Muck and Mystery
   Loitering With Intent
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January 23, 2007

The net has existed for many decades. Some think it was a 90s thing - the fall that never ended - when the unwashed hordes gained access, or that it is something the government invented.

This is a false narrative, one that leaves out the most interesting parts. A better story begins in 1968 with the Carterphone Decision.

On June 26th a landmark decision in telecom history as the Carterphone Decision is rendered by the FCC. Under this decision, the FCC struck down existing interstate telephone tariffs prohibiting attachment of connection to the public telephone system of any equipment or device that was not supplied by the telephone companies (Bell System). The suit, which began October 28, 1966 centered on the desire of Carter Electronics of Dallas to interconnect private mobile radio systems with the nationwide exchange and message toll telephone network. The Carterphone Decision created the interconnect industry and allowed manufacturers other than Western Electric to sell their telephone devices to business nationwide. The telephone companies still managed a minor victory by convincing the FCC that Bell System manufactured "interface devices" had to be placed between any non-telephone company equipment and the public telephone system. These interface devices were struck down in 1978 when the FCC determined that any equipment manufactured to FCC regulations could connect to the public network via industry standard network termination devices (RJ11C, RJ21X, etc.) In the mid-1980's the former Bell System companies were successfully sued for the fees paid by customers for these interface devices (which were determined to be unnecessary) during the ten year period from 1968 to 1978.
There were already many private networks at that time and many more developed after that. Some had bridges interconnecting them. There were a variety of protocols and standards, lots of experimentation and innovation, and this continues to this day. As ever, some try to stop progress and make all the kids line up and sing in chorus.
Kahn rejected the term "Net Neutrality", calling it "a slogan". He cautioned against dogmatic views of network architecture, saying the need for experimentation at the edges shouldn't come at the expense of improvements elsewhere in the network.

(Kahn gently reminded his audience that the internet was really about interconnecting networks, a point often lost today).

"If the goal is to encourage people to build new capabilities, then the party that takes the lead is probably only going to have it on their net to start with and it's not going to be on anyone else's net. You want to incentivize people to innovate, and they're going to innovate on their own nets or a few other nets,"

"I am totally opposed to mandating that nothing interesting can happen inside the net," he said.

So called "Neutrality" legislation posed more of a danger than fragmentation, he concluded.

With the exception of Google's man in Washington DC, Vint Cerf (with whom Kahn developed TCP/IP), most of the senior engineers responsible for developing the packet switched internetworking of today oppose "Neutrality" legislation. Dave Farber, often called the grandfather of the internet, has been the most prominent critic.

Engineers fear rash legislation would inhibit the ability of systems engineers to improve latency and jitter issues needed to move data at speed.

Networking did not begin with TCP/IP, nor did internetworking. It's a pretty good standard, not the only one, and still needs a lot of improvement. The only way we will get those improvements is to try stuff. We need to remember who we are and how we managed to get here. We need to call out the nutters who try to sell the "government gave you this" line, the control freak buzz killers. If the whole net has to change at the same time then very little change will happen. That's the worst case scenario, a crushingly stupid self-inflicted wound.
Posted by back40 at 09:35 AM | TechnoSocial

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