Free Press would make this Illegal!

Yesterday I saw this D-Link Router on Amazon.com:

Voip Internet Accelerator Intelligent Packet Priority Engine

for as low as $35.00 and I thought I had better snap one up quick because if Josh Silver and Craig Aaron and others at Free Press get their confused understanding of Net Neutrality written into law, this type of useful Internet device will soon be illegal. This is how Amazon describes what it does:

Typical Internet applications such as e-mail and chat require minimal bandwidth. But other applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and video streaming/conferencing require much higher bandwidth as they are real-time sensitive. The DI-102 Broadband Internet/VoIP Accelerator uses an intelligent engine to detect and prioritize bandwidth-sensitive packets so that they can be sent over the Internet as soon as the request is made. This results in faster processing of real-time based packets, less latency, and a better user experience.For instance, there are two computers on your network and both are online - one is using an e-mail program and the other is making a VoIP call.

When data packets from each computer are sent to the Internet at the same time, the DI-102 will automatically classify the VoIP call as more important and send the VoIP packets first, and the e-mail data second. The user on the phone can immediately notice the benefits whereas the user sending e-mails will barely notice a change.

Now I think it is good that this sort of packet prioritizing technology is finally making it all the way down to the home level. Without it at the higher levels, I would not be able to watch Countdown [or any video] on the Internet, and I like watching video and listening to music on the Internet.

But Josh Silver, Craig Aaron and others at Free Press are pushing for a version [or misunderstanding] of Network Neutrality that would make this DLink device illegal on the Internet and for that matter, end Internet service as we now know it.

Josh Silver is the executive director of Free Press and has been a leading critic of Google's stand on Network Neutrality. Friday, on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now he signaled his understanding of net neutrality when he warned "losing net neutrality then allows these companies to prioritize some traffic—video, say—and de-prioritize others." So you see, he would view what this D-Link routers does to be a violation of net neutrality.

Similarly, Craig Aaron, Managing Director, Free Press, wrote in the Huffington Post on Tuesday "Real Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers can't discriminate between different kinds of online content and applications." So obviously this device which discriminates between voice data and email data, for example. is a total violation of Net Neutrality as he understands it.

So they got a quarter million dollar grant from the Knight Foundation in January and now they are going after Google big time on Net Neutrality. They got 300 thousand people to tell Google "Don't Be Evil." Good. Fine. I just wish they understood what they were talking about and would stop making such a muddle out of Network Neutrality.

So Once Again: Network Neutrality means that data, of the same type, is treated the same irregardless of source or destination.

Now that I have had a chance to watch Countdown with Keith Olberman, thanks to the priority given to video data packets under the current voluntary regime of net neutrality, I have to amend this diary in an attempt to clean up a little his Augeas' stables on the Google Verizon deal and net neutrality because it is clear he has drunk the Free Press - Huffington Post - Democracy Now Kool Aid.

He begins the segment with the type of disaster reporting headline that is designed to alarm, warning of "an end to the Internet as we know it" saying the "Google Verizon deal to throw out net neutrality for the sake of their profits" and warning "it's worst than we thought."

He then goes on to imply that net neutrality is something that is already written into law and which Google and Verizon propose to take away, "What Google and Verizon agreed too was this, that FCC rules assuring equal access to the Internet should still apply to the wired devices like a computer on your desk but thoses rules should not apply to wireless devices such as mobile phones or smart phones or Ipads."

And just what rules were these, Keith? Because my understanding is that there were no rules, i.e. laws, regarding net neutrality and that in April, before Google started talking to Verizon about this, the courts told the FCC they didn't have the authority to make such rules. In that context, Google went to Verizon and won it's agreement to support a legislative proposal that at least in shires network neutrality for wirelines. And again I have to point out to Obermann and everyone else that only thinks as an end user, that data packets, even when destine for "wireless devices such as mobile phones or smart phones or Ipads", only travel the "last mile" on wireless, so net neutrality on wirelines, even for data destine for those devices, is important.

So Obermann is presenting the Google Verizon deal as suggesting that laws already on the books no longer be applied to wireless when it is a proposal that suggests that net neutrality be made the law of the land with regards to wirelines but leaves aside the question of wireless. Wireless is a much more difficult problem from the technology point of view. This is something that people who are clueless about the technology like to leap over. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was alsolutely right when he said "The issues of wireless versus wireline get very messy...and that's really an FCC issue not a Google issue."

And as a tech savy poster to Slashdot pointed out:

The bandwidth available for wireless transmission is determined by the range of frequencies available, divided by the number of users on that band. It's a FIXED amount. The FCC's not going to widen it just because, there are too many considerations for it.

You can only achieve a given data speed over wifi. We've improved it over time. But there is a physical limit for reliability of the signal, and that's why wireless is a different story. With wired (or land-based into wifi hotspots) you can just lay more lines in parallel, add a separate color laser to your fiber, etc. which makes it feasible to upgrade and widen the bandwidth. When you have an easily maintainable infrastructure, you don't mind letting it be used freely without priority restrictions.

Now pictures this: if wireless providers went all net neutral as per your calls, then a phone call would have the same priority as an app downloading updates in the background. Do you know you're going to always have good enough reception to guarantee call quality? Or are OS/firmware updates not more important than that stupid youtube of a dog who can't get up?

The point is that for wireless, there is a need to prioritize bandwidth, and because it's a fixed bandwidth, if you want priority over something else, you can't just claim it like you do on a landline network.

All these "technical" details are things that Silver, Aaron and Obermann can overlook, but they can't be over looked by the people that make the Internet function everyday. And I really have to wonder what is going on here? Is it just naiveté? Or is it something else? I know that NBC would like to kill net neutrality. I don't know about the money behind Free Press. But I suppose some might find it useful to announce the death of net neutrality now and blame it all on Google.