The IT Curmudgeon speaks out

The IT Curmudgeon has been quiet for too long. He’s been biding his time, waiting for the right moment to cut loose, but then he realized that in the world of enterprise IT there never will be a right time to vent his spleen and that there’s no time like the present.

First up: CEO pay. The topic of what CEOs get paid has been in the news frequently over the last few years. But nothing much has changed despite the public’s transient outrage that anyone of lesser stature than a Mother Teresa finding a cure for cancer after solving the third-world debt problem could be worth US$20,788 per hour. That’s roughly what AT&T’s Ed Whitacre earned in 2007.

Call the IT Curmudgeon crazy (at your peril), but paying someone more than the gross domestic product of the Republic of Kirbati seems wrong in so many ways. That said, should some company decide to pay the IT Curmudgeon that lavishly, the IT Curmudgeon isn’t likely to say “no” even though, as a consequence, he might be wracked with guilt.

What else is on the IT Curmudgeon’s mind? Well, he has had much to say over the past few months on the topic of net neutrality and, despite this issue becoming old and bewhiskered, the IT Curmudgeon can’t help himself (in his curmudgeonly way) from commenting one more time.

Provoking this rant are two items. The first is a bill, the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act, sponsored by two Democrats (Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren of the San Jose and Silicon Valley, California district) that makes preferential and selective traffic shaping subject to antitrust laws.

The IT Curmudgeon applauds these politicians but notes that there will be serious resistance. Where from? The other side of the House, natch (“natch” is a word the IT Curmudgeon likes to use as it makes him sound young and hip when he is neither, according to his wife). A Republican from Michigan (Rep. Fred Upton) argues there is competition at “all levels of the Internet” and that “Our hands-off policy is working.”

The IT Curmudgeon begs to differ with that. The idea that Internet access provision is a competitive market ignores the very real barriers that consumers and businesses face getting reliable, high-speed service at reasonable prices (U.S. costs are among the highest in the world), as well as the barriers to changing service providers.

The IT Curmudgeon would also point out that the major ISPs are stealthily moving toward greater levels of traffic management, which leads the IT Curmudgeon to his second point on this matter.

This second point is a recent study by the Max Planck Institute in Germany, which conducted some cunning analytical work of the Comcast and Cox Communications networks and found that both are blocking peer-to-peer traffic 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The fact that neither company has publicized its network traffic-shaping programs shows they are testing the waters for even more restrictions on how their networks can be used in the future. The IT Curmudgeon thinks this is the sort of behaviour, which was predicted in this very column not so long ago, does not bode well for the future.

The IT Curmudgeon’s final annoyance is with product and service vendors use of the word “outrageous.” Wait, the IT Curmudgeon just remembered, he should also include “paradigm” and “organic.” Yecch! These words are so hackneyed and so old-fashioned that their use in product descriptions should be greeted with a derision, scorn and physical abuse.

There is much that the IT Curmudgeon feels needs to be railed about and against, but he would ask for your feedback on your own targets for opprobrium and ridicule. The IT Curmudgeon just asks that you don’t write anything dumb, as his blood pressure is rather high.

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