Two Revised Profiles

Profile I: Ray Cesaletti, Customer Service Representative, Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD)

The FCC’s recently proposed “fifth principle” regulation is the latest in a string of shifting governmental and industrial perspectives on the issue of network neutrality, or the idea of universally unrestricted Internet access. If made into reality, it would prohibit discrimination by Internet service providers based on the choice of applications or website usage of consumers – and according to Ray Cesaletti, Emerald People’s Utility District Customer Service Representative and one-time Internet tech for the utility company’s Internet provider Eugene Free Network (EFN), it can’t possibly work in its current form.

“Bigger companies than ours have this sort of problem, and even though their main motive for opposing [network neutrality] is definitely so they can make more money, it’s still an issue for them,” says Ray, “and if it’s an issue for them, it’s definitely an issue for us. We already throttle network traffic to computers we identify as being infected with malware – unless the FCC were to force us not to, we’d certainly do the same if someone was taking up ten times more bandwidth than the next guy, and if the FCC did force us not to, we’d be in some serious trouble – we can’t handle that much traffic, even if I’d like it if the Internet really was free.”

Ray joins a growing list of representatives from Internet service providers making their skepticism for the upcoming possibilities of the new “fifth principle” regulation known, citing similar concerns over the potentially negative impact the regulation could have on the maintenance and efficiency of networks industry-wide.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Ray says, “I’m not saying that corporations of any size should be able to control what kind of stuff you access online. I’m just saying that practically speaking, internet providers need to have some sort of control.”

According to Ray, this isn’t the first time that even a utility company founded with the public interest in mind has contemplated – and enacted – such control.

“There’s never been a time when we didn’t throttle bandwidth,” says Ray, “and honestly, for a company our size, we don’t really have a choice. It’s either that or things break. It’s a no brainer.”

Mr. Cesaletti’s concerns won’t manifest until at least later this year, when the FCC convenes to reform Internet regulation.

Profile II: Michael Zahendra, former Symantec System and Information Manager

When Michael Zahendra , a former system and information manager for the Internet security company Symantec, entered the information technology field at the University of Texas, they were “still using removable hard drives the size of serving trays,” and networking was still done exclusively through direct connections using phone lines. In short, the concept of network neutrality, the idea of free, unrestricted access for all Internet users, didn’t exist – all the infrastructure used for computer-to-computer communication was found in publicly-owned phone lines, and was therefore a public service.

The status of dial-up Internet remains as it did then. However, with the rise of broadband Internet, the status of the greater Internet – information service versus public service – has been in a constant state of flux. With the majority of Internet access in the United States coming in the form of broadband, the status has swung definitively toward the information service side of the spectrum with the FCC ruling in 2005 that classified DSL as an information service, despite using phone lines.

The result, according to Michael, has been an industry that, while having valid points in regards to limiting network access to reasonable level for the sake of not getting bogged down in traffic, tends to operate with very little regard for the public interest. His answer? Make sure that the Internet returns in its entirety to a public service.

“It’s pretty simple,” Michael says, “Companies can and do engage in deep packet analysis – the ability to find out what web applications you’re using and what websites you’re visiting – on a regular basis. Symantec did it regularly in its own networks, in addition to monitoring networks with Norton [anti-virus]. All that needs to happen is that the networking trends that companies like Comcast record need to be handed over to the public so we can keep transparency on network infrastructure and activity.”

What happens then? If the Internet was “universally treated like a public service,” the data could be used by Public Utility Councils (PUCs) to set up a dialogue with Internet service providers to ensure the needs of individual communities were met, while still allowing the ISP to protect itself from excessive usage.

“Companies wouldn’t move so quickly for just quarterly profits then,” Michael says, “Their interests would still be protected, and they’d be offering the public a high level of transparency into a public service.”

If implemented, the United States would enter into the league of industrialized nations with publicly-owned, privately operated Internet providers.

(Edited for even more mysteriously disappearing content, broken links, and tags.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: