Internet Infrastructure and Regulation

From Technologies and Politics of Control
Jump to navigation Jump to search

March 29

In this class, we will cover the politics, policy, economics and technology of deploying broadband infrastructure. We will look at the year-old US National Broadband Plan and the Berkman Center review of international experiences in broadband policy. Additionally, we will look at the substance and politics of the net neutrality debate.

Slides: Internet Infrastructure and Regulation


  • Executive Summary of the National Broadband Plan [1]
  • National Broadband Plan Commission Meeting: National Purposes Update, February 18th 2010 [2]
  • Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband Internet transitions and policy from around the world, Berkman Center [3]
  • Net Neutrality 101 [4]
  • More Confusion about Internet Freedom [5]
  • Hands Off the Internet [6]

Optional Readings

Class Discussion

A number of things came to mind during the readings. The one that I'd like to discuss here is what the economic impact on startup and small businesses and the potential negative effects pipeline tiering might have on the US economy. Pipeline tiering could and most likely would have a negative effect on the US economy if small and startup businesses seek creating revenue in other countries due to class A and class B access by US ISP's. This said, it could mean many companies opting not to setup shop in the US. This in turn means less innovation within our own borders. In the end the ISP's lose out on a source of revenue and the US loses it's position as world class innovator.

Further, if another country dictates that all content is free to anyone, how can it be enforced if our own ISP's charge a tier pricing to access such sites, data and content? It would also be a requirement for protection of such sources to be made law or included in the requirement to pay for access. But how do you collect against a foreign country where the services are housed? Are this ISP's really thinking this through? Are they prepared to lose a large amount of business to foreign providers? To the majority of us we would not notice if we are going to say the UK for content.

If Sealand were still in existence would it help protect against the possibility of tiered charges? --Adavies01 20:38, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

After reading all this week's assignment readings, I started to dig websites to see what is going on in my country, which is South Korea, regarding the "Net Neutrality" issue. It was quite a surprise to find out that Korea, nominated as one of the leading Internet police states in the world, is, in fact, suggesting a rather positive vision in this aspect. ([7]) Nonetheless, the Internet service of Korea led by three major mobile companies can be in any point thrown into a net neutrality controversy - especially since these corporates are pushing forward to new business frontiers of bigger profits. --Yu Ri 21:37, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Thought this was relative and very interesting: Article referring to common carriage; -- Alex

A follow-up to our discussion on limits to free speech and indirect political pressure on third-party private intermediaries. In this case, four senators are "requesting" Google, Apple, and RIM (maker of Blackberry) to remove apps from their device app stores that identify police DUI checkpoints. This article is the more passionate and argues for the freedom-of-speech angle: Senators Pressure Mobile App Stores to Kill Politically Incorrect Apps. While this one is more neutral: Groups Defend Drunk-driving Checkpoint Software. But it certainly looks like we'll see more and more instances of individuals in congress finding favorite online bogeymen to show how patriotic/principled/family-valued/tough-on-crime/fill-in-the-blank they can be! Smithbc 07:05, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

  • Smithbc thanks for pointing out this topic. There’s a couple of interesting discussion topics here. One is, if the purpose of drunken driving checkpoints is to get drunk drivers off the road, why would you combat a technology that would allow a potential offender to see active checkpoints before leaving the bar and maybe think twice, get a cab or stay home? It’s like people being pulled over for flashing their lights at oncoming traffic to let others know about a speed trap or ticketing for speed trap scanners in cars. If the purpose is to get people to slow down, don’t all of these accomplish the goals as much as the presence of enforcement? Of course for this logic to be valid one must assume that the goal is keeping drunk drivers off the road and slowing people down as opposed to arrest quotas and the revenue associated with fines.

-- Putting the soapbox aside, a more focused question about the above related to the topics of class is: is it an effective policy tool to attack one set of social problems by diminishing the fundamental rights insured by the First Amendment or aren’t there many other innovative and direct ways? How about directing enforcement or remediation at the offenders instead of stripping the rest of society of basic rights in an attempt to control the actions of a few? It’s seems arcane. It’s akin to thinking you can cure someone who is anemic by using the ancient medical technique of bloodletting. --Gclinch 14:18, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

Classmates: Is it just me or are the subjects we are studying in this class some of the most real world relevant in any class you’ve taken? Every week it seems like the syllabus tracks the headlines. We studied Wikileaks while in the real world events directly related to the topic unfolded. We studied collaborative technologies and the power of the individual to influence the world through digital technologies while dramatic examples of technology propelling individuals as catalysts for social change and crowd sourced political revolutions continue to unfold across large regions of the globe.

This week we are studying the Internet Infrastructure and Regulation and the National Broadband Plan and in the news important implications of this topic shout out to us.

The reason I say these things is that I below are a couple of specific examples that I would like your thoughts on. May I have your opinion on the following?

Last class we talked about Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 commonly known as the (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act). One of the primary goals of the 1996 Telecom act was advertised as creating an environment within which competition would flourish.

Flourish it did, for a relatively short period of time, but in the long run, not so much. This week’s business news started with one of the few remaining independent major wireless carriers in the US agreeing to merger terms with a massive firm that is itself the contemporary result of a string of industry consolidations that have take place in the intervening years since the passage of the Telecom Act of 1996 (see: Will AT&T's T-Mobile buy lead to a duopoly?)

In this week’s class we will be studying National Broadband Plan and again recent headlines including, “FCC endorsed long term evolution (LTE) as the required standard for any government” are about highly relevant topics. One of the goals of the National Broadband Plan is to, “ensure public safety” through addressing the, “lack a nationwide public safety mobile broadband communications network.”

