Net Neutrality: Why LIRNEasia may not see byte to byte with Barack Obama


Posted by on September 2, 2008  /  32 Comments


Barack Obama stands for Net Neutrality while John McCain sternly opposes. Internet should be open space, says Obama, for anyone to use any application of his/her choice without discrimination.

That is like saying the roads are free for anyone to drive any vehicle they like at any time. It sounds good in theory. However, in practice it is a different story.

Can we let the container-trucks to move during peak hours congesting roads? Can we let bullock carts in a high way?

In spite of the tech-savvy image he tries to cultivate, perhaps Obama has not heard about the broadband quality issues. Perhaps he assumes at the zenith of developed world USA does not face bandwidth issues. He is wrong.

Net Neutrality comes with a price tag attached. If Obama still wants to push it he will be making a section of voter base very unsatisfied.

If ‘Net Neutrality’ sounds Greek, you may want to read this short article in Tech Crunch for a beginning.

LIRNEasia’s research on QoSE issues in India and Sri Lanka will shed some light on why we cannot afford Net Neutrality, no matter how much we appriciate Internet fredom.

Stay tuned. We have not finished with Obama (or McCain).

32 Comments


  1. Is this really LirneAsia’s Stance?

    It’s kind of like saying we’ll take the lemon out of the lemon pie because lemons are too costly.

    You’re talking about the essence of the Internet here. Net neutrality is the reason why the Internet is so unique and proves to be the next generation medium of communication.

    Everything has a price. Even Capitalism and Democracy. Maybe you should consider about taking them down as well…

  2. Is this really LirneAsia’s Stance?

    Please note “may” in the title.

    Our research findings give little reason to back net neutrality 100% – particularly in a resource poor region.

    Internet, like environment, is a common resource – not a public good. Although nobody can be excluded in consuming it, consumption by one takes the chance of another. So sharing a common is a complex issue.

    In fact, if one gets to technicalities, Internet has never been 100% neutral. No router treats every packet it receives in the same manner. There has always been a control. So ‘100% open Internet’ is a myth. It never existed.

    Anyway we are open. We don’t say we have all the answers. We like to explore. Lets discuss.

  3. The Internet has developed up to this level because of net Neutrality. Its better to have a net that treats every packet same than a Net which treats different people differently . Big companies are trying to make a capitalistic Net. This is bad for poor countries like us. I want the Net to be an open model. Even the creators of the net are supporting net Neutrality.

  4. Net Neutrality is like ‘Socialism’ – sounds so good in words but will it really work? If capitalism is so bad why capitalistic states survived while Soviet bloc fell?

    Anyway, to take the discussion further, let me reproduce the relevant sections from the policy statements of both candidates.

    This is what Obama says:

    Protect the Openness of the Internet: A key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the most open network in history. It needs to stay that way.

    Barack Obama strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet. 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.

    Because most Americans only have a choice of only one or two broadband carriers, carriers are tempted to impose a toll charge on content and services, discriminating against websites that are unwilling to pay for equal treatment. This could create a two-tier Internet in which websites with the best relationships with network providers can get the fastest access to consumers, while all competing websites remain in a slower lane.

    Such a result would threaten innovation, the open tradition and architecture of the Internet, and competition among content and backbone providers. It would also threaten the equality of speech through which the Internet has begun to transform American political and cultural discourse. 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.

    Obama will protect the Internet’s traditional openness to innovation and creativity and ensure that it remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will benefit consumers and our democracy.

    (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/technology)

    Here is what McCain says:

    John McCain Has Fought to Keep the Internet Free From Government Regulation

    The role of government in the Innovation Age should be focused on creating opportunities for all Americans and maintaining the vibrancy of the Internet economy. Given the enormous benefits we have seen from a lightly regulated Internet and software market, our government should refrain from imposing burdensome regulation. John McCain understands that unnecessary government intrusion can harm the innovative genius of the Internet. Government should have to prove regulation is needed, rather than have entrepreneurs prove it is not.

    John McCain Will Preserve Consumer Freedoms. John McCain will focus on policies that leave consumers free to access the content they choose; free to use the applications and services they choose; free to attach devices they choose, if they do not harm the network; and free to chose among broadband service providers.

    When Regulation Is Warranted, John McCain Acts. John McCain does not believe in prescriptive regulation like “net-neutrality,” but rather he believes that an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices. John McCain has always believed the government’s role must be rooted in protecting consumers. He championed laws that penalized fraudulent marketing practices, protected kids from harmful Internet content, secured consumer privacy, and sought to minimize spam. When businesses struggled to assess the legal role of electronic signatures, John McCain led legislative efforts to ensure that these Innovation Age signatures were legally sufficient so that e-commerce could thrive. His record reflects the careful balance between protecting the essential elements of the Internet and securing the Internet as a safe tool of commerce, education and entertainment for our citizens. Offering simple common sense solutions to real problems is at the core of the McCain’s innovation agenda.

    (http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/CBCD3A48-4B0E-4864-8BE1-D04561C132EA.htm)

    Please do not get carried on by meticulously selected words. See what’s behind.

    Both candidates are generous with the term ‘Open Internet’. Obama thinks the net will be ‘open’ if government forces big guys to leave it that way, while McCain thinks keeping government out is the only want to keep it ‘open’.

    This is the same old question: whom do you trust more? Government or market?

    I personally will place my bets with market.

  5. By giving control to the market or the government will not make things better. If you give too much power to one entity this will result in companies or government trying to take control for their own benefits. I support the net as it now neutral for anybody, a balance between both parties. How can we prevent big companies like Google, Microsoft from taking control over the net?

  6. The whole point it even as of now net is not neutral. It has never been.

    The quasi-neutrality in the developed world is often the outcome of the infrastructure availability to meet demand. Dot com boom has seen over-investments in infrastructure so there was no issue of sharing. However, with the growing bandwidth demands things will change soon.

    In the infrastructure poor South operators usually discriminate. If they don’t it is not because they are so principled, but they simply don’t care. Finally they will make more unsatisfied than those who discriminate.

  7. How disappointing to see this position on LirneAsia’s website. From my perspective, an essential argument for NetNeutrality is from a technical design point of view. The Internet is for all intents and purposes a complex adaptive system. Start messing with its DNA and you are very unlikely to achieve what you set out to do.

    To quote Vint Cerf:

    The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings – from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging – that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design.

    It is also worth noting that the rapid evolution communication technologies combined with innovation in delivery mechanisms points to capacity outstripping demand for some time to come. Yes, developing countries don’t have adequate infrastructure but that isn’t because of a few users dominating the bandwidth. It is because decision-makers have failed to see the importance of investment in information infrastructure as a social and economic strategy.

  8. Interesting to see the debate gathering momentum. Thanks for Me, Poojitha and Steve for your thought provoking responses.

    As I said earlier. we are open with this. Please convince us ‘Net Neutrality’ is the way forward – for this region. We are all for ‘open Internet’ – as long as the majority does not suffer because of the behaviour of few.

    What we saw from our research that limits in international bandwidth is the key reason for the poor broadband experiences in India and Sri Lanka. (which may be the case all over South Asia and few South East Asian countries like Indonesia.)

    In the last mile (ie. from user to ISP) we see the users experiencing nearly 80% of the promised, but if it is an international site the speed drops to about 20% what it should be. These are actual test results.

    So I cannot agree with Steve that this is entirely because of inadequate investments in *local* infrastructure. Yes, that is true for some areas – but for the present users the bigger concern is international bandwidth constrains, and the heavy user domination does have an impact. In fact, that is why most widely used broadband packages in India have caps (say over 1GB, downloads are charged at Byte) and at least one Sri Lankan operator starts grouping heavy users depending upon their previous month downloads – so that their behavior does not affect others.

    With all due respect to Vint Cerf, capacity outstripping demand has been a dream for us always. (at least in the context of International bandwidth) I guess will be for some more time to come.

    It is not that we don’t like Net Neutrality, but the question is: Can we afford it?

  9. Not just *local* infrastructure. National governments obviously have responsibility for stimulating investment and competition in international fibre links.

    I am not suggesting that heavy users shouldn’t pay for the bandwidth they use. What I am defending is the end-to-end principle. Deep packet inspection, bandwidth throttling based on packet type, two tier services are bad for the Internet.

    Quality of service is maintainable if you make sure the network core has more bandwidth than is allowed to enter at the edges of the network. If you have 5000 users on a 1mb connection, you have a problem that tiered Internet services are not going to fix.

