Court Tells FCC It Has No Mandate To Enforce Net Neutrality (And That's A Good Thing)

from the got-it-right dept

This should come as no surprise, given that the court indicated this a few months back, but it's now official that the FCC has no power to mandate net neutrality or to punish Comcast (even with a gentle wrist slap) for its traffic shaping practices. Lots of people seem upset by this, but they should not be. This is the right decision. The FCC was clearly going beyond its mandate, as it has no mandate to regulate the internet in this manner. In fact, what amazed us throughout this whole discussion was that it was the same groups that insisted the FCC had no mandate over the broadcast flag, that suddenly insisted it did have a mandate over net neutrality. You can't have it both ways (nor should you want to). Even if you believe net neutrality is important, allowing the FCC to overstep its defined boundaries is not the best way to deal with it. So for those of you upset by this ruling, look at it a little more closely, and be happy that the FCC has been held back from expanding its own mandate. Otherwise, the next time the FCC tried to do something like the broadcast flag or suddenly decided it could enforce "three strikes," you'd have little argument.

That doesn't mean that Comcast should get off free for its actions. It should still be punished -- but by the FTC, rather than the FCC -- for misleading its customers about what type of service they were getting, and what the limitations were on those services. As for the FCC, if it really wants a more neutral net, it should focus on making sure that there's real competition in the market, rather than just paying lip service to the idea in its broadband plan.


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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Legislation needed

    It may be fairly argued that the FCC doesn't have this jurisdiction.

    But somebody needs to have it and enforce it. Mike touches on the most important remedial factor and that is lack of competition at the micro-local level. Without that, the enforcement must happen from the government.

    But making sure an ISP provides equal and fair access to its network for things its own customers request is not something we should have to debate. Imagine if the contractor who paved the roads, also had a financial stake in certain business and made sure the roads to that business were significantly better. Or worse, deliberately downgraded roads to other businesses.

    It's simply not acceptable for a content provider to also be the service provider without proper separation and regulation of the actions of such combined entities.

     

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      btr1701 (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:11am

      Re: Legislation needed

      > Imagine if the contractor who paved the roads,
      > also had a financial stake in certain business
      > and made sure the roads to that business were
      > significantly better. Or worse, deliberately
      > downgraded roads to other businesses.

      While I mostly agree with your position on net neutrality, your comparison isn't quite analogous. The roads are public property, owned by the government. An ISP's infrastructure is private property and thus inherently under their sole control.

      Like I said, I agree with net neutrality on a philosophical level, but at the same time I don't want to see yet another government encroachment on private property rights, either.

      It's a tough call.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:21am

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        It is important to remember that no public tax dollars ever EVER went into private ISP lines. If they had, the public could reasonably expect some degree of control over how their funds were spent, but in America, this is not the case. Because the ISPs are only using their own money, the public has no right to say how that money is spent.

        The scary part is, some people actually believe what I just typed above...

         

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          Steve R. (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          What is the information source for your comment that "no public tax dollars ever EVER went into private ISP lines." I expect that there is a lot of private/public interaction. These lines are also being placed in many cases in public rights-of-way.

          Another issue that tends to be overlooked by many who raise the "private ISP line" is that you are hiring the ISP to deliver your packets. So if you pay the ISP $X per month for internet access, would you accept the premise that the ISP has no obligation to actually deliver your packets. Imagine you go to the UPS store an pay to have a package delivered, but its inconvenient for the UPS to deliver it so they simply toss the package in the garbage.

          The internet lines may be "private" but the ISPs have an obligation to serve you. It is not really their money, you have paid them through your subscription to their service.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            Hi Steve, perhaps you missed the part where I said it was scary that some people actually thought the above statement was true.

            Obviously, I don't believe that no tax dollars ever EVER went into ISP lines. I was, in fact, being facetious.

            I was commenting on the complete, abject stupidity of people like btr1701 who can assert that ISPs are fully private companies, even though their infrastructure is not only built on public land but funded by public dollars.

             

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              Steve R. (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

              My apologies. Sometimes, before commenting, read the WHOLE post and then read it again. I guess, I missed the implications of: => "The scary part is, some people actually believe what I just typed above..."

               

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              btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

              The water lines that lead to your house are funded by public dollars. Does that give the government the right to tell you what you can cannot do with the water once it gets to your sink?

