IGDA seeks member feedback on Open Internet policy

Dear IGDA Members,

The IGDA Policy and Advocacy Committee has drafted a policy on Open Internet and we are seeking feedback from members who care about the issue. You can access our current draft for review here.

The document was drafted in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for comment on their Notice of Proposed Rule-Making released October 22, 2009. (Special thanks to IGDA member Dan Scherlis, who did the lion’s share of the work on composing the draft.) After some detailed review, we’ve determined that we are in favor of Open Internet as outlined by the FCC and we intend to file a letter by their RFC deadline on April 28. We’ve run our policy by a lot of expert members already, but before we file with the FCC we wanted to open the document for feedback from our general membership.

Our policy position is only two pages long so I encourage you to read it, but the high-level summary is simple.

  1. The IGDA strongly supports a rule that prohibits blocking and discrimination. Legal uses of the Internet should be freely allowed.
  2. The IGDA strongly supports prohibiting ISPs from charging providers of content or services for the right of access to their Internet-service customers. This applies to mandatory charges for access to the network (or subsystems thereof), and to charges for fully-competitive transport.
  3. The IGDA strongly supports transparency, for benefit of both customers and providers.

Please leave your feedback in the comments of this post. The FCC deadline for submission is April 28. To be able to collate all of your comments in time for the Board of Directors to review and approve the final wording, we need to have your feedback by Thursday, April 22.

Thank you, and I look forward to your feedback!

Darius

44 Responses to IGDA seeks member feedback on Open Internet policy

  1. […] for the IGDA to file with the FCC by April 28. If you’re at all interested in the issue, check out our blog post and give us some feedback on the policy (in the comments of the post, […]

    • Steve Baker says:

      I agree with the intent of the policy (“Net Neutrality” by another name). However, I think there is a large loophole in the second of the two numbered points in the position statement.

      The first point says that the ISP can’t (for example) have YouTube pay them more money to give them better access – and thereby shut out a small startup company trying to get into the video distribution business. Great!

      But the second point would allow the ISP to say to it’s customers: “If you give us an extra $10 per month – we’ll give you faster access to YouTube”…which has the same effect of shutting out the little guy.

      The idea behind TRUE net neutrality is the simple idea that all websites are treated equally by the ISP’s. So clause (2) needs to say that the ISP cannot charge users different rates to get preferential bandwidth into specific sites.

      What we need is to have the ISP’s only have the right to control the bandwidth of the link – and to require them to be blind as to the source of that data. Only with such a clear statement can we be sure that bandwidth consumed by games is on a level playing field with bandwidth consumed by video, HTML, email, etc.

      With the possibility of one company being both the information provider as well as the ISP – this is a crucial issue going forwards.

      • dariusk says:

        I’m not sure where you’re seeing that. If you’re talking about the quality of service (QoS) issue, that is probably the only major issue that we are not addressing directly in this paper, for various reasons. It’s my understanding that the nondiscrimination rules allowing for fully-competitive transport of packets means, in the end, that ISPs can’t set up schemes that make one app more competitive than another in terms of network access.

        This *does* happen in China a lot: many ISPs there actually own game companies. On one ISP you might technically have access to a game owned by a rival ISP but the access is so slow it’s worthless. That’s the kind of “gotcha” that I believe is protected under these rules.

        However, I will definitely bring your concerns to the experts I have been working with! Maybe we *are* missing some critical language. Thanks for your feedback!

    • Brian Smith says:

      This is like crafting rules on how the wolf will eat you. Encouraging more government meddling in the Internet? Madness.

  2. Jon Jones says:

    Seems great to me! Didn’t see anything I would alter in the document.

  3. Ann Burkett says:

    Agreed. Would add that net neutrality is essential to the global competitiveness of many online industries including games.

    Online businesses cannot be globally competitive if they cannot be assured the will not be at the whim and surcharge of a few ISP’s who will then own the connection rates to those businesses and can both effectively and literally throttle them.

