Telcos Close To 'Deal' On Net Neutrality That Gives Them Everything They Want

from the careful-what-you-ask-for dept

Can't say we didn't warn people on this one. Way back in February, we suggested that people pushing for net neutrality legislation were going to be disappointed after the telco lobbyists got done with it. The telcos came ready for battle, hiring hundreds of former government employees, including 18 former members of Congress to lobby on their behalf. Back in June, we noted that the telcos were privately saying they were okay with net neutrality rules, so long as they helped shape them. Then, last month, we noted that, contrary to its promises of transparency and openness, the FCC was meeting behind closed doors in secret with those telco lobbyists.

Well-connected telco-beat reporter Dave Burstein is now claiming that this past weekend, the top broadband lobbyists finalized the deal on their version of net neutrality, with part of the deal being a back-scratcher promise to dump a bunch of money into the campaign coffers of Democrats this upcoming election season:
This weekend, uber-lobbyists Cicconi (AT&T), Tauke (Verizon) and McSlarrow (Cable) are at the FCC to make a final deal on net neutrality, Arbogast and Kaut report. Ivan Seidenberg has put enormous pressure on the White House to intervene, and the rumor is that chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is telling agencies to go along. Seidenberg, who has been to the White House 16 times,made a major D.C. speech suggesting that the business community would throw their money and power against the Democrats in the campaign. NN was one of the specific points he demanded.

Under pressure like that, Julius has already agreed to almost everything Cicconi really wants, including loopholes wide enough to carry 350 TV channels. K & A say there is still some opposition so that nothing is final and that the public interest groups are ready to assail Julius. Meanwhile, Verizon and Google are discussing a separate peace that will make the FCC irrelevant.

This one is about power and money, not principle. The likely outcome is an agreement that will allow everyone to say noble things, will allow Julius to look himself in the mirror, and will essentially have no substance.
Now, as Burstein notes, this isn't "final," so things could change, but everyone should have seen this coming. Yes, network neutrality principles are important, but fighting for network neutrality and understanding how the political process works are two different things -- and it's been obvious for years that any attempt to enshrine net neutrality in the law would almost certainly be twisted by telco lobbyists.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 3:33am

    Larry Lessig called it

    He discussed how the entire process of debate has gone from the hands of people to those of lobbyists. It's very frustrating to try to debate things when it's so far out of your reach, as to have no say in the outcome.

     

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  2.  
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    Pixelation, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 3:38am

    Missing bits

    "Under pressure like that, Julius has already agreed to almost everything Cicconi really wants, including loopholes wide enough to carry 350 TV channels."

    Okay, what are those loopholes? This story is missing some key bits.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 4:16am

    The set of people who didn't see this coming and the set of people who have opened a history book are mutually exclusive.

     

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  4.  
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    Don (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 4:40am

    Government needs to stay out

    This is another thing I dislike about the US government which Obama really needs to fix. The government shouldn't be getting involved in these things. And they should be impartial or rather balance consumer and businesses needs.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 4:54am

    Re: Government needs to stay out

    Exactly. The telcos should just give the US government back all the money they were given (and buy all the land they use at full price) so that they no longer have any debt to society that obliges them to submit to government regulation. Then they need to stop colluding and actually compete for business.

     

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  6.  
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    Yogi, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 4:59am

    Democracy my foot

    Really, why bother with all the election process if this is the result?

    It would make more sense, save more time and money for the (so-called) citizens, and be more realistic to have an auction every 4 years. Businesses can make bids on congressmen, the President and so on.

    This would do wonders for equal opportunity in government - I bet Black or Hispanic candidates would come cheaper than the white ones and would quickly became the majority.

    In this vein, Obama's next campaign slogan could be "Yes You Can Buy a Black President" (or did he use that last time? I forget...)

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:14am

    Re: Democracy my foot

    It's almost as if America is not a democracy at all, but a democratic republic. Well, on the books it is. In reality it's probably closer to a Plutocracy or something.

