-Funded Report: Internet Could Choke if Lawmakers Intrude"> In a thinly veiled attempt to talk policy makers out of legislating for Net neutrality, an AT&T-backed report suggests that the net managers who have kept the machine growing all these years have innovated, know best how to keep innovating, and should be left alone to do just that, thank you very much. The report, titled "The Never-Ending Rush Hour" and put out by a think tank called the New Millennium Research Council, was issued on the same day that Pearl Jam cried foul after AT&T censored a concert Webcast, expunging the bands criticism of George Bush.During a teleconference with the press Aug. 9, the think-tank experts, including report author Jason Kowal, stressed that the growth of the Internet is getting a bit mind-boggling. Between TV networks posting their shows online, music downloads, movie downloads and other content downloaded via peer-to-peer sharing applications, and graphically intensive social networks such as MySpace, it is estimated that by 2010, 20 households could generate more bandwidth demand than the entire Internet handled in 2005, Kowal said. There are also estimates that YouTube uses as much bandwidth today as the entire Internet did in 2000. Surveys have shown that more than 6 million U.S. households have downloaded files of 10MB or more. Then, too, theres the future: The Beijing 2008 Olympics, for example, are expected to generate online streaming video that will suck up an enormous amount of bandwidth. A growing Web is nothing new, Kowal said. Since its advent in the early 1990s, the Web has seen a "consistent pattern of rapid growth that shouldnt be surprising to anybody." The key point, he said, is that the Internet "has grown rapidly for a long time and has sustained itself because of the combined efforts of a lot of very smart network engineers and continual investment by network operators to keep backbones growing over time." Most recently, the explosion of Internet video has hit a point of "critical mass" with regard to what kind of content can be produced and consumed by users, Kowal said. One data point he gave: A recent study showed about 70 percent of Internet users in the United States are downloading multiminute streaming video clips. "Thats a pretty good indicator of prevalence of online video today," he said. Online video presents unique challenges to network mangers, he said. These changes in bandwidth demand dont happen overnight, but "they do require constant vigilance by people who run networks to keep them running properly," Kowal said. That means two things: That networks have to be continuously monitored in preparation for the next stage of network evolution, and that there has to be some level of network grooming tending to the relations of every network operator with every other network operator, he said. That tending also has to do with what kind of traffic network operators deal with, as well as what the peaks of traffic are at different points of the day. These are factors that are "constantly monitored by network operators and continuously kept up in order to maintain the health of each individual ISPs infrastructure." Click here to read more about a DNS rebinding attack can be used to test Net neutrality. The Internet isnt in crisis, mind you, Kowal said. "No, its in a period of rapid growth like its always been," he said. "However, that doesnt mean we should take for granted it will flourish indefinitely without continual monitoring. "A key point [is this]: The internet is an organism which is continuously changing at different rates, in different parts. If there are disincentives to keep on top of things and have the ability to experiment with different traffic management techniques, the net result could be the inability to deliver on the next wave of potential growth in Internet traffic," he said. In other words, let the carriers tinker with whatever revenue models they like, ignore the issue of Net neutrality, and please, policy makers, keep your noses out of it. Kowal summed it up with these suggestions to policy makers: "One, if there are any policy decisions to be made, the best course is the obvious one: Dont choose a path which would prefer one business model over another. [Policy makers] should set up rules which allow for any business models to succeed." Page 2: Carrier-Funded Report: Internet Could Choke if Lawmakers Intrude
Net neutrality advocates warn that broadband providers will use their control over the "last mile" to discriminate between content providers, particularly competitors. Advocates also predict that telecom companies such as AT&T will seek to impose a tiered service model as a means of profiting from their control over the pipeline as opposed to demand for particular content or services.