Could Regulation Make The Internet Resemble The Highways?

from the exploring-the-downsides dept

Though the principle of net neutrality is an appealing one, it’s legitimate to be concerned with the unintended consequences of any legislation, particularly anything that gets drafted in such a polarized, political environment. In debating this point, a useful analogy has been the highway system, which is similarly uncompetitive and developed with public money. But the highway system isn’t exactly a model of success. Traffic conditions in many cities get worse and worse over time, and there’s little that can be done. Efforts to institute congestion-reducing tolls face opposition from groups that argue that people already pay for the roads (through taxes) and shouldn’t be taxed twice. There have been some successful experiments with special, variable-toll lanes (toll changes throughout the day depending on traffic), but they remain rare. It would definitely be a mistake to inadvertently impose shortsighted, un-dynamic pricing onto the net. Instead of shouting about how net neutrality is theft, they’d be better off by honestly explaining what the unintended consequence might be.

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Comments on “Could Regulation Make The Internet Resemble The Highways?”

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Sandra says:

Could Regulation Make The Internet Resemble The Hi

“they’d be better off by honestly explaining what the unintended consequence might be.”

But have they really hashed out what the consequences might be, intended or unintended?

I don’t think they have. It’s really a matter of money, and who has the most and who wants the most and who controls the most.

Fred says:

Highway Analogy

Good point as far as thr analogy goes, especially considering that neither highways nor the Internet were sufficiently designed in the first place. And neither was designed to expland, although I’ll submit that laying extra fiber is far cheaper than extra pavement.

Without net neutraility or some other reasonable constraints, private industry will indeed attempt to make the most money they can off the Internet – which is what they are SUPPOSED to do. So, in accord with your “consequences” statement, it would not be a bad idea to develop legislation that sunsets aafter a year or two and see how it goes. That way both intended and unintended consequences can be observed.

Fred says:

Highway Analogy

Good point as far as thr analogy goes, especially considering that neither highways nor the Internet were sufficiently designed in the first place. And neither was designed to expland, although I’ll submit that laying extra fiber is far cheaper than extra pavement.

Without net neutraility or some other reasonable constraints, private industry will indeed attempt to make the most money they can off the Internet – which is what they are SUPPOSED to do. So, in accord with your “consequences” statement, it would not be a bad idea to develop legislation that sunsets aafter a year or two and see how it goes. That way both intended and unintended consequences can be observed.

Anonymous Coward says:

“they’d be better off by honestly explaining what the unintended consequence might be.”

No crap. That would really solve everything. Unfortunently, this will never happen. Mostly because “Since 1998, telecommunications companies have outspent computer and Internet firms on politicians $231 million to $71 million, just to keep the status quo.”

Publius says:

Highway analogy...

I think perhaps the highway analogy is being taken a bit too literally here. Issues like traffic congestion and toll roads don’t exactly work. Barring the unfortunate event that the infrastructure gets torn up by tornadoes or other natural disasters, you don’t have to worry about “traffic congestion” for most of the information’s journey over the Internet.

“Traffic” only occurs in the last mile, where private companies (the ones who oppose net neutrality) control the kind of system that delivers information to end users. The companies that control the last mile must be regulated in order to keep this traffic to a minimum. You may think that if they are allowed to charge more, they can better recoup their costs and lay fiber all the way to your home, giving you lightning fast speed. But at what cost to the consumer? If the companies that control the last mile are given license to charge whatever they want to competitors, content providers, and users, THEY WILL DO IT. Part of the magic (for lack of a better word) of the Internet is that over time, more and more people are able to use it and benefit from it. If last mile companies are not controlled, both the user base and content will shrink.

Furthermore, if last mile companies want to build a better infrastructure, they can. The only drawback is that they’ll have to lower their profit margin to do so. What a shame. If laying fiber is going to be such a benefit, they’ll make up the money in the amount of users they attract. Just a thought.

Scott says:

Re: Re: Highway analogy...

uh? what? You think that the Fat Pipe connections between ISP’s will bog down before the last mile?

Most telco CO’s have been oversold, as have many cable nodes. “Tons of broadband video” will go through fat pipes to small pipes that all ISP’s state “may degrade during periods of high usage.” This language has been around long before anyone started talking about downloading video.

Warren L. Theriot says:

Re: Could Regulation Make The Internet Resemble Th

The city streets are full of pot holes and they don’t even sweep them anymore here. What are people [Thinking] about having less regulation meaning better service? Less regulation has led to rampant corruption in the corporate-government infrastructure. Cyberspace or realworld…

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Outside America

Here in S AUs, the metro net is half owned by the ex-monopoly provider, Telstra, and 1/2 by a group of companies inclusing Internode and Adam. the difference between the two is huge, in terms of reliability and speed offered, even over the same wires. Without wanting to turn this into a page of Telstra basihing, they thought that they could get away with hidden fees, shaping, and pretending that ADSL2+ could only go at 1.5Mbps, while the other companies have all been selling 20Mbps ADLS2+ for ages now, with no shaping or anything. THe only reason Telstra still has customers is because of Cable (the cable network in Adelaide is expected to be useless within 3 years) and ppl who cant afford all the fees that Telstra charge to change ISP, and most of all because of small businesses that belive that just because they are a business they have to use Telstra.

Its all rather stupid really.

Wire Cramped (user link) says:

cost of packets...

1. Ok lets see. The cost of packets across the wire is nil. The first person to subscribe to cable/DSL pays for the cost of the electricity to run it and 10 others (please take this with a grain o salt) So basically if each of us currently pays 50.00 to be on the “NET” and most of the time it is running smoothly (meaning no hard work by laborers) then all those packets are at nearly no cost to the carriers yet they make money on it the whole time.

B. Try as we might I dont think that Turkey or China or any other country will allow us to do this and chrage them and as far as I know the “Internet” is a world wide thing so how is it “US Politicians” think they can control it or charge for it when “it” is simply not totally in the “US”

3. Try and charge me to visit MSN and watch me not go there, WHY you ask? Not because if I had all the money in the world I wouldnt pay to do so but, because I dont have extra money for “tolls” to visit a site that someone is charging for. EXAMPLES!!!! Itunes is neato! wouldnt pay for it if you made me! as well as many others. I simply wouldnt visit anything that costs money.

4. If they try to put this through everyone who P2P’s or who ever used to run BBS’s in fact many of “them” who built this freakin “net” would simply build another without political control AGAIN!

5. Lastly if they try to use that ANTI-TERRORIST bullsh** on me for this I will say “Take care of the CHILD PROWLERS” take care of the P2P’s take care of the REAL issue’s on the net to prove that your control would F’N MATTER! otherwise your a bag of S*** too trying to scam Americans or whomever for their money like any other scam that has existed to date!

Hersh says:

Seems like the same people that are against regulation to protect digital content, like music and movies, are for regulation to protect net neutrality. To me the fundamental issue at hand is the same.

Just because companies have a certain way of doing business at the moment, and just because they are too short-sighted to think of any other way of existing and making a profit, doesn’t mean the government needs to step in to pass a whole shitload of laws, to force the market to work a certain way.

The recording and film industry need to figure out how to make profits in the wild-west that is the internet, and not stifle technological development by trying to get shitty laws passed that restrict software/hardware development. They will need to restructure and figure out new ways to monetize their content.

Similarly, internet companies like Google and Yahoo and all the rest have had a grand old time so far, but it isn’t the duty of telecoms to slave on their behalf and make hardware investments, and then have other people determine how they can use said hardware.

If the internet companies want a neutral-net, let them build it themselves (as Google seems to be wanting to do). But telecom shareholders should not have to live with shitty returns on their investments so internet investors can reap the benefits.

The whole concept of restricting the telecom companies profits to a “decent” margin, is ridiculous. Why don’t you talk about restricting an internet company’s profits to a “decent” margin as well? And while we are at it, why don’t we all turn in our stock options and keep only a “decent” wage?

If I build a fiber pipe to someone’s house, with my own money, and with that property owner’s permission, and the city’s permission, who is anyone else to tell me what I can put on that pipe? Only my customers, whom I will be charging money, have a right to say anything.

And if customers want net-neutrality, they’ll demand it from their telecom providers. I sure as hell am not going to let anyone put fiber on my property unless they promise to let anyone’s packets flow on it neutrally. If they refuse, then I’ll go with a wireless solution, and there are too many competitors there for anyone to be an asshole about things.

Anyway, maybe legislation is the ONLY answer, but then I’ll say that perhaps the record companies are right too. Maybe the ONLY way to make money with music is to force the world to use copy-protection enabled hardware.

PopeRatzo says:

I’m surprised that such a sharp group of people miss the most obvious issue in the Net Neutrality debate.

People will make money on the Internet either way, but a Neutral Net will let the MOST people make the money.

Letting the telcos own the Internet means they will be gatekeepers. They had the 20th century to show just how well they could be the stewards of technology, and it took the breakup of Ma Bell to bring real innovation to everyone.

I would think that anyone here who does NOT work for a telco or own telco stock would be in favor of Net Neutrality.