              The ISPs aren't shaping traffic out on the lines buried under your street. They're shaping it inside their servers which aren't on public property and aren't paid for by tax money.

              Talk about complete, abject stupidity...

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                The water lines that lead to your house are funded by public dollars. Does that give the government the right to tell you what you can cannot do with the water once it gets to your sink?

                The courts seem to think so. Perhaps you've never heard of the watering restrictions that many places have.

                Talk about complete, abject stupidity...

                Indeed.

                 

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                  btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:19pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                  > > Does that give the government the right to tell you what
                  > > you can cannot do with the water once it gets to your sink?

                  > Perhaps you've never heard of the watering restrictions that
                  > many places have.

                  You water your lawn from your sink. With stupidity like that, maybe you *do* need to be regulated.

                  > > Talk about complete, abject stupidity...

                  > Indeed.

                  Yes, indeed... though I suspect not the way you believe.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:29pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                    You water your lawn from your sink.

                    It makes no difference where I connect my hose: the laws exist, despite your claims to the contrary. (And by the way, my wife once had a "plant watering hose" that did connect to the sink.)

                    With stupidity like that, maybe you *do* need to be regulated.

                    Ad hominem: the last refuge of those with no valid argument.

                     

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                      btr1701 (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 7:23pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                      > Ad hominem: the last refuge of those with no valid argument.

                      Which you've engaged in yourself in this very thread.

                      Hypocrite much?

                       

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                        Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 10:52pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                        Which you've engaged in yourself in this very thread.

                        No, actually I haven't.

                        Hypocrite much?

                        Liar much?

                         

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            btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            > you are hiring the ISP to deliver your packets

            Then that's a breach of contract issue that should be settled like any other contractual dispute between private parties: in court. Not a matter for regulation by the government.

             

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          Brian, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          Not True. The government has given BILLIONS to the telecom industry over the decades to build out telephone and broadband communication networks.

          Also, in terms of Wireless networking, they rent the spectrum from the government.

           

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        pixelpusher220 (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        Most, if not all, ISPs received significant government money in order to build the networks. They did not finance it themselves. In return for building it, they were granted a regulated monopoly over service to guarantee income.

        The infrastructure 'lines' are most definitely on public rights of way.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          > The infrastructure 'lines' are most definitely
          > on public rights of way.

          But the traffic shaping isn't occurring on the infrastructure lines. It's occurring deep in bowels of the servers located in Comcast HQ, which is not public property and is not paid for by tax dollars.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:35am

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        An ISP's infrastructure is private property and thus inherently under their sole control.

        Their most valuable asset is their public utility right-of-way access, which is NOT private property but public property.

        Like I said, I agree with net neutrality on a philosophical level, but at the same time I don't want to see yet another government encroachment on private property rights, either.

        Then evict private companies from public utility right-of-ways.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 7:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          and lets not forget the fact that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband thanks to government granted monopolies on existing infrastructure and on who can build new infrastructure. No one owes any of these utility companies any monopolies on anything, the solution is to remove these monopolies and allow anyone to either use existing infrastructure or to build new infrastructure.

           

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          btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          > Their most valuable asset is their public
          > utility right-of-way access, which is NOT
          > private property but public property.

          Doesn't matter if it's their most valuable asset. What matter is which asset is used to do the traffic shaping and its not the lines running under your street. Its done in the servers in their buildings, which aren't public property at all.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 1:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            Doesn't matter if it's their most valuable asset. What matter is which asset is used to do the traffic shaping and its not the lines running under your street. Its done in the servers in their buildings, which aren't public property at all.

            Doesn't matter where they physically locate the filters. What matters is the purpose and effect.

             

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              btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

              > Doesn't matter where they physically locate the filters.

              Actually, yes it does. If they physically locate them on their private property, and do the shaping with their private property, then you can choose to be a customer or not. The government has no say.

              > What matters is the purpose and effect.

              No, what matters is who owns the property and equipment at issue. (And, of course, what the contract between the business and the customer stipulates.)

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:46pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                Actually, yes it does. If they physically locate them on their private property, and do the shaping with their private property, then you can choose to be a customer or not.

                No one is claiming that you are forced to be a customer, so where did you come up with that one? Straw man much?

                The government has no say.

