Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Net Neutrality Needed Now

Yesterday, Tom Tauke, an Executive VP at Verizon, did his best to snow a roomful of reporters in his attempt to spread negative propaganda over the issue of Net Neutrality (see Tauke Says Telecom Bill Needs Stripping-Down).

Interestingly, one of his arguments involves VPN. Tauke claims that Net Neutrality legislation would prevent private companies from using VPN services over the Internet. I've tried to find some polite way of interpreting this, but they all boil down to Tauke either deliberately lying or simply being completely clueless as to both how VPNs work and what the proposed legislation is for.

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. Note that word, "Virtual". What it means is that a VPN is a private means of communicating over a public network. In other words it is, to all intents and purposes, private, even though it uses the public network for communication. Don't believe me? Read about it here, here, or here; or look at any VPN project to see how it works.

The point here is that a VPN depends on the public network. It is encrypted private traffic that simply is delivered over the public net. So I shudder when Tauke says, as he does in MacWorld:
“The hospital that wants to provide home-health monitoring for a heart patient is not going to rely on the [public] Internet,” Tauke said. “That hospital will want a virtual private network with service guarantees and strong security protections.”
Here, Tauke is using silly scare tactics to force an emotional knee-jerk response. It's irresponsible of him. The truth is, Tauke is either deliberately lying or he's incompetent and doesn't know a VPN from a private network. Either way, he has no business spouting such patent nonsense. He deserves to be called on it and ridiculed.

The purpose of Net Neutrality isn't to prevent VPNs from operating. It's to ensure that they will continue to operate, and that no backbone provider can cut off web traffic in an unfair attempt to strangle the market. We actually saw this recently with the spat between Level 3 and Cogent. (I swear, sometimes I feel that I'm the only person on this planet with a memory longer than one week!) It was only last October when this catfight isolated a good portion of the Internet from the rest. At the time it was pointed out that legislation was needed to prevent this silliness from re-occurring. So here it is, and now we see that Verizon opposes it.

Why would they do that? It's certainly not because of VPNs... we've already demonstrated that they don't know what that means. It's not to ensure delivery of content... the Web is designed for fault-tolerance, and the more connections you have, the more reliable your transmissions are. It's most certainly not for their customers... who are better served by allowing them access to whatever content they want. No, it's for no good reason at all. Nope... no good at all.

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