    There are many alternatives to tiered Internet services which don’t involve interfering with the fundamental structure of the Internet. Rather than investing in packet throttling technology, why not invest in innovative ideas that address infrastructure challenges like the Google Global Cache.

  10. Steve, if you can agree that heavy users should pay for the additional bandwidth they use, we are in the same side.

    I have nothing against right for end-to-end connectivity. It is a non-issue in South Asia. Though South Asian governments block certain sites, so far it was purely for political and not bandwidth reasons. On the other hand, users are ‘functionally’ blocked from sites sometimes because of the bandwidth issues. Believe it or not, sometimes I cannot even check my gmail and forced to switch to basic HTML ver.

    The whole issue arises because the users are made to pay for bandwidth and not bytes.

    This is irrational. When we consume water we pay by the litres, not for the diameter of the pipe. So why not apply the same principle for data? Why not ask every user to pay for the bytes they consume?

    If heavy users are ready to pay by byte (the difference can be large) I do not think operators have any need to discriminate packets.

    Innovations can make the things marginally better, but we do have to address the issue of international bandwidth. That is the critical issue.

  11. Chanuka,

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post which looks at this vital issue from a Sri Lankan perspective.

    My own take on the matter is here – http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/net-neutrality-economics-and-implications-for-ict4peace-and-odr/

    Sanjana

  12. Net Neutrality legislation is to internet freedom what the Patriot Act is to patriotism. Neither promotes the stated goal.

    For the most part, it’s the same old arguments that are being recycled. This recent opposing views debate might be of relevance.

    If there’s sufficient competition in the market, net neutrality is and will be non-issue. It’s a non-issue now even without sufficient competition in places like SL.Pissing off customers is a bad business strategy, unless you have monopoly control. The entire net-neutrality debate is just (nonsensical) American-progressive worry about the free market.

  13. I was a bit surprised to see Chanuka’s stance on net neutrality. Judging from past positions taken by Lirne on various issues I thought Lirne would be firmly pro net neutrality/

    I am not a technical guy to comment on how routers treat packets iequally and so on but I know that when you give the right to decide to companies, specially in countries like Sri Lanka with seemingly poor regulatory structures, they will ALWAYS misuse it to benefit themselves.

    Give the right to restrict some types of traffic to an ISP and they will do it in the name of assuring fast connections to all when what they actually should be doing is increasing bandwidth. Restricting the growth of the new multimedia rich internet is not the way forward.

    Take for example our much respected company which promises to bring the future, today;

    Initially they advertised their new broadband service as unlimited but at bottom of the advert in small print was mention of a fair use policy which if you took the trouble to dig out from their website said that users with a 1Mbps connection could transfer only 4GB of data per 30-day period before the connection was throttled. Basically, if you exceeded 4GB, you were left with a 3500/- a month dial-up connection!! The irony is “Why would you need a 1Mbps unlimited connection if you couldn’t use it. Its like selling a Land Rover to someone and telling, “The only offroading you can do is on the pavement!”

    Not many people seem to have been stupid enough to signup because they recently had to relaunch.

    The openly stated FUP was no more present. Even the guys in customer care state that the FUP has been removed. Closer reading of the fineprint at the back of the application form reveals that the clauses of the FUP are now incorporated into the boring and long terms and conditions that no one ever bothers to read….Dishonest? I think so!!

    If they don’t have the international bandwidth to offer unlimited broadband connections, they should not do so. Better still, they should buy the bandwidth without offering the sun and actually providing only a 40W light bulb! One cannot provide the Future, Today with a 40Mbps international backbone.

    No ISP should be allowed to restrict access/ speed based on profiling of users or the traffic they generate. If its not economically feasible for that company to offer unlimited packages, then they should not do so until it becomes feasible. I can bet anything that its well within thier capacity to offer adequate bandwidth AND be profitable (but maybe not a profit of Rs. 12B a year). Even Sariputtas and Moggallanas are businessmen at heart and bottomline is the only thing that drive their decisions.

    With no proper regulation, companies try to maximise profit at the expense of quality service and the consumer.

    What if an ISP decides to block traffic coming from competitors? Can anyone dismiss this scenario as impossible?

