Feature Article

January 25, 2011

When the Paradigm Fails to Shift: Net Neutrality

As many of you know, I have a tendency to speak and confuse my audience. My messaging often includes obscure references that show a history and requires my readers to have a long time relationship with me.

I am going to try to solve this today, with an analogy I am not comfortable with myself, but I think my readers will understand.

I am going to use the analogy of racecars. Something I am not qualified to speak about and for all my readers who are feel free to complain to me personally.

However, the Net Neutrality discussion fits nicely into this analogy.

Let’s take a look at this analogy. The PSTN is like a racetrack for this example lets say the Daytona 500 and the Internet is like the Baja 1000. 

The Daytona 500 started of as a race on the beach where the surface was flat and reliable. Through the years innovation occurred in both device (the car) and the track (the PSTN). Speeds improved and the overall race was very controlled the track was an oval and the concept was clear. Fastest one to reach the finish line won and all cars started at the same point with the same goal.

Rules were put in place as to the nature of cars, the quality of track all aimed at making the race as fair as possible.

The Baja 1000 has a different model. There is a point A. Tijuana Baja California and ends at Point B La Paz, Baja California Sur. The devices racing include motorcycles, trucks, buggies, cars, etc and the track is entirely up to the drivers. Like packets, there is a timing measurement for making sure the drivers are measured by fastest time and not based on specific miles traveled. If something is an obstacle for one type of device (like a truck) and manageable for a device (like a motorcycle), that’s just part of the way it works.

Probably there are maps that have been shared amongst the different types of device drivers that show their best path. A bunch of rocks the motorcyclists can race through a sandy portion the trucks can ride right over. 

The analogy can be strained here by talking about the track of cable, landline and wireless as optimized for the devices they serve (I won’t push it and say motorcycles are like smartphones and trucks are like cablemodems).

Now, let’s assume that the audience from the Daytona 500 starts watching the Baja 1000.

What would happen?   Well knowing that cars were always the winners for the Daytona 500 (since that’s the only device in the race). The assumption would be that cars would be the winner in the Baja 1000. And what people would see is a mix of motorcycles and trucks and cars winning over the years.

The Daytona crowd might grow suspicious of the Baja rules. They would want to see the track to understand why cars don’t always win. And they might try to impose their rules on Baja experience. Worse yet they may insist that a better track be built be for the cars, since their obviously better tracks for the other vehicles.

Worse yet the history of the Baja race is that Honda has won with a variety of devices (vehicles). Should we accuse Honda of an unfair competitive advantage?

Did the analogy transfer?

The rules of the PSTN keeping getting misapplied to the Internet. The need we have today is for New Rules as Bill Maher would could them. This is the point of Regulatory 2.0 on February 4th, 2011. We will webcasting and you can register for the event with this link. We have built a track thanks to ATT, Google and Towerstream to send this over the Internet. 

If you can’t watch it, don’t think it’s not a conspiracy. 


Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca


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