Network Neutrality Challenge gaining momentum

NYers looking for a broadband provider that will allow access to content and applications of their choosing now have two providers to choose from. I am very excited to report that the oldest ISP in NYC Panix.com supports Network Neutrality. Please reward these companies for supporting fair and open access by considering them for your home and business Internet needs.

For a full list of fair and open ISPs: Broadband Challenge Score Card

More about the NYCwireless Network Neutrality Broadband Challenge BroadbandChallenge . Please contact your ISP about supporting Network Neutrality. A great way to speak directly to your ISP in a public setting is to use the forums. I am currently lobbying Speakeasy my DSL provider to support our challenge. If you are also using Speakeasy and would like to have them publicly support Network Neutrality add your voice to my thread on the SE forum.

January Meeting: Wed, Jan. 25th at 7:15 PM: VOIP over Wi-Fi

NYCwireless January Meeting Announcement
All are invited – please re-post everywhere!

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006 at 7:15pm

Bway.net
568 Broadway at Prince St, NE corner
Suite 404
New York, NY 10012

Agenda:

  1. Dustin Goodwin: Designing Wifi Network for VOIP
    So you think you can just buy a couple of Wifi Voip phones and start using them on your office network? Well unfortunately it’s not that easy. Wifi networks designed for data are probably not well enough engineered to handle VOIP phones with a high degree of quality. If you want to learn about design factors for VOIP over WiFi? don’t miss this presentation.
  2. Workshop breakout sessions: small group discussions from novice to advanced questions

Dustin Goodwin, VOIP expert and NYCwireless Board member — Dustin has shared his expertise many times at NYCw meetings, his presentations are always informative, and not to be missed.

Get the FCC out of the Gutter

also published at Wireless Community blog

There’s been an interesting discussion on the NYCwireless mailing list over the past few days about the Let There Be Wi-Fi article. Of particular note is a comment made by Alex, who runs Pilosoft, an independent ISP in New York City:

There is such thing as ‘natural monopoly’. Gas lines, water lines, *phone lines and coax lines* are natural monopolies and does not make sense to have multiple companies competing with each other. Now, putting *content* over those lines is definitely *not* a natural monopoly. Broadband is definitely *not* a natural monopoly.

The distinction that Alex draws between the physical infrastructures and the information services provided over those infrastructures is an important one. Its not new; In the earlier days of dial-up ISPs, phone companies would provide the physical infrastructures, and the internet was delivered over the phone lines as an information service. Many phone companies became ISPs as well, but because the modem technologies were so simple, the differentiation between two ISPs or between an independent ISP and the phone company ISP came down to additional services.

Nowadays, the separation between physical infrastructure and internet service is no less distinct, merely obscured. The technology has advanced, but its still the same basic setup. There’s a physical cable coming into your home, and there are services that are delivered on top of that wire (the internet often being one of those services). The only difference is that cable and telephone companies have spent the last few years creating a smokescreen so that we, as consumers, have a hard time seeing where that line is drawn.

The cabling, as it was before, and as it will continue to be, is a natural monopoly just like electrical, gas, and water. Phone and cable companies don’t want to admit this fact, because that means they will properly be subject to other regulations. But let’s call a spade a spade. We don’t have (and don’t want) lots of different companies digging up our streets to install yet more wires. It serves us no good to go through this wasteful process. We are better served by having one (or at most a couple) of different wires that are run across a community and into our homes, and opening up those lines to competitors who can provide internet, video, and phone services.

But the FCC has confused the situation, being blinded by the cable and phone companies’ smoke screens. They’ve removed the regulations that ensured competition on the phone lines, and they failed to establish similar regulation for cable lines. They view internet and video as information services, which cannot be regulated. But in order to have information services, you need to have widespread physical infrastructure on which to delivery those services. And because of the requirements and cost of building this infrastructure, the general public is best served by only building this infrastructure ones (or maybe only a few times).

Perhaps we’ve been approaching this problem from the wrong direction. This isn’t the FCC’s domain. They don’t belong in the gutter, digging ditches and laying wire. They belong watching our airwaves, and dealing with services at the service level.

We need to be pushing for these private natural monopolies to be treated as such.

Susan Crawford, Assistant Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law, speaks from a similar point of view, maintaining that “broadband access companies that cover the waterfront (literally — are interfering with our navigation online) should be confronted with the power of the state to protect entry into this self-owned commons, the internet.”

So, how do we work to get these lines to be recognized by the federal or local governments as the monopolies they are? Where do we start with respect to such regulation?

I don’t know the answer, but would love to hear ideas.