Tag Archives: net neutrality

MIT Professor David Clark on ‘The Internet Today and Tomorrow’

The Information Economy Project presents an important lecture in its “Big Ideas About Information” series:

The Internet Today and Tomorrow:

Social Implications of Evolving Technology

A Lecture by DAVID CLARK
Senior Research Scientist
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Tuesday, February 3, 2009, 4 p.m.
George Mason University School of Law, 3301 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Va.
Room 121

The Internet is now sufficiently embedded in society that it is regularly triggering social, economicDavid Clark Lecture and regulatory issues. The hot topics of today are network neutrality, network management, and the question of imposing regulatory limits on Internet service providers. However, those are just today’s hot topics. What will happen tomorrow? Can we speculate and perhaps get a bit ahead of the curve?

In this talk, Professor Clark will start with a perspective on today’s issue of network neutrality and the role of the ISP, and will then look further into the future to look at some emerging issues, such as the role of the social network as a platform, the problems of building a more secure and available Internet, the emerging requirement for identity mechanisms, and the industrial implications of network virtualization and overlays. This talk will describe some new ideas from the technical community that might shift the landscape of regulation and industrial structure.


David Clark is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where he has worked since receiving his Ph.D. there in 1973. Since the mid 70s, Dr. Clark has been leading the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect in this development, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. His current research looks at re-definition of the architectural underpinnings of the Internet, and the relation of technology and architecture to economic, societal and policy considerations. He is helping the U.S. National Science foundation organize their Future Internet Design program. Dr. Clark is past chairman of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies, and has contributed to a number of studies on the societal and policy impact of computer communications. He is co-director of the MIT Communications Futures Program, a project for industry collaboration and coordination along the communications value chain.

Net Neutrality and White Spaces Remain in the Limelight at Association Conference

I appreciate all the great traffic I’ve received in recent days for my posts about the white spaces issue. This morning I posted two news articles on BroadbandCensus.com coming out of the Wireless Communications Association’s conference in San Jose. Follow the links to read the pieces.

Net Neutrality Advocates: Wireless Carriers’ Network Management Must be ‘Reasonable’

SAN JOSE, November 7 – Emboldened by their summertime victory against Comcast, advocates of network neutrality said Thursday that the next front in battle for the principle would be against wireless carriers who make “unreasonable” network management decisions. read more

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s Incredible Silicon Valley Wi-Fi Adventure

SAN JOSE, November 6 – It was Kevin Martin’s day to suck up praise from Silicon Valley. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – for about two more months – came to the Wireless Communications Association’s annual conference here on Thursday to be feted by many Googlers, including company co-founder Larry Page. read more

Will Bandwidth Demands ‘Break’ the Internet? Yea or Nay, We Need Independent Monitoring

June 22 – The subject of tiered access to high-speed internet services has been much in the news, with the announcements by Time Warner Cable, and also Cox Communications, that they would roll out tiered services.Well, the news out of NXTcomm08, the telecommunications industry conference last week in Las Vegas, only seems to underscore the prospect that greater control by network providers is on the horizon. According to a survey by Tellabs and research firm IDC, telecommunications professionals are split down the middle on whether increasing bandwidth demands are likely to “break” the Internet.

According to the survey, half of respondents said bandwidth demands would “break” the Internet.

Of greater interest, in my opinion:

Of the 80% who identified a way to deal with internet congestion, 32% think providers address spikes in traffic by prioritizing via packet inspection, while 24% believe that spikes are better handled by charging more for excess bandwidth.

My friend Chris Parente blogged about this development on Saturday, and he was kind enough to ask for my reaction. This is what I said:

Whether or not new bandwidth demands on the Internet cause carriers to offer tiered pricing or to throttle particular applications or protocols, independent monitoring will be crucial. The core purpose of BroadbandCensus.com is to provide bandwidth consumers, both individuals and businesses, with a place to find local information about broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and quality of service.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=49

Commission Copps: National Broadband Strategy Gaining Steam

Editor’s Note: I’ll be blogging much of today from the Broadband Policy Summit IV at BroadbandCensus.com. Check back for updates!

