Re: To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David Reed.  DLH]

Subject: RE: To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet
Date: June 30, 2014 at 13:56:42 EDT

I don’t want to dwell on this, but Network Neutrality and an Open, Interoperable Internet have very little to do with functional separation or structural separation.

Functional/structural separation relate to vertical integration – an “antitrust” or “anticompetitive” concern. That’s an important issue, but it’s got very little to do with the whole reason the Internet succeeded, what is different about the Internet.

The Internet is not about “content” and it’s not about “infrastructure”.  It’s about universal interoperability and universal actual interoperation of autonomous networks.

In other words, it is about the fact that any device, anywhere on the Internet, of any type, can deliver bits to anywhere else anywhere, and the meaning of those bits are defined *only* by the agreed upon language of the endpoints.

I think a little thought about that will lead to an insight of why the Internet (once it reached critical mass in about 1992) created all the things it did.   That was not about solving an antitrust or anticompetitive problem (except in that Carterfone enabled users to connect modems to the phone system, one of the many types of technology that could transport Internet datagrams).

We see many attempts these days to say “forget about Net Neutrality” or the “Open Internet”, instead we will get there by creating new infrastructure or restricting infrastructure ownership, or whatever other pre-Internet idea appeals to someone.

Structural separation is not a bad idea, just as municipally owned networks are not a bad idea.  But neither focuses on the real challenge to the Internet’s success going forward: *Balkanization*.

There is no technical reason for Balkanizing the Internet into lots of little disconnected networks.  There’s little or no “security” reason, either (we have great encryption and related technologies, and with transparency we have the ability to encircle and punish those who would deny service to others).  All we have are those who would balkanize to control and limit users’ access to what they otherwise would be able to communicate with.

That does not get solved by structural separation.  It does NOTHING to prevent balkanization – all it does is change the subject, just as propaganda techniques focus on changing the subject.

Today we have some concerns about vertical integration – that is a big problem that must be wrestled when Comcast is buying up so many franchised locations, and also buying “content producers”.

But do NOT think that solving this problem will do a single thing to protect the Internet.  It won’t.

At best it will merely distract from the problem of ensuring the openness and connectivity of the Internet.  At worst, it will provide the balkanizers the opportunity to create lots of little AOL’s called cable packages and smartphone service offerings full of proprietary services, with connection to the Internet becoming second-class or even omitted entirely, on the basis that “no one wants” that Internet stuff.

To FCC: Try functional separation of Internet
By Henry Goldberg
Jun 23 2014


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