Close scrutiny exposes the hidden bias and warped priorities behind Google’s new “Measurement Lab” effort to try and find blocking or degrading of Internet traffic by ISPs.

  • It is a sad state of affairs, when there was virtually no attempt by the online media to  consider whether there might be another side to this story… than Google’s.

The other side of the story:

I.  Research bias:

Google’s supposed “objective” research effort is riddled with undisclosed biases.

  • Test bias: The research does not even acknowledge the possibility that network congestion could exist.
    • Derek Slater of Google said: “When your connection seems flaky, how do you know what the problem is? Is it the network, the software, or is it your PC on the fritz?”
    • Why not even mention the most common reason a shared Internet connection might be flaky — traffic congestion?
  • Hypothesis bias: One finds what they look for. The purpose of this “research” is only to find Internet traffic interference, not look for network congestion that creates the need for network management.
  • Sample bias: The “research” sample overwhelmingly will be made up of net neutrality activists, not an average objective consumers.
  • Assumption bias: The core assumption behind this “research” is that the Internet should be an end-to-end network of dumb pipes with no need for smart networks or reasonable network management. If the assumption is that FCC-permitted reasonable network management is not an acceptable point of view in the research effort, all research will of course classify reasonable network management as interference or bit discrimination.
  • Conclusion bias: Given the press’ characterization of this research as a “net neutrality test” indicates that some understand the pre-determined conclusion that will come out of this new “measurement lab.”
  • Characterization bias: The research defines traffic “delay” perjoratively as “interference,” “blocking,” “degrading” or “impairing.”   II.  Warped Priorities:Placing a high priority on this type of research while ignoring research on other much more urgent and important problems that directly threaten mainstream Internet users — shows how warped the priorities are of the net neutrality movement.

    Why are ISPs– who are managing their networks to deliver quality of service — more of a threat to the society than entities that:

    • Abuse peoples’ privacy?
    • Pollute the Internet with spam/viruses?
    • Steal identities?
    • Stalk children/people online?
    • Steal/pirate copyrighted content?
    • Defraud through phishing?
    • Defraud through click fraud?
    • Promote terrorism and hate?
    • Abet in cybercrime?
    • Abet in cyber-terrorism?

    Bottom line:

    Net neutrality remains a fringe Internet activist issue because it systematically misrepresents how the Internet actually operates, and it places a fringe priority of commons activists ahead of all the higher priority problems facing mainstream Internet users.

GigaOm’s instant and harsh condemnation of Cox’s new congestion management trials shows how unreasonable many net neutrality activists continue to be. 

Mr. Malik indignantly asserts: “Who is Cox to decide that a certain FTP transfer is not time sensitive, or that some software update is not time sensitive

Duh.

  • Cox is a competitive Internet Service Provider which serves customers who voluntarily contract with Cox to deliver Internet access with quality of service for a monthly fee. 
  • Cox is a competitor in the country with the most competitive broadband market in the world by far, and a competitor which will lose its customers if they do not satisfy their expectations and demands.
  • Cox is the owner of its competitive private broadband network, which it built with private capital.
  • Cox is a broadband network with naturally intermittent network congestion problems; and Cox is responsibly trying to manage its network to ensure quality of service for all its customers.   
  • Cox is an ISP, which under the FCC Broadband Policy statement can engage in “reasonable network network management.”
  • Cox is a company making a good faith effort to:
    • Publicly disclose its congestion management trials approach;
    • Notify its customers in advance; and
    • Be upfront that this is a dynamic process, where depending on what is learned in the trials, they may need to modify their approach or policies again.   

Mr. Malik’s question that Cox has no right to do what it is doing or that this is “just another incumbent behaving badly” shows how unreasonable many net neutrality activists remain in their demands.

  • These extreme and unreasonable views are why net neutrality remains a fringe political issue — way outside the political mainstream of America.

Why are Mr. Malik’s hard-line net neutrality views so unreasonable?

First, most people find it perfectly reasonable to prioritize delivery of packages or data packets on a time sensitivity basis.

  • People appreciate that their mail is prioritized, by next day, two-day, priority, regular, bulk etc. — based on how time sensitive it is.
  • People also appreciate that the passing lane exists on the highway for those who are more in a hurry than others and they also appreciate that there are many other traffic managment tools to ensure that the road system does not get so congested they gridlock.
  • People appreciate that those who have more urgent needs of most any kind, are routinely scheduled ahead of those whose needs are not as urgent.  
  • This net neutrality obsession that Internet traffic is basically the only thing in the world that cannot, or should not, be prioritized based on urgency/time sensitivity — is unreasonable by most any reasonable measure.

