End-to-End vs. What can you spend?

by on January 7, 2009 · 29 comments

fireshot-capture-64-verizon-i-high-speed-internet_-plans-www22_verizon_com_residential_highspeedinternet_plans_plans_htmI’m re-reading Tim Lee’s excellent and very long paper on network neutrality, “The Durable Internet.”  It’s excellent partly because it’s such a long read—it’s exhaustive in addressing all the issues surrounding the neutrality debate.

With all the great writing—like Tim’s paper—available on the topic, I can’t understand why so many people who write about technology are still confused on the issue of neutrality.  If neutrality is to be understood as some form of the end-to-end principle with a bit of marketing-speak slathered on top, then how can people continue to conflate it with something as basic as differing levels of service from ISPs?

The latest example is Dan Costa writing in the last print edition of PC Magazine.  While Costa’s basic point is correct—he says it’s fair to charge people who use more bandwidth more money for their Internet connection—he seems to think it might be non-neutral.  Sure, it’s non-uniform pricing, but it’s not a violation of net neutrality.

I agree with Costa that it makes sense to charge consumers for what they consume.  To argue this is impermissible would be to argue against the basic principle of fairness.  As Costa says in his column, “Can’t we all agree that my mom and I shouldn’t be paying the same price for broadband?”

The neutrality debate has become a confused mishmash of legitimate concerns over network management practices and the cries of folks who think broadband should be free, or the same low low price for everyone.  I think it’d be great if everyone writing on the matter read Tim’s paper, read the other side of the issue over at places like Free Press, and started speaking sense on the topic.

For geek news gluttons, there’s more to say about Costa’s column, like the TOS of Sprint’s XOHM service, but I’ll leave that to the for those of you who don’t mind long windedness. (Like those of you who actually read Tim’s treatise on neutrality.)  I talk more about Costa’s column at OpenMarket.org.

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