FCC Hearing on Network Neutrality at Stanford

Thursday, 2008-04-17; 23:25:22

entirety of my live-tweeting session plus commentary

In February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a hearing on network neutrality at the Harvard Law School in Boston. The impetus for the hearing was the revelation that Comcast, a prominent internet service provider (ISP) in the U.S. was actively blocking traffic based upon the protocol it was using; in particular, Comcast was blocking BitTorrent traffic and causing disruption to people trying to download legitimate items, such as World of Warcraft updates and public domain songs.

"Network neutrality" is a broad principle that applies to internet access. Essentially the term means that ISPs should not degrade or block internet traffic based on the type of traffic. This allows all internet traffic, regardless of source, destination, or content, to be treated equally by ISPs. Comcast's selective blocking of BitTorrent traffic is a violation of network neutrality.

Net neutrality is a principle that, de facto, has governed the internet for the past decade or so. There has been no explicit law in the United States mandating network neutrality, but there had never been an instance of an ISP violating the principle of net neutrality until the discovery of Comcast's actions.

Unfortunately, Comcast effectively blocked access to the hearing in February to people who were genuinely interested in the debate, by paying people to take up seats. That caused the FCC to schedule an additional hearing. That hearing was today, and was held at Dinkelspiel Auditorium here at Stanford University. Since I live on the Stanford campus, I thought it would be a good idea to go and listen, and to voice my support for net neutrality.

I ended up live-tweeting the whole event. I arrived at around 12:45 PM, and the hearing continued until 7:30 PM. It was a long day of typing. For easy access, here is a reproduction, in chronological order, of my tweets of today's FCC hearing. Nothing has been edited.

I recommend reading my tweets before proceeding to the following commentary.

