Net neutrality: Implications for emerging Asia?

Posted on May 24, 2006  /  11 Comments

The debate described below will have implications for all. Now that language standards have been talked about to the limit (with a lot of light, in addition to heat, being produced) we invite our active visitors to engage with the important issue of the architecture of the Internet.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Web inventor warns of ‘dark’ net

“But telecoms companies in the US do not agree. They would like to implement a two-tier system, where data from companies or institutions that can pay are given priority over those that cannot.

This has particularly become an issue with the transmission of TV shows over the internet, with some broadband providers wanting to charge content providers to carry the data.

The internet community believes this threatens the open model of the internet as broadband providers will become gatekeepers to the web’s content.

Providers that can pay will be able to get a commercial advantage over those that cannot.

There is a fear that institutions like universities and charities would also suffer.

The web community is also worried that any charges would be passed on to the consumer.”


  1. I think what the US telecom companies are saying makes eminent sense. Currently, video porn bits and bits from a videoconference between research collaborators jostle for the same bandwidth resulting in congestion, dropping of packets and poor video experience for all parties. In an environment where Quality of Service (QoS) can be provided on an end-to-end basis by an ISP or telco for a fee, researchers or porn consumers in the above example, have a choice as to how important their online transaction is. If the porn consumer wants full-frame video without glitches, she can pay for it. Research collaborators still have the option of going with regular Internet with its traffic jams etc if they deem that QoS isn’t necessary.

    It is no different than choosing whether to avail the services of a post office or a courier service. Just as telcos can provide end-to-end networks, couriers also provide end-to-end networks–it is the same company that picks up the package at the doorstep and delivers the package another continent away. Because it is the same company handling the package all through the journey, they can provide higher quality of service–in terms of delivery times and reliability. With the regular Internet, packets go on a number of different networks before landing up at the final destination. Because of which, it is difficult to guarantee whether packets will arrive and if they do with how much delay caused by congestion. In a QoS environment, the telco will either own the network from end to end or have some arrangement with other network providers (who will also be compensated for traffic transiting through their network) like airliners do with codesharing, to ensure that designated packets have priority through the entire trajectory of its journey.

    What the telcos are proposing just expands consumer choices. You are not forced to use DHL you can always trek to your local post office and post the letter. You will be able to do the same with the regular Internet. However, for businesses or users who at times require guaranteed service on a network transaction, they can get it by paying more for it.

    If I had the time, I could write a dissertation on it :)

    1. >>Currently, video porn bits and bits from a videoconference between research collaborators jostle for the same bandwidth resulting in congestion, dropping of packets and poor video experience for all parties.<<

      Who makes the value judgments regarding which packets have higher value than other packets? That's the crux of the problem. Any time private enterprises (i.e., the ISPs) are allowed to make decisions in the market place, they do so in a fashion that generates short term financial gain. The endgame without net neutrality is that ISPs will favor data packets for which they receive a financial incentive to do so. The fondest dream of ISPs is to erect toll booths on the internet superhighway. If wish to use the fast lane, then you pay. The non-paying senders then are relegated to congested path.

  2. The New York Times pitches in:

    May 28, 2006
    Editorial Observer
    Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End

    The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass medium there has ever been. Freedom of the press, as the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one. Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions.

    This democratic Web did not just happen. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, envisioned a platform on which everyone in the world could communicate on an equal basis. But his vision is being threatened by telecommunications and cable companies, and other Internet service providers, that want to impose a new system of fees that could create a hierarchy of Web sites. Major corporate sites would be able to pay the new fees, while little-guy sites could be shut out.

    Sir Tim, who keeps a low profile, has begun speaking out in favor of “net neutrality,” rules requiring that all Web sites remain equal on the Web. Corporations that stand to make billions if they can push tiered pricing through have put together a slick lobbying and marketing campaign. But Sir Tim and other supporters of net neutrality are inspiring growing support from Internet users across the political spectrum who are demanding that Congress preserve the Web in its current form.

    The Web, which Sir Tim invented as a scientist at CERN, the European nuclear physics institute, is often confused with the Internet. But like e-mail, the Web runs over the system of interconnected computer networks known as the Internet. Sir Tim created the Web in a decentralized way that allowed anyone with a computer to connect to it and begin receiving and sending information.

    That open architecture is what has allowed for the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce and communication. Pierre Omidyar, a small-time programmer working out of his home office, was able to set up an online auction site that anyone in the world could reach — which became eBay. The blogging phenomenon is possible because individuals can create Web sites with the World Wide Web prefix, www, that can be seen by anyone with Internet access.

    Last year, the chief executive of what is now AT&T sent shock waves through cyberspace when he asked why Web sites should be able to “use my pipes free.” Internet service providers would like to be able to charge Web sites for access to their customers. Web sites that could not pay the new fees would be accessible at a slower speed, or perhaps not be accessible at all.

    A tiered Internet poses a threat at many levels. Service providers could, for example, shut out Web sites whose politics they dislike. Even if they did not discriminate on the basis of content, access fees would automatically marginalize smaller, poorer Web sites.