     

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  8.  
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    Yogi, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re: Democracy my foot

    So Pluto isn't a planet - it's a political regime! (I'm on a roll).

     

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  9.  
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    Christopher (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:21am

    This is why corporate disobedience is so good.

    Any aspect of society controlled by lobbyists is fair game to exploit, disobey, and ignore. RIAA and MPAA stifling access to back catalogs? Download MP3s and XViDs by the hundreds. Block tethering? Root the phone, do it anyway.

    Unfortunately most people do not want to live at the edges, or should have to, so this attitude doesn't really resonate with the populace. Guerrilla warfare in this case, though, is entirely appropriate.

    -C

     

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  10.  
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    Thomas (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:28am

    Just goes to show..

    how thoroughly our government is riddled with corruption and bribery. The White House castigates foreign governments for corruption and bribery while ignoring the rampant corruption in our own government. I wonder just how much money/gifts/drugs/hookers are passed around in order to get what the businesses want? I would think that any federal elected official or regulatory agency is wide open to bribery. Sometimes I wonder if the spooks are also open to it. We're definitely in a plutocracy, not a democracy.

     

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  11.  
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    JR Smith (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:42am

    Net Neutrality

    As long as we allow this sort of thing to continue, we will always have bad government. Those who noted that we are not a democracy are correct.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:54am

    In theory, couldn't a company like Google come along, offer cheaper rates than those offered by big telcos, unlimited access to everyone, and create an entire market based on non-exclusivity?

    In other words, wouldn't those participating in this lobbying be digging themselves into a hole?

    I can't think of a single service I can live without online if paying more for it is the only option.

    I guess I just don't see the big deal with this. It should work itself out.

     

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  13.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re: Government needs to stay out

    Then they need to stop colluding and actually compete for business.

    They are competing - just not in the way you would like.
    The problem is that providing a "vanilla" internet service doesn't really provide much scope for increasing profits so they are trying to add extra channels for revenue - most of which run counter to net neutrality.

     

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  14.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Democracy my foot

    Presumably a really big plutocracy would be a Jupocracy.

     

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  15.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Democracy my foot

    Remember, Demos is a rather small moon ....

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:29am

    What are the loopholes?

    I agree with those who are saying this post (and the one is sources) is missing some key information. All we know is that there are "rumors" of some White House pressure to make a deal.

    I'm not saying (and I certainly wouldn't expect) any such deal to primarily and directly benefit business at the expense of consumers. But, it's a little difficult to get up in arms about it if there aren't any details.

    I certainly expect better from TechDirt than just repeating unsubstantiated rumors.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:31am

    Re: What are the loopholes?

    Wow that came out garbled.

    Read that as:

    While I certainly would expect that any such deal would primarily and directly benefit business at the expense of consumers, it's a little difficult to get up in arms about it if there aren't any details.

     

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  18.  
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    Kurt Johnson, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:50am

    Any doubt now?

    There should be no doubt about what our fourth branch of government is -- lobbies. And there is no checks and balances with these people. They are the finger on the scales.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:56am

    haha bribery by a new name

    usa usa

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:59am

    i think lobbiests should lobby for...

    i think lobbiests should lobby for getting rid of elections

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:00am

    and lobbiests should

    and lobbiests should clone richard nixon and make him ht enew overlord
    hes bribable

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Re: Democracy my foot

    Perhaps if we can inform the voting public about what's going on our politicians can have a 50% off going out of business sale. Then more people can afford a politician.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: What are the loopholes?

    I think that's what's upsetting at this point, it's being done in secret.

     

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  24.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:27am

    Re: You are correct

    You are correct. That is the theory. And it doesn't have to be a "company" - just a widely adopted disruptive technology.

    For instance. Why are we "paying" for connections at all? I know "why" - because historically everything was done via landlines. But the technology exists today to buy cheap $30 routers that can connect in ad-hoc mode.