  4. Juan Gril says:

    This is a very necessary rule for the future of the Internet. Thanks to the IGDA for participating.

    Cheers,

    Juan

  5. Arrakiv says:

    Good, I entirely agree with this, even if I fear it is entirely futile, more so after the recent case between Comcast and the FCC.

  6. Josh Sutphin says:

    I’m glad to see this and I generally agree with the points in it. One thing stuck out:

    “Of course, an ISP would remain free to charge subscribers different prices for different levels of
    service.”

    Is there any concern that ISPs would restrict gaming traffic to a “premium” service tier, potentially pricing portions of our current audience out of their ability to connect? Is this something that it makes sense for IGDA to address in its policy position?

    • dariusk says:

      A well-founded concern, but not to worry. What happens according to the rules we support is that an ISP can charge customers different prices for different *nondiscriminatory* levels of service. So you could charge someone for faster internet across the board, but not a faster connection to Application X.

  7. Almo! says:

    Just read the policy, and it looks good to me.

  8. Ed Macauley says:

    Thumbs up.

  9. Anon says:

    You know what would be great? If we could talk about this on a nice FORUM.

  10. Robert Cooksey says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. Anyone remember AOl and Prodigy? Want to go back to that? Want your Internet service to function like cell companies? this needs more polish though. We need to discuss protocols. It’
    s not so much control of content that I worry about as control of how nodes communicate and who controls the protocols for that communication. Who decides what protocols are allowed or forbidden?

  11. Sean Breslin says:

    I like this, and am proud to be a member of an association that supports a policy of open internet.

  12. Max Nichols says:

    This draft seems very well put-together, and I don’t see anything that sticks out as problematic or needing more polish. It has my full support.

  13. Very nice. The free market cannot function when government sanctioned monopolies go unregulated.

    I wonder if it should address the primary concern of the anti-net-neutrality crowd: that ISPs need a way of preventing the “bandwidth hogs” from ruining the Internet for everybody else, particularly for users that require low-latency, such as VoIP users, or even gamers. (We require high-bandwidth when we’re downloading a game from Steam, and we require low-latency when we’re in multiplayer.)

    My response to this is that I have *no problem* with ISPs that trade off latency for bandwidth, so that low-bandwidth applications are afforded lower latency, as long as this rule is applied in a non-discriminatory way, and it’s based on the bandwidth used, not on the app itself.

    • dariusk says:

      The FCC’s rules contain allowances for ISPs to throttle whoever they need to for “reasonable network management practices.” I’m sure that at some point some ISP will take that too far and it’ll go to court. But for now, yes, network hogs ruining things for everyone else shouldn’t be an issue.

    • dariusk says:

      The other thing to note is the transparency rule being proposed: networks will have to document what is and is not acceptable network use. So a game developer could plan things and say, “Okay, if we keep our network usage within these bounds we will almost never get blocked by an ISP.” If you check the ex-parte letter referenced in our policy position you’ll find a quote from Chris Dyl of Turbine talking about how they just randomly found out that an ISP decided to auto-block Turbine games because they generated too much UDP traffic. Chris had to call the ISP and prove to them that it was legitimate use. At least under these rules we wouldn’t be caught by surprise!

  14. Ryan Williams says:

    Excellent. Neutrality is a necessity for small business. Thanks for writing up this policy position, you’re doing a good job representing my position.

    I agree with previous commenters that there is a substantial grey area around traffic shaping and QoS that is already being abused by telecoms. I don’t think it will ever be possible to write a document that expressly prohibits these practices in one swoop; rather, the FCC will continually respond to and rein in abusive practices as they occur.

  15. Looks very good and like many above, I’m very glad — even proud — to be a member of an organization that is helping make this happen.

  16. Of course yes…

    In this free world in which we actually pay for, there are some things you have to draw the line on. My opinions, wether right or wrong, are my opinions and i should be able to voice them anywhere, anytime, and not have to worry about who will allow this and who is monitoring me.