                Just because you do something on or with "private property" doesn't mean the government has no say in it. I'm sure that as a lawyer you know that, so you're sinking to downright dishonesty now. No wonder people say bad things about lawyers.

                 

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                  btr1701 (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 7:25pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                  > Just because you do something on or with "private property" doesn't
                  > mean the government has no say in it.

                  I assumed you'd understand the context of the discussion and therefore the implied limitation on my comment. I see I gave you too much credit. That was my mistake and I apologize. As you seem to require it, I'll try to be more pedantic for you in the future.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 11:00pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

                    I assumed you'd understand the context of the discussion and therefore the implied limitation on my comment. I see I gave you too much credit.

                    Oh, that's right. We were talking about ISPs and of course ISPs are above the law. [/sarcasm]

                    I see I gave you too much credit. That was my mistake and I apologize.

                    No, the mistake you made was in thinking that you could get away with a blatant falsehood. If you wish to apologize for something, let it be that.

                    As you seem to require it, I'll try to be more pedantic for you in the future.

                    What I require is truthfulness (something you seem to have a problem with). I suggest you try that in the future.

                     

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        GeneralFault, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:53am

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        Actually, most of it IS public property. The tax payers payed for the fiber that the ISP's use to transport between eachother. Even the "last mile" and cable companies use tax subsidised infrastructure to supply the connections. The only part that the ISP actually outright owns as far as I understand it are the DNS servers, routers and other discrete hardware.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          Please see: http://techdirt.com./article.php?sid=20100406%2F0930118895&threaded=true&sp=1#c219

          Rememb er, it is okay to read a comment all the way through before replying. The posts are not going anywhere. In fact, if you do read each post all the way through, sometimes you will be surprised at what you can learn. The instant you see a sentence you think you disagree with, the correct response is not to instantly stop reading and refute it blindly. Sometimes there is more information further in the post which might have changed your reply.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            Rememb er, it is okay to read a comment all the way through before replying. The posts are not going anywhere. In fact, if you do read each post all the way through, sometimes you will be surprised at what you can learn.

            It's also okay to learn how to follow threads and note which one you are following before attempting snark. The posts are not going anywhere. In fact, if you do learn to follow threads, sometimes you will be surprised at what you can learn. Just use that (Flattened / Threaded) option up there at the top of the reader comments section.

             

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          CableGuy, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 3:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

          Do you guys just make stuff up, or have you actually built cable before? Granted, I work in the industry, but over half the stuff being said here is BS, and I'm just a lowly technician.

          We build and own the cable in our area, from the headend to the fiber to the coax to the back of your set. We own and operate the DNS, email and LDAP servers, routers, combiners, multiplexers and lasers.

          We rent the space in the R.O.W. from the electric company; ask them for that money, if you think it's important.

          Unlike common carriers, we build cable at our own risk; I have seen several subdivisions go belly-up in our area, and we just have to eat the cost (electric and phone get paid upfront and are heavily subsidized by us, the taxpayers.)

          Granted, we have to hook into the larger network to move packets across the world, but so does everybody else.

          I am neutral on the idea of net neutrality, but I can tell you that network management is a huge part of our customer service; we have had issues in which several power users have effected the network responsiveness for everybody in the area-- while there are other responses that are possible (making smaller nodes is one of them, and I can tell you for a fact we are doing that), being able to control the flow and usage is much more immediate.

          I would prefer metered Internet; I don't think we should want to control specific packets from specific programs, and I don't think anyone should be limited as to what they can do, but I liken it to the post office: if you want to send a letter, you pay 0.44. If you want to send a 5 lb package, you pay (I dunno) 5 bucks, etc, etc.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:12pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            We build and own the cable in our area, from the headend to the fiber to the coax to the back of your set. We own and operate the DNS, email and LDAP servers, routers, combiners, multiplexers and lasers.

            Who said otherwise?

            We rent the space in the R.O.W. from the electric company; ask them for that money, if you think it's important.

            Yes, you make a token payment that is nowhere near it's market value or what it would cost you in the free market to lease private property for the same purpose. And what's more, that access, even with its token charge, isn't freely available for purchase on the open market.

            I am neutral on the idea of net neutrality, but I can tell you that network management is a huge part of our customer service;

            But not nearly the expense that leasing private property on the open market would be for you if you didn't receive the subsidized benefits (ROW) that you do now.

