The paperback and Kindle versions of Internet Architecture and Innovation have been released. More information about the book can be found here. There’s a page of reviews, including reviews from Lawrence Lessig, Marvin Ammori, and Brad Burnham. The book is available on Amazon.com and on Amazon’s international websites.
Over the past ten years, the debate over “network neutrality” has remained one of the central debates in Internet policy. Governments all over the world have been investigating whether legislative or regulatory action is needed to limit the ability of providers of Internet access services to interfere with the applications, content and services on their networks.
In addition to rules that forbid network providers from blocking applications, content and services, rules that forbid discrimination are a key component of any network neutrality regime. Non-discrimination rules apply to any form of differential treatment that falls short of blocking. Policy makers who consider adopting network neutrality rules need to decide which, if any, forms of differential treatment should be banned. These decisions determine, for example, whether a network provider is allowed to provide low-delay service only to its own streaming video application, but not to competing video applications; whether network providers can count only traffic from unaffiliated video applications, but not their own Internet video applications towards users’ monthly bandwidth cap; or whether network providers can charge different Internet access charges depending on the application used, independent of the amount of traffic created by the application.
The precise contours of a non-discrimination rule have important implications: Non-discrimination rules affect how the core of the network can evolve, how network providers can manage their networks, and whether they can offer Quality of Service.
On Monday, I published a white paper titled Network Neutrality and Quality of Service: What a Non-Discrimination Rule Should Look Like. It discusses the relationship between network neutrality, non-discrimination rules and Quality of Service in more detail. The paper:
* Provides the first detailed analysis of the Federal Communications Commissions’ non-discrimination rule and of its implications for network providers’ ability to manage their networks and offer Quality of Service;
* Offers the first in-depth analysis of the relationship between network neutrality and Quality of Service; and
* Proposes a non-discrimination rule that policy makers should adopt around the world – a rule that the FCC adopted at least in part.
The paper is relevant to several ongoing policy debates. Earlier this month, the FCC announced the members of its Open Internet Advisory Committee. The Committee will focus on issues addressed in the FCC’s Open Internet rules, such as reasonable network management practices and technical standards. The question of how the FCC’s non-discrimination rule affects Quality of Service and other network management practices will feature prominently in these discussions. The legal appeal of the Open Internet Order focuses in part on the substantive merits of the FCC’s Open Internet rules, including the merits of its non-discrimination rule. And whether the FCC wins or loses the legal appeal of the Open Internet Order, the question of which, if any, network-discriminations require legal action will remain relevant for years to come. Across the Atlantic, the European Commission and the member states are still exploring what set of network neutrality rules, if any, they should adopt. As part of that effort, the group of European Regulators for Electronic Communication Networks and Services (BEREC) in June started a consultation focused on various aspects of the relationship between network neutrality and Quality of Service – the very topics rigorously addressed in this white paper.
Two weeks ago, various news outlets reported that Verizon Wireless’s new Galaxy Nexus phone, an Android device that went on sale last Thursday, will not support Google Wallet, Google’s mobile payment application. Based on what we know from press reports, it seems that Verizon Wireless is violating the open-devices and open-applications conditions in its legal licenses for part of the 700 MHz spectrum (the so-called “C-Block”) over which the company’s LTE network operates. There is, however, great uncertainty about what exactly is going on.
Today, I wrote a letter (pdf, Scribd version) to the Federal Communications Commission asking the Commission to investigate the situation as quickly as possible and send a signal to the market – innovators, consumers, and licensees – that the openness conditions will be enforced. The letter explains what we know about the facts, why Verizon’s behavior violates the openness conditions, why this violation matters, and what the FCC should do.
This is an important case that will have implications not only for the mobile payments market, but also for any application or service potentially available on a mobile network:
First, Verizon’s behavior hurts Verizon customers, a full 35% of the mobile market, who are unable to use the very first mobile payment technology based on near-field communications that has come to market. These consumers are unable to use this application to pay for goods and services instead of using cash or a plastic card, and are unable to take advantage of the other features Google Wallet offers.
Second, Verizon’s behavior hurts competition in the emerging, potentially huge market for mobile payments technologies and associated services. While the market is nascent today, analysts expect that by 2015, $56.7 billion will be exchanged in mobile payment transactions. Verizon has an incentive to undermine competition in mobile payments, and to eliminate any competitor’s first-mover advantage, as it has partnered with AT&T and T-Mobile to launch a competing payment service called ISIS sometime next year.
Third, Verizon’s actions hurt innovation, in mobile payments or even in any other mobile technology. They do so by shaking innovators’ and investors’ confidence that there will remain one significant part of the wireless Internet in which they can offer their applications or devices without fear of blocking and discrimination by carriers hoping eventually to offer competing products. Innovators and investors are already concerned about the lack of strong network neutrality rules for the mobile Internet. If even Google, one of the nation’s largest corporations, can be blocked by the one wireless carrier that is subject to strong openness conditions, every mobile innovator and investor in the country will know that they are at the mercy of the carriers.