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, in the keynote address: “The issue of a national broadband strategy is beginning to take on a life of its own. We are going to hear more about it in the national campaign, and we are going to hear more about it when the new Congress assembles next year.”

Copps also praised the March decision by the FCC to update and expand broadband data collection. (The formal decision from the agency has not yet been released.)

On the first panel, Greg Rothschild, top aide to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., said that the current Congress wasn’t very focused on telecom-related issues. However, he said, Network Neutrality remained the “wild card” in the debate:

“Network neutrality can always bubble up…. Net neutrality moves to the forefront depending on consumer reaction, and a lot of that depends on the network operators,” said Rothschild.

“Last Congress, when Net neutrality was a big issue, we had votes in the subcommittee, and the full committee, and [in Congress.] Frankly, Net neutrality, or non-discrimination [rules] lost all three times.”

URL: http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=23

Obama Seeks Openness in ‘Net Policy and Government Disclosure

By Drew Clark

Comcast’s decision to limit Internet traffic from the peer-to-peer software BitTorrent would be against the law if Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama had his way, an aide to the Democratic Senator said Thursday.

In a conference call organized by the campaign for Sen. Obama, D-Ill., high-profile technology experts Lawrence Lessig, Beth Noveck and Julius Genachowski endorsed the technology and innovation agenda that Obama released on Wednesday. Also on the line were three Obama aides, who declined to speak for attribution.

“What I find compelling about the Senator’s [stance] is a strong commitment to Net neutrality,” said Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University, referring to the notion that broadband providers be barred from favoring business partners with speedier Internet delivery.

Obama “addresses the problem of Net neutrality in a way that could actually be enforced,” said Lessig. By contrast, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton “can’t stand up for Net neutrality.”

Obama’s articulation of Net neutrality hit on the four core principles of neutrality as articulated by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell in February 2004, and adding a fifth requirement of non-discrimination:

Users must be free to access content, to use applications, and to attach personal devices. They have a right to receive accurate and honest information about service plans. But these guarantees are not enough to prevent network providers from discriminating in ways that limit the freedom of expression on the Internet…. Barack Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. This principle will ensure that the new competitors, especially small or non-profit speakers, have the same opportunity as incumbents to innovate on the Internet and to reach large audiences.

Former Obama classmate Genachowski, of Rock Creek Ventures, emphasized that Net neutrality and Internet transparency share the same theme: it is “the principle of openness that you see throughout this plan, both with respect to the Internet and also the commitment to openness in the government.”

Genachowski, a former aide to IAC/InterActive Corp. Chairman Barry Diller, also highlighting Obama’s goal for universal broadband, his desire to take on entrenched incumbents, and his use of online technology with his campaign Web site, www.barackobama.com.

Noveck, a law professor at New York University who spearheaded the peer-to-patent wiki, said that Obama had offered “the only plan that articulates how we should think about the future of government in the digital age. He has put this question about how does government work on the agenda,” she said, referring to Obama’s goal to make all government data available in machine-readable formats.

Putting government data in XML, or extensible markup language, would enable the blogophere, and the Internet generally, to keep better oversight of the operations of government and of lobbyists, said Noveck.

“Technology is not just about economic innovation,” she said. Obama wants “to harness technology to actually do the way government does business better.”

Comcast and Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information

By Drew Clark
Comcast’s terms of service and other consumer broadband service documents make no mention of any restrictions on the use of “peer-to-peer” applications like BitTorrent, or of any Internet network management.

AT&T and Time Warner Cable, two of the other big broadband providers, do mention restrictions on “peer-to-peer” services in their consumer broadband documents. Verizon Communications does not mention the phrase, according to an analysis of the four broadband providers conducted by DrewClark.com.

Unlike Time Warner Cable, Comcast fails to mention any “management,” “network management” or “reasonable network management” of its consumer broadband service in its documents.

Of the four providers, however, Comcast makes the most extensive warning to consumers against the “excess” use of bandwidth. For example, Comcast declares that the consumer “shall ensure that your use of the Service does not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or degrade any other user’s use of the Service, nor represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an overly large burden on the network.”