            I would prefer metered Internet; I don't think we should want to control specific packets from specific programs, and I don't think anyone should be limited as to what they can do, but I liken it to the post office: if you want to send a letter, you pay 0.44. If you want to send a 5 lb package, you pay (I dunno) 5 bucks, etc, etc.

            And on this point I wholly agree with you.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            "We build and own the cable in our area, from the headend to the fiber to the coax to the back of your set. We own and operate the DNS, email and LDAP servers, routers, combiners, multiplexers and lasers."

            Granted, the cablecos haven't been subsidized to the extend that the telcos have, but the utility right-of-way access you have been afforded is priceless.

            "We rent the space in the R.O.W. from the electric company; ask them for that money, if you think it's important."

            If you had to pay what it's really worth you'd be out of business in a blink.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:12pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Legislation needed

            We rent the space in the R.O.W. from the electric company;

            I doubt that. What you're probably paying for is the use of their poles in the right-of-way, not for the right-of-way itself. It's called pole rental.

             

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        Brian, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        That might have been true years ago, but in some parts of the US, there are roads that are privately owned and are open to the public like any other road.

        All of the roads in my brother's development are privately owned and maintained by the housing complex. These appear no different than other roads, but they can and *DO* prevent cars and trucks they don't like from driving them.

         

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        mojo, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        Except he's paving roads on private property, so he needs to do what the property owners paid him for, not go designing his own road system in order to be "fair" to the kids from next door who like to use his driveway for a racing track...

        Bad metaphor.

         

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        Davey, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        It's not even close to a tough call. The phone system is private property too, but the government forces it to be a common carrier, as it should have done with the Internet from the beginning. Same with all the other utilities -- if we depended on the Magic of the Market there would be no electric grid or regional gas transmission.

        There seems to be some expectation that the FCC will now treat net providers as common carriers like telecom companies instead of like cable companies. They never should have been allowed to sell both access and content, and the reaction to this ruling will probably force the FCC to finally correct that huge error. Maybe the US will finally even achieve first world connectivity levels, who knows?

         

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        James, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 3:05pm

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        Private property rights? The companies involved here typically have government-granted "natural monopolies": cable TV companies awarded exclusive franchises, or the descendants of RBOCs. Moreover, they also are the purveyors of antiquated media (phone service, cable TV) and hence have a vested interest in NOT providing the level of service that would allow one to ditch the dinosaur media; they will never give people as good a deal on internet service as a company whose sole business is being an ISP will.

         

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      yankinwaoz (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:07pm

      Re: Legislation needed

      A better analogy would be:

      The phone company is paid by Dominoes to degrade, or even prohibit phone calls to Pizza Hut. To make matters worse, they don't disclose this fact to the consumers. The consumer just thinks that Pizza doesn't answer their phone.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 3:55am

        Re: Re: Legislation needed

        The phone company is paid by Dominoes to degrade, or even prohibit phone calls to Pizza Hut. To make matters worse, they don't disclose this fact to the consumers. The consumer just thinks that Pizza doesn't answer their phone.

        So what would be wrong with that? It sounds like a great business plan to me. If Pizza Hut doesn't like it, then they should just out-bit Dominoes and turn the tables. Simple. That's how capitalism works: use money to make more money.

         

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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    If phone companies survived for decades as common carriers, I don't see what harm would come from ISPs having the same legal restrictions. ISPs should be dumb pipes.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 8:02pm

      Re:

      The thing is that I'm afraid of the FCC having any power over anything after what they have helped turn public airwaves into.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 8:06pm

        Re: Re:

        (ie: public airwaves have turned into a venue where there often exists a monopoly on both the airwaves and the content. Public airwaves have essentially turned into a commercial giveaway instead of a communication platform that serves the public interest).

         

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    emporer palpatine, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:20am

    just bend over give up

    your not living in a republic no more after all , its called plutocracy
    govt by corporation

    musilini did it
    hitler did it
    NOW THE USA will try it

    "now watch as the bureaucrats ...."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

      Re: just TEABAG ME already

      We totally need more barely literate people randomly repeating Murdoch Media talking points...

      Go Beck yourself.

