Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Open Letter to the Chairman Genachoski of the FCC

Honorable Chairman Genachoski,

I must say that your recent statement regarding net neutrality is disappointing to me. I understand the need to make our Internet open and accessable to all who seek it, however your statement recently quoted as "One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles." may not be as consumer friendly as you would suppose.

First, a disclaimer here, I have worked in data networking for over 15 years, so I have a certain perspective and knowledge about the situation. When the internet began, much of what was transferred was static and text. One of the beauties of the data transfer is the ability to break a computer file into many parts and transmit them in pieces to be reassembled at the destination. When a photo, email, or document is transmitted, it matters little in what order the items arrive or even if a portion is missing since the receiving computer can wait patiently for all the pieces to arrive before re-assembling it.

As long as it is a traditional file, no problem. In human terms, it will happen in a perfectly reasonable amount of time. Things get trickier with higher value applications. For example, in order for real time applications such as a voice call or a video call (especialy high definition/high quality ones) it matters greatly that the file "packets" be delivered, in order, without delay and without any pieces missing. Otherwise, the transmission becomes gibberish and leads to a poor user experience. Fortunately, there are technologies avaialable that can help distinguish a video transmission from say an email transmission and this could lead to a better overall consumer experience.

However, in order for the technology to be workable, it requires that the network distinguish between types of data flowing across it and give priority to the data that needs it. Therefore, in order for providers to deliver high quality, high value applications, they must distinguish and prioritze the data. Unfortunately, Net Neutrality would take away this option.

By demanding so called "net-neutrality" you are condemning users to an internet experience not unlike the Washington DC beltway during rush hour. Yes, people will get to their destination, but not in a way that is very satisfactory. I say, you should allow for the creation of alternative networks that people can choose to obtain that would allow for better management of the data. Yes this would mean that some data would be "delayed" but not typically in a way that is disatisfaying nor would it mean that it would be permanantly blocked. This management of the data flow would lead to a better overall consumer experience by making those who place excessive demands on the network pay for that demand and allow those who do not need high demand applications not have to pay for it. Finally, if a provider, cay Comcast abuses their responsibility to deliver the internet in a way that is balanced, then a user can choose to move their service to a provider that is more fair, for example Verizon or T-mobile. (By the way, I am not making an accusation about either of these companies, just saying that people have choices.)

In summary, net neutrality, on the surface appears to make everything fair. However, by legislating fairness, we will likely endup with an equally bad experience (like the DC Belway at rush hour). Please do not force us to all have a poor experience because a few place high demands on the network.


-- James W Snowden

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