At the FCC net neutrality hearing. Signed up for public comment; they'll pick randomly at 4:30 PM from those who signed up. 12:00:37
Commissioner: "The internet is a wiki environment." I guess. 12:04:30
The name tags of the commissioners sitting at the table are in a comically small font that it's impossible to read at all. 12:13:17
Larry Lessig is here! 12:15:08
OH CRAP he's (Lessig) doing his annoying PowerPoint presentations. 12:16:02
P.S. @simX[4] is a quote from Commissioner McDowell. 12:17:20
@DarksideHalo: It's so small I can't even tell. 12:17:46
WHAT THE HELL Lessig. "e2e" (end-to-end) is not a canonical acronym. Spell it out! 12:19:19
Lessig says that "e2e" is now known as "network neutrality". Uh, no. 12:20:03
Lessig *is* arguing for network neutrality and noted that providers (ISP) conspire against the public. 12:20:50
Lessig: "We should be conservative. Conservative with a small 'c'." Lol. 12:22:10
Lessig is making the analogy of the electricity grid — another open "anybody can do anything" grid — as a model for the internets. 12:23:30
Lol, Lessig showed a pic of Harvard Law School from Second Life, because he couldn't find a real pic. 12:28:25
Lessig (paraphrasing): "You don't talk about 'trust' of corporations just like you don't talk about 'trusting' a tiger with your child." 12:30:36
Lessig is against ZPR (zero-price regulation), which he says prevents structured pricing for how fast a person wants their connection to be. 12:36:40
i.e.: ZPR goes against non-discriminatory "tiering", which is how we pay for the internets now. 12:37:04
Lessig: "Architecture that works does not depend on 'trust'." 12:41:05
Lessig sits down to thunderous applause. :D 12:41:59
President of the Song Writers Guild of America is now speaking. 12:42:34
@DarksideHalo[1]: No, it is not Comic Sans. 12:43:18
Oh, whatever. This guy is going on about piracy and how it's destroyed families and has "destroyed the profession of songwriting". 12:45:36
Carnes: "For speed and safety, consumers would benefit from services of ISPs to filter unauthorized file-sharing." Um, no. 12:48:03
Michelle Combs, President of the Christian Coalition of America, is now speaking. This should be good. 12:49:50
Sorry, Combs is *Vice* President of the CCA. 12:50:22
Huh. CCA supports net neutrality. I thought this was going to be about child pornography. Color me surprised. 12:51:27
Combs: "The comments from the cable industry, frankly, offends me. As I respectfully suggest, it ought to offend you." LOL. 12:53:26
Hah! Comcast was blocking BitTorrent downloads of the King James Bible! Hahaha. That's great. I'm surprised by her comments. 12:54:05
Yes, *THAT* GEORGE OU. 12:55:49
Ou is a poor public speaker. He's reading off a prepared speech, and he's still stumbling. 12:57:17
Ou: "One user taking up four 'flows' takes up four times more bandwidth." What the hell are 'flows"? 12:58:37
LOL. Ou says that downloading from webspace that ISPs offer is faster than downloading from BitTorrent. Talk about missing the point. 13:00:00
Jon Peha, professor at Carnegie Mellon University is now speaking. Thank god Ou is not, anymore. anyway. 13:02:45
Peha "correcting" other panelists. Comcast does not "delay" P2P, it *blocks* it. 13:03:28
Peha: comcast practices *are* discriminatory, unless Comcast has been blocking all apps. Comcast *does* degrade P2P. 13:03:54
LazyTwitter: When was Napster first available to use? 13:07:50
Jean Prewitt, CEO of Independent Film and Television Alliance, is now speaking. 13:08:34
Prewitt talks about TV as showing how we need proactive measures to protect independent programming/media. 13:10:04
Prewitt: "Copyright concerns cannot be an excuse to prevent access to the market." YES. 13:13:01
James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media Founder?, now speaking. 13:15:36
Steyer (paraphrased): "Blah blah kids blah blah blah kids blah blah kids kids blah." 13:21:01
Robert Topolski of funchords.com now speaking. Actual victim of TCP resets from Comcast. 13:23:00
Topolski was the one who first posted about the TCP reset packets from Comcast, and is "probably the igniter of these hearings today." 13:24:24
Topolski says that TCP reset behavior from Comcast has *not* actually stopped, despite Comcast's protestations to the contrary. 13:26:18
Topolski: "Comcast interferes 24 hours a day." Evidence against the "congestion" argument that Comcast makes for network management. 13:26:51
Topolski is a ham radio operator. 13:27:10
Topolski: Blocking is "still impacting users and still impacting developers." More thunderous applause. 13:28:04
Topolski argues that network management should be opt-in, not something operated secretly by ISPs. 13:30:10
Topolski was suffering from an illness, one of the side effects of which was insomnia, which is why he could detect reset packets at 2 AM. 13:31:25
Topolski used ping to find that typical congestion occurs between 3 and 7:30 PM each weekday when kids come home from school. 13:32:05
Peha: "The fact that this late in the game, we still don't know what they [Comcast] do, is interesting in itself." 13:33:07
FCC chairman Martin asking Peha clarification on why Comcast calling its practices "delaying" is incorrect. 13:34:15
Martin clarifies that Carnes thinks that filtering should happen both for music and video. 13:35:13
Martin asks Ou why ISPs shouldn't just charge consumers more for more bandwidth usage (airplane model). Ou claims no one wants this. 13:36:50
Lessig argues that metered access is a good way to effect more infrastructure building. 13:38:58
Lessig says that he's a Comcast customer, pays for the highest speed, and doesn't actually get what he pays for. 13:39:16
Lessig argues that regulation should make "playing games" (delaying, blocking) less profitable for ISPs than operating a neutral network. 13:40:37