       

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    Anony1, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:31am

    @Mike Masnick:

    I actually completely agree with your assesment here. It's spot on. The problem however, is what happens in the mean time before the FCC starts to "focus on making sure that there's real competition in the market". This could take years, or never happen. Seeing the current Administrations complete lack of focus on domestic issues (other than spying and shoving taxes down our throats), I won't be holding my breath for the "competition" to appear. Current broadband providers have effective regional monopolies,and basically, we as consumers, are screwed. Just as with bank regulation, or environmental regulation, there is just too much money being made for anyone to give a $hit. I'm not calling for more regulation. I'm calling for enforcement of laws against anti-competative monopolies. Prepare to see Comcast, Verizon, and countless other companies to run roughshot over Federal regulators at new levels, and countless traffic shaping to come. Hurray!! =(

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      The problem however, is what happens in the mean time before the FCC starts to "focus on making sure that there's real competition in the market". This could take years, or never happen.

      And thus we should let the FCC break its mandate, and potentially open up pandora's box of other outside-of-its-mandate decisions the FCC might make? No thanks...

      I'm not calling for more regulation. I'm calling for enforcement of laws against anti-competative monopolies.

      That would be a DOJ issue, not an FCC issue...

       

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        Michial Thompson, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re:

        The FCC is the only one that has teeth in net neutrality. They have the ability to mandate HOW comminucations are handled.

        By handing this off to the FTC, all that will happen is the bandwidth caps and throttling etc will be disclosed in small print somewhere on a piece of paper or worse on some web site.

        The FTC has not authority to negotiate any outcome, just enforce that the user gets what they are paying for.

        Where the FCC may not have the authority to directly implement net neutrality, thet do have the muscle to say that if the industry doesn't regulate it's self they will open the doors for competition in markets where it is being abused.

         

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        R. Miles (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 7:53pm

        Re: Re:

        "And thus we should let the FCC break its mandate, and potentially open up pandora's box of other outside-of-its-mandate decisions the FCC might make? No thanks..."
        And therein lies the double-edged sword pointed out by Anony1. Now that the courts have effectively ruled out any government intervention (as the FTC is known to drag issues out for decades and no other gov't agency has jurisdiction), these companies are now left to mandate themselves.

        And we all know how well that works, now don't we? If given the FCC's involvement or left up to companies who are effectively pushing the FCC to get involved, which of the lesser of two evils do we take?

        Think about this. The FCC wouldn't have had to get involved if companies did right in the first place.

        I do agree the ruling was right, but it's going to be a very, very costly decision. Consumers have been complaining about cable, broadband, and telephone for decades, and the only thing to come from all this is the breakup of AT&T, which had it been left alone, probably would have been the better choice.

        Hard to say, but I do not find it a coincidence we're all now struggling with net neutrality and it's going to get much, much worse before it gets one step better.

        And guess who's going to pay. It certainly isn't the companies or the FCC, now is it?

        Tough call indeed.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, then, we must get congress to pass laws that mandate more competition.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          In the end the consumers always end up getting the worst of both world. In the case of public airwaves and cableco/telco infrastructure we end up tolerating a monopoly on both the content (thanks to copyright laws passed by the federal government) and the infrastructure (thanks to municipalities/city/local laws).

          The FCC/Congress/court/FTC issue is no different. All allegedly seek to help the consumer in one respect and harm them in another and all of their attempts to help get destroyed by someone else's attempt to harm but each of their attempts to harm succeeds. The FCC wants to regulate corporations to force them to provide a reasonable service, but that's not their job, the FTC does that. End result? It never gets done and the consumer gets the worst case scenarios for consumers in this respect, the attempted good the FCC does is negated. On the other hand, the FCC wants to limit public airwaves in a way that makes it very difficult for anyone to freely distribute information across them (making it difficult for consumers to turn it into their own internet). End result, worst case scenario for consumers as well, AGAIN. Congress wants to pass anti trust laws but the courts rule against their enforcement due to alleged natural monopoly benefits. The DOJ won't pursue the issue even though it's their job to stop monopolies, perhaps in part because the courts side with this idea of a natural monopoly as well. The whole idea behind a natural monopoly was that the government gives you a monopoly but they get to regulate it to ensure good quality service at a decent price. End result, worst case scenario for consumers in this respect too, they end up tolerating unregulated government granted monopolies; those that want to regulate it can't because others won't let them, those that want to stop local governments from granting monopolies can't because others (courts) won't allow them to. In every instance the consumer only gets the worst of all worlds.

