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May 12, 2006

Save the Internet pwns Hands Off the Internet

The truth about net neutrality.


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Hey, I think the Internet should be free of regulations, too - I just don't see a difference between government regulation and corporate regulation. It's really annoying that people think that letting corporations do what they want with the internet equals keeping the net free of government intrusion.


pwning is like owning, except more emphatic. I think the term originated in online gaming.

I disagree. The "Save the Internet" folks keep spouting nonsense that shows they have no comprehension of the current legal, political, or technical infrastructure that makes up the Internet. I support the basic "net neutrality" principles in the FCC statement (and also the additions to those from the "Hands Off" folks), but advocates of net neutrality are asking for regulatory frameworks that go far beyond those principles to mandate things that will have serious unintended consequences not only on future innovation, but on features that *already exist*. For example, many net neutrality advocates say they oppose classes of service, multi-tiered pricing, and the ability of Internet providers to block access to any legal content. But the company I work for (Global Crossing, a tier-1 global provider) already uses classes of service to distinguish voice, video, and best-effort Internet service in ways that allow us to sell services to our customers that would otherwise be impossible. We refuse to sell service to spammers even if they are in compliance with the U.S. "CAN-SPAM" law, because we hold our customers to a higher standard.

There are some real issues of concern about the telco/cable duopoly for consumer broadband in the United States--but those issues have nothing to do with issues about the Internet backbone, they are issues of competition in last-mile consumer broadband access. This is an area where people like Adam Green of MoveOn, Matt Stoller at MyDD, and Art Brodsky at Talking Points Memo have gotten their facts completely wrong, and accused Matt McCurry of lying on the basis of their own confusion.

The FCC is run by a commission that thinks it's important to regulate content for "indecency." That is an important fact to keep in mind when advocating that the FCC take an active role in regulating the Internet. (BTW, it's simply false that "net neutrality" has been in place for 70 years--Brodsky, Stoller, Green, and so on don't understand the difference between net neutrality and common carriage, and that the latter has nothing to do with not filtering the Internet, because Internet services are *not* under common carriage regulation and never have been.)

I've tried to spell out some of these issues in more detail on my blog as well as in comments on other blogs (including at MyDD).

If you want to truly be informed about the issues, the current single best resource is the Stifel/Nicolaus analysis titled "Value Chain Tug of War" (PDF).

Now, some will probably dismiss my comments because I work for a telecommunications company. But keep in mind that the company I work for is at potential risk from the U.S. telcos that control consumer broadband--they'd like to use their last-mile consumer broadband control as leverage to put us out of business. We compete very strongly with them in the Internet backbone arena, an arena where they only play because of acquisitions they've recently made (SBC buying AT&T and becoming at&t, Verizon buying MCI; Qwest was the reverse scenario with Qwest buying local telco operator U.S. West).

I should add that I'm not speaking on behalf of Global Crossing. Global Crossing has a very supportive pro-blogging policy for employees and runs its own blog where our VP of regulatory affairs, Paul Kouroupas, has posted about net neutrality and other legal issues more relevant to encouraging competition and preventing the local telcos from anti-competitive behavior.

I've posted a point-by-point response to the "Save the Internet" response to the "Hands Off" cartoon, which suffers from the same errors that Brodsky, Stoller, and Green have made, confusing net neutrality with common carriage and falsely asserting that cable companies were required until last year to allow others to use their networks. Wikipedia gets this issue correct, see the entry on Cable television.

Jim, thanks for the many thought-provoking links! Both "Save the Internet" and "Hands Off the Internet" are marketing campaigns, after all, and I expect both to be short on details and to sometimes oversell.

Thanks Lippard for revealing your self interest in taking Net Neutrality off the books (as a person both on the payroll of and holding shares in Global Crossing).

Let's try to put that aside for now. It seems your only argument is that the folks at Save the Internet (of who I am one) have confused "Net Neutrality" with "Common Carriage." This is simply not the case. You should re-read our FAQs.

But more importantly Jim: what's your point? Are you against a principle that keeps control of Internet content in the hands of the end-users? Are you in favor of allowing large corporations -- like AT&T, Global Crossing, Verizon and Comcast -- and the government to interfere with our ability to chose equally from all the content, services and applications that are available online?

Hands Off the Internet is a telco-supported astroturf campaign. They were established by industry lobbyists, lawyers and PR firms with the sole purpose of re-writing decades old telecommunications law in a way that will hand over control of the Internet to AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. They don't support any facet of net neutrality, despite your claim otherwise. (They're asking people to send Cingress a letter that leads off with the line: "I am writing to ask you to oppose 'Net Neutrality.'")