@boredzo: I'm pretty sure he at least talked to David Maynor. ;) 13:40:56
Lessig: "I mean it's not... well, it *is* rocket science." (Referring to finding out the truth of Comcast's network practices.) 13:42:11
P.S. The audience (including me) overwhelmingly applauds those on the expert panel that support net neutrality. 13:43:13
There were also some boos after some FCC commissioners spoke when they obviously did *not* support net neutrality. 13:43:42
Topolski says that there's a form at the FCC website, Form 2000F, which you can use to file complaints against ISPs. 13:45:24
Commissioner: "Time is of the essence. [...] Companies are deciding the future of the internet." 13:46:54
Commissioner: Should the FCC wait for internal discussions of net neutrality at ISPs before acting? 13:47:50
Commissioner: Prewitt's comments are similar to a similar debate regarding media ownership, a subject on which the FCC has been unproductive 13:49:29
According to the schedule, there should have been a break from 2:15 to 3 PM. It's already 2:52 PM, and we're still in the first of 2 panels 13:52:35
Prewitt: Content providers are "colonizing the internet to look like television." 13:53:30
Ou claims that TCP resets are widely used. Points to the gaffe by the Univ of Tennessee's firewall that supposedly used TCP reset packets. 13:55:49
Re: @simX[1]: UoT's "gaffe" was blaming Comcast instead of the university firewall. Ou claims that 12% of connections get reset. 13:57:11
Sorry, not University of Tennessee, but the University of Colorado. 13:57:34
Topolski disagrees with Ou, and says that most routers do *not* support TCP reset packets. 13:58:06
Topolski says that reset packets are correctly used to deny access to ports to which certain connections are not allowed. 13:59:23
Peha says the issue is about using TCP reset packets as a *control for network congestion* which is *not* standard. 14:00:03
Topolski says that Cox Communications also uses TCP reset packets to control network congestion. 14:01:09
Ou says there's a "background noise" of TCP reset packets. It sounds like this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. 14:01:32
Ou argues that metered internet pricing would kill P2P. Wait, first he's against P2P (saying that it congests the internet), now he's not. 14:04:37
Commissioner Tate says that consumers don't have info to know if they get what they're paying for, and so the FCC shouldn't decide on NN yet 14:08:23
Ou claims ISP advertised speeds are "peak." Lessig shoots him down by saying that they should then advertise average speeds. 14:09:16
@boredzo: But he's using P2P as support for his argument against metered pricing. If he's not for P2P, then he's disingenuous. 14:10:56
Prewitt thinks that companies can develop tech to deal with NN. But also says end-users aren't represented in the discussion. 14:12:14
Commissioner Tate talks about utils to analyze connections. Says there's "something called Switzerland". WTF? 14:13:15
Lessig originally thought that sufficient competition would be enough to ensure NN. Doesn't believe that now. 14:14:14
Tate: Majority of P2P traffic is illegal. Topolski: No. P2P started the internet. It wasn't a server-to-client connection originally. 14:15:17
Carnes asked Topolski if he "licensed" the songs he was sharing. Topolski shoots him down by saying that the copyright had expired. 14:16:28
42 minutes left on my battery. Crap. Gotta find a plug for the next panel. 14:17:09
Commissioner asks if any of the expert panels had been paid by ISPs. Specifically asked Ou. Ou says he personally drove here. 14:18:28
Apparently you can watch this hearing "at home". Radio, TV (C-Span), internet? Anybody know? 14:19:38
Topolski uses analogy of gas companies secretly changing formula of gas for Comcast's practices. 14:20:43
Topolski could upload content via eDonkey, but not gnutella. That was the original impetus for the investigation. 14:21:33
Topolski mentions a company called Sand Bine (?) which has patented the TCP reset packet "in both directions", as per Comcast's practices. 14:22:52
Via @anwnn: if you want to listen to the hearing, go to http://www.fcc.gov/realaudio/ . 14:23:37
Ou is getting laughed at because he has no real-world experience of Comcast's practices as does Topolski. 14:25:12
@stilist: "Sandvine", that's what I thought. The live CC kept saying "Sand Bine". 14:25:32
@boredzo: Ah, that sucks. Also, "AFAI'mC"? 14:29:32
End of first panel. 10 minute break. Second panel coming up. We're way behind schedule. 14:29:58
On the plus side, I found two power strips along the back wall. Sucking up power for my laptop. More live-tweeting to come. :) 14:30:33
Currently structuring my comments, in case I get to speak. 14:32:15
LazyTwitter: When did Napster get shut down? 2001? 14:32:40
So if I get to speak, I'm first going to counter Carnes' and Ou's characterizations of P2P and BitTorrent, respectively. 14:45:38
(i.e.: best way to combat piracy is to compete with it, BitTorrent actually helps net congestion by distributing load) 14:46:08
Then I'm going to mention that it's troubling that Comcast packed the first hearing, and that they didn't show up to this one. 14:46:46
Then I'm going to make a parallel to ham radio and TV, where independent content has been snuffed out. 14:47:17
I'm going to mention that self-regulation is an unstable equilibrium; it takes one ISP to start filtering, then they all start doing it. 14:47:50
I'll conclude with a statement saying that we need to take proactive steps to protect the "anyone can do anything" nature of the 'net. 14:48:34
@schwa, @steve_holt: Thanks. Will need that for public comments. :) 14:48:59
@boredzo: Gotcha on the acronym, will do on the weblog post. 14:49:21
Second panel is about to start. 14:57:16
@wspr: Yeah, I figured I might piss off a few followers, but I'm glad you're enjoying the coverage. This stuff is super-important. 14:59:51
Barbara van Schewick, Asst. Professor at Stanford Law School, is introducing the 2nd panel. Has a Ph.D. in CS! 15:01:10
Schewick: 1) filtering sucks. 2) market will not solve problems even w/disclosure. 3) protect conusmers 15:01:57
Commissioner Tate sits down at her seat 3 minutes into Schewick's intro. McDowell follows soon after. 15:03:12
Schewick: "The broadband market is an effective duopoly." ++! 15:05:02
Schewick: "Service providers prefer quick-fixes" to congestion problem. 15:05:51
Schewick: Network providers don't use the same criteria as end-users do when choosing what apps to use. 15:07:50
Schewick: Network management should "affect all applications, not make one application the odd man out." 15:09:42
Jason Devitt, CEO of SkyDeck, is now speaking. Supposedly helps "people take back their cell phones"? 15:10:14
Choosing between Comcast and Covat is not a choice, because one doesn't work at the office, one not at home, and Verizon not at Stanford. 15:11:35
Devitt is annoyed that he can't do what he wants on his cell phone. (i.e.: cell phone has GPS, but only authorized carrier apps can use it) 15:12:27
Devitt: "PC software market has been distorted by a monopolist." *cough* 15:12:59
Devitt: "If I were a Dickens book, I would be the ghost of internet's future." 15:13:26
Devitt: Can't figure out if any traffic shaping tech is active on the phone, because he can't install traffic monitoring software. 15:14:44
Harold Feld, Senior VP of the Media Access Project, is now speaking. Sheesh he's loud, and he speaks fast. 15:15:17
Haha, Feld: "It will take 25 or 30 more hearings" for the FCC to force Comcast to stop traffic shaping. 15:16:06
Feld: Talks about 1999 debate about forcing ISPs to allow access to their pipes by other ISPs, and how we walked away from that debate. 15:17:37
Feld: Supreme Court says that the internet is a medium diverse of human thought, and 1st Amendment is paramount when debating NN. 15:18:49
Feld mentions how Jackson's wardrobe malfunction did not stop the FCC from acting, even though the TV networks went into full damage control 15:20:05
He's speaking really, really fast on various Supreme Court decisions in support of the FCC's jurisdiction over net neutrality. 15:21:18
Feld: "Not acting, as we did in 1999, carries its own consequences." 15:22:09
Feld is taking Tate head-on, with her concerns about illegal practices and pornography. 15:23:19
Of King James Bible downloads via BitTorrent, 276 attempts failed out of 300; but 75.33% of adult porn downloads did not fail once. Hahaha. 15:24:58
George S. Ford, Chief Economist at the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, now speaks. 15:27:42
Hates calling it "network neutrality", and that it's "analytically void". 15:28:12
Ford says that every one of the issues can fall under the umbrella of anticompetitive problems. 15:28:49
Ford thinks that the burden of proof falls on net neutrality advocates. 15:29:23
Ford says that net neutrality advocates are "using bad math" and "making things up". 15:29:54
Ford: "Neutrality is not a good thing." Um, no. 15:30:27
In high concentrated markets, bad practices by companies is common. "Get used to it," he says. But it "doesn't mean things are bad." BOOO 15:31:48
(He's actually getting verbal boos.) 15:31:56
Even monopolists have decisions that align with consumers. "It's just not true," that corporations are usually anti-consumer. 15:33:58
Ford is laughed at. He says he can't comment on Comcast's practices because he's not informed. I shouted, "Well then get informed." 15:35:10
Brett Glass, CEO of Lariat.net, is speaking now. Finally Ford shut up. 15:35:55
In 1999, a T1 line cots $6,000/month. 15:37:26
Lariat.net provides wireless access to the internet outside the bounds of cable/telephone companies. 15:38:35
Glass says that P2P shifts costs to ISPs, and they disclose that they prohibit P2P on lower tiers. 15:43:34
Commissioner Martin cuts Glass off. Blake Krikorian, CEO of Sling Media, now speaking. 15:44:08
Krikorian: Cable companies were threatened by Slingbox. Customers called Sling saying they want to pay more for faster access to video. 15:46:10
Krikorian: FCC needs to really define the debate, define what "network neutrality" is. Lots of different issues that we're talking about. 15:47:23
"Honesty, transparency, the facts" — these are things we need in order to create informed decisions. 15:48:27
Krikorian says the FCC should hold accountable those who don't give the facts. 15:48:49
Lastly, we need to understand the stakeholders. The panels aren't just big content/business anymore, but they are also a player. 15:49:09
"Aftermarket", the internet, is critical for movie-makers to recoup $100 million to make a movie. 15:50:25
Mentions that the VCR *created* the aftermarket, and the MPAA originally fought that tooth and nail. 15:50:48
Jon Peterson, IETF co-director, speaking now. IETF is volunteer work, he says. 15:51:18
IETF doesn't make a consensus on public policy. 15:52:14
VoIP and similar things are not delay-tolerant (they're "inelastic"); they bear the brunt of problems of the changing nature of the 'net. 15:54:18
IETF simply documents applicability of protocol mechanisms. 15:54:50
Next up, Gregory Rosston, Deputy Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. 15:56:13
Rosston tried to download a file during the first panel; it was slow because there're so many laptops on the network at the hearing. 15:57:23
Metering can be a good solution, but consumers may not actually want that. 15:57:50