          It's exactly the same thing with the democrats vs Republican fiasco. Democrats have some good ideas, some bad ideas, Republicans have good ideas where democrats have bad ideas and vice versa, and the consumer gets stuck with the worst of both worlds.

          One would think this was intentionally orchestrated this way.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:36am

    I meant BTW, run roughshod: Meaning prepare for brutal attacks on consumers. BTW, Pixelpusher makes a good point. Whatever your POV, it really can't be fairly justified to play games with network activity. The only way out is one which the government refuses to confront: Competition.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      you assume a competitor would allow the traffic the comcast does not allow. in the end they too would be forced to act because of the costs involved in maintaining a big enough infrastructure and connectivity. comcast isnt so profitable that someone could do it for 50% less or give 50% more real bandwidth.

       

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        Greevar (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, statistics have shown that providing internet service has become increasingly cheaper while the price either stagnates or increases. Comcast and their ilk are making very good profits and they would not sacrifice such to improve their service unless it meant even more profit.

         

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    Anony1, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    And thus we should let the FCC break its mandate, and potentially open up pandora's box of other outside-of-its-mandate decisions the FCC might make? No thanks...

    I didn't say that Mike, and I hope you understand that. I was more lementing the fact that whatever the FCCs involvement on competition is, within its mandate, it isn't likely to act soon enough.

    That would be a DOJ issue, not an FCC issue...


    Again, this would take an DOJ actively pursuing a domestic agenda with technically competent staff. AGAIN, I'm not holding my breath.

    This ruling while correct, points out the pathetic state of broadband competition in the US. I don't file trade using bit torrent, but I'm sure some grand traffic shape plan will soon make that a moot point.

     

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    jilocasin, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Common Carriers

    This is just the decision of a few years ago coming back to bite them in the nether region.

    Cable Internet lobbied for, and got, reclassified as title 1 "information service" which the FCC has very little power over, rather than the "common carrier" title 2 that they actually are.

    The FCC has much broader powers to regulate industries classified as "common carriers".

    This allowed the Cable companies not to have to share their lines, nor follow anything resembling network neutrality. Shortly there after the telco's; Bell Atlantic, etc. sued to have their internet services also reclassified as "information systems" and that was the day that CLEC's providing broadband died. The telco's were no longer required to share their lines.

    At the time they claimed that 'competition' would ensure more investment, more choice, faster speeds and all the rest of the usual pack of lies we've heard over the years.

    Result; little to no competition, limited investment, limited penetration, speeds that are the laughing stock of the first world, and ISP's that play all sorts of havoc with your data, simply because they can.

    Now that they (the FCC) want to actually DO something, they can't. They've inadvertently emasculated themselves.

    The first thing they (FCC) need to do is to properly classify them (ISP's) as "common carriers". Then they need to ensure that they act like one. If Comcast doesn't think they'll make enough money they are free to go out of business.

    If working as reliable dumb pipes isn't profitable 'enough' then perhaps the information-highway needs to be run like the physical highway.

    In any event consumers and other businesses should be able to get equitable, stable, reasonable means to conduct their lives and their business.

     

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    Greevar (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:52am

    This is what we will be faced with if some form of net neutrality isn't enforced.

     

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:53am

    What is the solution Mike? Another bureaucratic organization that will have jurisdiction over the internet that will be filled with telecom and content industry lobbyists? Mandates are meant to be expanded as communication technology changes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:21pm

    Enough of this. I'm glad I canceled my cable modem and TV packages.

    How is this really a "Good Thing"?

    Did you know that Comcast makes most of their money off of "adult entertainment"? Some 60% of their profit margin comes from that content.

    Now they are in the middle of buying NBCU instead of investing in their network to make primetime TV into some al-la-carte Pay-Per-View system where you get to pay for everything al-la-carte.

    It's not hard to see where this is going.

    Someone's getting screwed, and it looks like it's the customer's hand. Now, pay up!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    I've seen this before...

    So how long will it be before Comcast rolls out with tiered internet pricing and services?

    http://skeptisys.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/5z6vt4n3.jpg

     

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    Anony1, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:55pm

    How is this really a "Good Thing"?


