Video Of The Weekend: Brad Burnham's Testimony On Net Neutrality

Last month, my partner Brad Burnham went down to DC and testified on the subject of Net Neutrality. Here is his testimony:


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    The analogy about our home appliances & how we get charged for power consumption is brilliant, and I hadn’t heard it before.So why set a precedent with the Internet? ISPs are just dumb, fast pipes, just as hydro is power for appliances.

    1. Alex Murphy


    2. jason wright

      a ray of white light can be split by a prism. dumb pipes can be made smart, to filter content, to select priorities. these are technical realities.however, the immutable law of unintended consequences is also a reality.

      1. William Mougayar

        Well, I like my utility company to be dumb & just deliver the bytes or the charged electrons.

        1. jason wright

          and your phone only voice calls?tech keeps moving forward. it’s difficult to constrain.

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            In the next decade those data slicing/dicing/filtering/mining/storage/shutting functions will be commoditizes into basic reusables that act as dumb recombinants substrate, off the shelf, components.Smart components simple get pushed down the stack into commoditized subcomponents over time but these rent seeking toll gates will be near impossible to dislodge by then.Just like cable TV has become today, a simple non-innovative player putting up major roadblocks to my enjoying basic modern search based jukebox access to all global media.

          2. William Mougayar

            Well, in terms of internet connection, speed and uptime are the only things that matter, no?

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        Maintaining a universal electrical grid is really not that simple/dumb, only many decades of evolution have made it appear so.Smart grids will amplify those underlying technologies even further.

    3. Prokofy

      The analogy to electricity is used all the time. If you consume more electricity, you pay more. But for some reason, geeks think that there’s stone soup when it comes to the Internet. Even though bandwidth is a scarce resource that itself depends on electricity and pipe and wire and labor, we’re to pretend that it can all just be endlessl given away to help Google and related business interests.We’re supposed to keep believing that there is “corporate socialism” for telecoms as if Google doesn’t have its own corporate socialism keeping its revenue and taxes abroad.Fortunately, the forces stay in balance and net neutrality does not prevail.

  2. jason wright

    if the decision goes against the principle of net neutrality will not the market then see an opportunity to innovate a new solution? the way interweb content is delivered now does not have to be the same way for all time. it will evolve.foursquare – 25 cents per user. is that an exceptional number? are there comparable numbers for other services and applications?

  3. awaldstein

    I agree of course that access to the internet is an essential service that should be disallowed from self serving discrimination.Everything I do and have done in my career is built on this.i honestly worry that this pitch will be strong enough to keep the private interests of the telecom industry at bay.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      The telecoms think it is an essential service too. Thats why their so desperate to be granted the legal right to build moats around those services.Just more of the same endemic regulatory corruption that is at work collapsing the sustainability of the economy on every other front .

  4. kevinmurphy

    Well done, the many reasons why this is a bad idea are well presented. It is hard to miss that this is all about the grabbing of revenues simply due to forcing change enabling it.

  5. William Mougayar

    The sad part is that ISPs are already playing with plans that offer zero-rating on certain Apps, e.g. Facebook.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      The big social player can buy an extended moat on wireless where the puck is speeding ever larger portions of its time !

    2. MickSavant

      how is this remotely sad? content providers team up with access providers to make said content free?

      1. William Mougayar

        They are purporting non Net Neutrality behavior, i.e. favoring apps and services over others.

  6. JamesHRH

    Winston Churchill he is not, but he makes a strong case and dresses like a hitter!

  7. Alex Murphy

    It is unfortunate that there has to such a dance around the core issue here. Tom Wheeler is a former Telecom Lobbyist. It took him all of 6 months to leak a document that demonstrated his plan to destroy Net Neutrality. The issue is that the agency charged with regulating Telecom (a Govt granted Monopoly) is not just run by an industry insider, its run by a professional manipulator that has spent his entire life stacking the deck in favor of the industry. To say the wolf is guarding the chicken coop doesn’t even begin to describe the problem.

    1. JLM

      .Who appointed him?JLM.

      1. kidmercury


      2. Alex Murphy

        I’d blame Cheney. Or perhaps Clinton. Perhaps its Reagan’s fault? Probably stems back to Nixon or Kennedy in reality.But then, that would all be wrong. It would be the great Texan Obama that did this great deed.The next question would be why … well, it clearly wasn’t apparent to those that it should have been that was an industry insider. Just another sad example of things going the wrong way inside the beltway.

        1. JLM

          .Like the balance of the majority of the FCC, it was President Obama. He knew exactly what he was doing at every step of the way.This is a commission controlled by the Democrats with a bell cow Chairman who is leading them in the direction they pre-ordained.This idea came from the Chairman and was nurtured by the staff.JLM.

  8. Twain Twain

    There were some great points made about how it would increase the build costs for developers in their dorms. The irony is that before developers would have sunk expenses of having to buy costly servers and databases. We solved that with the Cloud and then along come these proposals for Internet toll charges.It’s clear the network operators are facing pressures on their revenue margins.In SV, I did the Tata Data hackathon (we won one of the prizes) and as part of self-prep I read around about the telcos’ concerns about:(1.) Over-the-Top services like WhatsApp:*…(2.) Internet transit prices almost falling through the floor (image attached).(3.) Disintermediation between the network operator and the content interaction by users which makes it difficult to measure what content is valuable/not valuable. Instead, the metric tools are in the hands of the content providers such as the social networks, video sites like YouTube and search engines/ad networks.The business strategy people in the sector are aware they’ve exhausted what they can do to optimize the data sets they’ve collected and how they can do “Big Data” on it and mashup their data with social media APIs. Theirs is all very dry quant data such as where the x,y a network node is, its load at any time-point and how long calls are and how quickly they drop off.Definitely not as rich as the data sets collected by the social networks, content providers, search engines etc.It’s really being able to charge the likes of the giants of these services that the telco operators are going after with their lobbying.The unfortunate by-product would be that smaller teams of developers wouldn’t have the same incentives to innovate if they were made to cost for and pay the toll charges.If more of the US telcos had copied Telefonica’s model and diversified their business model (by going into content provision including IPTV and in setting up the Wayra incubator to invest in startups), they would probably not be lobbying as a defensive move against the major techco’s and the little startups alike.