Brendan (user link) says:

This is all BS

Noone in the recording industry is going broke from P2P, its just not happening. If you want to make more money, release more records, and perform more live shows.

As far as the US not being able to regulate what happens on the Internet because it is also outside the US: it was created by the US DOD(it was the WWW that was created by TBL at CERN), and for the most part is regulated by the US. It would also be niave to think that the US doesn’t have its hand in every single honey pot around the world (not trying to be ugly, but its more than likely.)

I see anti-net neutrality as inevitable. Once the telcos flaunt their welath to make people stop going to Goolge, stop using P2P software, and stop using an IM service/e-mail service other than their own then and only then will an alternate protocol to IP be devised.

People keep relating this to highways, that is just wrong. What these companies are wanting to do is prevent us from getting to a destination. So unless you have some toll road that is the only route to the beach and no other roads go there, then GG. They are wanting to block content from providers of internet services/sites, they aren’t wanting to charge more for service, they can allready charge as much as they want. The issue is preventing Google and the like from getting this imaginary ‘free bandwidth’ from them. They are going to charge companies for immediate access, and block companies they don’t like.

My advice for everyone to prevent things like this: use Linux, learn more about what freedoms you really have on your computer and over the web, then teach everyone you know about the bad things that the US telcos are doing.

Computra says:

If you guys only knew......

I work for a medium-large wireless ISP. We are totally cutting edge with what we do…..going around using copper and only depending on true “telcos” only for the backbone to the Internet. I’ve work for two ISP’s before this one. ISP’s aren’t wealthy and the only wealthy ones in true telcos are the boys at the top….the people who make the stuff work aren’t rich. No it’s not a easy job and to say oh bandwidth doesn’t cost much isn’t correct at all. It takes alot of people, and costly equipment to make sure a network stays running and running well. As an ISP you run in chaos mode most all of the time which leave little time for future planning. Also this is hard on the bottom line too.

Next time you pay your Internet bill have a little bit more respect for the individuals who keep things running so you can play your games and forward your jokes to your friends.

Jode Poley says:

Highway analogy

I still believe the highway analogy holds up because the medium used to connect netowrks is “infrastructure”.

1. No one business should own the roads. If all the roads in your town were owned by one person we would call this a monopoly. During the 17th and 18th centuries in New England roads were built by private parties and a fee was charged to use them… The same trend occured with canals, railroads and waterways. Over time it was clear that this practice restricted commerce and had a negative effect. Over time laws were passed to make roads and waterways publically owned and managed. History tells us that no one business should own the infrastructure to commerce – not in a local economy nor in a global economy.

2. The Internet has become fundamental to businesses and needs to be maintained and managed by a neutral body who has the whole public interest as their accountability. Businesses need roads to be maintained by local and state governments in order to insure consistant service and daily functioning. The same must be said for the Internet. Businesses big and small should have equal access to their customers without a competitor deliberately stopping them. This is basic to Capitalism and how it functions.

We can find ways to effectively manage a government run Internet infrastructure. What we should NOT stand for is the manipulation of the market by multi-national media conglomerates who have proven to violate personal privacy and civil liberties while shoving crap information at us to keep their revenues up. Please don’t be stupid – THE LARGE MEDIA CORPORATIONS ARE NOT OUR FRIENDS! Do not believe their rhetoric and intentional misinformation.

Wire Cramped (user link) says:

Re: Highway analogy

If I sink Google I sink all the people and companies making money off or thru Google they dont spend and then those vendors dont make money like the Homeimprovement store doesnt sell me a rake due to less money now that stores people loose money and the circle goes round to think that the NETCONOMY is its own thing and not related and would not hurt everyone is foolish.

I was trying to prompt something like this a true statement of commerce. This is what the Internet is a commerce item. Everything we do on the internet is for no other reason then to generate money.

I agree at a certain point, any imposed restrictions will deaden that portion of the internet. Then it will balance out and we will have normalicy again.

As to the US running the internet you should speak to people in



where there are many private ISP’s that own long pieces of fiber that is the “net” and see if they will be made or forced to do anything cause US politicians say they have to, OR WHAT? the US will go into a trade embargo? NO WHEAT FOR YOU unless you comply with our tax on your websites! DIE you NET-DIOTS

Turkey will flat out tell everyone to F off with any of these notions, thats why it a great place to find servers to anon email from or store files at etc etc cause they dont give a rats ass about our rules.

Yes the telcos are worthy of handling this but I think that is with a grain of salt from the internet community (globally), and should have a ratifying body like IEEE or IETF or Super Suzies Day Care Staff. Just Someone who can be fired and replaced if they cant prove that they are following the peoples desires and needs and the rules of conduct and safety

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