    It's a good thing in limiting overbearing regulation by the government. Others have clearly pointed out here that the FCCs own mismanagement (see:common carrier vs. information service), and other agencies lack of management (see: DOJ, public right of access) and use of their current authority.
    It isn't that the government can't or shouldn't regulate in some form, rather, the agencies in question have either mismanaged their role, or have chosen not to intervene properly where they are authorized. So the court decision is good. It does make obvious the lack of proper regulation by the respective government agencies in chagge of access and competition, which is why it appears bad. It really only highlights the poor management from other parts of the Federal government.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    FCC Mandate

    Even if you believe net neutrality is important, allowing the FCC to overstep its defined boundaries is not the best way to deal with it.

    Sounds like Congress needs to expand the FCC's mandate then.

     

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      btr1701 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:24pm

      Re: FCC Mandate

      > Sounds like Congress needs to expand the FCC's mandate then.

      Yeah, that's all we need. An FCC with even greater power to meddle in things.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:50pm

        Re: Re: FCC Mandate

        Yeah, that's all we need. An FCC with even greater power to meddle in things.

        Sounds like someone maybe has some ISP stock.

         

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    Anony1, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 4:15pm

    half the stuff being said here is BS..

    Although I'm too self-rightous or important to apparently point out which half...


    Granted, we have to hook into the larger network to move packets across the world..

    which makes your buisness rest on the backs of tax payer built network...you were saying?

    I would prefer metered Internet...

    making you a person who wants to control how people access the internet. Yes...you sound so neutral.. (/SARCASM)

     

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    RD, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    The Lament of the Self-Righteous

    "We build and own the cable in our area, from the headend to the fiber to the coax to the back of your set. We own and operate the DNS, email and LDAP servers, routers, combiners, multiplexers and lasers."

    Sure, you built it in the sense that your people did the labor and bought the equipment. But it was funded in large part through TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES, some of which ARE STILL CHARGED TO THIS DAY on every bill.

    Dont get all self-righteous and try to spin this part of history as some kind of self-sacrificing huge risk-taking on the part of the struggling cable company. They were FUNDED for this purpose with TAXPAYER MONEY. WE the people OWN (or should) a large part of this infrastructure. WE the people paid for most of it.

     

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    Prolly Incorrect, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:01pm

    FCC

    Wasn't the original purpose of the FCC to make sure of things such as, "We are here to make sure that radio station 'A' does not broadcast/interfere with radio station 'B''s leased frequency?" Therefore, not so much, "There was a breast/curse word." Although, I do remember when PG-13 was new and there were breasts/curse words in those movies. Check Hulu/Crackle for the rating on, "Just One of the Guys." I saw that movie when it was a rental, which was before I was 10. It was not the first I had seen that had such things in it at a PG-13 rating.

    While I agree that it is not the FCC's responsibility, do the Terms of Service indicate they may change their responsibilty to you? Just a bout all of them do that I have read, so long as it is not criminal.

     

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    BigHeat, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:14pm

    Isn't this how it is supposed to work?

    The FTC, FCC, FDA, and other government oversight agencies are supposed to save us from needing constant legislation (which we already have). They are supposed to help establish rules that should protect citizens (consumers). Courts can then decide if those decisions are appropriate.

    In the case of Broadcast Flag, the argument was that the FCC overstepped its bounds because the rule would "make digital television cost more and do less, undermining innovation, fair use, and competition." Sounds like the courts ruled that the FCC was not acting in the interests of "the people" as much as they were saying "FCC, you don't have the mandate to do this." Or perhaps the court was saying "your mandate does not extend to screwing consumers."

    In this case, the courts have ruled that the FCC has no mandate, but this is an important consumer protection of communications networks - if the FCC has no mandate, who does? You mention the FTC, but that will only lead to disclosure and not neutrality. Disclosure simply looks like the graphic linked by Greevar:

    http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/4/2009/10/500x_netneut_01.jpg

    Neutrality turns it into a pipe. It even allows for metered pricing as suggested by Anony1. I don't particularly like metered use, but neutrality is of greater importance as it has a greater potential for abuse. Competition can take care of metering if the pipes are neutral.

     

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      Greevar (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 6:53pm

      Re: Isn't this how it is supposed to work?