Rosston: "There are times you pay for bandwidth, and times you pay for latency." 15:59:32
He says that cable companies have incentives to discriminate, but it can also increase efficiency. 16:00:23
Says that it's ridiculous that the FCC was "disappointed" that a new operator didn't grab the 700 MHz spectrum; they could have enforced it. 16:01:31
Commission had a chance to do something in 1999, but didn't. Remedies should concentrate on increasing competition. 16:02:24
Finally, Ben Scott, Policy Director of Free Press is now speaking. 16:02:38
Scott: "Few choices in the history of the FCC carry as much weight as this one does." 16:03:23
Scott: "Openness doesn't mean the end to all management. [...] Should promote free speech & commerce in the online market as it always has." 16:04:07
The question is to apply the policy that the FCC laid out in 2005. 16:05:05
What brought the FCC to Stanford. Was it Silicon Valley challenging AT&T? "Nope. It was a barber shop quartet [Topolski]." 16:06:20
The response, by Comcast and cable companies, is because of "the threat of regulation", *not* because of the free market. 16:07:43
"A duopoly market will not discipline itself. [...] can't expect fans of barber shop quarters riding in like white knights to save the day." 16:09:49
Scott got the longest and loudest applause and cheers of all panelists. 16:10:13
Feld: Innovations in the broadband market come because users demand it. That there's no limit to demand is not a problem. 16:13:15
(Guy came by to say that I can't have my power cord across the walkway. Back on battery, 2.5 hours left.) 16:14:03
Ford claims that average consumers don't want more bandwidth. 16:16:17
Peterson of the IETF is wearing a funny, black top hat and a matching black jacket. But he's a good speaker. :) 16:17:27
IETF has *not* taken a position on TCP Reset packets for managing congestion, according to Schewick. 16:18:40
Devitt: VC's are reluctant to invest in the market because of the stranglehold wireless carriers have. 16:24:57
Commissioner Tate wants to know if the panelists agree that consumers have the right to have access to info of what they get. 16:27:18
Tate wanted to make sure that Glass' company *does* tell consumers that they don't allow P2P access on their network. 16:28:03
Tate seizes on the fact that the IETF hasn't made a recommendation on NN. But he said they don't make a consensus on public policy! 16:28:42
Schewick says engineers don't want to go on record saying that TCP Reset packets are bad, for fear of reprisal. 16:30:25
Schewick: Alternative to metered pricing: volume caps. European ISPs "do this all the time". 16:31:36
Commissioner McDowell again asks the panel if they're receiving outside consulting fees for participating in the panel. 16:33:41
Feld says his plane ticket was paid for by Media Democracy (?), Ford says he's paid from a variety of sources. 16:34:34
Glass: P2P is not a free speech issue, because there are other ways to download content. It's a way of cost-shifting. 16:37:01
Commissioner McDowell claims that 2 years ago, people raised concerns about forcing consumers to pay more for a faster pipe. Um, what? 16:39:03
Feld: FCC has jurisdiction to fine not just "outright lying" but also "withholding of information" if ISPs actually have extra capacity. 16:41:52
Scott says that cable companies allocate only 5% of their bandwidth to high speed internet. 16:42:23
Public comment time! 90 seconds. Ack! 10 times will be called at a time. 16:44:10
I had 90 seconds. I focused on competing with piracy, not using network filtering to combat it. Didn't conclude very well, but that's OK. 17:09:39
Carol Buyee?: Running for Congress on two-piece impeachment platform. FCC has failed to protect public air waves for the public. 17:12:45
Buyee?: Censorship is the most important issue right now. (Most people are focusing on free speech.) 17:13:21
George: "What's at stake is our freedom of speech." People are repeating each other; I wish people'd address specific commission concerns. 17:14:30
Some other guy: All panelists agreed on transparency. Simplest solution to the start of the problem. 17:15:51
Katherine Sandoval: Teaches antitrust comm. law at SCU. Comcast/BitTorrent agreement is not enough; anticompetitive to use TCP resets. 17:18:54
Guy from EFF: Developing software to detect network management. Transparency is important. 17:19:39
Guilermo: Staff writer with Poor News Network. Creates media access to poor migrant workers, wants this media to continue to grow. 17:20:30
David Harris: Congestion can be solved in other ways than network blocking. e.g.: wireless devices can be smarter. 17:22:58
Some other guy: Internet as important as printing press. This democracy needs protection. Asks FCC to enforce rules. 17:24:33
Alex Pulvee (?): Found some people on the internet. (Lol.) Reserves books, etc. on the internet. Internet is critical. 17:26:45
Guy from American Centrist Party: Small party, can only get word out via the internet. Current players are too large. 17:28:02
Some guy: Supposedly small # of customers is using up most bandwidth. But most users bring down usage when brought to their attn. 17:30:04
Some girl: "Pay to play" system favors capitalistic interests. Intellectual curiosity is a benefit of the internet. 17:31:28
Kathy Cartmell (?): Giving corp.s power to choose who to enter the "town square" (i.e.: internet) is bad. That's the definition of fascism. 17:32:29
Stephanie Diaz: From Oasis High School. Internet is main form of media to get their word out. Other media is hard to access. 17:33:37
@bbum: Yep, I read the link. 17:33:42
Some guy: Used to be able to get DSL/T1 cheaper than the phone companies, not true anymore. Internet is "last bulwark against fascism." 17:35:11
