Scrutiny Over 1.5 Million US Job Losses Due to Net Neutrality Mounts

While the European Union is dealing with a filtering debate that appears to be a threat to the internet as we know it, the internet as we know it isn’t exactly safe in the US either with the heated network neutrality debate at the FCC.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

While Comcast was able to win its case over throttling practises in the US earlier this month, that didn’t mean that the debate was over. Far from it and the battle rages on at the FCC.

Just a few days ago, we highlighted a suspicious report that claims that network neutrality would negatively impact 1.5 million jobs. We looked deeper in to the report and were able to find quite a few flaws in the report that puts in to question the validity of the claims.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the benefit of being a US citizen to know how everything works to the fine detail, but others, it seems, have looked at the report and found similar flaws and were able to flush out some more details on why the findings were flawed. Robert X Cringely of info world is also aware of the report and he had a few similar concerns about the validity of the report.

“Who paid for this report?” Cringely asked, “A telecom lobbying firm called Mobile Future, which sports a weird hodgepodge of member organizations, including Alligator Planet, Climate Cartoons, Goomzee, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. But the most recognizable name on the list is AT&T. Color me surprised.”

So there was a definite connection to the telecom industry after all. So while on first glance, it appears more neutral, apparently deeper in to the origins report reveals what some would consider a conflict of interest.

Cringely did, however, come to a few conclusions we were able to come to. For instance, the calculated losses didn’t really appear to have very strong basis to draw such conclusions. Another similar conclusion was that one cannot base the market experience of DSL vs. cable of the early to mid 2000s and use that as a lesson on regulation. We only needed to look at reported price points of both years to debunk it. Cringely took a different approach by noting the quality of service instead:

Delivering DSL over copper lines involves more variables and more barriers — including a customer’s proximity to a central office, the quality of their phone service, the amount of non-DSL-compatible fiber in the ground, and the Baby Bells’ own bureaucratic intransigence. This process was widely known as “DSL hell,” and it’s why the DSL Reports site was created and continues to flourish.

We were aware of the potential issue of quality of service, but chose to use a simpler method because the amount of time it took to go through the paper (3 days). Cringely did note something else that was interesting that originally came from Brett Glass which comments, “Net neutrality rules as currently written are not actually neutral. They benefit Google in particular because it owns its own backbone and, thus, can prioritize and manage its own traffic at will, free from any government constraint.”

This clearly shows, ultimately, that the report was fatally flawed when drawing up these numbers and there are other observers who will agree. Like Cringely, we were running in to the problem of how thorough should we go in finding holes in the report? I would argue you could fill an encyclopedia of all the ways you can find flaws in the report. The question is, what angle do you look at this paper and what information is immediately available in your memory do you use against this paper? Bottom line is that you can’t trust the findings of this report because there is too many pieces of evidence that would argue against some of its assumptions that pretty much kills the validity of the core argument. In short, the paper should be junked when considering network neutrality.

We do know one thing though, its a high stakes fight and there has already been sparring matches over what roll the FCC plays in the network neutrality debate. The internet is changing, the question is, will it serve the same people as it once did?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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