FCC Is Already Chilling Smart Network Innovation

October 16, 2009

The most basic smart network innovation and obviously reasonable network management is already being chilled by the FCC’s expected absolute ban on any Internet traffic prioritization.

  • Light Reading reports: “Cox shuts down Net Congestion Tests”
    • “Cox launched the trials in February, testing out a system developed internally that puts traffic into “time-sensitive” (e.g., Web pages, voice calls, streaming video), and “non-time-sensitive” (e.g., file uploads, peer-to-peer, and Usenet) buckets. As designed, the congestion management system temporarily delays upstream, non-time-sensitive traffic whenever network congestion is detected. Cox, which limited the test to residential high-speed Internet subs, insisted that any delays were on the order of seconds or subseconds — not enough for customers to really notice.
  • Multichannel News reports: “Cox Wraps Internet Congestion Management Test — Operator Plans to Submit findings to FCC as Part of Network Neutrality Rulemaking Process”
    • “…the operator is no longer managing traffic based on application type in Kansas/Arkansas and has no plans to deploy the congestion-management system right now.”

Who thinks it is not “smart” or “reasonable” to prioritize time-sensitive traffic over non-time-sensitive traffic?

  • What computer or computer network in existence could function if its scheduler routine could not prioritize which systems, programs and sub-routines needed time-sensitive priority over non-time-sensitive ones?
  • What entity, private or public, could function if they could not prioritize time-sensitive business ahead of non-time-sensitive business?
  • Does the FCC really want to become the Internet’s urgency police on top of being the micromanagers of Internet packet delivery times for fairness?

If a major broadband company like Cox is afraid to even conduct innovative trials to improve the quality-of-service for its customers in the face of increasingly problematic network congestion — for fear of potential FCC regulatory sanction — it is clear that the FCC’s expected heavy regulatory hand is already chilling smart network innovation.

Practically, what the FCC is setting up is an extremely discriminatory “Mother may I” FCC innovation permission process for only broadband companies.

  • Meanwhile, the FCC Chairman’s Open Internet speech endorses Tim Berners Lee’s view “the Internet is a ‘blank canvas’ — allowing anyone to contribute and innovate without permission.
  • It is becoming more clear that the FCC may no longer view broadband providers as “anyone” that matters who should be allowed to contribute and “innovate without permission.”

The FCC Chairman also defined “openness” specifically: “…the core principle of openness — the freedom to innovate without permission.” Let’s put this new FCC-proposed legal right “to innovate without permission” in perspective.

  • The FCC will subject only broadband providers to approval of smart network innovations in advance, (delaying consumers the benefits of innovation for months/years until the FCC gets around to giving its permission to innovate), but companies like Google have FCC permission to innovate in managing its largest in the world, dark-fiber, Internet service provider network — without transparency and without having to ask the FCC for permission to innovate on its network with Google Voice?
  • Does this also mean that the voluntary and cooperative Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) whose mission is to make the Internet work better, and which operates without FCC permission, will now have to submit its innovations for FCC permission if broadband providers are involved in the IETF’s innovation process of making the Internet better, but if only Google, or other innovation-preferred companies, are involved with the IETF — the FCC won’t require the IETF to seek FCC permission to innovate?
  • Will the FCC create a de facto “innovation watch list” of companies that don’t have FCC permission to innovate, so investors will know with certainty, which companies are allowed by the FCC to innovate without permission, compete and succeed, and which companies are designated as potential dangers to consumers and are not FCC pre-cleared to innovate, compete and succeed?

Isn’t it a big red flag when a policy like net neutrality is justified because of the need for more fairness, but is applied in a patently unfair manner?

Isn’t it a big red flag when a policy is supposed to create an Open Internet where innovators don’t have to ask for permission to innovate, and the rules result in broadband providers having to seek prior approval of the FCC to pursue smart and obviously reasonable innovations?

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