The Internet Will Collapse And It's The Fault Of People Pushing For Network Neutrality?

from the you-want-to-back-that-up? dept

Eleven years ago, Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of ethernet, wrote in a column that the internet would collapse in 1996 due to a variety of things that would all pile up and destroy it. A year later, he ate his column in a very public demonstration admitting he was wrong. Since then, though, it’s become quite common for people to predict that the internet is on the verge of collapsing (that link says it will collapse in 2006… whoops). The latest is even more ridiculous, as a think tank guy is warning that the internet is about to collapse, and that it’s all the network neutrality supporters who are to blame. It’s based on a Deloitte & Touche report, claiming that there hasn’t been enough backbone buildout to handle the growth in traffic — and the writer somehow connects this to network neutrality by saying it’s because of fear over network neutrality rules that the buildout isn’t happening. There’s just one problem, as Broadband Reports points out, the D&T report doesn’t mention network neutrality at all (Update: it’s been pointed out that it does mention network neutrality, but not in a way that suggests network neutrality laws would cause the internet to go bust), and there’s no evidence to suggest that network neutrality has anything to do with backbone buildout. Most of the network neutrality issues that people are discussing are much more focused on the last mile anyway, rather than the backbone. Perhaps a bigger reason that we haven’t seen much growth in capacity is that companies still remember what happened during the last boom, when investments in core infrastructure got way, way ahead of demand, leading to a ton of unlit fiber… and bankrupt companies. If there’s real demand for more capacity, there will be business models to support it, whether or not network neutrality is in place.

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Comments on “The Internet Will Collapse And It's The Fault Of People Pushing For Network Neutrality?”

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Iron Chef says:

Network Neutrality or Packet Prioritization

I have a hard time believing that the internet will collapse based on the claims of Network Neutrality.

However, I will admit that some data streams need to be better thought out… If we’re going to successfully move voice circuits to IP (read: home phone over the internet) we don’t need Network Nutrality, but rather, a concentrated effort towards Packet Prioritization at all levels of the internet.

I truly believe that this will accomplish the goals of all parties.

Araemo says:

Re: Network Neutrality or Packet Prioritization

You know, you’re partially right, but the technical aspects are pretty nasty.

Most ISPs already do SOME traffic shaping, whether you notice it or not. They probably have protocol analyzers running that take bittorrent traffic(and other bulk traffic that doesn’t require low latency) and assign it a lower priority. What that means is that if some bittorrent traffic is waiting in one of their edge routers with other traffic, the bittorrent traffic isn’t sent until it is all that is left waiting. Most of the time, you don’t have any way of telling, because all the traffic can be sent ‘at once’, because they have enough total bandwidth. The effect comes when they get a traffic spike, and for a bit, maybe only 2 tenths of a second, their pipe is completely full.. well, the bittorrent traffic gets held up(Not stopped, not throttled, just delayed) until the other traffic is through. this allows things like requesting a new web page, sending video or voice communications, basically anything that isn’t given an explicitly low priority gets to go through together.. this helps reduce latency, which can cause gamers to have problems, can cause static or weird effects in VoIP systems, can cause video hiccups, can cause websites to take a lot longer to load than you expect… etc. I’m honestly “Ok” with this kind of prioritizing, as long as it is not destination or source specific. I don’t care if they give VoIP a bit higher priority than bittorrent, that’s GOOD, it increases the quality of service for their customers(all of them) who want to use VoIP(From any provider that uses an identifiable protocol).

This COULD be used to get an end-run around network neutrality though.. if you want to make all traffic to your buddy’s voip system prioritized, just have him run it using a special protocol that only he uses.. and then shape that protocol. So this would have to be taken into account in any network neutrality legislation I would support.

