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On Net Neutrality

A Battle for the Internet One of the more instructive takes on the burgeoning”net neutrality” debate appears in Wired News, where Michael Grebb outlines the issue in real-world terms. The Internet is not, and really never was, perfectly egalitarian, he writes in an article entitled “Neutral Net? Who Are You Kidding?”"Vast amounts of traffic are rerouted and blocked every day,” Grebb says.”The system, while successful overall, seems to ride on the very edge of chaos, insiders say.”And now a battle is building over the future of the Internet. “Arguments over net regulations are nothing new,” says Grebb.”But they have taken on fresh urgency as the industry absorbs a wave of megamergers and the internet rapidly evolves into a high-bandwidth pipe capable of replicating -- and perhaps even replacing -- both traditional telephone and cable TV services.”But how can high-bandwidth applications and services being developed by Cisco and others make business sense if the government mandates that everyone be offered the same level of services?”œCracking down on ISPs by enforcing one-size-fits-all rules could be costly, since such bandwidth management can have a utilitarian purpose,” writes Grebb.”And it’s hard to predict what measures will work best to optimize the network at any given time, or in the future. Cisco Systems’ (Robert) Pepper (Cisco’s senior managing director for global advanced technology policy) says that net neutrality in some of its purest forms could even lead to price regulation of broadband services, which could further erode investment and innovation -- the very things that net-neutrality proponents presumably would like to see thrive on the internet. ‘Regulation is not free,’ says Pepper. ‘It always has a cost.’”Paul Meisner, vice president of global public policy for Amazon.com and one of the key lobbyists pushing for strong action on Capitol Hill to legislate net-neutrality provisions, agrees that services on the net has never been equal. “But none of those services degrade other services on the internet,” Grebb quotes Meisner.”The problem arises when schemes are discussed that would prioritize some traffic over other traffic.”Taking an opposite view is Cisco President and CEO John Chambers, who with others wrote to Congress in March saying no new legislation is necessary, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Broadband Internet access service providers should remain free to engage in pro-competitive network management techniques to alleviate congestion, ameliorate capacity constraints and enable new services,” Chambers wrote.

Getting to the Networked Home

Digital WizardryBroadband content is moving in wildly creative directions, as the story on News@Cisco, “œFollowing Video Wizards,” clearly demonstrates.What remains hazy is how these new media forms will be made available to us, the consumer.Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor-Solutions, sees a landscape where multiple content providers and delivery channels are all jockeying for advantage. Coming soon, he says, will be a convergence of digital entertainment and connectivity solutions born of necessity in which partnerships will be created to serve the networked home.”œPeople are looking for simplicity and convenience and an all-in-one kind of approach that will not leave them doing integration,” says Gardner,”So we are seeing some major players -- Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Cisco -- all starting to piece things together in terms of simplicity, completeness and convenience.”A catalyst needs to occur to create one solution for the regular user -you and me.”œWhen my broadband provider says to me that, ‘For $120, you get broadband, TV, VoIP, a place to host your blog, a website to download your pictures, and you’ll be able to do metered TV, and you’ll only pay for channels you want and get access to a rental store to rent movies compatible with your mp3 player of choice,’ then we are talking about the big enchilada,’” Gardner says. “For $120, I’d say ‘Yeah, I’m in with that, and if you want to throw in a cell phone service for $30, terrific.”That will be the kind of package that will get us all the way into the networked home.”œSo why don’t partnerships happen where Cisco on the backend works with Time Warner on the front end?” Gardner asks.”When I buy a car, I don’t buy a transmission from Ford and an engine from Toyota and wheels from GM and put it together in my garage.”We just want the car.

Ready for the Next Step

Collaboration Buzz Rob Preston, Editor In Chief of InformationWeek, writes that the major technology vendors are focusing on collaboration as a key factor in accelerating growth.”Collaboration and productivity apps are hot again, especially Web-based tools that exploit social networking, wiki, and blogging mania,” Preston writes.And Cisco is in the midst of this wave.”œTech vendors are now playing to the growth crowd,” Preston says.”Application acceleration and WAN optimization, technologies that align connectivity directly with business process improvement, are the fastest-growing areas in networking. Cisco Systems isn’t just in infrastructure anymore; it’s pushing into unified messaging and touting “telepresence” as the next killer app. Over the next five years, Cisco CEO John Chambers maintains, as much as 50% of business productivity gains will be tied to making IP-based video conversations as rich as face-to-face ones. (If you think Chambers is just blowing smoke, consider that he and Cisco almost single-handedly made voice-data network convergence happen.)”The next step, he says, is for Cisco and others to facilitate adoption.”Until we show our people how collaboration and productivity tools can close more sales or help us meet more deadlines or build better products, they’ll pay only lip service to this stuff,” Preston writes. In the case of telepresence, that should not be a hard sell.

Fighting the trolls

Coalition Seeks Patent Litigation ReformTechnology vendors, including Cisco Systems, Intel and Hewlett-Packard have formed a coalition to push for reforms in patent litigation, CNET reported.A formal announcement will be made in the coming weeks and more companies from diverse market sectors are expected to join the group by then. Called the Coalition for Patent Fairness, the group is particularly concerned with”patent trolls,” companies that set out to file patent infringement lawsuits solely to force settlement offers. “We are concerned about what we see as the growing imbalance in the application of patent law heavily in favor of plaintiff-as-patent-holder at the expense of patent holders more focused on developing, producing and marketing,” coalition president Doug Comer, Intel’s director of legal affairs and technology policy, told CNET.

Power to the Consumer

Digging Digital IncubatorsJupiterResearch analyst Barry Parr, responded to our recent post about innovative, new media developments at the around-the-clock student network, mtvU, including its “œDigiltal Incubators” program for student video creators in which Cisco is a partner.”Regarding the MTVU story, it’s beginning to look like online audio and video crossed some kind of threshold last year,” Parr wrote.”With new options like Google Video, YouTube, podcasts, and vlogs, real people are beginning to realize that “publishing” on the Web no longer means HTML and that you no longer need access to a TV or radio station. That is breakthrough.”œThe parallel breakthrough in video in particular will be the creation of new forms of video programming,” Parr added.”You could argue that we haven’t seen one of those since the invention of the music video.” Dan Scheinman, senior VP of corporate development for Cisco, said something similar recently in describing disruption now occurring in the consumer, home networking market. It’s no coincidence that Scheinman is spearheading Cisco’s partnership with mtvU.”The media business is in a disruptive era and consumers are being empowered to create and share their own content,” Dan Scheinman, senior VP of corporate development for Cisco, told CNET recently. “It’s important for (Cisco) to see where the trends are going so we can build capabilities into our products to enable it.” The exact nature of the development of future content creation and its delivery “is still evolving,” said Rob Enderle, president of the Enderle Group. “But many people think that there will be a significant expansion of that market, and Cisco,” Enderle said, “as a seller of everything from network gear to set top boxes, is in a unique position to be the supplier of technology into the home.”