Telecom Doublespeak, Network Neutrality And Rewriting The Rules

from the it-all-comes-together dept

As we've hit the 10th year mark on the Telecom Act of 1996 and people are finally realizing it's time for a rewrite, it seems that rather than serious discussions about what needs to be done, we're getting spin and doubletalk from paid shills -- paid for by telcos who are trying to claim that this is about "choice." That's rather amusing, because the point that others are making is that the whole reason this is a problem is because there is no real choice, in that the telcos have been able to cut out all of the real competition -- even in cases where they got all sorts of government assistance in exchange for promises to keep the competition around. It appears, however, that the paid shills have successfully convinced FCC chief Kevin Martin (apparently the way to his heart is to sing him Happy Birthday). He's now been quoted, once again, as saying that there's no reason to worry about network neutrality because there's no evidence that the telcos are doing anything. Apparently, he hasn't been listening to Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, who haven't missed an opportunity in the past few months to say very publicly that they're doing everything they can to end network neutrality on their networks.


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  1.  
    identicon
    mmrtnt, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 8:32am

    Make Some Noise


    Starting with this one, I'm going to begin sending each relevant Techdirt article about this subject to these people:

    Chairman Kevin J. Martin: KJMWEB@fcc.gov
    Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
    Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein: Jonathan.Adelstein@fcc.gov
    Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate: Deborah.Tate@fcc.gov

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Stella, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:00am

    Sad

    With people like that in charge it's no wonder American broadband penetration is a joke. Bowing down to corporate pressure at the expense of the American people yet again, this stooge should be ashamed of himself.

     

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  3.  
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    Chris, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:08am

    Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    "Apparently, he hasn't been listening to Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, who haven't missed an opportunity in the past few months to say very publicly that they're doing everything they can to end network neutrality on their networks."
    Do you blame these companies for trying to protect their investment? Really, the Telecom act of 1996 may have made consumers happy, but it was pretty destructive to the Baby Bells.
    Think about it like this, You spend 40 years getting your website super popular, you get your RSS Subscriptions up to 20,000+ and then the government steps in and tells you that you have to let xyzwebsite.com post their stories on your page as well, for a wholesale price. Did xyzwebsite.com spend countless hours and dollars developing the 20,000 subscriber base and following? No. But they get to use use audience now. We could get into the red tape behind the scenes that claim the Baby Bells are getting million and millions from the US Goverment, but I won't. hehe
    PS. TechDirt, this was not a slam on the story. Just sharing.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Nate, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:21am

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    A way to do something about it:

    http://www.freepress.net/action/petitions.php

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:27am

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    Techdirt didn't build itself up (The majority its lifetime) while it was the only choice in town - MONOPOLY... (Not flaming you, just adding some perspective) ;^)

    It's all good, though... I think Google is preparing to sucker punch the Telcos...

     

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  6.  
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    Keith A., Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:30am

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    I did something about it. My phone line runs through my TV Cable right alongside my internet connection. Saves me $75/yr

     

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  7.  
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    Tim, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:43am

    Choice and "Shilling"

    It just isn't true that there's no choice. Virtually every consumer has, at a minimum, a choice between DSL and cable. Now, you might thinks that not enough choice, and I might agree, but it's something. At a minimum, it's vastly preferable to the situation 20 years ago where most consumers only had one choice for each telecom service.

    On another subject, if Sonia is a "paid shill," then you should add me to the list as well. I spent two years working at the Cato Institute, whose contributors include Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner. (Although the bulk of Cato's money--70%--comes from individual donors) My current employer, the Show-Me Institute, would gladly take money from those companies (or anyone else) if they would give it to us. However, we're very clear with our donors that they don't get to have any say in what we write. Our donors give us money because they like what we say, not because we say what they like.

    It's an unfortunate reality that I need a paycheck to pay my bills and put food on the table. I like writing about public policy for a living, and there aren't a lot of opportunities to do that that don't involve taking money from somebody with an opinion. I'd love to be a full-time columnist or college professor, but the competition for those positions is pretty fierce. Most of the other options, such as working as a hill staffer or a lobbyist, involve a lot more direct "shilling" than does think tank work. Virtually all political magazines are subsidized by donors with a particular point of view.