  9. Steve Anastos

    Fred – shouldn’t there be much more money on the net neutrality side of the lobbying battle than on the ISP side? Comcast, VZ, AT&T, etc. are big companies. But the companies that rely on an open internet, when combined, have a much larger war chest. I understand why environmentalist groups can’t outspend oil companies on lobbying. But this shouldn’t be that type of situation.Incumbent internet application co’s (Google/FB/Twitter/Netflix) have an incentive to want a fast lane, if they believe it will meaningfully limit their competition. (They can pay, startups can’t.) But this payment would be much greater than the lobbying dollars needed, and they’d still have to compete with each other at the end. And they’d have to work more closely with telcos, which is miserable. So I don’t buy that.What am I missing here? It feels like there should be a lobbying group for net neutrality that’s as big as Comcast’s against it.

    1. Sam

      There is money — and then there is culture, skill set, track record. The cable operators and telco’s have literally decades of experience navigating and influencing the many regulations that underpin their business models. Many of their execs are lawyers by training. Lobbying against net neutrality is in their sweet spot.On the Google/FB/Twitter/Netflix side, lobbying is at best a shiny new leg of the business model. But there is no way they can match the sophistication of Comcast at this stage.

    2. Prokofy

      You’re missing the fact that Google doesn’t have to spend. It has millions of fanboyz who just click and sign petitions without being paid,l and it has the tech press completely sewed up. There isn’t a single tech blog or news site that opposes net neutrality. It utterly owns the mindshare and doesn’t have to spend a dime. It can turn on 5 million people to flash-mob the FCC with a few tweets. So stop crying for the NN side.

  10. Sam

    Last week when I read Paul Graham’s advice on startups, I was struck by this one: “The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users.”I was struck because when I raised money and launched a startup cable network 10 years ago, we were indeed an expert on our users (our audience). We did multiple end user surveys, and our CEO had deep domain expertise in the content area we were developing.But we failed before we even go to the starting line. Why? Because we couldn’t solve distribution. Comcast, TimeWarner, DirecTV. There was an incredible concentration of power in distribution, and without the blessing of one of those system operators, it’s simply not possible to launch. They would “invest” in your company by agreeing to distribute your network, by taking a cut of your company’s equity, taking a cut of your ad revenue, and by agreeing NOT to pay you any per-subscriber carriage fees for 5+ years as you ramped up.So yes, you needed to be an expert on your users. But it’s not sufficient. Being an expert on distribution mattered just as much when launching a cable network.I didn’t post my observation last week because most in the discussion here are focused on Internet-distributed software-based business models. And Paul’s advice is pretty damn good if that is your business model.If net neutrality goes by the wayside, however, Internet-based software startups are going to look a whole lot more like cable network startups. Comcast, here is your chunk of our company’s equity. Comcast, here is your royalty fee. Do we have a deal for you to carry our app?

  11. kidmercury

    the standard points from the other viewpoint:1. the internet is getting faster. this makes NN look like fearmongering since they have no actual data to support the “everything is going to slow down” belief. 2. the idea that an “open” architecture has enabled greater innovation is very subjective and from some viewpoints wrong. did having DNS controlled close the internet, or did it enable it to be easier to use and thus facilitate innovation? 3. brad is arguing in this video that ISPs as gatekeepers will restrict innovation. but what about applications as gatekeepers? why allow one but not allow the other? if google turns off your account, you are screwed. if they ever got really heavy handed about it, you could have a very big problem in light of their reach and the ability, through their data set, to enforce their reach.

    1. kidmercury

      the problem, to the extent that there is one, is an uncompetitive market for last mile ISPs. the solution, to the extent that one is needed, is spectrum deregulation. that is what last mile ISPs fear and also fight against. it is necessary even beyond last mile fears to get to a faster and more robust internet.

    2. Prokofy

      The “getting faster” is a chimera. My new 5C phone, which is all I wanted to upgrade to for $0, is slower than my 4. Why? Because it just is. I live with it because I don’t need things to be fast.This idea that socialism and communism lead to innovation has been proven wrong many times throughout history.

  12. Prokofy

    It’s sad that you lobby for socialism and Google’s technocommunism for your own business interests, Fred, and don’t look at the bigger picture of what it means for all of us — more taxes, less freedom.It’s appalling that any federal agency would set economic policy and law like this. It’s a matter for congress, not a flash-mobbed FCC. And congress should not cave to the Google interest lobby which all of you pretend is sweetness and light and claim the telecom lobby is the problem.Google and telecoms need to be in a balance or we lose our freedom.

  13. jason wright

    In his capacity as CEO of Virgin Media Neil Berkett described the principle of net neutrality as “a load of bollocks”. He’s now chair of Guardian Media Group.He went on to say that If companies aren’t prepared to cough up the extra cash for faster delivery of their content, he’ll put them in the Internet “bus lane”.