It IS possible to tag packets as one of several priority levels, and your ISP might even use them. The problem is that there is nothing stopping someone from tagging their bittorrent(or just porn download) traffic as ‘highest priority’, so you really can’t trust the end user devices in that respect. My personal broadband router uses those tags, and I have my bittorrent traffic set to ‘bulk traffic’, which means most other traffic gets priority to go out to my internet connection, but I have no idea if my ISP even looks at that flag on the traffic, and I don’t really care.

And if you can’t trust the end-user devices, how do you know what traffic is important, and what is the latest version of bittorrent-over-SIP? You’re prioritizing SIP because it is used for VoIP, but someone could probably rig it up so that bittorrent packets are transmitted inside SIP packets, what do you do then? What about completely encrypted traffic? (Most VoIP software only encrypts the data, the signaling info is typically sent in the clear.. so your ISP can know you’re calling someone, they just can’t listen to the call. However, some software can be used to encrypt any other kind of traffic you want, so that it isn’t identifiable as anything other than “SSH” or “SSL/TLS” traffic, which could be VoIP or remote desktop or remote shell, or it could be bulk traffic like file uploads/downloads etc…

So, really, network neutrality isn’t that bad, compared to the only other fair alternative.

Ted says:

Re: Re: Network Neutrality or Packet Prioritization

Hi Araemo,
I think you make some good points about directing traffic, if packaging traffic will even make a difference, and if tagging specific services as “priority” makes a difference. I have done the same thing with my remote control software if for no other reason than to try it out. I haven’t noticed a difference, but am not sure I would.
Thanks for your thoughts.

rozanne says:

Neutrality good: learn from SA

When I read the South African reader’s comment, I thought at first it wasn’t relevant. But then I realised just how relevant it was: in South Africa, a single company has the monopoly on the infrastructure, which is the reason internet access is way, way out of the financial reach of even much of the middle class. Just can’t afford it, and what you can afford, is so slow you may as well not bother. For that reason, e-commerce in SA has been extremely slow to take off.

There’s a warning in that for America – be careful to ensure that whatever model you follow, a decent connection speed is available to the majority of your users (not just the ones who pay extra). The flow of ecommerce money depends on it 🙂

Overcast says:

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!

No actually the internet will fail if some government gets control of it. Then it will be seen as just a propaganda machine that the government uses to spy on you.

I won’t use it much then. The main thing I like about it now, is that it’s really, for the most part completely open and free.

The more the government meddles in anything the more screwed up it gets.

Just like cable and TV now – with all the regulations and restrictions on it, the ‘normal’ person has no way to get out a message, TV show, or Movie – it’s all ran by big corporations and government.

The internet is already the perfect model.

And sure, some places of the world, the infrestructure isn’t solid enough for a stable connection, you are moving too much data through too small of pipes. Routers are designed to switch traffic as needed. So let’s say, if no routers were available in New York, well the path would just route you through Ohio or something, depending on what they determine is the ‘least cost’.. blah, blah..

arbulus says:


If Net Neutrality isn’t protected, I would rather that the Internet did collapse. Because it won’t be worth using anymore: you will see and visit and view only what the telcos want you to see. You will no longer be free to choose what you want to do on the Net, nor will you have the freedom of starting up a site, or ecommerce business with the hopes that you could compete just as much as Yahoo! or Google could. If the telcos take control of the Internet and create the system that they want, you might as well throw your modem out the window, because it will no longer be worth having. The Internet was founded upon the free exchange of info and ideas, and it should remain that way, and not be controlled and restricted and content-filtered the way telcos want it.

Haapi says:

That last buildout in the 90's...

As to that last time the telcos build out a lot of infrastructure that remained unused, I lay that at the feet of WorldCom and its financial crimes. To keep the perceived company value from evaporating, they kept publishing false reports of all the circuits WorldCom was turning up daily, how much more capacity was in demand, and on and on. WorldCom’s competitors had to compete, of course, but were unaware that they were competing with a 9 billion dollar bluff.

That’s why we had overcapacity and losses on investments in infrastructure since 2000, but that does not apply now. That past history should not be used to excuse lack of build-out today or in the future.