    The FCC should be applauded for ruling that Comcast’s practice is illegal. I only wish our TRC was as strong…

  14. Sanjana Hattotuwa has written a long essay on the subject at http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/net-neutrality-and-internet-qos-in-sri-lanka-redux/. As the honcho he refers to I want to reiterate that LIRNEasia is a research organization at core and that we do not jump to conclusions without investigating an issue fully. We are in the middle of the investigation, which is why we do not have a position.

    Another key element of LIRNEasia’s approach is the understanding that every policy debate does not have to be framed in the same way that they do it in the OECD countries. The conditions in our part of the world are very different and the debates have to be framed in ways that are appropriate for our realities. For example, the kinds of choices that are available to countries that have fully built out their base networks and are dealing with mature markets and relatively well functioning regulatory systems are not open to us.

    Some time last year we had various people arguing vehemently for local loop unbundling as the solution to all broadband problems. http://lirneasia.net/2008/03/lirneasia-releases-%E2%80%98ashokatissa%E2%80%99-methodology-and-preliminary-results-of-the-broadband-qos-testing/#comment-6499.

    I took a different position, asking which country at levels similar to ours (dysfunctional states and broken regulatory systems) had succeeded in implementing LLU. Same thing here. What works for the US may not work here. In the same way that Sanjana factors in the fundamentally censorious nature of the Sri Lankan state to his argument, he should also think about factoring in the high costs of international connectivity (that do not apply to US ISPs) at least. That’s the direction our work is headed in. It will take some time, but we will get the appropriate frame worked out and a position defined in due time.

  15. Rohan,

    Thanks for the response.

    What’s your take on the recent SLT press release that it had upgraded, significantly, its international bandwidth (referenced on my post)?

    May have missed coverage of the statement on your website, but taken at face value it suggests that along with other ISP who claim large international pipes (Lanka Bell claims a 1.2 Terabit international connection!), the fundamental problem of high international connectivity costs in increasingly moot?

    I guess this is also why I’m keenly awaiting the results of the revised Ashoka-Tissa Part II methodology and study.

    Sanjana

  16. Got many projects running; not focused on broadband only.

    Guess someone working on the subject will comment on the SLT news release, if it’s important enough. Most likely in the context of the October release of the software-generated QoSe results.

  17. The only way we can endorse/deny operators’ claims about upgrading their international bandwidth is by testing broadband performance. The next round of data will be available before the end of next month.

  18. Dear Rohan,

    You say that “LIRNEasia is a research organization at core and that we do not jump to conclusions without investigating an issue fully.” This is a commendable. Yet in July ’08, writing on Net Neutrality on this very site, you noted on that,

    “If everyone is charged the same irrespective of use, what really happens is that the low-users end up subsidizing the high-users, especially in countries of the South, where the biggest cost driver is international bandwidth. What we need is a business model wherein low users pay only for what they use, in small amounts. This is what worked in mobile, and this is what will work in broadband. So let’s take the essence of the net neutrality debate, that no class of user should be excluded. Let’s not take the elements which argue that it’s wrong to charge for use/volume.”

    http://lirneasia.net/2008/07/do-the-terms-of-the-us-net-neutrality-debate-have-relevance-to-low-bandwidth-countries/

    The two statements seem at odds with each other. Please clarify?

    Thanks,

    Sanjana

  19. Take each sentence. If everyone is charged the same . . . .. Do you disagree with it. Is it something that we need to establish with research?

    Take the second and third sentences. We have done the research on mobiles. We know what works. We do not know exactly what will work in broadband. But it does not seem such a controversial statement, based on what we have found. When I was Director General of Telecom, there were people who challenged me in public meetings arguing that the flat rate model of pricing found in the US should be imported here. I answered them more or less on these same terms. History shows us who was right.

    What exactly do people mean when they throw around the phrase net neutrality? Is this about pricing models or traffic shaping? These questions need to be answered before we take a position.

    But on allowing operators and customers the freedom to figure out what kinds of pricing models will work best, without compelling them to the rigidities of flat rate, all you can eat, we can take a position right now.

  20. Dear Rohan,

    What is the well-spring of your optimism that a pricing model based on usage will improve the state of affairs in Sri Lanka for all consumers of “broadband”?

