundamental and services are built using bits – is the FCC capable of coming to terms with the new reality when it defines the market in terms of services? IP is not a service – it’s a protocol and just one of many possible protocols – all outside the FCC’s control. Warping regulations won’t get them to align with this reality.

What’s encouraging (as I noted on NNSquad) is that the existing providers are moving away from the bit transport business. Unfortunately even as they do so the FCC is continuing to focus on the broadband business model rather than creating enabling infrastructure. It’s a pyrrhic victory – after spending billions on new fiber we still won’t be able to assume availability – we’ll all be equally disconnected once we’re a few meters from our homes.

Industry is forced to face reality because the FCC can’t keep protecting them from market forces whereas the much of technical community seems to be stuck on the accidental properties of today’s telecom industry.

NN is a moot issue once we move beyond the telecom framing. I’m using the term “Ambient Connectivity” for a new framing. Can we start talking about the future rather than fighting over the past? We’ve got lots of work to do on new protocols and developing applications – why are we wasting time (and money) on the last war?

Erik responded and I continue ...

The big challenge is in escaping from the very concept of networks to physical infrastructure one uses to do one’s own networking. “Common carriage” is parallel to NN in being framed in telecom. It’s difficult to map the concepts in into a common carriage or neutrality framing. Alas the experience with spectrum allocation shows how very very difficult it is for the FCC to escape the wonderland of the Regulatorium – it’s far more rewarding to go for incremental fixes and the associated highs than to effect fundamental change.

The transition is not via “common carriage” but via a shift in the funding model. We can continue to operate services for now but with no incentive to force people to buy services we’ll see a rapid shift to encourage people to create the users to create their own services (or to buy them from their peers).

The good news is that there is this leverage point – if we can focus our efforts on the simple concept of funding infrastructure as infrastructure the rest will follow. We don’t have to rely on “good behavior” – just aligned incentives.