Dave says:

Interesting. Tubular!

My initial reaction was that this sort of opinion comes from boneheads like Ted Stevens, and they are doing their best to support my opinion.

But reading about other countries’ Internet service is quite sobering. Still, killing Net Neutrality would do less than zero for these poorly served areas, I think.

In the US, the people who know next to nothing about the Internet are the ones who are regulating things. They know less than most 5-year-olds nowadays.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Wrong.


Before you repeat something so embarrassingly false as “the D&T report doesn’t mention network neutrality at all” you might want to take a look for yourself:

I linked to my source for the claim that it didn’t mention net neutrality. However, if you’re going to throw out claims like “embarrassingly false” it might help to look at your own report first, because there’s a lot more that’s embarrassingly wrong in that then anything I wrote.

It does appear true that the D&T report mentions net neutrality, but certainly not in the way that you spun it.

You should know that I don’t support net neutrality legislation, but I’m sick of people like you making up bogus arguments about “the death of the internet” to support the position.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Fibre dies after about 3 years if you don’t maintain it, which is happening in Australia.
Packet prioritisation is a waste of time, since once this starts to be used more, people will, instead of leaving he priority and data types empty, will just pretend to be high priority VoIP data, even for thier torrenting. Wastes money for the ISP, and a bit of time for the programmers, but achieves nothing.

Nemo Semret (user link) says:

net neutrality and capacity investment

Just because the D&T report does not mention “net neutrality” it doesn’t mean it’s not related. It is, and the “think tank guy” might be over-dramatic with the prediction of the Internet actually collapsing, but if he’s saying there’s a negative correlation between “net-neutrality” and backbone capacity investment, that’s very probably true.

Second capacity is not just fiber, just because the dark fiber is there it doesn’t mean the bandwidth is there. There’s are huge investments in equipment that have to be made to make before the fiber carries traffic.

Third, of course it’s true that “If there’s real demand for more capacity, there will be business models to support it, whether or not network neutrality is in place.” That’s like saying in the long run we will all die. The interesting things are what happens along the way. What will lead to the better business and services models of the future, is it “net-neutrality” or “service differentiation”?


Richard Bennett (profile) says:

You're busted.

Here’s the relevent part of the D & T Report:

“Balancing the two sides of [the network neutrality] debate is likely to remain challenging. Both sides have merit; both have their flaws. Clearly, something has to change in the economics of Internet access such that network operators and ISPs can continue to invest in new infrastructure and maintain service quality, and consumers can continue to enjoy the Internet as they know it today.” (page 7, “The Network Neutrality Debate Needs Resolution”.)

Maslick, you’re busted.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: You're busted.


You seem to have a reading comprehension problem. First off, since I didn’t have access to the report, I relied on the findings of Broadband Reports, who I linked to, and who noted the lack of net neutrality discussion. I did not “make it up.” I had a source, and a pointed to it.

Second, the quote you point to doesn’t support your argument or the Forbes opinion piece. It certainly does not suggest that network neutrality is to blame for the pending troubles the internet might face.

How is that “busted”?

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Wrong again

Broadband Reports doesn’t say what you say they say. BR says: “but they make no mention of network neutrality law fears as the primary reason for the crunch” and you say they make no mention of network neutrality at all. Clearly, you’re in error. The second level of “busted” is that BR misleads readers about the D & T report and fails to provide a link to it.

You also claim that D & T doesn’t touch on the access network, another bald-faced lie. The report discusses both parts of the infrastructure.

So the question is simply this: where in hell do you get off calling somebody a liar for allegedly misquoting a report THAT YOU HAVEN’T EVEN BOTHERED TO READ????

Now that you’ve been busted, you’re back-pedaling and denying the D & T report says what it clearly says, which is: “Clearly, something has to change in the economics of Internet access such that network operators and ISPs can continue to invest in new infrastructure and maintain service quality,”

Read that slowly a carefully. Unless something changes in the economics of the Internet, service quality will decline. That “change in the economics of the Internet” is exactly what Net Neutrality seeks to prohibit.