      Correct. If it was just a dumb pipe and opened to any service provider, we would see more providers which would lead to more competition with no limitations. The likes of Comcast and AT&T, seem to think the internet is still just the world wide web, limited to simple web browsing, email and IM. They completely ignore the fact that we use the internet increasingly more for things outside of the graphically enhanced documents and online stores. Internet TV is coming and people are going to want higher quality. Who's going to serve it? Comcast won't. They make far too much on the currently archaic system.

       

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    Uncorrect, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:16pm

    other parts

    "But somebody needs to have it and enforce it. Mike touches on the most important remedial factor and that is lack of competition at the micro-local level. Without that, the enforcement must happen from the government."

    ... i recall something about a story here involving, "micro-level," (if i have the terminology you are using correct) attempts at competition wherein the city was sued by an ISP because they were willing to do it themselves when the ISP would not. Which seems to fall into FTC territory (how'd the DOJ get into this)

    "It is important to remember that no public tax dollars ever EVER went into private ISP lines."

    So how does that there DSL work? Is it like ISDN where they run special lines to your place of dwelling, or do they use fed subsidized lines? Does this mean that the FCC can only regulate DSL from the switch to your house, after that they can do whatever? Or is it the part where companies get fed cash to build the infrastructure that somehow means what you said was true. Serious or troll?


    p.s. has anyone had DSL with a crappy filter and listened to it? Sound like and analogue modem but faster.
    p.p.s. see name.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 5:21pm

    Interesting infographic that shows how valuable infrastructure investing is.

    The US is ranked 15th in broadband penetration and pricing per megabyte.

    http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/3105/internetspeedsandpricin.jpg

    For example, in Japan it costs 27ยข for 1mbps, and the average connection speed to a Japanese user is 61mbps

    In the US, speeds average 4.8mbps at a price of $3.33 per mbps of bandwidth.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:02pm

      Re: Interesting infographic that shows how valuable infrastructure investing is.

      The US is ranked 15th in broadband penetration and pricing per megabyte.

      Hey, at least the US is still ahead of Slovakia. That's more that the UK can say! (Although I saw another study that actually put the US behind Slovakia now.)

       

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    Pretard, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 7:28pm

    yep

    "Which seems to fall into FTC territory (how'd the DOJ get into this)"

    I was thinking that?

     

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    M. Simon, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 9:53pm

    Comcast

    Comcast gives you 250 GB/month in its plan and you can track how much of that you use.

    It is significantly more than most providers. And I recently got a free upgrade from 10 Mbs to 15 Mbs.

    Actual speeds vary according to time of day (traffic load). I'm pretty satisfied with the service. And they throw in up to 5 free copies of Norton anti-virus.

    I'm satisfied.

     

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    MSimon (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:40pm

    Comcast

    I get 15 Mbs from Comcast for $20/month - $1.33/Mbs. And $.08/GB (if I used all available).

    That doesn't seem too far out of line given the generally larger distances and lower average density of the USA.

     

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    MSimon (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:53pm

    Subsidy

    "We rent the space in the R.O.W. from the electric company; ask them for that money, if you think it's important."

    If you had to pay what it's really worth you'd be out of business in a blink.

    ====================

    So the electric companies are subsidizing the cable companies?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:06pm

      Re: Subsidy

      So the electric companies are subsidizing the cable companies?

      The government is subsidizing both of them.

       

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:48am

    Net neutrality and the FCC

    RIGHT ON! Good article, well balanced!

     

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    Anony1, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    metered pricing as suggested by Anony1..

    Please don't make me GAG. I detest metered pricing.That was
    suggested by your friendly neighborhood "CableGuy". Metered pricing for something built from ARPA? No thanks. Even though I am semi-anonymous, I still don't appreciate an incorrect attribution.

     

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    Anony1, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    @btr1701: That may be true, but that doesn't negate the fact that their public right of way could be revoked in response to what is done on their private network. BTW, stop defending these vultures. You come across as a desperate corporate shill. F-Y-I.

     

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    James Alan, May 29th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Less power to the FCC

    A victory for the people!... the FCC needs to stop overstepping.

    Btw, a money saving tip I've found if you have print needs... I have yet to find print prices this low!... BrumPrint.com.

     

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    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    The people are victorious!

     

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