Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 30, 2010 at 11:35 am
In 1925, a young Californian claimed to have been told by the angel Gabriel that the world would end at midnight on February 13th. A number of people believed this prophecy including a Long Island housepainter named Robert Reidt who assembled a hillside gathering of believers to meet their fate. When midnight came and went uneventfully, Reidt rationalized that the angel must have meant Pacific time, and he exhorted the crowd to wait for three more hours. Three hours later he chalked up the continued non-occurrence of the extraordinary events to the “Satanic flashbulbs” of the reporters who had shown up.
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what this strange story could possibly have to do with broadband policy. I had a bit of a déjà vu experience while reading some of the reply comments filed the other day in the open Internet proceeding, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. Then, while listening to Wednesday’s Open Internet workshop in Seattle, I remembered Reidt and his ridiculous attempts to explain the failure of the apocalyptic prophecy.
Here, I’d like to look more closely at just one of the predicted calamities that stubbornly refuses to occur – the imposition of “terminating access charges” on Internet application and content providers.
For years, advocates of extreme versions of net neutrality have been saying that without a complete ban on the sale of certain undefined service enhancements, ISPs will “someday just around the corner” impose the equivalent of “terminating access charges” on application and content providers. But as each day passes without any ISP perpetrating such a scheme, you might think these doomsday prophets would be forced to recant and accept the fact that ISPs have no unilateral power to impose uneconomic charges on non-customers. (Of course, this might change dramatically if the FCC classified Internet access under Title II with its long history of regulated interconnection, including mandatory termination charges.) Instead, they have taken a page from Reidt’s playbook.
Google points to recent “advances in router technology” as reasons why the end is nigh unless something is done. I guess this is the “Pacific time” approach to explaining how it is that billions of packets continue to be exchanged without the imposition of terminating access charges. Google’s as sure as ever that the apocalypse is almost upon us. It just has to wait for the next generation of routers. Yeah, right.
At Wednesday’s workshop, a Yahoo executive speculated that perhaps the reason why ISPs haven’t engaged in this kind of “holdup” is because of the threat of regulation by the FCC. Far be it from me to compare the FCC to “Satanic flashbulbs,” but as with Reidt’s explanation, I’m not sure how it works for all the hillsides around the world where the sun continues to rise without the threat of regulation of enhanced network services.