Eli Edwards: Interned at the Internet Archive. Was a librarian. "Not all packets are alike just because they appear on a P2P network." 17:37:39
Tian Harner (?): Electrical/software engineer before he became a political activist. Comcast was arbitrary about who they were affecting. 17:39:05
Some girl: Centerpiece of democracy is freedom of speech. Whole job of companies is to shut people out. 17:40:50
Some guy from Menlo Park: Real reason to oppose NN is to seize control over others for purposes of profit, advantage, censorship. 17:42:38
Bruce Allison: Also from Poor Magazine. Why when a poor person gets on the internet, he is censored? 17:43:15
Some guy: FCC should leave Washington more often. Wants non-profit outfit to provide internet access. 17:44:21
Some other guy: Cable Coop provided internet to Stanford. At no time was network filtering done. 17:45:52
Carolyn Brodwell: From Napa; teaches over the 'net w/students from 3 countries. While teaching in China, experienced "selective censorship" 17:47:18
Some girl: No reason why ACE Hardware should ask what you're going to do with a hammer when you buy it. 17:48:26
@moksha: Sorry, I wanted it live, and my weblog doesn't support that. Temporarily de-follow me for the day, IYW. 17:48:57
Daniel Weissman: Anything you say can also be printed in a newspaper. Therefore, blocking P2P *is* a free speech issue. 17:50:09
Stan Woods: local board of KBFA radio. ISPs corresponding w/companies to spy on union e-mails. "National security" to monitor websites 17:51:43
Some girl: "The internet is capabale of "leveling the playing field on social, economic, and cultural grounds." 17:53:35
Anthony Marshall: Producer of current.tv; Loises' Lounge provided forum for up-and-coming content. NN crucial to independent websites. 17:55:13
Jonas Something: Internet has become useful (first time he used it, thought it was "dull"). Easy to get on, publish info on it. 17:56:23
@eridius: Yep, @boredzo suggested that, I will do it. 17:56:41
Gloria (speaking in Spanish): Reporter for Poor News Network. Uses internet for research, inform community. We have a right to info on net 17:58:19
Audience supports Gloria so that she can get another 90 seconds to speak because her words need to be translated. 17:59:17
Gloria (cont'd): We don't have enough money for fast 'net access. Truth is what we're reporting, not what people tell us. 18:00:22
Gloria (cont'd): We are the workers that are making this country fatter, we have a right to the same info. 18:00:38
Some guy: Using 'net to provide content to K-12 sectors. The cost of limiting the spark of innovation needs to be considered. 18:02:16
Some guy: Used to have to go to galleries to see art, apply to show art. Internet gives access to galleries all over the world. 18:03:17
Some guy: Another writer from Poor Magazine. "AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are digital pimps." Digital boycott if network management cont's. 18:05:00
Some guy: Could be a matter of life and death (re: deaths in Iraqi Kurdistan). Pentagon's Internet2 plan gives Pentagon centralized control 18:06:00
Norman Jea (?): "Public trust must be regulated [to prevent the] move towards profits." Build a 'net of inclusion to close economic gap. 18:08:11
Joanne Moore: Free Speech Radio. Internet was organic entity from the people (not true: from scientists). Internet belongs to people. 18:10:03
Joanne Moore (cont'd): ISPs were quick to give information to gov't when they were asked to do so. 18:10:22
Some guy: Info and knowledge are critical to democracy as water is to life. Water was privatized, people rose up against it (really?). 18:11:51
(Unless otherwise noted, each tweet is a different individual.) 18:12:05
Some guy: Wants FCC to fine Comcast and use money to enforce. Is gay, surprised to be on same side as Christian Coalition. 18:13:35
Norma: From Peace and Freedom Party. Socialist party, supports NN. "Capitalism is not a victimless crime." 18:15:24
Sean Sowell (?): Company sells hardware that works with OSS. Noticed torrents stopped. Wants FCC to help small biz participate in auction 18:17:53
Lady from Raging Grannies: Supports NN. Pushing people to the slow lane is effectively denial of access. 18:18:53
James Tiernan: CEO of La Jolla Networks. Principle inventor of MPEG2 transport structure. Didn't get to conclusion. 18:20:56
Going to 60 sec. per person. Wrapping up by 7:30, hopefully. (That's 10 more min.) 18:21:24
Joseph: Writer of Poor Magazine. Something about Type !, II, III civilizations? Supports NN. 18:22:48
Ralph Mueller: Network engineer at Internet Archive. Comcast blocking traffic based on content. Vonage didn't work. Encryption fixed it. 18:24:12
Max Caine: New small company would be at disadvantage, could distribute software via P2P w/o substantial payment. 18:25:38
Athena Johnson (?): USF, School of Law. ISPs should not degrade packets based on content. Equal delivery rule. 18:26:52
Brother Wile (?): From Poor Magazine. Audio/video must stay free. Limiting access to internet akin to limiting highway to Rolls Royces. 18:27:40
Ruth from Raging Granny: Not for left or right ring, for both and everybody in between. 18:28:15
Joe Wright (?): Internet has flourished because of openness. 18:29:23
Richard Tucker: Background in math and CS. "Need business model based on abundance of choice." 18:30:15
Tracy Rosenberg: From Commedia. Comcast actions have been arbitrary, random, just ones we know about. Should not trust telecoms. 18:31:46
Bill: Possible to create P2P apps that don't use lots of resources, doesn't infringe. 18:33:02
Done with public comment. (Phew.) 18:33:14
Back to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin thanks audience, adjourns hearing. 18:33:46
PHEW! Done with the live-tweet. I'm hungry, haven't had lunch or dinner. 18:34:02

