Anything Goes Wrong Online? Yell 'Net Neutrality' As Loud As Possible!

from the crying-wolf dept

Before we get accused of all sorts of incorrect things (as per usual when we post about network neutrality), let's start off with a few clear points: I think that the concept of network neutrality is important for creating conditions that enhance innovation. However, I don't think that means we should mandate network neutrality through legislation. I think what it means is that we should look for ways to increase competition in the connectivity space, as that would make network neutrality a non-issue. Anyone who violated network neutrality would pay for it in lost customers. Unfortunately, with many people having very few connectivity choices, companies can get away with things. However, these firms aren't stupid. They're not randomly blocking stuff just for the hell of it. And, yet, every time a minor technical problem pops up -- such as T-Mobile having problems delivering SMS to Twitter, suddenly everyone makes it out to be a net neutrality violation. Unfortunately, it appears that the phrase "network neutrality" has now become a catch-all for any connectivity provider that has trouble delivering any particular service. While that generates headlines for advocates and politicians who want to keep "network neutrality" in the headlines, it actually does a great disservice to the actual concept of network neutrality. It changes the debate away from one that concerns the actual issues (competition and what is best for innovation) to one that involves lots of needless finger-pointing and blind accusations. So, next time there's a problem on the network, before shouting "network neutrality," at least wait until the details come out.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 1:42am

    First we need to get competition to be ubiquitous. We finally have two players in wired TV/Internet where I live. FIOS is a wonderful threat against the cable company. Actually I fired the cable compnay so I would have to use them against Verizon.

     

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  2.  
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    Trevlac, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 2:20am

    Our cable company got screwed when Clearwire came to our town. It's wireless broadband for those of you who don't know. They raised our monthy rate again and Clearwire comes walking along with half the base price and no basic cable TV requirement. Who do you think I'm going to choose?

     

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  3.  
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    Ferin, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 5:12am

    People tend to see malice first for a reason.

    We want to see malice in things first, because it means that the people running our basic services aren't capable of screwing up. Nobody wants to think that these things can be prone to error, cause it makes them worry.

     

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  4.  
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    Haywood, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 5:44am

    Re: Clearwire

    I was excited to check that one out, I'd drop Verizon like a bad habit if there was a decent alternative. Unfortunately, when I checked into it, I would end up paying more than I pay now, once the teaser rate expired. Right now I pay ~$50 for DSL and local, + ~$30 every 3 months for a 1000 minute calling card. to duplicate that they want ~$77. I'd still pay that if the service was sterling, and they didn't engage in traffic shaping.

     

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  5.  
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    known coward, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    what is net neutrality.

    NET NEUTRALITY ! ! !

    your right i feel better.

    i still want to know how you can have voice over ip and net neutrality at the same time.

     

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  6.  
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    T, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 7:02am

    Net Neutrality Won't Affect Customers

    The idea that competition would fix any net neutrality failings on the part of the companies presupposes that a large number of people would make their decision on that basis. I don't expect that the companies would blatantly affect network traffic for the average user in a way that would outrage them. The majority of customers will not feel passionate about this issue, and will have no reason to look for some company that supports net neutrality. Competition is driven by the consumers, and if they aren't going to care about a certain issue, then the companies aren't going to have to address it in order to keep them.

     

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  7.  
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    Doug B., Dec 17th, 2007 @ 7:59am

    Who screamed Net Neutrality?

    If T-Mobile had maintained that it was just a technical issue on Twitter's end, I would have to agree that the customers have over-reacted. However, it seems that T-Mobile pushed the Net Neutrality button by responding instead that they blocked the service as a matter of policy.

     

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  8.  
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    Nick (profile), Dec 17th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    I think this is the fault of T-Mobile for including as the possibly problems from their standard script which said "we have the right to block 3rd party content" to exactly the wrong people: early technology adopter zealots who blog (aka Twitter users). Blocking was not the case, and had they taken a minute to investigate and then let their customer service people know that this was not the issue, the net neutrality cries would not have happened. But maybe that is a good think so it stays fresh in people's minds.

     

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  9.  
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    Steve, Dec 17th, 2007 @ 10:52am

    People will jump to this conclusion simply because the industry has been doing everything in it's power to quash Net Neutrality. The people know it, and they are watching like hawks. To lose the internet as it has been up until now would be a HUGE tragedy. I sleep better a night knowing that the rest of the world has a say in this because if it were all dictated by American corporations, it'd driven into the ground in a heartbeat.

     

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  10.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Dec 17th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    Too Simplistic - Simply an appeal to the masses

    The call for "increased competition" has allure and mass appeal, but will it work?

    Logically, competition means that the sellers have to earn their customers business. Therefore, they wouldn't want to screw them over. But is this logic valid?

    I can't answer that. Based on my observations, certain industries seem immune to enhancing the customer experience. Specifically the cell phone industry. Simply put, if every company in a supposedly competitive industry group uses underhanded business practices and they are making money, there is no reason for them to be honest. Given this scenario, increased competition will solve nothing.

    Mass market - This seems to be an overlooked economic concept. We are a large country, not to mention the rest of the world. A certain percentage of our business is really done on a random basis. Especially with the internet. It may be possible for a company that sells crappy products to survive based simply on the random selection of customer who do not know better. (Not everyone does good due diligence before buying.)

    Technological sophistication - Most of us do not have the technological sophistication to discover technological abuses. We depend on the altruism of those few who have the technological sophistication to expose these abuses. Again, if companies hide their technological abuses, increased competition does not mean much in terms of providing the customer with a better experience.