    Why not start a new network that simply requires the purchase of an ad-hoc router and build a global mesh network? Have one policy on the network - no walled gardens. Done.

    -CF

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:34am

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the true motive behind this is to figure out a way to rig elections and make it harder for non corporate puppet politicians to get elected, kinda like how they shaped MSM and broadcasting spectra to do the same.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re: You are correct

    That would be so painfully slow it wouldn't work. How many hops would it be to Tazmania? Or Indonesia? How would you keep people off your network if every person is acting as wireless back-bone?

    The telco's have put a ton of money into the internet, and are largely responsible for how good it is. That swings both ways, as it has fallen behind in the last few years and is on the downswing, but it IS mostly theirs.

    They have a right to be concerned about any laws drafting specifically in response to their business, but the behind-closed-doors nature of this makes it clear that they will go above and beyond protecting their interests into leaving themselves more rights than they should have. Because just because the network is mostly theirs, it isn't all theirs.

     

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  27.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    I guess "for the people, by the people" is just bullshit.

    Since "the people" didn't make this law, and it doesn't benefit them, are they allowed to ignore it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    chocota (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:09am

    Re: Any doubt now?

    HA HA AHA HA, No Doubt my friend, your are 1000% right, Wow, lobbies is our fourth branch of government. Someone here commented, the lobbies should lobby the government to get rid of the elections, so the lobbies (so in this case, Corporate Lobbies) elect presidents and government officials, so they can run USA to their profiting interests, Like the song says "This is the way it is" in USA. Lobbies is proof that USA is ran by Corporations and not the People, that's why I don't vote, it's a waste of time, and nobody tells me if I don't vote I don't have right to speak, 'cause since I pay taxes I get the right to open my mouth.

     

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  29.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Funny thing that no one noticed or seems to have commented on

    This one line "Verizon and Google are discussing a separate peace that will make the FCC irrelevant." intrigues me.

    The combination of Google launching 1Gbps fiber-to-the-home trial and Verizon Axing the FIOS Expansion happening with in a month of each other make me wonder. What is going on between the search giant and the Verizon? Could this be rolled out on a limited scale, then use the fiber Verizon has laid to the home. If googles trial occurs on the east coast this could well be a possibility.


    Also Mike - "peace" should be "piece"

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    chocota, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    No Doubt

    HA HA AHA HA, No Doubt my friend, your are 1000% right, Wow, lobbies is our fourth branch of government. Someone here commented, the lobbies should lobby the government to get rid of the elections, so the lobbies (so in this case, Corporate Lobbies) elect presidents and government officials, so they can run USA to their profiting interests, Like the song says "This is the way it is" in USA. Lobbies is proof that USA is ran by Corporations and not the People, that's why I don't vote, it's a waste of time, and nobody tells me if I don't vote I don't have right to speak, 'cause since I pay taxes I get the right to open my mouth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Coach George (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Re: Just goes to show..

    "with part of the deal being a back-scratcher promise to dump a bunch of money into the campaign coffers of Democrats this upcoming election season:"
    If you don't like it, vote the B#$T^&Ds out next election cycle.
    This is how a Democracy works.

     

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  32.  
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    chocota (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    You're wrong

    Coach George said: This is how democracy works. If it's this way, it's not a Democracy, it's a USA Corporatecracy or USA Corporategovernment, but not Democracy, so you are wrong.

     

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  33.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:56am

    Re: Government needs to stay out

    Obama can't fix it, Congress has to, and they're not going to give up any of that sweet, sweet money.

     

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  34.  
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    AW, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re: Just goes to show..

    One set of bastards for another. You act as though there's a real choice in who we vote for. One group says they give you freedom through slavery and the other says that if you don't do what they say you're already a slave, but you have to do it exactly as they say with no choice.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Re: Government needs to stay out

    Do you honestly think it's the president's job to fix this sort of thing? No, this isn't his job. It is your job as an American citizen to vote into office representatives that you believe will represent you and YOUR rights. Stop passing the blame on to the politicians when you're the one who voted them in.