Overall, I was very heartened by how many citizens showed up to participate in the hearing, by the comments made by most of the panel members, as well as by the willingness of the FCC to listen to the comments of all parties involved. If Comcast packed the original hearing with paid seat-warmers, this hearing was decidedly packed with people who really cared about network neutrality.

I'm not talking about "cared" as in "cared about the issue of network neutrality", but "cared" as in "actively support the principle of network neutrality". Loud cheers of applause almost always punctuated the sentences of supporters of network neutrality on the panel. Active boos were also heard after the statements of a couple of the commissioners who seemed to make it clear that they oppose regulation (network neutrality is a form of regulation), and audible laughing and scoffing at some other assertions by opponents of network neutrality.

During the period of public comment, not one single voice stood out against network neutrality. It was clearly a hearing that was stacked in favor of the views of the general public, not in favor of a particular ISP.

I was also struck by how the panels were also stacked in favor of network neutrality. In the first panel, I counted five panelists staunchly in support, two against, and one that didn't have a well-defined position. The second panel had four staunchly in support, three with ambiguous positions, and two against. Between the panelists and the public, the FCC largely got bombarded with arguments and opinions about why network neutrality regulation should be implemented.

For each panel, one panelist introduced the argument, and the other panelists got to each present a five-or-so-minute opening statement. The commissioners then each got to ask questions of any of the panelists or all of them at once, to clarify things that weren't clear or to get more info on issues that weren't addressed at all. Both panelists who introduced their respective panels were staunchly in support of network neutrality: Lawrence Lessig for the first, and Barbara van Schewick for the second.

Lessig's presentation in particular was excellent. However, I absolutely *hate* his presentation slides: he uses acronyms that nobody ever uses (like "e2e" for "end-to-end" which he claims is equivalent to the term "network neutrality", but I don't understand why he thinks this), and he also uses internet-speak abbreviations for common words like "y" in place of "why". His slides also routinely only contain up to three words from his speech that he presents alongside the presentation. Personally, I just find his slides distracting and unnecessary, but it's possible that others find it compelling and allow them to focus on the words that Lessig wants to emphasize. The content of his speech, though, was easy to understand, to the point, and pretty compelling.

Whereas Lessig's presentation was an excellent opening to the first panel, Ben Scott from Free Press did an excellent opening statement that concluded the formal statements by the second panel. He was very broad in saying that self-regulation has clearly not worked and will not work, and he had some choice quotes, the best of which was "A duopoly market will not discipline itself. [We] can't expect fans of barber shop quartets riding in like white knights to save the day." He was referring to Robb Topolski, who sat on the first panel, and who was the one who originally noticed weird things happening with BitTorrent, investigated the problem, and published his findings on the internet. He was the self-professed (and rightly so) instigator of these FCC hearings.

Two panelists in particular seemed waaay out of touch. And while my bias may show here, both of these panelists were against net neutrality.

The first of these two out-of-touch panelists was, in an ironic, inexplicable twist, George Ou. How anyone thought that George Ou was qualified to sit on the panel at all is laughable. George Ou is the ZDNet columnist who was staunchly in support of David Maynor during the saga of the supposed MacBook Wi-Fi hack. He has already demonstrated that he doesn't have a grasp of technical concepts.