Second, the core belief hidden behind Mr. Malik’s indignance, and the indignance of other net neutrality extremists, is that the Internet is, or should be, mandated by law to be like a public commons — where the IP end-to-end network design principle is required by law, and all networks are required to be “dumb pipes” — prohibited from any interference of bits as a result of smart network management.

  • It is completely unreasonable for Mr. Malik and other net neutrality extremists to expect  ISPs to operate as if the Internet was a publicly-owned commons — as the law of the land — when it is clearly not the law of the land.
    • The law of the land is market driven competition per the 1996 Telecom Act, a market driven view echoed by President Obama in his recent inaugural speech: “Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched…
    • Moreover, for over thirteen years, the bipartisan and successful Internet policy of the United States has been: “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet… unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” 

Bottom line:

What is reasonable about advocating for strict monopoly regulation of a competitive market, when…

  • that regulation would block broadband investment, impede economic growth and degrade job creation…
  • in one of the only healthy sectors of the economy…
  • during one of the worst economic recessions in sixty years?

Isn’t it reasonable to ask people to supplement their narrow virtual world perspective with a little real world perspective about the economy…

AP “reporter” Peter Svensson appears to be up to his old tricks again masking his advocacy for Net neutrality as objective journalism — in his AP article: “Cox Communications to try a new way to handle online congestion, giving priority to some traffic.”

In the first and fourth sentences of Mr. Svensson’s “report” he editorializes:

  • First sentence: “Cox Communications… stepped onto the battleground of the net neutrality issue Tuesday…”
  • Fourth sentence: “The news is sure to revive the debate about “Net Neutrality,” or the question of how much Internet service providers can interfere with subscriber traffic.”

How can Mr. Svensson be so “sure” of such a thing unless he is planning personally to “revive” the net neutrality debate through his close coordination with FreePress?

How can Mr. Svensson be so “sure” that Cox’ network management technique — of prioritizing traffic based on time-sensitivity — putting time sensitive traffic ahead of non-time sensitive traffic — is not permissible reasonable network management, but is likely a violation of net neutrality warranting uproar — unless…

  • Mr. Svensson and his FreePress cohort already have privately rushed to judgement that it must be a net neutrality violation; and
  • He intends to advocate that point of view in his “news” coverage going forward from AP’s dominant news service perch?

Beef #1:

  • While Mr. Svensson certainly has every right to his opinion, his biased story should have been labeled as “news analysis” or “opinion,” because it did not live up to the reporting values AP represents as the world’s leading source of news articles.
    • AP in its Statement of News Values and Principles states: “we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news. That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions [Bold added]
    • Mr. Svensson’s article represented his strong opinions about net neutrality as facts without the reporting evidence to back it up.

Beef #2:

  • This article is biased and unfair in that it presumes Cox is somehow violating net neutrality since its actions will be “sure to revive the debate about net neutrality” and that Cox “has stepped on to the battleground.”
  • Moreover, Mr. Svensson did not include the critically relevant information Cox provided that would have provided the reader with a more balanced story.
    • The article did not include that:
      • Cox said it factored in guidance from the FCC in crafting its approach;
      • Cox manages its network to give all its customers “the best possible Internet experience” or quality of service.
      • Cable network architecture shares bandwidth and naturally has much less bandwidth available for upstream traffic than for downstream traffic;
      • Cox has classified what is time sensitive based on which applications are “naturally intolerant of delay” and also customer expectations;
      • This is a Cox trial or experiment, and Cox may adjust its approach based on experience and feedback from its trials; and
      • Affected customers are notified of the trial in advance and their feedback is encouraged.

Bottom line:

Mr. Svensson’s advocacy approach and “gotcha” coverage to net neutrality ill serves AP readers, Internet users and ISPs.

  • Mr. Svensson’s bias that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are somehow more interested in violating net neutrality than best serving their customers with the best quality of service possible — is based on the nonsensical market assumption that ISPs can do better business by ill-serving customers than by well-serving customers.
  • The depth of this anti-business bias is outrageous for a news organization claiming to follow the highest news values.

