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Network Shaping is Bad. Period. Full Stop.

News out of the US that representative Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is trying to sneak anti-net neutrality language into the stimulus bill.

In a nutshell, the senators amendment would tie additional broadband funding in the US with amended legislation that would allow ISP’s to implement “network management techniques” ostensibly to deter child pornography, and movie piracy, and the like.

I recently noted the different approach to piracy in Canada and the US – but here’s yet another concrete example as this amendment appears to be driven by the MPAA in their ongoing anti-piracy campaign.

Let me make this as clear, and concise as I can: The moment content producers allow ISP’s to make a “value” judgement — of any kind — as to data they carry on their network, producers have lost. You have set a precedent that allows the ISP to become the content gate-keeper who will forevermore determine what legitimate services customers will have access to.

There is no shade of grey here. Once the ISP’s have a mandate to do any kind of non-agnostic traffic management (ie: unless the traffic management affects all traffic, including the ISP’s own services, equally) you will *never* know if one form of traffic is being degraded, slowed down, or made otherwise non-viable because of legitimate volume/content/copyright concerns… or because it competes with an ISP’s own offering.

When Bell throttles “apparent P2P packets” you don’t know if that’s because there is a legitimate volume concern with file sharing on the network (odd given that, since 2007, streaming video has overtaken P2P traffic as the largest strain on Internet capacity ) or because Skype packets compete with Bell’s long distance business. When YouTube starts getting throttled to make space for network VOD services, or other “in-house” content… how would you know?

There are legitimate copyright concerns with pirating movies over the Internet, and they should be addressed where most appropriate – in copyright legislation, in penalizing offenders, and (most importantly) in ensuring a network landscape where new, legitimate, distribution initiatives can offer more competitive advantages to illegitimate ones. Shutting down napster didn’t cut into illegal music sharing, but iTunes did.

Network neutrality needs to be absolute for content creators *and* consumers to benefit the most from a future of direct digital distribution that all parties know is coming. To make any concession to neutrality to fight the perception of current day piracy is signing away the family farm in order to deal with a gopher problem.