    Anyway, even if it WERE Obama's job to do this, do you really think he would?

     

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  36.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    USA

    The best government money can buy!

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: You are correct

    "Why not start a new network that simply requires the purchase of an ad-hoc router and build a global mesh network?"

    Isn't that how the Internet started? People hosting some sort of content (like a BBS or something) and other people dialing to that server?

    That new network would be s*** in the beginning, but as soon as it picked up, boom, Internet 2.0.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:43am

    Re: What are the loopholes?

    "I certainly expect better from TechDirt than just repeating unsubstantiated rumors."

    and exactly what did Techdirt report wrong? If you read the OP, it does mention that they are rumors, and I see nothing wrong with reporting rumors so long as they are reported as such.

    and as far as getting upset, we should be getting upset. The govt expects to leave the public out of the legislative process so that when we get upset they can argue that we shouldn't be getting upset since we don't know anything yet? What, we're only supposed to get upset after the laws pass when it's already too late to do anything about it? In the meantime we're just supposed to trust that the govt has our best interest in mind better than we do and hence we shouldn't be allowed to participate? I think not. Getting upset is the appropriate response and it would be nice if more people were informed about this so that more people can be upset and hopefully pressure the govt to stop being so secretive.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Democracy my foot

    It IS a Plutocracy. For the rich, by the rich.

    Geld ├╝ber alles!

     

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  40.  
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    Rooker, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    I disagree with Mike in that I think we do need a federal law to protect Net Neutrality. Industry self-regulation does not work and the market will not correct for asshole corporate behavior, either because most people are sheep willing to bend over for any kind of abuse or because there is no competition (one asshole telecom vs one asshole cable company per town is not competition).

    However, it can't happen with the way our government is run today. The politicians on both sides of the aisle prefer corporate campaign cash over satisfied voters. The people they represent don't matter nearly as much to them as the corporate donors who pay for their reelection campaigns. We went and legalized bribery and this is what we get for doing that.

    If people ever want to have their voices heard in Washington again, we need to get corporate money out of the elections. Until that happens, corporations run the country. And since corporations are citizens now thanks to the Supreme Court, actual people are 2nd class citizens. We're the proles now; the megacorps are the plebes.

     

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  41.  
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    Greevar (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 10:37am

    Metallica said it best...

    Doesn't matter what you see?
    Or into it what you read?
    You can do it your own way
    If it's done just how I say

    Independence limited
    Freedom of choice
    Is made for you, my friend
    Freedom of speech is words that they will bend
    Freedom with their exception

     

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  42.  
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    Richard, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    Everyone agrees man, It's not that the idea is wrong minded. It's the reality, that there will never be a law that goes against corporate interests as long as we have 'political parties' and lobbyists. Opening this can of worms has, and WILL more than likely end with everyone getting less service, for more money, and the question of whether it's legal for them to stick it to us, has been decided in writing. See what I mean? With standard anticompetitive laws enforced, competition would drive service up and prices down. The trend will now be to put an end to unlimited access. That's the obvious unspoken agenda.

     

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  43.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re: Metallica said it best...

    Metallica, Weren't they a band when shiny plastic disks were all the rage?

     

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  44.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 12:20pm

    Money talks

    Of course money buys access in DC.

    Money buys access in a lot of places.

    What I am curious is why anti-IP folks think that the world will change if there are no IP protection laws. Seems like those with access to capital will be able to control the markets under that scenario, too.

    Let's say you have a good idea. A big company with deep resources hears about it and beats you to market with it.

    It's been often argued here that ideas are easy and execution is hard. So if a company has access to all the necessary resources, they should be able to execute quickly if they are nimble.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Government needs to stay out

    They are competing - just not in the way you would like.

