Shane and Richard Talk Internet Performance and Politics

In this edition of the High Tech Forum podcast, Shane Tews interviews me about my recent research paper, “You Get What You Measure“. This is the paper that looks into the performance gap: broadband gets 35% each year, but the web is stagnant, with pages loaded even more slowly in 2016 than the year before.

This reality reflects several factors, but the primary one is that the user experience of the web is now driven more by the speed of the auctions that sell ad placements than by the networks themselves. This raises questions about why we pay so much attention to measuring broadband performance when it literally has become so good that it doesn’t matter.

We pivot to the current controversy over Title II and net neutrality. Despite claims to the contrary, the norm for Internet Service Provider regulation in the US was Title I from the 1980 Computer II inquiry through the 1998 Universal Service Report to the 2010 Open Internet Order.

Title II didn’t rear its ugly head until Tom & Gigi’s 2015 Open Internet Order, Part II. Whatever else Chairman Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom order may be, it’s not a radical departure from tradition.

We also discuss Senate debates from 1996 that considered classifying email under Title II because its purpose is to transfer information between points of the user’s choosing without change to its form or content. That logic would obviously apply to Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and text messaging today. We dodged a bullet with that one.

We also discuss, with some amazement, Facebook’s offer to block revenge porn at the price of a nude photos from users. Now here’s an idea that’s not ready for prime time. But that’s technology for you, 10 crazy ideas for every good one.

Enjoy the talk.