    A concrete example – one of the offices I work at in Colombo has a Wimax solution for which we pay over 12,000 rupees a month. Skype and other P2P applications on it simply don’t work. Network throughput (up and down) is nowhere near what is advertised, at best. What is clearly a management framework that throttles P2P traffic suggests that (some) telcos in Sri Lanka today are getting away with charging premium rates for QoS they cannot and will not deliver.

    I also believe in allowing operators and customers the freedom to figure out what kinds of pricing models work. But clearly, nothing in our market today works, as brought out by your own research to date. Speaking from the perspective of a minority of users who;

    (a) can and will pay a premium to access the web at *advertised rates*
    (b) are willing to live with a bandwidth cap plus dynamic throttling at peak times, a la Comcast in the US and slightly differently, Plusnet in the UK,

    I’m yet to be convinced by your line of reasoning that, in Sri Lanka, pricing model based on usage will deliver better QoS for me, or address what is already a practice amongst some telcos in Sri Lanka to discriminate against certain types of internet traffic.

    Sanjana

  21. Dear Rohan,

    Also just to note that, as you say, there are some assumptions and assertions made here by you and colleagues that don’t, in your opinion, need research to establish in fact.

    That to me is a position. History may perennially prove you to be right, but that doesn’t make you objective or neutral. Why be defensive about it?

    Sanjana

  22. As stated earlier, the “well spring of optimism” is the success of the pricing model used in prepaid mobile in in South Asia both extending service to the bottom of the pyramid and in bringing prices to the lowest levels in the world. The research on that is done, so I don’t really need to be optimistic or pessimistic. If you want the theory, read CK Prahalad’s Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.

    Flat rate for all is a luxury only mature networks can afford. Better get people connected in some way than wait around for the unattainable ideal (which happens to be even more ideal for knowledge workers who write about these things).

  23. Dear Rohan,

    Firstly, far as I know, net neutrality and packet discrimination don’t affect voice telephony on mobiles?

    I fail to see the connection, much as you seek to draw it, between your emphasis on mobiles and the fact that net neutrality over broadband is already suspect in Sri Lanka. Voice telephony on the mobile surely different to packet discrimination on broadband? What in the growing usage of mobiles at the BOP gives you confidence in an economic model for broadband that guarantees net neutrality?

    Getting people connected is great and welcomed. How we get them connected and to what are important – lest you are fine with the model of China and among other things, its singular approach to controlling internet access. As noted in my post,

    “I guess given a choice between slow access to an unrestricted internet over blazing fast access to a restricted internet, I’d gladly choose the former. But is asking for both really that unfair?”

    Thanks for the tip on Prahalad and as you know the 2002 article was co-authored with Stuart L. Hart. I wonder if you’ve read the more recent “The Next 4 Billion” from the World Resources Institute – http://www.wri.org/publication/the-next-4-billion?

    Both articles strongly support, as you note, “extending [mobile] service to the bottom of the pyramid and in bringing prices to the lowest levels in the world”

    Both don’t have a single mention of net neutrality.

    Sanjana

  24. So literal.

    We’re talking business models and pricing strategies. Is it unreasonable to think that business models and pricing strategies that work in one set of telecom services have applicability in another?

    When we talk about lessons for telecom from the selling of shampoo, we do not claim that there is anything common in the production of shampoo and telecom services.

  25. Dear Rohan,

    It’s not unreasonable at all. But I come back to my question. Are these pricing strategies for mobiles, translocated to broadband consumers, any guarantee of net neutrality?

    You’re talking economics and I’m talking traffic management. Your propose that a model that services the BOP well today with mobiles will augur better broadband for all. I fear that even if that were true (and make no mistake, I hope it is) the resulting internet will, if we are not careful, be one that is tailored by telcos and / or governments to meet their parochial ends, be it profit or propaganda.

    Sanjana

  26. Exactly. We need to unpack the implications of pricing strategies for the traffic management and costs of countries that have most of their content outside their borders as against countries like the US where most of content is within the borders. The analytical work that we are doing in three South Asian countries will shed some light on that. May be we will need to expand the range of the research to be certain, but the preliminary results suggest that the cost implications are likely to be quite different.