Do I need to draw you a picture?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Wrong again


Seriously. Let’s try this again.

First, despite your continued claims to the contrary, I’m actually against net neutrality regulations (I note you call me in favor of them on your blog). So, does that mean I’ve “busted” you?

Second, it wasn’t clear where the report originally was, so I’m sorry that I didn’t read it. I didn’t have access to it, so I was going based on what was available and I backed it up with sources. Now that you pointed out the section on net neutrality, I updated the post.

Third, how can *I* be busted for stuff written on someone else’s site? Seriously. Get a grip.

Fourth, you have an interesting interpretation of that section, but I disagree. Especially considering that most folks on your side claim that net neutrality has never been supported in the past — and yet, now you’re claiming that putting it in place is keeping the status quo? Funny.

Fifth, if net neutrality is put in place, it may block *ONE* single business model option. It HARDLY blocks all possible economic changes that would protect the network. Not even close. To read it that way is just ridiculous — and only makes sense if you are incredibly biased towards one view.

So, yeah, draw me a picture. Explain to me how one particular law blocks ALL possible economic changes for improving the internet.

Good luck, because that picture doesn’t exist. The original opinion piece was a bunch of crap.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Drawing Mike a picture

As you’ve pointed out before, Mike, I don’t know where you stand in network neutrality because your position is so nuanced. You say you’re in favor of it in principle, but opposed to it in practice or vice versa.

You’re under no obligation to read every forecast of Internet usage that comes along, but prudence would dictate that before criticizing someone for misusing any particular one you should have at least a passing acquaintance with its content. You say you relied on Karl’s misreading of the D & T report, yet you didn’t quote him accurately and he didn’t read the report either. So my problem with your post is that it piles ignorance on top of ignorance and contributes to a firestorm of misrepresentation.

When you dash off such seriously under-researched posts as this I wonder at your motivation. Are you paid by the word?

Your buddy Karl is offering the same back-pedal you’ve some to, this nonsense about the vast array of possible business models, etc. In fact, the argument over net neutrality has all along been limited to about three pricing schemes: the flat-rate system preferred by Google’s minions; a tiered service model preferred by the telcos; and a QoS model preferred by various other people as a compromise position. Other pricing schemes may exist in textbooks, but they’re not part of this debate and D & T doesn’t suggest they ought to be.

Quite simply, net neutrality is a debate over the desire of the telcos to pay for infrastructure enhancements through tiered service revenues. It’s not really about free speech, inviolate architectural principles, or free software.

The fact is that net neutrality in the proper sense of the term has never been a creature of law or architecture in the past is true but beside the point: we’re under no obligation to leave any technical artifact as it was in the 1.0 release.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Drawing Mike a picture

Who’s backtracking now?

this nonsense about the vast array of possible business models, etc. In fact, the argument over net neutrality has all along been limited to about three pricing schemes

Just because the discussion over net neutrality is limited to that, it doesn’t mean that’s the end point of the discussion.

The point is that the D&T paper WAS NOT about network neutrality, but about network congestion problems — which there may be many ways to solve. You’re the one who wants to limit the discussion only to network neutrality issues.

Quite simply, net neutrality is a debate over the desire of the telcos to pay for infrastructure enhancements through tiered service revenues. It’s not really about free speech, inviolate architectural principles, or free software.

Did I ever imply it was about free speech, inviolate architectural principles or free software? No. Because I don’t believe any of those things.

I think the debate is about technological progress and how best to set that up. I’m arguing it from an economics and policy viewpoint. I’m worried about any laws from the government that gives them more say over the internet, but I also recognize the economic benefits of network effects, as well as the concept of natural monopolies.

So, no, it does NOT have to do with the desire of telcos to pay for infrastructure through tiered services revenue. It has to do with what’s most likely to create a competitive marketplace that leads to increased innovation and progress. You seem to believe it’s in letting the telcos double charge. I tend to believe that’s not a very good solution — but I don’t think it’s the government’s place to step in just yet.