One of the ways the National Broadband Plan proposed to address the lack of a nationwide public safety mobile broadband network was a proposal to auction off a block of spectrum known as the “D Block.” The D Block is a segment of the 700 MHz band that was proposed to be sold to a private entity that would use part of it for commercial purposes and as part of the purchase agreement, the organization would make available and manage part of the spectrum block in support of public safety communications. It’s a very complicated issue, but the bottom line was that the numbers didn’t work out and no private company stepped up to bid enough to cover the auction reserve (see FCC considering new D Block auction).

This all brings me to a couple of questions I hope we can discuss. Both the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and National Broadband Plan are OMNIBUS initiatives by government to address social challenges. Omnibus is a term that originated (in terms of its use by US government) in the 1970’s for the purpose of handling the national budget when large numbers of funding items would be consolidated into a single piece of legislation. (This is yet again another topic related to recent headlines see Omnibus Spending Bill Busts the Budget to Pay for Pork ...)

My first question begins with, “is the omnibus approach a valid way to address challenges?” Can government effectively tackle challenging issues with all encompassing approaches such as omnibus intiatives and legislation? Isn't it more effective to solve complex problems by chunking them up in more manageable pieces?

Other questions we might discuss tie last week’s readings to this week’s topics. In chapter 12 subsection The Regulators of Speech: Distribution, Professor Lessig talks about the idea of how the, “deeply held assumption at the core of our jurisprudence governing broadcasting technologies: Only a fixed amount of ‘spectrum’ is available for broadcasting,” and that the way to manage it is to, “allocate slices of it to users,” is a misconception routed in the decades ago understanding of the technology. Today’s technologies are vastly different and no longer constrain the use of broadcast spectrum in the same ways, yet governance mentality seems stuck in the 1920’s.

What are your thoughts about this idea that even in forward thinking initiatives including the National Broadband Plan policy making seeks to be progressive, yet often is trapped by historical context? Thank you. I look forward to your thoughtful comments. --Gclinch 14:18, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

During this week's reading I came across two interesting articles in support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger as an exemplary initiation of the National Broadband Plan in action with full blanket coverage across the country, and the economical and technological potential of wireless advancements as the way of the future for broadband. Some Random Thoughts on AT&T/T-Mobile Merger and AT&T and T-Mobile--Listen Before You Judge Deinous 23:49, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

Thoughts on Net Neutrality and Open Access

This week’s readings on the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, net neutrality and Internet freedom are pure advocacy papers. (Only the Berkman Center study of next generation connectivity conveyed a sense of impartiality.) Each presents big business or big government as the enemy of the people’s Internet. Each is correct to a degree, but neither paints a fair and complete picture. Theirer warns of inefficient bureaucracy should the government get involved, yet it was a government project from DARPA that created the Internet. The populist sounding organizations “” and “” alternately blame the greedy motives of big businesses like AT&T and Google without discussing the natural competition between content providers and common carriers. The simple fact of the Internet is that traffic management has existed long before the Internet did – and it has been an integral part of the Internet for most of its life. The electric company and the telephone company each have business and residential service tiers. These public utilities are regulated by government to insure and even subsidize a minimum level of residential service. Business customers pay more for higher service levels. This public utility model can serve the Internet as well. Just as the phone company cannot restrict who you can call (although you may have to pay more for long distance), no Internet service provider should block a particular site’s traffic (although there can be different data plans for capacity and speed). Many of us perform our own traffic shaping using “Quality of Service” settings (QoS) to grant higher priority “fast lane” access to voice-over-IP (Skype) while relegating email to the slow lane (big deal). In fact, we welcome the intervention of our ISP for filtering all that spam! I think the Berkman Center paper gets the concept right by emphasizing “open access” policy – i.e., that every business or other entity has the ability to connect to the infrastructure – but not mandating any policy beyond it. Promote innovation by allowing tiered service levels with an opportunity to profit from risk, while still guaranteeing basic access to all as a public good in the spirit of the First Amendment. -Chris Sura 02:51, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Nice thoughts Chris...I share your opinion as regard your last two sentences...To be honest, I did not know how far net neutrality issue is. Till now I though that it is more problem of future than issue of current days. I was wrong...Information about the blocking skype by T-Mobile in Germany in 2009 made me sure in how important the topic is. (T-Mobile blocking Skype in Germany)

Links from Class

Fed Judge Kimba Wood Calls Record Companies' Request for Trillions in Damages Absurd in LimeWire Copyright Case The most interesting part of the article is not the outrageousness of the record companies' claims, but the way the judge reached her decision. She stated that legislature could not have foreseen the way the internet would interact with copyright law, and thus you can't use legislative history. Reasonableness, instead, was the issue to rule on.

Wall Street Journal Op Ed by Yochai Benkler Ending the Internet’s Trench Warfare March 20, 2010 "The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, announced last week, is aimed at providing nearly universal, affordable broadband service by 2020. And while it takes many admirable steps — including very important efforts toward opening space in the broadcast spectrum — it does not address the source of the access problem: without a major policy shift to increase competition, broadband service in the United States will continue to lag far behind the rest of the developed world." --Gclinch 23:32, 28 March 2011 (UTC)

New America Foundation link concerning differing broadband service and pricing in the US vs that in Japan: The brief posted is from 2009 and contains a generous quantity of data which should serve to give you a clear idea of the difference in service availability between the US and a country which is considered to be half a generation ahead of the international standard.BrandonAndrzej 00:28, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

In a thread on yesterday, members of Google's Chrome development team shared how fast their office's Internet connection is. Can you guess the number?

NPR brings us news from the House. The Rebublican majority voted to repeal rules that protect net neutrality. I doubt with will fly in the Senate like the article says. Article: House Votes To Repeal Internet Access Rules Saambat 22:50, 19 April 2011 (UTC)