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On Net neutrality

The hot button topic in recent times has been net neutrality; the notion that every data packet is equal. Right now the global Internet community is facing a far bigger threat to net neutrality than ever before and there are a lot of voices making a lot of noise.

To recap lightly, the Federal Communications Commission has done an about-face on its position of last year by saying that ISPs can now charge content companies fees to access their customers. This in turn means that ‘packaged’ Internet deals are likely to become more and more prevalent as consumers are forced into paying more for accessing sites like Netflix than they would if they just wanted the Internet to read a few emails. It’s possibly worth mentioning that the chair of the FCC is a former cable network executive and lobbyist.

In his erudite piece for the Guardian, Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow sets out how unfair this is. He equates it to a telephone company giving Pizza parlour X a better incoming call service for your pizza order than Pizza parlour Y. Pizza parlour X is paying them a fee, just like you are. When you call Parlour Y, your call mysteriously fails to connect. He argues this is unfair because both you and the pizza company already pay for your phone lines, so anything on top of that is just the phone company double-dipping.

Re/code has a good piece asking if anyone out there supports the proposed changes. It finds that not many people are coming out with positive things to say, and those who may be expected to champion it – President Obama say – are staying silent.

InternetNZ’s objectives have been pretty consistent over the years. We’re dead against a closed and captured Internet and we work hard to prevent that from happening. We’re also motivated by promoting easily available access to the Internet for all New Zealanders. In short we represent the common interests of New Zealanders who use the Internet. That’s just about all of you.

Killing network neutrality would be an attack on the open Internet. It would not make for a better world, or a better Internet.

This latest move from the FCC, we think, is a threat to the above. It’s an anti-competitive move that will allow the bigger players to get bigger, while curtailing the smaller players who may not be able to afford to access customers as freely. It will shrink an already artificially shrunken market and hamper innovation: the next big idea of a Google or Facebook variety would face second-rate service quality because the big incumbents can pay.

Dealing with the New Zealand reality of the network neutrality debate is a key part of our work programme for the upcoming year. Work has already begun on figuring out how and where this is relevant to the New Zealand Internet landscape and we are going to be talking to members so we can get the best minds working on the best response.

Jordan Carter is InternetNZ CEO.

Comments and questions

Imagine an NZ with strong net neutrality:

No more unlimited plans that have traffic management (sounds good, but if the ISP is not allowed to prioritise traffic types at all it likely just means no more unlimited plans full stop).

It will be right back to the world of small data caps as the ISPs seek to avoid blowing out international bandwidth costs when vampires utilise the full 100Mbps of their UFB connection on torrents (this would cost an ISP somewhere in the region of $2000/month for that one customer).

No more 'bundles' either - as this is just another form of price discrimination - where those buying a bundle because they value the TV component most pay less than those buying just the internet connection. Fewer internet connections sold so the average cost goes up for all of those who do value it highly (due to scale economies of networks).

The internet never has treated all packets equally. If they were, then a lot of internet 'sacred cows' such as flat rate pricing, bundling, and different speeds would have to be slaughtered along with the supposed 'discrimination' that net neutrality seeks to address. See

Net neutrality has not, and never can exist.

The internet has got along just fine without Net Neutrality regulation so far, so there would need to be a very compelling case for the Government to start interfering with it. With any proposed new regulation we are always told "This time it will be different - there won't be any unexpected adverse consequences from tampering with the free market." Yet somehow things never seem to work out the way the utopian vision imagined.
I can't see any particular problem with an ISP charging some content provider a fee to serve that content faster and using that money to reduce charges to end users. This is no different in principle to a newspaper charging advertisers so it can reduce subscription charges. If customers don't like the likely outcome of some content being faster than other content, there are plenty of other ISPs they can choose from.
Also worth noting that InternetNZ doesn't "represent the common interests of New Zealanders who use the internet" - it represents the interests of its members.

What job would you really like to be doing?

Given governments inability to rein in Telecon & its spawns why cant we www just join Australia??

Jordan seems to have not consulted with any industry techies or he would have realised how ridiculous his call for net neutrality is! He is not doing the credibility of Internet NZ any good!

There are certainly good reasons to make any traffic management/discrimination transparent and open. That is what he should be championing.