    Consider online video, which depends on the availability of higher-speed connections. Internet users can now watch channels, like BBC World, that are not available on their own cable systems, and they have access to video blogs and Web sites like, where people upload videos of their own creation. Under tiered pricing, Internet users might be able to get videos only from major corporate channels.

    Sir Tim expects that there are great Internet innovations yet to come, many involving video. He believes people at the scene of an accident — or a political protest — will one day be able to take pictures with their cellphones that could be pieced together to create a three-dimensional image of what happened. That sort of innovation could be blocked by fees for the high-speed connections required to relay video images.

    The companies fighting net neutrality have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan “hands off the Internet,” that tries to look like a grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current form. What they actually favor is stopping the government from protecting the Internet, so they can get their own hands on it.

    But the other side of the debate has some large corporate backers, too, like Google and Microsoft, which could be hit by access fees since they depend on the Internet service providers to put their sites on the Web. It also has support from political groups of all persuasions. The president of the Christian Coalition, which is allied with on this issue, recently asked, “What if a cable company with a pro-choice board of directors decides that it doesn’t like a pro-life organization using its high-speed network to encourage pro-life activities?”

    Forces favoring a no-fee Web have been gaining strength. One group,, says it has collected more than 700,000 signatures on a petition. Last week, a bipartisan bill favoring net neutrality, sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, won a surprisingly lopsided vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

    Sir Tim argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet’s extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.

    “That’s not what we call Internet at all,” says Sir Tim. “That’s what we call cable TV.”

  3. From

    ISPs warn of price rises as panel approves ‘Net Neutrality’ bill

    OUT-LAW News, 26/05/2006

    The US House Judiciary Committee approved a bill yesterday to prevent broadband providers from charging extra fees to websites for delivering their content to users. But the law would be “a direct financial hit to consumers,” say internet providers.

    The Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006 was approved by a vote of 20–13. It articulates concerns that have been expressed by numerous consumer groups as well as content providers including Google, Yahoo! , and Microsoft.

    Such companies spend fortunes on hosting web content; they don’t want to pay new fees for users to access it. But that is a revenue source that cash-strapped broadband providers are contemplating in the US, forming plans that have been characterised as leading to a ‘two-tier internet’.

    AT&T CEO Edward Whitacre sparked the controversy last November. In an interview with Business Week he was asked whether he was concerned about “internet upstarts” like Google, MSN, Vonage and others.

    According to edited excerpts from that interview, he replied: “How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?”

    He continued: “The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!”

    He subsequently clarified his position, saying that AT&T had no intention of making any content unavailable to consumers. That clarification failed to silence the critics and the so-called Net Neutrality debate continued in earnest.
    What the bill says

    The new bill pre-empts and blocks the introduction of internet tolls for content providers.

    It states that broadband companies must provide their services “on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions” such that a company like eBay can provide its services over the network, “free of any surcharge on the basis of the content, application, or service”. Providers cannot block or degrade access to content under the bill and there are limited exceptions, such as allowing priority for emergency communications.

    And if a provider like AT&T prioritises or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type – the high-speed delivery of video content, for example – the bill mandates that all data of that type be treated equally, regardless of source, without any surcharge.

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, who introduced the bill, told The Wall Street Journal: “While the technological dynamics of the marketplace have changed over time, the threat of dominant firms abusing their market power to restrain competition has not.”

    Unsurprisingly, major providers have voiced their displeasure.

    Christopher Wolf, co-chairman of the Hands Off The Internet coalition, which counts AT&T and Alcatel among its members, said the vote was “more about politics than substance.”

    “Even Members who voted for this bill said they had reservations about doing so, and only voted for it because of committee jurisdictional concerns,” he said. “But what Congress needs to keep in mind is that the typical Net user doesn’t care about jurisdictional disputes among Congressional committees. They DO care about paying more for Internet access and that’s what this bill would do.”

    He added: “The fact is that internet neutrality regulations would be a direct financial hit to consumers and stop cold the country’s progress in providing affordable high-speed options.”

    Verizon executive Tom Tauke also attacked the vote.

    “Simply put, net neutrality legislation endangers both the future of video choice and the accelerated broadband investment that is just beginning to gain traction,” he said.

    He warned that radical net neutrality proposals “would chill the investment climate for broadband networks, deter and delay broadband rollout, and lock in today’s internet architecture and levels of performance.”

    “Now is not the time to adopt new regulations that throw sand in the gears of the fast-growing and changing broadband marketplace,” said Tauke.

    The Institute for Liberty, a public policy group that exists to promote “principles and policies of honour” said the bill “threatens to smother the internet in a sea of unneeded regulations all in the name of the contrived ‘network neutrality.'”

    “Today’s vote will be remembered as one of the saddest days for the internet as we know it,” it said in a statement.

    Meanwhile, the Free Press, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Media Access Project and US PIRG, will welcome the result.

    In a joint statement issued shortly before the vote, the coalition of consumer groups said: “A growing alliance in Congress recognises that Network Neutrality is not a partisan issue, but one of grave importance to anyone who wishes to see the internet remain an unrivalled environment for innovation, civic participation and free speech.”

    Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, discussed net neutrality in a press conference at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

    “What is very important from my point of view is that there is one web,” he said. “Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that their piece looks very boring.” Expressing his hope that the US would “come to the right decision,” he pointed out that, in Europe, net neutrality “is the norm.”

  4. From NYT, 12 June 2006:

    “The current system of payments for the Internet made sense when it all started, but the incentives are getting more and more misaligned,” said Esther Dyson, a technology consultant.

    Ms. Dyson said, for example, that users who consumed more network resources through downloading video should pay more than users who just viewed a few Web sites each day. For e-mail, Ms. Dyson advocates a system in which senders would pay on a graded scale to be certain their messages are delivered. Friends would not pay to send an e-mail, for example, but those who did not know the recipient, like companies sending promotional mail, would pay.

    If the Internet has prophets, Esther would be one. Unless pricing is introduced spam will flourish.

  5. A see-saw battle

    Setback for Google in fight over faster web access
    By James Doran, Wall Street Correspondent,,13129-2250633,00.html

    GOOGLE suffered a defeat at the hands of the US Senate last night as politicians voted to pass telecoms legislation that could lead to phone and cable companies charging more money for faster access to websites.

    Google, along with many other prominent internet and software companies, has fought hard to oppose the two-tier internet provision in the legislation as the company claims that this would threaten the democratic nature of the web by favouring those companies that can afford to pay for a faster route to their websites.

    The faster web users are able to access a site, the more likely they are to use it, leading to greater revenues for whichever company owns the site and the telephone or cable company that provides access to it.

    Smaller websites that cannot afford to pay for a faster internet connection will be the biggest losers if the provision becomes law.

    Those websites that contain video or audio content and use a lot of “bandwidth” — the term used to describe the volume of data contained within a website — will be particularly hard hit, analysts fear.

    But telecoms and cable companies that provide access to the internet — such as Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner and cablevision — stand to benefit from the new rules if the telecoms Bill is passed in its current form.


    Google was joined in its opposition to the legislation by a group called the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators, which includes Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Disney.

    Three weeks ago the House of Representatives also voted to pass the telecoms legislation without the so-called “net neutrality” provisions recommended by the coalition.

    The US Senate Commerce Committee yesterday echoed the views of the House and rejected an amendment to the pending telecoms Bill that would have required that all internet traffic be treated identically regardless of its “source” or “destination”.

    After a three-day hearing, the committee rejected an amendment from Republican senator Olympia Snowe and a Democrat, Byron Dorgan, which aimed to prohibit phone and cable companies from limiting access to their high-speed internet networks.

    “What’s at stake is the internet in the 21st century,” said Ms Snowe. “This is the preservation of digital democracy.”

    There is still a small chance that the Bill will falter, however, as Senator John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate, has threatened a filibuster to prevent the Bill passing through the Senate.

  6. Excerpt:

    The End User: Neutrality? Yes and no – International Herald Tribune

    ….If you are \”against\” neutrality, like Cisco, AT&T, Verizon and many Republicans, you believe that companies should be able to offer more, faster or special content and services over the Internet to some customers for a higher price, much like cable TV operators do. (Either that or you think the government should not legislate on it, letting the marketplace decide how to price, send and prioritize packets.)

    But at heart, don’t we want both? That is the problem…..

  7. Admin,

    Read this article. High time we opned a thread to discuss as to what Operating System is faecible for a country like Sri Lanka.

    Microsoft pulls plug on support for Windows 98
    By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor, Daily Telegraph

    (Filed: 12/07/2006)

    Millions of people who use Windows 98 on their home computers will no longer get technical support and security updates from Microsoft, the company said yesterday.

    It said the product was “outdated” and could expose users to internet fraudsters. Support for Windows Millennium Edition (Me) will also end.

    The operating systems were installed on almost all home computers bought before 2001 and up to 70 million people around the world will be affected by the decision.

    Microsoft’s website will still offer help and advice for customers using the older software. However, without regular updates to fix bugs and loopholes exploited by computer hackers, the machines will become more vulnerable.

    A Microsoft spokesman said Windows 98 and Windows Me were developed before the era of “sophisticated” internet viruses and malicious software.

    “These products have reached the point of architectural obsolescence,” he said. “It would be irresponsible to convey a false sense of security by extending public support for this old product.”

    Support for Windows 98 had been due to end in 2003 but was extended after complaints from customers.

    Computer owners will still be able to get security updates, or patches, from companies which provide anti-virus software.

    Mikko Hyponnen, from the security firm F-Secure, said that it was still providing updates for Windows 98.

    “In fact, 98 users are not at that great a risk as people might think: most of the new malware [malicious software] we see simply won’t run there,” he said.

    “Nevertheless, if you want to be safe with 98 don’t go online. Or upgrade to something that is supported with security patches,” he added.

    Windows 98 was introduced in June 1998. The current operating system for home computers, Windows XP appeared in October 2001.