    Stick up for what’s right.

    Proud to be a member of the IGDA!!!

  17. Sean Bean says:

    I support the Open Internet.

    Imagine a country where the owners of the infrastructure promoted one belief system (such as a religion or political platform) by allowing free or subsidized access to the medium, but charged those with opposing views exorbitant rates, effectively barring their ability to communicate ideas in the public forum.

    Bandwidth really ought to be the only variable involved with pricing…

  18. Great work Darius! I heartily approve!

  19. Dave Govan says:

    Read the paper. Excellent position.

  20. Thanks IGDA for being a responsible member of a larger community!

  21. vazor says:

    Thank you for working on this.

  22. Cody Langton says:

    I fully agree with this stance on Open Internet/Net Neutrality. This policy concisely conveys the informed public’s view on this situation, and should be promoted.

  23. Ernest Adams says:

    I support this effort.

  24. John Pile Jr says:

    Looks good to me. Glad for the position the IGDA is taking, and thanks for requesting feedback.

  25. Christian Engelund says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of that document, nor with the wording. I would definitely say it’s a necessity for the successful exploration of the platform for both end users and businesses alike. Well done.

  26. George Rappolt says:

    I fully support the IGDA position, as embodied in the policy statement. This is a critical issue both for the games industry and for the country at large. Please do everything you can to make this policy law.

  27. Tony Donadio says:

    I am profoundly *opposed* to this policy position, and strongly urge the IGDA Policy and Advocacy Committee to reconsider filing its proposed letter in support of it.

    Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, so-called “Open Internet” or “Net Neutrality” regulations represent a surrender of the internet to government censorship and control. In effect they propose to replace the vibrant free market competition of today’s internet with the failed “public utility” style regulation of the past. We should be doing everything we can to try to keep the government’s hands *off* the internet, not turning it into another state regulated monopoly. To suggest doing so in the name of opposing censorship and preserving freedom of speech and net innovation is, in my opinion, profoundly misguided.

    Given the limited time before the RFC deadline there is little I can do now other than to state my opposition. For anyone interested in my reasons, and in the many substantive and intellectually serious criticisms of “Net Neutrality” as a public policy, I recommend the following references.

    The 5-Part Case against Net Neutrality Regulation (Adam Thierer, techliberation.com): http://tinyurl.com/y9kz9yj

    The First Amendment, the Internet & Net Neutrality: Be Careful What You Wish For (Robert Corn-Revere, Progress & Freedom Foundation): http://tinyurl.com/yzjcmgq

    Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet (Raymond C. Niles, The Objective Standard): http://tinyurl.com/bseaar

    • dariusk says:

      I will bring your comments to the committee and I will be certain to read those references. I did read several scholarly papers against net neutrality as part of the background. I paid particular attention to this one:

      http://www.theamericanconsumer.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/final-consequences-of-net-neutrality.pdf

      I personally find these positions impractical themselves for a variety of reasons. For one, I don’t believe in the ability for free markets to self-regulate, particularly when the ISPs were set up as public-private partnerships to begin with.

      However, I will definitely take your comments and links to the committee. Thank you for your feedback.

    • Dan Scherlis says:

      Actually, Tony, the intent here includes preventing consorship by ISPs (non-blocking).

      Also, I might share your dislike of regulated monopolies, but UNregulated monopolies are much worse! And the fact is that, as content developers, we face a termination monopoly; if you want to sell your online game to me, you have no choice but to go through my ISP.

      • Tony Donadio says:

        Dariusk, thank you very much for your response. I suspect (perhaps not surprisingly) that our difference on this issue is at least partly related to the fact that I have considerably more confidence in “the ability for free markets to self-regulate” than you expressed. While we can disagree over whether regulation (as opposed to market pressure) is the right way to achieve them, we can probably agree that there are certain goals stated in the position paper that are desirable in their own right. The need for ISPs to state and adhere to a clear policy regarding bandwidth allocation is a good example.