Finally, Verizon’s conduct undermines the Commission’s general approach towards mobile Internet openness by dismantling the protections for one part of the spectrum on which the FCC’s “incremental” approach to regulation in this space is built. Without enforcement, the openness conditions are effectively moot. Verizon violated these conditions earlier this year when it blocked tethering applications. Now it is blocking Google Wallet. This emerging pattern of disregard for its license conditions challenges the FCC to follow through on its pledges in the Open Internet Order to enforce the openness conditions in the 700 MHz band and to monitor the mobile Internet space for abuses by licensees.
Thus, to protect users and innovators in the mobile payments market and in mobile broadband markets more generally and preserve the Commission’s approach towards mobile Internet openness, swift action is needed.
The more detailed analysis is available in the letter (if you have read this post, you can begin on p. 2, Section “What is going on”). You can read the letter as a pdf here, on Scribd, or read it (without footnotes) below.
According to recent news reports, Verizon Wireless has asked Google to disable tethering applications in Google’s mobile application store, the Android Market. Tethering applications allow users to use laptops or other devices over their mobile Internet connection by attaching them to their smart phones.
In early June, Free Press filed a complaint with the FCC alleging that this behavior violates the openness conditions that govern the use of the part of the 700 MHz spectrum over which Verizon Wireless’s LTE network operates. The FCC seems to have designated the proceeding as a restricted proceeding under its ex parte rules, which means that the public will not be invited to comment on the issues raised by Free Press’s complaint.
Today, I asked the FCC to open up the proceeding for public comment. (The full text of the letter is here (pdf) and copied below.) The questions raised by the complaint are too important to be decided without public participation:
Since the FCC adopted rules to protect an open Internet on Tuesday, many have asked whether the rules could have gone further to better protect users and innovators or whether the FCC’s political strategy was flawed. These are all valid questions, and I’m sure they will continue to be debated for a long time. However, in this post, I want to focus on the protections for users and innovators that the FCC did adopt.
Since Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, circulated his proposal for network neutrality rules to the other commissioners on December 1, Commissioner Copps and Commissioner Clyburn, the two other Democratic commissioners, had been negotiating with the chairman over improvements to the order. Since the two Republican commissioners had made clear that they would not back any network neutrality proposal, a rejection by Copps (or Clyburn) would have killed the proposal.
When the FCC published the text of the order on Thursday afternoon, it became clear how important these negotiations have been. While Commissioners Copps and Clyburn did not get the exact protections for users and innovators they had asked for, they managed to improve the chairman’s original proposal quite a bit. In particular, the text of the order
• sets out important principles that will guide the commission’s interpretation of the non-discrimination rule and the reasonable network management exception;
• explicitly bans network providers from charging application and content providers for access to the network providers’ Internet service customers;
• stops just short of an explicit ban on charging application and content providers for prioritized or otherwise enhanced access to these customers (this second practice is often called “paid prioritization”); and
• keeps alive the threat of regulation with respect to the mobile Internet.
[This is the second of two posts about the FCC's proposal for Open Internet rules. The first post is available here.]
Since I posted the letter by Zediva, an online video company, that describes what the current Open Internet proposal would mean for them and how the proposal should be improved to protect them and other innovators, many have asked me about the broader lessons from Zediva’s story. Others have asked for a bit more detail about the proposed improvements to the rules.
What Zediva’s story teaches us about network neutrality
1. Concerns about discrimination impede application innovation today. Thus, the FCC needs to act now. As the Chairman’s current proposal shows, he understands this with respect to wireline networks, but thinks we can wait and see how the wireless ecosystem evolves. After all, he says, it is “evolving rapidly.” But the idea that waiting has no costs is wrong. Waiting to extend meaningful protections to wireless will allow networking technologies to evolve in discriminatory ways that may be difficult to change later on. As the story of Zediva shows, the lack of protections will immediately have a dampening effect on innovators’ inclination to dedicate the next few years of their life to a wireless application (and on potential investors’ willingness to fund these efforts). The ongoing network neutrality debate motivated network providers’ to stay away from discrimination in order not to fuel the debate. An order that explicitly determines that only the blocking of a restricted set of applications, content and services should be prohibited at this time may fundamentally change this calculus. After all, if the FCC thinks this type of behavior is o.k., why not engage in it? Skype’s experience (pdf, p. 7) in Sweden underscores this point: Until last year, mobile operators in Sweden generally allowed the use of Skype over the mobile Internet. But since the Swedish regulator decided at the beginning of this year that rules that require network providers to disclose any blocking or discrimination are all that’s needed to protect innovators and users, both leading mobile operators have introduced restrictions on users’ ability to use Skype.
[This is the first of two posts about the FCC's proposal for Open Internet rules. The second post is available here.]