The issue of Net neutrality has resurged because of Comcast’s actions limiting subscriber bandwidth available through the peer-to-peer software application BitTorrent. Although the company has conceded delays on traffic in and out of peer-to-peer applications, it defended these on the grounds that they were reasonable network management tools.

Whatever the legality of Comcast’s network management of BitTorrent, another question should loom large. Is Comcast violating what might be called the “missing” Net neutrality principle?

In other words, are consumers receiving true and accurate service plan information about what is being offered and sold as Internet service by Comcast?

On Thursday, a coalition of non-profit groups led by Free Press and Public Knowledge filed a formal complaint (PDF) at the Federal Communications Commission. It charged Comcast with violating several of the Net neutrality principles in the FCC’s August 2005 policy statement (PDF) designed to “encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet.”

In particular, according to the August 2005 principles, “consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice” (principle one), and “consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice” (principle two). Comcast violated those principles through “methods [that] deliberately discriminate against peer-to-peer traffic,” write Free Press and Public Knowledge. They also claim that Comcast undermines the competition that consumers are entitled to have among broadband service providers.

At first, Comcast refused to admit that it blocked Internet access to peer-to-peer applications, in an October 19 story reported by the Associated Press’s Peter Svensson.

Then, speaking on background in a New York Times blog post by Brad Stone, a company official admitted that Comcast “uses data management technologies to conserve bandwidth and allow customers to experience the Internet without delays. As part of that management process, he said, the company occasionally – but not always – delays some peer-to-peer file transfers that eat into Internet speeds for other users on the network.”

Now, in response to the formal complaint, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said that the provisions of the FCC’s Net neutrality policy are constrained by footnote 15, which reads, “The principles we adopt are subject to reasonable network management.”

“We engage in reasonable network management to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience, and we do so consistently with FCC policy,” David Cohen, executive vice president at Comcast, said in a Thursday statement. “The FCC’s Internet policy acknowledges that the Web is subject to reasonable network management. The commission clearly recognized that network management is necessary by ISPs [Internet service providers] for the good of all customers.”

What is striking is that none of Comcast’s broadband service documents make any mention of either limitations on “peer-to-peer” applications, or the use of “network management” practices on the purchased Internet service.

The only use of the term “management” in any of three broadband documents is about the Comcast Home Networking Service, which refers to the “gateways, routers, or wireless cards rented from or otherwise supplied by or on behalf of us [Comcast] to you [the consumer].” These three documents are Comcast’s Terms of Service agreement for residential services, Comcast’s high-speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy, and the Comcast Abuse Policy.

Comparable terms of service and acceptable use documents of each of the four largest carriers – AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable – were examined by DrewClark.com for the adequacy of the statements’ disclosure of issues that may bear on consumer broadband use.

While Comcast omits the phrase “peer-to-peer” entirely, AT&T says, “You agree that the Service is not to be used to host peer-to-peer application that you are not actively using.” Time Warner Cable says that it “may use various tools and techniques in order to efficiently manage its networks,” including “managing network resources through techniques such as limiting the number of peer-to-peer sessions a user can conduct at the same time.”

Besides “peer-to-peer,” the phrases searched for in the documents included the use of network “management,” whether “bandwidth” was deemed to be “excessive” or the “exceed” a particular limitation, whether there was a ban on personal “servers” or the “resale” of broadband service, and whether there were any restrictions on bandwidth for “USENET.” The analysis is available here.

The Federal Trade Commission highlighted the principle of consumer access to service plan information in June 27 Net neutrality report. That report raises consumer protection and deceptive trade practice issues, noting that there are remaining “questions involving the clear and conspicuous disclosure of material terms of broadband Internet access.”

The report specifically references what former FCC Chairman Michael Powell called the “freedom to obtain service plan information,” or the last of the four Internet freedoms he articulated in a February 2004 speech (PDF). This fourth principle was dropped when the FCC, under Chairman Kevin Martin, issued its four Net neutrality principles.

FTC Commissioner Jonathan Leibowitz said it was important to protect “consumers from having to choose Internet service plans without sufficient information about those plans from broadband providers.”