    Yep, true capitalism at work, with laws going to the highest bidder. Don't like the laws? It's a free country, go outbid them!

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    ANARCHY!

    See? I told you so. This exactly why we should get rid of all laws and all government. They always get corrupted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Money talks

    Let's say you have a good idea. A big company with deep resources hears about it and beats you to market with it.

    It's been often argued here that ideas are easy and execution is hard. So if a company has access to all the necessary resources, they should be able to execute quickly if they are nimble.


    Let's say you have a good idea. A big company with deep legal resources hears about it and beats you up with bogus patent claims.

    It's been often argued here that ideas are easy and execution is hard. But if a company has access to all the necessary legal resources, they shouldn't need to execute at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Money talks

    What I am curious is why anti-IP folks think that the world will change if there are no IP protection laws.

    What I am curious about is why pro-IP folks think that laws should go to the highest bidder.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    Yeah it does get uggly some times but there is no other way, at the end of the day the people will need to do something someday to get anything they want. May not happen now, but I'm sure it will happen one day.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 2:52pm

    I think that this may not be so bad, you see companies have a problem with consumers, people can just choose not to spend that much, people could do rotations on ISP's just to piss them off, people can do a lot to hurt them, is just they didn't realize it yet, but here is the thing, even China realized that the white House and Congress are useless, anybody remember when they visited which was the first people they got to see? hint it was not Bush at the time. Since politicians are puppets for lobby people should attack the people who has the real power not the puppets.

     

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  51.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: Money talks

    What I am curious about is why pro-IP folks think that laws should go to the highest bidder.

    I suppose until we have strong election finance reform and also rein in lobbyists, everything will go to the highest bidder. But that means more legislation. If it is entirely a free market economy then it probably will be about money, don't you think?

    I guess I think corporations will always act like corporations if given the chance. So even if we eliminate IP protection, they will use whatever resources they have to their advantage.

    So that's what I am asking. If we eliminate IP protection, won't corporations still use their resources to their advantage? Will the playing field be leveled or will it go even more in favor of those who have resources?

    Seems like corporations buying what they want in DC is exactly what they should be doing.

     

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  52.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Re: Money talks

    It's been often argued here that ideas are easy and execution is hard. But if a company has access to all the necessary legal resources, they shouldn't need to execute at all.

    Is the concept of IP protection wrong, or is it just a matter of the system being abused? People who don't have a legitimate claim shouldn't be able to do this and the system should be fixed to disallow it.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Money talks

    If it is entirely a free market economy then it probably will be about money, don't you think?

    I suppose it boils down to whether you think *everything* should be in the market or not.

    I guess I think corporations will always act like corporations if given the chance. So even if we eliminate IP protection, they will use whatever resources they have to their advantage.

    They will do so anyway. IP laws are just more way, they don't eliminate other ways.

    So that's what I am asking. If we eliminate IP protection, won't corporations still use their resources to their advantage?

    They will use everything at their disposal, regardless.

    Will the playing field be leveled or will it go even more in favor of those who have resources?

    Greed knows no bounds. They can never be given "enough".

    Seems like corporations buying what they want in DC is exactly what they should be doing.

    Like I said, it depends on whether you think *everything* should be for sale. For those who worship money, the answer is obvious.

     

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  54.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Money talks

    Like I said, it depends on whether you think *everything* should be for sale. For those who worship money, the answer is obvious.

    Would you support new legislation that limits contributions to political candidates and limits the access lobbyists can have to lawmakers?

    If not, do you see other solutions to corporations influencing laws?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Aug 5th, 2010 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: You are correct

    How does the signal get across oceans, farms, wilderness, etc? What's the maximum range of a wireless router, a few hundred feet?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    john cage (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 12:17am

    Re: Government needs to stay out

    How can Obama help out !!! Government is really involving to solve the issues :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    icon
    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 6:25pm

    He can't

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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