        Dan, I understand what the intent of the regulation is _supposed_ to be. I emphatically disagree with it. I’m not an advocate of modern monopoly / anti-trust theory, and think there are too many problems with it to take it at face value. But even if one does, I don’t see the evidence for claims of market failure requiring regulatory intervention. Larry Darby (for example) asked precisely this question in the essay collection that Dariusk himself posted, and I think it’s a good one.

        I disagree, for example, that content developers (for games or otherwise) face an ISP “termination monopoly.” To take myself as an illustration: as a consumer, I have access to two different broadband providers who compete directly against each other for my business. If one of them adopts policies that I find are not in my interests as a consumer, switching to the other is largely a matter of making two phone calls. And this entirely leaves aside the exploding development in wireless broadband. So even setting aside my philosophical objections, “Net Neutrality” frankly looks to me more like a solution in search of a problem than anything else.

        I also have to ask how many who support “Net Neutrality” have given serious consideration to the potential _benefits_ of bandwidth prioritization that, for example Mr. Niles discusses in the third link that I posted. These policies make both economic sense as well as customer service sense. It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand that gave us equal and unlimited bandwidth for all our wants and needs. In reality, resources are finite and the flexibility to be able to make intelligent tradeoffs is crucial — for example, for QOS sensitive applications like VOIP and real-time gaming.

        That said, I’m not sure this thread is the right venue for a debate on the issue — especially when the RFC just about due, and the IGDA committee and many members seem to have already made up their minds on it. So rather than respond to further replies here, I’ll rest on the comments I’ve already made, and invite those interested in further discussion to contact me via email.

        Tony Donadio
        andarian at andarian dot net

  28. Glad to see the IGDA participating – I’m all for it!

  29. mnolin says:

    Looks great! Couple of things to add:

    Can we include the igda logo anywhere? I almost missed that it was from us :P

    Also, I know it could be considered counterpoint to the argument that we have been/are an easy target for throttling but games can also be really good at having a low bandwidth impact: check out the Network Bandwidth Usage section for the impact WoW had on this schools network http://wowinschool.pbworks.com/Technical-Issues

    • dariusk says:

      Thanks, for the final version we’ll put it on official letterhead and put all the necessary IGDA contact info, etc. The draft is just so members can look at the content.

      And thanks for the link.

    • Dan Scherlis says:

      Yes, mnolin, a nice page, with an intriguing graph showing that WoW usage has surprising small bandwidth impact.

      The reasons that games might be more vulnerable to blockage would not include high bandwidth-intensity. More important are the unusual — or less-popular — patterns of protocol or connection. For example, there’s the peer-to-peer update method mentioned on that pbwiki page, not to mention P2P multiplay. Or the unexpectedly-high ratio of UDP traffic that has caused Turbine to be blocked by ISPs.

  30. Dave Grossman says:

    Chiming in: Allowing pipeline providers to make qualitative decisions about the nature of the bits and bytes running through those pipes sounds downright dangerous to me, in a free-speech way, and I’m particularly disturbed when those decisions have the kind of dramatic financial ramifications that they do here. So I think our position is a good one.
    (If they really want that kind of control, then let them also be subject to the massive discrimination lawsuits which will inevitably ensue.)

  31. Macguffin says:

    Thanks Dan, Darius, and the rest of the IGDA volunteers for their hard work on this.

    I’m extremely psyched to not only see this position (which I support), but to see the excellent conversation going on about it in the comments.

  32. Bill Crosbie says:

    I think this is the proper position for the IGDA to take and that it is very clearly written. Great job, guys!

    I think that Dave has hit on why this issue needs to be addressed by the IGDA. Right now the concern seems to be bandwidth usage, quantity of packets. The fact that it is targeting streaming video sites is not over what videos are presented, but in the number of packets that are being transmitted. But if the infrastructure is put in place to select based on application, it is a potentially short jump to limiting based on the content of the packets. That is something that could limit the industry moving forward.