    So working at a think tank that takes money from corporations isn't my first choice, but I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. I'd like to think my arguments would be evaluated on their merits, not based on where my paycheck comes from.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Raphy, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 10:54am

    "network diversity"

    As you probably know, Professor Christopher Yoo recently released his new study about network neutrality and injected a new idea and term into the discussion -- network diversity.

    He brings up the point that "Network neutrality would lock the Internet into a one-size-fits-all architecture that would only reduce broadband providers' ability to manage their networks and meet the increasingly varied demands that consumers are placing on the Internet."

    http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060206/dcm048.html?.v=37

     

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  9.  
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    Mel, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 11:15am

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    This has nothing to do with the gov forcing one website to post the articles of another website. And spending 40 years to make a website super popular with 20,000 subscribers??? That one is just dumb.

     

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  10.  
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    Scott, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 11:48am

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    Actually I would, if the gov't had funded the project with the express intent to provide better services on that website. The whole reason the baby bells were created was because ma bell didn't have to do anything, they owned it all, take it or leave it. The baby bells were at the time and continue to do the same kind of things that AT&t was broken up for. Look at the squabbles between the cable co.'s and telcos, the cable co.'s don't want TV by the telcos and the telcos don't want voice by the cable co.'s. Nothing has actually changed except names.

     

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  11.  
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    John Valenti, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Telco's and their skulldugery... Re: Make Some Noi

    I have some experience with the telco's. I worked for Teleport Communications Group aka (TCG); later purchased by AT&T. I then worked with AT&T, and Pacific Bell; later to become SBC. Technically, I have worked for four telco's from 1995 to 2002. I have been in some major conference rooms overhearing many a discourse regarding their various stratagem. I can say this emphatically... The telco's are NOT to be trusted. They are well established, manipulative with the press, their stock holders, the public at large, the government, and their customer base. Not to mention most of their employees. Any thinking person should clearly find the big players i.e.: SBC/AT&T, Verizon/GTE, and the various Baby Bells as a group with very vested interests. The idea of neutrality from such entities in almost anything involving commerce is rediculous and absurd to say the least. They have been fighting voice over ip for years trying to delay the technology from being deployed and available in the public sector for years. This stuff was available years ago. At&T was rushing as quickly as possible to develop other business sources as they have known for sometime that Long Distance (LD) was a dyeing business as they knew it. I strongly recommend finding ways to support Google, Vonage, Skype, and other high-end technologies. I say this because I know them to be the best way to strategically compete with the established "good 'ol boys" of communication. They want control over the Internet and more because that give them an atvantage in their established marktet places. These guys are crooks - with pens. Get Cable Internet, get Vonage, and cancel your land-line, unless of course 911 and life-line services are a major part of your daily routine. :)

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Brian, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    It would fine if they paid everything themselves but they have setup the system to nearly be a monopoly. These companies have recieved billions in government money to build their networks, with some places have very strict rules in place concerning competition.
    For example, Time Warner cable runs thru my community. They have an agreement with the city that only they can lay down fiber. So WoW cable, which is in every community around us cannot lay their wire and offer me their cable/broadband. SBC has the same deal with the phone lines.
    So while they are "protecting their investment" they are effectively taking away my choices. To add insult to injury, now they want to limit what websites I see? Do blame us for being upset? Can you see where the problems are?

     

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  13.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2006 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Do you blame the Baby Bells?

    Do you blame these companies for trying to protect their investment?

    Their investment? Er... they were given government granted and tax-payer financed monopolies...


    Really, the Telecom act of 1996 may have made consumers happy, but it was pretty destructive to the Baby Bells.

    Any industry that can't figure out how to build more business out of making consumers happier don't deserve to be in business.

    Think about it like this, You spend 40 years getting your website super popular, you get your RSS Subscriptions up to 20,000+ and then the government steps in and tells you that you have to let xyzwebsite.com post their stories on your page as well, for a wholesale price

    If the government had given me incentives and kept the competition out of the market, and it was a natural monopoly... (all the case with telcos) then the situation would be analogous. Without all that, it doesn't make much sense.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2006 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Choice and

    It just isn't true that there's no choice. Virtually every consumer has, at a minimum, a choice between DSL and cable. Now, you might thinks that not enough choice, and I might agree, but it's something. At a minimum, it's vastly preferable to the situation 20 years ago where most consumers only had one choice for each telecom service.