In short:

  • Is it “reasonable” to presume Cox guilty until proven innocent — i.e. that Cox’s network management based on the time sensitivity of traffic is somehow nefarious and will surely warrant a net neutrality furor?
  • Or is it more “reasonable” to presume Cox innocent until proven guilty, that a publicly disclosed, network management trial, which prioritizes traffic based on how time sensitive an application is — for the purposes of ensuring the best possible Internet experience for customers — is likely to be found to be reasonable network management?

Lost in the crush of news of late, was the latest FCC report on wireless competition, which shows that the U.S. is leading the world in mobile broadband and wireless competition.

  • This is especially relevant to the net neutrality/open Internet debate because:
    • the main justification for new net regulation is that there is insufficient competition, and
    • eBay is expected to revive its previously-rejected Skype petition mandating “Carterfone” net neutrality regulations on wireless competitors.
  • The FCC report not only proves the U.S. is the most competitive wireless market in the world but also that “wireless technology is increasingly being used to provide a range of mobile broadband services.” (p.5)
  • The FCC report “finds that U.S. consumers continue to reap significant benefits — including low prices, new technologies, improved service quality, and choice among providers” from wireless competition. (p.5)

On deployment/penetration:

  • “Mobile Internet pentration is higher in the United States (15.6 percent of wireless sbscribers) than in Western European countries.” The U.S. also passed Japan in 2007 in mobile penetration. (p.10)
  • The FCC report found ~95% of Americans enjoy at least three wireless competitors and ~60% enjoy at least five.

On competition and prices:

  • The FCC report concluded that: “No single competitor has a dominant share of the market.” (p.6)
  • U.S. wireless prices were 6 cents per minute prices vs. 20 cents in Europe and 26 cents in Japan. (p.10)

On wireless usage:

  • The result of much lower wireless prices in U.S. means “U.S. mobile subscribers lead the world in average voice usage by a wide margin...”

Moreover, the report also showed why wireless will continue to compete directly with wireline broadband (cable modems and DSL) because so many people highly value mobility and are willing to sacrifice speed for the convenience of mobility.

  • The FCC report showed 14.5% of all U.S. households have substituted wireless service for wireline service and almost a third of younger adults 18-29 have substituted wireless for wireline service.
  • The FCC’s latest broadband report confirmed this trend of wireless competition migrating to broadband in that wireless broadband was both relatively and absolutely the fastest growing segment of broadband in the U.S.

Bottom line: Wireless and broadband competition in the U.S. is succeeding and is more more robust here than in any other nation in the world.

  • To the extent U.S. law, policy and regulation are driven by official facts like those in the latest FCC reports, net neutrality proponents will find it difficult to justify why net neutrality regulation will do a better job serving consumers’ interests than existing competition policy.

Lost in the news over the last week was the FCC release of important facts about the status of US broadband competition — that are exceptionally relevant to the net neutrality/open Internet debate — a debate which is essentially over whether or not to replace competition policy with regulation because not enough broadband competition has developed.

The FCC released, several months late, the FCC’s biennial report on high speed Internet progress through 2007.

First, the latest FCC data belie the net neutrality charge that broadband competition is not working. (see Table 4 Residential Advanced Services Lines) In 2007:

  • Mobile wireless broadband lines grew by 6.4m lines or 237%;
  • Fiber broadband lines grew by .9m lines or 121%;
  • Cable modem broadband lines grew by 4.2m lines or 14%; and
  • DSL broadband lines grew by 3.7m lines or 19%.

Second, to put this broad intermodal growth in context, the report records data that:

  • Puts the US leading the world in cable modem broadband users, because the US is the only nation in the world that has a competing nationally deployed wireline broadband infrastructure.
  • The report also records data that puts the US leading the world in deployment of fiber connections, because most of the rest of the world, particulary Europe, heavily price regulate legacy copper plant as a monopoly thus discouraging intermodal competition and broadband deployment of fiber, cable, satellite and wireless technologies.
  • The report also records data that shows the US leads the world in wireless broadband, an amazing competitive success story that I will write about more soon.

Bottom line:

To the extent that the net neutrality/open Internet debate is based on real facts and real directions in broadband competition, there is precious little factual evidence warranting that the FCC, Congress and the Nation abandon the highly-successful competition policies that are in place — for the completely unproven case that a competitive market cannot provide an open Internet as embodied in the FCC’s net neutrality principles.