Canadian Network Neutrality

November 6th, 2006 | by ian |

Canadian internet “watchdog” Michael Geist points out that there are forces at work threatening so-called “network neutrality” or as I prefer to frame the issue: internet freedom. Of particular concern is Videotron’s president Robert Depatie who proves he just doesn’t get it. Unfortunately what’s scary is neither do many of the folks listening to him:

Depatie floats the idea of an “Internet transmission tariff”, as he calls on the government to levy a tariff on content providers such as the music and film industry for using high-speed networks. Says Depatie: “If the movie studio were to mail a DVD. . . they would expect to pay postage or courier fees. Why should they not expect a transmission tariff?” This suggestion represents possibly the most extreme example of how providers might try to charge content creators and e-commerce companies – by obtaining the support of government-backed tariff.

He obviously has no idea how or why the internet functions the way it does – has he heard of peering, and that costs are borne by both parties in any transaction? He is clearly confused about the role of telecommunications and demonstrates a gross disregard for the privilege enjoyed by his corporation to carry my bits in the first place.

Bob Frankston has been doing great work analyzing the different issues surrounding telecommunications policy, and why it is economical to solve information transport and content delivery at separate layers, and why the historical methods of providing telecom service are outdated:

The key is to align the incentives so we are funding transport directly and thus there is no conflict between our need for more transport capacity and our need to create services outside the transport provider’s domain. We are used to funding shared transport as infrastructure – roads, electric distribution, sewers etc.

There is ample precedent. Edison original sold light but we now buy electricity and create our own lighting. We share a single electric distribution system because additional systems create costs without adding value. We can see this in the carriers’ own funding models – their costs are based on houses passed but their revenue is based on families that subscribe. If you have two distribution systems you have 2x the cost and no increase in value.

See also Frankston’s interesting analogy with sidewalks in an essay: “Sidewalks: Paying by the Stroll

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