11/21/2005

Future of the [Free?] Internet. . .

Doc Searles has a very thought provoking, lengthy piece on Linux Journal entitled "Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes".

Just to give you a bit of insight, here's an excerpt from the letter Vint Cerf (Google's new guru, and author of the TCP/IP protocol) sent to the Committee on Energy and Commerce about new Internet legislation that's making its way around the Hill:

"The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings--from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging--that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design.
My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need. Many people will have little or no choice among broadband operators for the foreseeable future, implying that such operators will have the power to exercise a great deal of control over any applications placed on the network.
As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old non- discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive. Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.
I am confident that we can build a broadband system that allows users to decide what websites they want to see and what applications they want to use--and that also guarantees high quality service and network security. That network model has and can continue to provide economic benefits to innovators and consumers--and to the broadband operators who will reap the rewards for providing access to such a valued network.
We appreciate the efforts in your current draft to create at least a starting point for net neutrality principles. Google looks forward to working with you and your staff to draft a bill that will maintain the revolutionary potential of the broadband Internet."


If you believe the internet should remain free (in the various incarnations of that word, whatever it means to you), and you believe in free speech, I would recommend that you set aside some time to read his piece and take appropriate action.