Ou continued to demonstrate this failure to understand during his opening statement in the first panel. He had prepared a statement which he had been reading, and yet he still stumbled over his words. I wouldn't hold that against him, but his statement was just ludicrous. First, he used the word "flows", as in "one user taking up four 'flows' takes up four times more bandwidth." I've never, ever heard this use of the word 'flow', and why not just say that one user might take up four times more bandwidth?

The most ludicrous thing that Ou said was that BitTorrent was unnecessary because he put the same file up on a web server and was able to download it twenty times as fast. Not only did it seem like he only did this test once, but it completely misses the point, anyway. BitTorrent is specifically designed around a paradigm that is not a server-client paradigm. BitTorrent effectively balances network congestion by forcing users who download a file to also serve that file to other users while they are downloading the file themselves. And who is Ou to say what protocol users should be able to use?

Ou was laughed at (by the audience) during the question-and-answer session because Commissioner McDowell asked him where his expertise comes from. When he answered that he had no first-hand technical experience (as does Topolski, who specifically did packet sniffing to investigate Comcast's traffic shaping) and no first-hand policy experience (as does Lessig, who actively looked into legal briefs and decisions on this issue), McDowell basically stopped listening to him. It was excellent to see that even Commissioner McDowell, who seems to be against any form of regulation whatsoever, was still skeptical by Ou's arguments.

The second panelist that seemed out of touch was George Ford on the second panel. He's an economist who basically went on a rant against net neutrality advocates saying that they were using "bad math" and "making things up". I was particularly appalled when he said that in "high concentrated markets" (i.e.: markets in which power is concentrated in only a few players, like the broadband market), it's common for companies to employ bad practices such as Comcast's traffic shaping. "Get used to it," he said. It was pretty incredible. Furthermore, he even said that he can't comment on Comcast's practice because he wasn't informed on exactly what they were doing. I was so incensed that I had to shout out, "Well then get informed!" Ford was also getting audible laughs, scoffs, and boos from the audience.

When the time allotted for public comments finally came around, it was impressive how many people had signed up to speak. Unfortunately, that limited each speaker to 90 seconds each, and later on only 60 seconds each. Almost all of the people who commented made a big deal about how enforcing network neutrality means protecting free speech. I initially thought it was a bit counterproductive, because heart-felt or forceful speeches in favor of free speech is not likely to sway the commissioners who had specific problems with network neutrality. However, by the end, I think that the complete consensus across every single speaker in favor of free speech was compelling.

I signed up to speak myself, and I was called up in the first allotment of 20 people to line up to speak. I was a bit flustered by the 90 second limit, especially because I had prepared structured comments that probably would have lasted 5 minutes. I chose to specifically counter the concerns of Commissioner Tate, who was concerned with the volume of illegal file sharing. I spoke about how Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild of America said that P2P was destroying his business, but how there was no legal alternative to P2P file-sharing that consumers could use, and that the appropriate response is not network filtering but to establish legal alternatives (iTunes, Amazon MP3, Hulu.com) which compete with piracy. Unfortunately, I don't think I made clear the relevance of my argument to how network filtering is unnecessary.

The most compelling speaker during the public comment session was Gloria, a reporter for the Poor News Network. She only spoke Spanish, and so another reporter had to translate her comments. It was clear she was passionate about the idea of network neutrality, because she uses the internet for research and to inform the community, and that migrant workers have just as much right to access info on the internet even though they may not have the money to pay for neutral access if network neutrality is not enforced. It was amazing the support she garnered from the audience: when her 90 seconds were up, the audience compelled the moderator to give her another 90 seconds, since her words had to be translated.

As for the commissioners? Commissioner Copps was clearly in support of network neutrality. Commissioners Tate and McDowell made it clear that they tend towards the school of thought that opposes regulation of any kind. Tate in particular was concerned about how network neutrality has the side effect of "protecting" illegal file-sharing, by forcing ISPs to not filter, degrade, or block traffic based on content.

I'm not sure about Commissioner Adelstein, but the chairman, Kevin Martin, seemed to be pretty receptive to network neutrality advocates, and his positions and arguments (especially in support of open access rules for the 700 MHz spectrum) seem to indicate that he might tend towards supporting net neutrality as well. But even Tate and McDowell seemed to be reasonable enough that they can understand the position of net neutrality advocates.

Overall, I was impressed by the hearing. Ordinary people were actively participating and even passionate in support of net neutrality. The panels were both largely in favor of net neutrality, and many of them presented well-reasoned, cogent arguments to which I believe the commissioners were receptive. And perhaps most importantly, I have the feeling that the FCC is going to do the right thing, and decide to enforce net neutrality.

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