How neutrality locks in the web's 'Hyper Giants'

What Google-Verizon means for you


Some nets are more neutral than others

Because Google isn't a telco, or isn't Microsoft, people assume it must be a White Knight, and therefore doing everything for all the best possible reasons. But Google isn't obliged to do charity, or perform utopian deeds - it just does what's best for Google. And sometimes what's best for Google is making sure the next Google doesn't get any favours. That's naivety.

Then there's the ignorance. I've often wondered how technology utopians seem to have a 'birthing' moment, much as enthusiasts for LSD or MDMA do too. Their mental model of the world is frozen in time, at the moment they first discovered the wonders of the drug net, so how the world looked in 1994, or in 2002, then must be the one true explanation; the ever-shifting politics and power plays of the present must be buried under a unifying nostalgic memory, or sweeping generalisation. You will this true for any Berkman Center alumini, or any Web 2.0 evangelist.

Well, things change. It's no longer accurate to think of a hierarchical network core. And things are changing fast. Google wasn't even in the top 20 originators of traffic in 2007, but last year it was third - Google's private network grew annually from 3.4 per cent of traffic, to six per cent, to around 10 per cent this year. (For more see the most recent Atlas Internet Observatory annual report - pdf.) Surprisingly, perhaps, Comcast also shot into the Top 10.

Behold the "Hyper-Giants"
Source: Atlas IO Report 2009

Even Robert X Cringely only gets it half right in this New York Times op-ed, speculating that a Verizon-Google deal is all about plugging data center containers into Verizon facilities. Which makes for a dramatic movie scene - particularly if they plug them in at 3am, on a cloudy night, under a New Moon.

But it's clear that Cringely doesn't know that this is what's already happened - the caching servers are already doing the job quite nicely. And declining backbone bills aren't "wishful thinking", as Cringely muses, but an economic reality for the past four years. (All in all, this is not the Times' finest piece of industry analysis.)

When Microsoft tied up the office software business, few Lotus or WordPerfect users failed to realise the market was changing - but very few web users now notice how much it's changed.

Pro-neutrality campaigners are now furious at being thrown under a bus. They might be more furious to discover Google lobbying for rules it would never have to abide by itself.

But the campaigners never took the trouble to understand how the internet works, nor how that has been changing. By painting the world into White and Dark Knights, they were unable to envisage the kind of Verizon-Google deal that is already the norm: where incumbents put their differences aside, and discover they have something wonderful in common: the desire to repel newcomers.

I don't expect Google to drop the Net Neutrality campaign completely - not when neutrality for others gives it such a useful competitive advantage. ®

Bootnote

A real net neutrality law would have to give every company equal access at equal rates to Akamai or Google's caching servers - and I can't see that happening, not even in North Korea. Can you?


Other stories you might like

  • Ex-Qualcomm Snapdragon chief turns CEO at AI chip startup MemryX

    Meet the new boss

    A former executive leading Qualcomm's Snapdragon computing platforms has darted the company to become CEO at an AI chip startup.

    Keith Kressin will lead product commercialization for MemryX, which was founded in 2019 and makes memory-intensive AI chiplets.

    The company is now out of stealth mode and will soon commercially ship its AI chips to non-tech customers. The company was testing early generations of its chips with industries including auto and robotics.

    Continue reading
  • Aircraft can't land safely due to interference with upcoming 5G C-band broadband service

    Expect flight delays and diversions, US Federal Aviation Administation warns

    The new 5G C-band wireless broadband service expected to rollout on 5 January 2022 in the US will disrupt local radio signals and make it difficult for airplanes to land safely in harsh weather conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Pilots rely on radio altimeter readings to figure out when and where an aircraft should carry out a series of operations to prepare for touchdown. But the upcoming 5G C-band service beaming from cell towers threatens to interfere with these signals, the FAA warned in two reports.

    Flights may have to be delayed or restricted at certain airports as the new broadband service comes into effect next year. The change could affect some 6,834 airplanes and 1,828 helicopters. The cost to operators is expected to be $580,890.

    Continue reading
  • Canadian charged with running ransomware attack on US state of Alaska

    Cross-border op nabbed our man, boast cops and prosecutors

    A Canadian man is accused of masterminding ransomware attacks that caused "damage" to systems belonging to the US state of Alaska.

    A federal indictment against Matthew Philbert, 31, of Ottawa, was unsealed yesterday, and he was also concurrently charged by the Canadian authorities with a number of other criminal offences at the same time. US prosecutors [PDF] claimed he carried out "cyber related offences" – including a specific 2018 attack on a computer in Alaska.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Philbert was charged after a 23 month investigation "that also involved the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police, federal enforcers], the FBI and Europol."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021