    Net neutrality is a slogan. There is nothing sacred about it. As far as we are concerned, what are important are low prices for BOP consumers and incentives for ISPs to connect them. If our objectives can be achieved along with non-discrimination among packets (my working definition of NN), fine. But why would non-discrimination among packets (if that is your definition) be a policy objective that trumps everything else?

    Economics matter. Costs matter. Incentives matter. We need to think these things through.

  27. Dear Rohan,

    I’m glad we are making progress. I completely agree with you – economics, costs and incentives matter. We also agree that as much as they do, so does the non-discrimination among packets. As a vital policy objective, net neutrality defines thus is important because I believe that packet discrimination for any user, whether she / he pays a premium rate, flat rate, subsidised rate or accesses the ‘net for free, is wrong.

    I fear that regimes such as ours today could well use a populist policy measure of a providing broadband to the BOP to mask taking *their* version of the internet to the masses. Heck, they may even call it the Mahinda-jalaya. You may then have excellent access and throughput for all, but the nature of the “internet” that comes through the pipe may be questionable. Is this scenario really addressed by how much individuals pay for access?

    Even the economics of it, if I understand you correctly, doesn’t quite make sense. You propose that high users need to pay more. Fine and acceptable in theory in Sri Lanka. But if I recall correctly, Ashoka Tissa I brought out that SLT’s ADSL “broadband” Entrée Package delivers better QoS overall than the Office Express Package, which I am on and pay a significant premium for ostensibly better levels of service. My example of personal experience with a leading Wimax provider actively throttling P2P traffic on their networks is another case in point of paying a premium only to face packet discrimination and deplorable QoS.

    So we come full circle to my initial and fundamental query – what convinces you that users who can and are willing to pay a premium for high use actually will get any assurance of packet agnostic traffic management? Further, how assured can we be of those at the BOP are able to use the internet and the web, including all its protocols, products and services, in an unfettered manner?

    As I note in my response to Deane in my blog post (http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/net-neutrality-and-internet-qos-in-sri-lanka-redux/#comment-26121),

    “In [the present] context, options available to ensure net neutrality range from public interest litigation, FR cases and groups acting as watch-dogs. For example, a Sri Lankan equivalent of EFF can help identify net neutrality issues, raise consumer awareness, hold telcos and their network management frameworks to public scrutiny (using tools like Switzerland) and use the media to name and shame those who don’t deliver what they promise.”

    Sanjana

  28. I do not think we’re making progress. Non discrimination among packets has never existed. I said I see no objection to a mild form if it does not get in the way of connecting people in countries like ours. I did not agree with you about NN as a paramount policy objective.

    I think you are talking to yourself and putting words in my mouth.

    I have some urgent work to do. I will reengage when I get that done. In the meantime I would appreciate it if you rethink your debating style. I expected better.

  29. Dear Rohan,

    I’m curious then, what exactly would be the precise technical definition of your “mild form” of packet discrimination, esp. in the context of the regime as we have today in Sri Lanka, and how would it operate?

    Is the proclivity towards “mild forms” of traffic discrimination a Lirneasia policy backed by research?

    What do we do when this “mild form” of packet discrimination is exceeded and how to we, as consumers, measure it?

    FYI, I didn’t say that non-discrimination of packets was a “paramount” policy objective, or one that “trumps everything else”, both of which were your formulations, not mine. I said it was as important as economics, costs and incentives in a country like Sri Lanka, not necessarily more or less so. I then pointed to the nature of the current regulatory climate and telcos as evidence that should the regime and telcos alone or combined decide on packet discrimination, there was very little to stop it from happening or ways of monitoring it when it does.

    I then engaged with your assertion that taking broadband to the masses in the much the same way as mobiles to the BOP could be economically and socially most desirable, but dangerously does little or nothing to address the possibility of network management based on deep packet inspection and discrimination unless there were policies to check this.

    On the economics too, I pointed to your own Ashoka Tissa I research that brought out the fact that high users paying more for internet access in Sri Lanka today actually have an inferior QoS than those who pay less. I asked you then what guarantee high users who are asked to pay more have of a qualitatively better internet experience without covert throttling of certain protocols and traffic?

    Debating debating styles, to coin a phrase, must not gloss over vital questions that are unanswered by you and a conversation from which we all stand to gain.