They have cloaked this agenda behind a million-dollar ad campaign that spreads outright lies, and pretends to represent the "true" voice of the people.

The Coalition takes no corporate or government money. Our membership includes the nation's largest and most respected consumer protection organizations, public interest advocates and internet rights groups. Both progressive and conservative organizations -- including the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, Common Cause and MoveOn -- have set aside partisan differences to join us in support of Internet freedom. More than 200 small businesses have also joined our effort because they understand the threat to economic innovation posed by the telcos' plan to discriminate in favor of the largest companies.

Evidently, you support the HOTI/phone companies’ contention that AT&T, Verizon, BellSOuth and other large ISPs should be able to erect tollbooths at the onramps and exits to the information highway. Under this regime, the success of online content and service would be determined by those who pay these companies the most.

I think this is a bad idea that would undermine the Internet freedoms that have made the Internet a dynamic force for new ideas and innovation. You seem to like the notion. This is where we disagree.

The real choice we face is whether we’re going to support good government policy that has protected Internet freedom, created a truly free market in content and services, and encouraged free speech to flourish online — or let predatory companies like AT&T and Comcast rewrite our telecommunications law and place their chokehold on online content and services.

For the history of the Internet, Web sites and online ideas have succeeded or failed on their own merit based on decisions now made collectively by millions of users.

Getting rid of Net Neutrality will hand these decisions over to a cartel of broadband barons. Do you really want AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth picking the next generation of winners and losers on the Internet?

They already have a virtual monopoly over the Internet access marketplace. Now, these network giants are asking Congress to get rid of the existing structure that 1) keeps them from placing a chokehold on content and 2) protects consumers and 3) keeps the Internet open to all comers. And you think they are doing this because they have our best interests in mind?


I disclosed my employment with Global Crossing, but you are mistaken when you say that I own shares in the company. (Although I've been compensated in the past with equity shares, I've sold that interest.) You should not jump to conclusions and confidently assert falsehoods--that seems to be par for the course for too many net neutrality advocates. But even if I had shares, can you explain why Global Crossing would have an interest in "taking net neutrality off the books"? (Especially since it's not on the books, which is why there are at least six bills in Congress trying to put some form of net neutrality into law).

You are likewise mistaken when you assert that my position must be that I favor the telcos (as I use this term in this comment I mean the local telcos that provide consumer broadband services, a business Global Crossing isn't in) engaging in anti-competitive activity or blocking consumer access to legitimate sites. As I've stated on my blog and elsewhere, I endorse (with qualifications) the principles of net neutrality in the FCC statement, and I also endorse the additional six principles advocated by the "Hands Off" campaign.

What I oppose is creating misguided legislation like HR 5417, handing additional regulatory authority to the FCC, and addressing concerns about anti-competitive behavior by the telcos through actions in Washington, D.C. (where the telcos, not the consumer, are the major power players) rather than in the marketplace (and occasionally, as needed, in the courts and in intelligently crafted legislation). There may be a place for some legislation, but anything that restricts freedom of contract, bans legitimate technology like QoS, or has absurd consequences like forcing providers to give service to spammers is bad legislation.

I disagree with your assertion that AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth (soon to be part of AT&T) have a "virtual monopoly over the Internet access marketplace." To make this statement closer to accurate, you'd have to add in the cable companies, restrict it to the U.S., and restrict Internet access to consumer broadband--but then it would still be false, because the number of entities involved would clearly not be a monopoly. I'll grant that consumer broadband access in the U.S. is a virtual telco/cable duopoly in most parts of the country, but I expect wireless services to change that.

Your comment here is filled with loaded emotional terms, but is short on fact. That's my problem with most net neutrality advocates.

Sagecast, you wrote "Let's try to put that aside for now. It seems your only argument is that the folks at Save the Internet (of who I am one) have confused "Net Neutrality" with "Common Carriage." This is simply not the case. You should re-read our FAQs."

I've re-read the single page FAQ at and I don't see any substantiation for the claim that's made in your response to the "Hands Off Cartoon" that "There's nothing new about Net Neutrality. It has been a fundamental part of the Internet since its inception. As a tenet of communications policy, it goes back some 70 years."

I inferred that this was discussing common carriage on the basis of the timeframe (though common carriage is actually a couple decades older than this) and what I've seen other net neutrality advocates say explicitly (they talk about the right for competitive providers to use the telcos' networks, which is common carriage).

What is this referring to that you consider equivalent to net neutrality? You should make this explicit (at least via a link) in your response to the cartoon.

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