     

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  11.  
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    Michael St. Louis, Dec 20th, 2007 @ 11:16pm

    Net neutrality

    There has been an unfortunate change in the structure of the communications business. I am only interested in a pipe to the internet and a few mail boxes. My Favorites/Bookmark directories have well over 9,000 entries for news, politics, catalogs, television, schematics, history, recipes, literature, etc so don’t need a provider homepage to spoon feed the internet to me.

    Mike Masnick’s belief in simple competition is sweet; naïve but sweet. I’d like to actually see competition. I can get cable, DSL, wireless (I think) and satellite at my home. Any real competition here is limited, however by service contracts, installation fees, etc so there is no easy alternative if the present provider gets unruly. One of my sons, who lives in Jefferson County, went with wireless since he had no alternative. Another son has internet through the cable provider but ATT isn’t interested. Wireless is may be possible soon. A colleague from Jefferson County, who will be preparing engineering drawings, typically loads files onto CDs and emails them from a more civilized locale. His cable only provides television. There is a brand new laser fed ATT RT at the entrance but there are no data cards inside. ATT will add internet capability if 75% of the neighborhood subscribes but those who really care already have their dishes installed so DSL isn’t likely any time soon. He wants to borrow some wireless machines to see if any work but since he often has to go out on his deck or out to the back yard with his cell phone to get away from the shadow of the adjacent ridge to get a reliable signal, he isn’t hopeful.

    Maybe we should call for help from the RUS (The federal Rural Utilities Service, the descendent of the Heroic REA) so we can get some competitive access which our residents can use as a comparison.

    I agree with Mr. Masnick that the access providers are not randomly blocking stuff for the hell of it. Comcast Corp. users are reporting disruptions or delays while using file sharing software even it is part of a corporate software distributions (#1). Verizon has blocked NARAL Pro Choice America messaging since it deemed the organization to be controversial. NARAL Pro Choice America and other organizations are petitioning for an FCC rule to prevent such blocking (#2). ATT blocked the transmission of a Pearl Jamb Concert segment which was critical of President Bush (#3).

    It used to be that you leased a “pipe” for the utility which you wanted; water, gas, telephone, etc. Then the boys at the very useful search sites, hired MBAs and “Artistic Consultants” and tried to make their fortune selling “CONTENT”. Well, that white bread commodity market is competitive and of finite size. Next they tried more of the same but bundled it up with the wire to the internet. The subscriber gets a home page, but even in St. Louis where lots of white bread ends up under racks of ribs and under slingers, it is still a competitive and limited market. The latest load of “CONTENT” is bigger, and just to make sure the corporate dreamers get a shot at their fortune, the new package comes with a rationale to put a crimp in my pipe to the rest of the internet. The solution to network management is to put another fiber or two in the trench. If they had something realy special in content, they could charge a subscription fee or make a good income on advertising; the need for a crimp in the access to the competition means it’s probably just more commodity white bread on the menu.

    ---EXPLETIVES!-----

    Give me a pipe and a six-pack of boxes and keep the MBAs and consultants out of my bit stream.

    If Mr. Masnick is allergic to “net neutrality”, he should considered the old fashioned honorable term “common carrier”. Feed the white bread to the sea gulls.

    #1: http://www.eff.org/wp/packet-forgery-isps-report-comcast-affair, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/10/19/financial/f061526D54.DTL&feed=rss.bu siness,

    #2: http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1301, http://www.publicknowledge.org/pdf/text-message-petition-20071211.pdf,

    #3: http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/2007/08/15/att-gets-caught-in-its-own-spin-cycle/

     

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  12.  
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    Alex Maurin, Feb 15th, 2008 @ 9:26am

    I Agree

    I agree that net neutrality, as it has been defined to me, is essentially as good thing.

    I believe that consumers should have the option of having a cable or ADSL connection that is unmolested by unreasonable restrictions, however, I do not trust the government anywhere near the last bastion of free thinking, innovation, and free speech.

    If we are to keep ISPs in line, we will have to do it ourselves.

     

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  13.  
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    Alex Maurin, Feb 15th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    Re: what is net neutrality.

    From what I read, *real* net neutrality would have provisions for VoIP and IPTV, and other legitimate real-time services.

    One of the things that ticks me off is the Acceptable Use Agreements they force us to sign.

    Basically for me it's:

    1) No public servers/daemons

    2) No resale or "Hotspots"

    2) No P2P of any kind, especially file sharing

    Can you guess what service I'm on?

    If not, then can you list on one hand how many residential broadband services there are that you are allowed to do this?

     

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  14.  
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    Alex Maurin, Feb 15th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    [Making Note]

    I have them, and yes, that ticks me off.

    That's blatant, and I would not use their service if they were not the only ones I know of to offer prepaid (no dumb contract).

     

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  15.  
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    Alex Maurin, Feb 15th, 2008 @ 10:03am

    I Agree, but...

    ...you do have a choice in some cases between a cable monopoly, and a ADSL monopoly, and supposedly EDGE/3G, but that really doesn't factor in in reality.

    For me, it's:

    Road Runner High Speed Internet - Time Warner Cable
    - Expensive as all get out, but I suppose they are fast, when you don't have access to Verizon FiOS, if speed is what you want. I like that they allow you use of the BitTorrent protocol, but I've heard bad things about them.

    AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet - AT&T and Yahoo!
    - You cannot have just the connectivity to the Internet, as you pay for the Yahoo! services, and other things that nickel and dimes one to death. Also, their Acceptable Use Policy is restrictive, and the semi-real-time representative lied to me, and said there was no AUP, but other than that, I think I can tolerate them, since they would be the lesser evil.

    As you can see, not much choice.

    The 3G Wireless Broadband I have is extremely expensive and restrictive, except in the sense that you can take your laptop anywhere and have a working Internet connection.

     

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