    Sanjana

  30. Sanjana,

    I did not want to get into this argument, because I have other things to complete right now but can’t help because there is a fundamental flaw in the argument you repeat.

    You do NOT – I repeat, do NOT – pay more for your usage, as you claim – you pay only for the *promise* of a wider pipe – which you may or may not get. (That may be an issue for a consumer organisation which LIRNEasia is not.)

    Speaking for myself, I never said you would get a better quality by paying for a ‘advertised’ wider pipe. In fact, research in UK suggests otherwise. Taken as percentages so called ‘high bandwidth users’ are the least likely to get what they are promised. (So be happy, you are not alone!)

    [quote] Broadband customers are still experiencing connection speeds less than half those advertised, with the worst offenders being ‘high speed’ products, a study suggests.

    On average, broadband speeds were just 48 per cent of those advertised, with the figure falling to as low as 26 per cent for high speed packages offering connections of 8Mb/s or more, according to the study.

    By contrast, customers on 2Mb/s packages experienced average speeds of 1.8Mb – or 88 per cent of the advertised amount, according to broadband-expert.co.uk, a price comparison website.[unquote]

    See more: http://lirneasia.net/2008/04/broadband-in-uk-speeds-less-than-half-those-advertised

    What I always advocated was packages where the users pay by byte – may be above a ceiling – and may not necessarily be proportionately.

    There is a difference between paying for bandwidth and paying for usage. No point continuing this discussion if you think both same.

    If users only pay according to bandwidth operators have no incentive to deliver better QoSE. (That is is exactly your case) If users pay according to bandwidth AND usage (in terms of Bytes) they certainly have one.

    That explains exactly why SLT Entrée outperforms SLT home in QoSE though both promise same bandwidths.

  31. Thanks Chanuka – I stand corrected.

    What I meant was paying for what is advertised (the promise of bandwidth) and then having to deal with the reality (the absence of bandwidth), which is another. I have no problems with, as you put it, paying for bandwidth AND usage.

    However, well known ISPs that operate 3G HSPA or Wimax connections on this model (and include a FUP that outlines usage policies with no mention of packet discrimination) STILL don’t deliver QoS to match what’s advertised and throttle some network traffic to boot. Comments elsewhere on this forum attest to this, and so does personal experience. A more robust answer will have to wait until your results late October, but I’m not sure whether you are looking at packet discrimination as a specific issue? If so, what’s the tool you are using?

    That the situation is similar in the UK is small comfort – a bit like saying the human rights situation in not that bad in Sri Lanka because, you know, the US exercises extraordinary rendition, carries out water-boarding and maintains Guantanamo too.

    “Packages where the users pay by byte – may be above a ceiling – and may not necessarily be proportionately” is fine with me. It’s not the only way to manage traffic, but it’s arguably what gives the most incentive to Sri Lankan ISP to invest in better infrastructure and connectivity for all. My fundamental question to Rohan was whether and how the economic models of broadband proposed by him / you and Lirneasia (which I do not have a problem with) have a positive bearing on packet discrimination, and what evidence there is for this.

    Rohan for example advocates carte blanche, but does not go on to define, “mild forms” of traffic discrimination “if it does not get in the way of connecting people in countries like ours”.

    So in a country like ours, what does this really mean? Can and do these “mild forms” of packet discrimination co-exist in “packages where the users pay by byte – may be above a ceiling – and may not necessarily be proportionately”?

    Sanjana

  32. I think that net neutrality should be supported! Maybe I am not grasping the concept correctly, but everyone should have the right to be on the Internet for the same charges.

    I live in Portugal, and here the ISPs charge separately for national and international bandwidth. Portugal is a country with 10 million people, so you can imagine how much Portuguese Internet that is. 90% of the traffic I consume is international, oh yes, maybe that’s why the Internet is for: to search for information that is not available to you right by your side.

    In the picture there is an interrogation Google or Yahoo should pay more because they consume more bandwidth. I thought that they paid their own servers and bandwidth already… I also pay for the bandwidth when I use Google or Yahoo. The search engines are giving me organized information so I can get access to the most updated information on any subject possible.

    If the search engines were to pay more money for their bandwidth, and if that became a considerable cost they would have to start optimizing for lower bandwidth costs. This would inevitably mean less organized information, and less updated indexes of the Internet.

    What do you guys think?