So, please, stop ascribing beliefs to me that I don’t support. It doesn’t help your argument.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Net neutrality is all over the report

In the Executive Summary, Deloitte and Touche says: “Opponents [of net neutrality], however, argue that their business models are undermined by bandwidth-hungry applications particularly those with significant video content. Future growth will likely require considerable investment in new infrastructure. But infrastructure owners may believe that they are able to recover too little of the cost to justify investment.”

That’s just what Kerpen says it says. And in the section titled “The network neutrality debate needs resolution”, the report says:

“Those who oppose creating [net neutrality] mandates argue that their business models are being undermined by Internet companies offering bandwidth-hungry services such as video and audio-streaming, heavily networked online games, video-based chat and peer-to-peer downloads. Many ISPs and telecommunications companies would like to start charging content companies, and others, a fee to provide access to their services. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that ISPs and telecommunications carriers are seeing revenues stagnate. As penetration growth slows, competition drives down prices and rapidly rising Internet use among existing customers erodes margins. The second is that some of the largest Internet companies are enjoying bumper revenue growth and increasing profitability, and carriers would like to use their position in the value chain to participate in this growth.

“Internet usage and traffic are both growing rapidly. There is an increasingly urgent need for new revenues that could fund expansion of the infrastructure on which the Internet runs. For example, on several key intercontinental routes, such as that between Asia and Europe, backbone capacity has grown slower than usage (see Figure 1), and may increasingly struggle to keep pace with demand. Similarly, ISPs and carriers may have to invest in higher capacity infrastructure to continue to be able to provide genuine broadband speeds to consumers and business users.

“Balancing the two sides of [the network neutrality] debate is likely to remain challenging. Both sides have merit; both have their flaws. Clearly, something has to change in the economics of Internet access such that network operators and ISPs can continue to invest in new infrastructure and maintain service quality, and consumers can continue to enjoy the Internet as they know it today.” (page 7, section titled The Network Neutrality Debate Needs Resolution.)

The report is about the future of the Internet; both network neutrality and congestion are part of it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Net neutrality is all over the report


All I have to say is that you write this on your blog:

“The hugely partisan, emotional debate over net neutrality that’s mostly about name-calling (Telco shill! Google bitch!) and fear-mongering isn’t helping anybody.

Let’s all take a step back, cool off, and look for common ground.”

That’s hilarious, since you’ve been one of the worst in calling people names, using loaded descriptions (net neuts?), and bullying your way on this issue.

At the same time, I’ve tried very hard to discuss all viewpoints on this issue, and call out both the telcos and the internet companies when they make bogus arguments. I’ve made it clear that I don’t support either side’s viewpoint. My point was to focus on the actual issues at hand. Yours has not been. You have been on one side from the beginning — and viscously so. You have insulted me and many others repeatedly.

It makes me laugh that you then imply that it’s me who’s calling people names.

I’m sorry, but it’s not worth discussing with you any more. If you really want to make this a more mature debate, then more power to you, but I find it hilarious that you try to do that in the same post where you again insist on insulting me, when you clearly still don’t understand the point I was making.

I am done discussing this with you unless you actually live up to your own claims of looking for common ground.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

That's a clever dodge

I criticized you for calling Kerpen a liar when he didn’t lie. Turning the argument back on me doesn’t redeem you for making a false claim, and your correction doesn’t go far enough to amount to an honest correction. See what Doc Searls wrote in his retraction, and use that as a model for yours.

And BTW, “net neuts” isn’t a slur, it’s simply a convenient nickname for those seeking to regulate the Internet with net neutrality regulations. If you want an insulting name for this set, “Google bitches” fills the bill.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: That's a clever dodge

I criticized you for calling Kerpen a liar when he didn’t lie

And I pointed out where he did — you just choose not to believe it. The report still doesn’t say what you seem to insist it says. You can repeat it as many times as you want, and it still doesn’t say it. Pretending you were right when the facts don’t support it, and then gloating about it (and THEN saying you wish that people were nicer in this debate) is just silly.