On December 1, the chairman of the FCC proposed a set of rules designed to protect the open Internet. He would like the commission to adopt this proposal at its open meeting on December 21. Since then, many have posted their evaluations of the proposal. Some unequivocally support the proposal. Some acknowledge they would have preferred a different solution, but think this is an acceptable compromise. A final group of commenters (which includes academics, public interest organizations, organizations that rely on the open Internet for their work, investors, and companies) can be summarized as follows: “We are glad that the chairman has decided to act. However, the chairman’s proposal needs to be improved to adequately protect users and innovators.”
Why do innovators and users need protection? If a network provider blocks or discriminates against an application I want to use, I cannot use the Internet in the way that is most valuable to me. If a network provider restricts access to content I am interested in, my ability to educate myself, contribute to discussions of the subject and make informed decisions will be limited. Ideally, open Internet rules would ban this type of discriminatory behavior and provide an easy mechanism for users to ask the FCC to stop it. In the absence of good rules, users just have to live with it.
If an application is blocked, it cannot reach its users and the application developer cannot reap its benefits. In the absence of meaningful protections, there is nothing the application developer can do about this. And concerned about the threat of discrimination, innovators (or potential investors) may decide not to pursue innovative ideas. Thus, without meaningful network neutrality rules, we will get less application innovation. And since applications, services and content are what makes the Internet useful to us, an Internet without meaningful network neutrality rules will be less useful to us in the future.
I’m sure you have heard that a lack of meaningful network neutrality rules harms start ups and reduces application innovation before. But for many, it sounds like an abstract theoretical concern. Yesterday, a start up from Silicon Valley called Zediva filed a letter with the FCC that explains what the Chairman’s current proposal would mean for them.
The letter does a great job of showing how different proposals for network neutrality rules can provide very different protections for innovative start ups and where the current proposal needs to be improved, so I asked Zediva for permission to post it here.
[This is the second of two posts on Jonathan Zittrain’s book The Future of the Internet and how to stop it that I wrote for an online symposium at Concurring Opinions. The first post (on the relative importance of generative end hosts and generative network infrastructure for the Internet's overall ability to foster innovation) is here.]
In the book’s section on “The Generativity Principle and the Limits of End-to-End Neutrality,” Zittrain calls for a new “generativity principle” to address the Internet’s security problem and prevent the widespread lockdown of PCs in the aftermath of a catastrophic security attack: “Strict loyalty to end-to-end neutrality should give way to a new generativity principle, a rule that asks that any modifications to the Internet’s design or to the behavior of ISPs be made where they will do the least harm to generative possibilities.” (p. 165)
Zittrain argues that by assigning responsibility for security to the end hosts, “end-to-end theory” creates challenges for users who have little knowledge of how to best secure their computers. The existence of a large number of unsecured end hosts, in turn, may facilitate a catastrophic security attack that will have widespread and severe consequences for affected individual end users and businesses. In the aftermath of such an attack, Zittrain predicts, users may be willing to completely lock down their computers so that they can run only applications approved by a trusted third party.
Given that general-purpose end hosts controlled by users rather than by third-party gatekeepers are an important component of the mechanism that fosters application innovation in the Internet, Zittrain argues, a strict application of “end-to-end theory” may threaten the Internet’s ability to support new applications more than implementing some security functions in the network – hence the new principle.
This argument relies heavily on the assumption that “end-to-end theory” categorically prohibits the implementation of security-related functions in the core of the network. It is not entirely clear to me what Zittrain means by “end-to-end theory.” As I explain in chapter 9 of my book, Internet Architecture and Innovation (pp. 366-368), the broad version of the end-to-end arguments  (i.e., the design principle that was used to create the Internet’s original architecture) does not establish such a rule. The broad version of the end-to-end arguments provides guidelines for the allocation of individual functions between the lower layers (the core of the network) and the higher layers at the end hosts, not for security-related functions as a group.
[I'm participating in an online symposium on Jonathan Zittrain's book The Future of the Internet and how to stop it at Concurring Opinions. This is the first of two posts on his book. The second (on the need for a new generativity principle) is here.]
Which factors have allowed the Internet to foster application innovation in the past, and how can we maintain the Internet’s ability to serve as an engine of innovation in the future? These questions are central to current engineering and policy debates over the future of the Internet. They are the subject of Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and how to stop it and of my book Internet Architecture and Innovation which was published by MIT Press last month.
As I show in Internet Architecture and Innovation, the Internet’s original architecture had two components that jointly created an economic environment that fostered application innovation:
1. A network that was able to support a wide variety of current and future applications (in particular, a network that did not need to be changed to allow a new application to run) and that did not allow network providers to discriminate among applications or classes of applications. As I show in the book, using the broad version of the end-to-end arguments (i.e., the design principle that was used to create the Internet’s original architecture)  to design the architecture of a network creates a network with these characteristics.
2. A sufficient number of general-purpose end hosts  that allowed their users to install and run any application they like.
Both are essential components of the architecture that has allowed the Internet to be what Zittrain calls “generative” – “to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences.”
In The Future of the Internet and how to stop it, Zittrain puts the spotlight on the second component: general-purpose end hosts that allow users to install and run any application they like and their importance for the generativity of the overall system.