    A valid point, to a degree. The conversation, though, is really about true broadband systems -- which the cable guys are running into trouble with. The telcos can offer it with fiber, but the cable guys run out of room pretty quickly. Wireless, of course, is nowhere near able to handle the kinds of speed and traffic necessary. So, yeah, there will be less choice for real broadband pretty shortly.

    On another subject, if Sonia is a "paid shill," then you should add me to the list as well. I spent two years working at the Cato Institute, whose contributors include Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner. (Although the bulk of Cato's money--70%--comes from individual donors) My current employer, the Show-Me Institute, would gladly take money from those companies (or anyone else) if they would give it to us. However, we're very clear with our donors that they don't get to have any say in what we write. Our donors give us money because they like what we say, not because we say what they like.


    Fair enough. Perhaps the paid shill comment was uncalled for. However, when you have someone who consistently and repeatedly states things in an extremely slanted way and refuses to take into account important info that contradicts what they say... then you have to question the motivations of that person.

    I don't always agree with you, Tim, but I've seen that we can disagree over things and we'll both take each other's points seriously.

    I think that's the difference. The people I trust are ones who have a difference of opinions over what conclusions can be drawn from the facts. The people who get classified as paid shills are ones who clearly ignore facts -- even after they've been pointed out to them. Sonia has done that in the past -- which makes me question the integrity of what she writes.

    So working at a think tank that takes money from corporations isn't my first choice, but I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. I'd like to think my arguments would be evaluated on their merits, not based on where my paycheck comes from.

    Indeed. As I was stating above, the paid shill comment wasn't just because she works at a think tank, but because she seems to parrot their viewpoints without any critical thought and while purposely ignoring or refusing to address important facts.

    To me, that's the difference between a real think tank and a paid shill.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Ted Smith, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 7:08pm

    Re: Choice and

    CHICAGO, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Comparing the costs of different doctors -- and procedures -- can be a time-consuming affair. But a new project launched in recent months by the administration of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is using the Internet to provide a one-stop site where consumers can compare the costs of visits to the doctor's office by ZIP code and find other cost-savings, experts tell UPI's The Web.

    The government-sponsored project seems to have inspired at least one other healthcare organization to place cost-comparison information on the Internet in Florida. Other cost-comparison tools are emerging that are national in scope, too, experts say. By Gene Koprowski

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Everything will change, Feb 10th, 2006 @ 3:56am

    Re: Choice and

    "The conversation, though, is really about true broadband systems -- which the cable guys are running into trouble with. The telcos can offer it with fiber, but the cable guys run out of room pretty quickly."

    Not sure how you came to that conclusion but when the cable operators get their analog video bandwidth back they will have gobs of bandwidth to offer. Easily up to 100MB per house.

    What I find amazing is the misunderstanding that if the FCC mandates net neutrality than nothing else changes. The simple fact is that the bells and MSO's do not have sustainable business models if they are relegated to a dumb pipe. That doesnt mean they will go out of business but instead that they wil change their business model. For instance. the unlimited 5-15 MB servive for $40 could easily migrate to capped usage with transaction based charges. One final point is the reason the bells are fighting this fight now is b/c they are in the middle of investing billions in fiber networks and the street is startign to wonder how they recover their costs.

    Be careful what you wish for since every action has a reaction. Personally, I have no problem with the broadband providers seeking money from Google as oppossed to me.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 10th, 2006 @ 8:46am

    Re: Choice and

    The simple fact is that the bells and MSO's do not have sustainable business models if they are relegated to a dumb pipe

    If that's true, why are they investing in fiber in the first place? This is a common myth the telcos would like you to believe, but it's simply not true.

    Personally, I have no problem with the broadband providers seeking money from Google as oppossed to me.

    You don't think those costs will come back to you in some manner? Besides, as we've pointed out repeatedly, Google is already paying for that bandwidth. THe providers are just looking for more control to squeeze extra money. Remember, the way that telcos account for their "costs" is highly suspect as well.

     

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