No matter how much you want to believe, the report does NOT say net neutrality is the problem.

Turning the argument back on me doesn’t redeem you for making a false claim,

Um, you were the one who have been personally attacking me. I didn’t turn it back on you. I simply pointed out where YOU are now the one making questionable claims. Considering the number of times you have viscously attacked people who disagree with you, it’s ridiculous to

See what Doc Searls wrote in his retraction, and use that as a model for yours.

Why should I? I did apologize for not having read the report that I did not have access to, but once I read it, I pointed out that the basic points I made were still correct — which they were.

And BTW, “net neuts” isn’t a slur, it’s simply a convenient nickname for those seeking to regulate the Internet with net neutrality regulations. If you want an insulting name for this set, “Google bitches” fills the bill.

Common ground? Huh. Fascinating how you do that.

This is my final response on this post.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

A basic lack of integrity

You dashed-off an unwarranted personal attack on Phil Kerpen, and when you were called on it, you made a “non-apology apology” and you think that lets you off the hook.

The basic facts are these: Kerpen accurately portrays the study in question, which you admit you hadn’t read until *after* attacking him. That “I had no access to it” argument is BS because nobody held a gun to your head and made you slander the the man.

The Telcos have said for the last 10 years that applying telecom regulations to Internet access would result in telecom-like investment strategies. Deloitte confirms that demand for Internet bandwidth is growing faster than supply. They say that net neutrality will have to be cleared up in order to rectify that problem, as telcos have been very clear that it’s an impediment to investment. That’s been pretty much their main argument from day 1.

This is all verifiable and I have offered up the quotes that prove it. Now if you think you can hold Telcos and Google-minions to account for their spin and distortion, you’re going to have to do better than you have in this instance. Your credibility has taken a big hit from your refusal to fully and honestly correct a glaring error.

JJ says:

Re: Re:

mike didn’t claim the report said anything. he claimed that it doesn’t say net neutrality is the cause of the problem. you quoted some section that says that things need to change, but don’t specifically say it’s teh fault of net neutrality.

also, could you explain why, despite the forces of net neutrality currently holding off any tiered services, companies like at&t and verizon are both heavily investing in infrastructure?

based on your claims, that’s impossible. sorry, dude, but you don’t seem to be living in the real world. maybe there are other economic paths to making this work.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

So, JJ, you’re making claims that you can’t back up, and then trying to cover-up your lack of data with a strawman attack. I never said there’s no investment in the infrastructure, and neither did Deloitte. What they did say is that the investment isn’t *keeping up* with the demand, and I’m taking their word for it.

On the second point, I’ve already cited three paragraphs from the section on Net Neutrality that support it, and one from the Executive Summary.

You and Mike have cited nothing, because you have nothing.

j. ping says:

collapse or monopoly?

not so much a financial collapse, it is that so many new, innovative and young companies are being bought up by the big old companies. one wonders “WILL CORPORATE AMERICA RUN THE INTERNET SOON?” and how will that effect the small-fry who wants to upstart a business? It might be made more difficult, and more expensive.

cloud9ine says:

Net neutrality

So, this grandma living across from me using her broadband to check email twice a week ‘results in’ (note that i didn’t say pays) the same revenue to the telco as the teenager next door who has his utorrent always on downloading at full speed while also using on the average, 50 youtube videos a day?

The grandma in this case ends up subsidizing the other guy. Now, what if the content provider had to share revenue with the user’s ISP? This would justify investment in equipment for the ISP. But that’s where NN comes in, what if the ISP decides to limit bandwidth to traffic directed to/from a specific website, based on what they will pay?

What if the user can now hit Youtube at 150 Kbps and Metacafe only at 50 Kbps?

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