Why I Changed My Mind On Net Neutrality

from the and-why-ben-thompson-should-too dept

Long time readers of Techdirt may know (as I’ve noted several times), that in the mid-2000s when the net neutrality debate was first heating up, I was against the FCC putting in place rules to protect net neutrality. As I explained at the time, the concept of net neutrality was important, but I had so little faith in the FCC that I expected any rules it put together would cause more harm than good. I similarly argued that the fight over net neutrality was really a symptom of a larger problem (the lack of competition in the broadband market), rather than the problem in itself. I was also heavily influenced by a paper that Professor Ed Felten wrote in 2006 called Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality, which mostly (as the title suggests) goes through the various arguments for and against net neutrality rules. But it concludes with a position I agreed with for a while: that while net neutrality was important, actual rules that protected it would be tricky to get right — and the “best” policy might just be the “threat” of rules should broadband providers engage in bad behavior. Thus, that threat, might prevent bad behavior, without having to put in place bad rules:

Net neutrality advocates are right to worry that ISPs can discriminate?and have the means and motive to do so?in ways that might be difficult to stop. Opponents are right to say that enforcing neutrality rules may be difficult and error-prone. Both sides are right to say that making the wrong decision can lead to unintended side-effects and hamper the Internet?s development.

There is a good policy argument in favor of doing nothing and letting the situation develop further. The present situation, with the network neutrality issue on the table in Washington but no rules yet adopted, is in many ways ideal. ISPs, knowing that discriminating now would make regulation seem more necessary, are on their best behavior; and with no rules yet adopted we don?t have to face the difficult issues of linedrawing and enforcement. Enacting strong regulation now would risk side-effects, and passing toothless regulation now would remove the threat of regulation. If it is possible to maintain the threat of regulation while leaving the issue unresolved, time will teach us more about what regulation, if any, is needed.

So, what changed, leading me to eventually move to supporting the Open Internet Order of 2015? Well, as Felten predicted (he’s good at that sort of thing…), the market continued to develop, legal precedent got set, and we got a lot more information on what was happening. On top of that, we got decent (though not perfect) rules from the Wheeler FCC, which were non-burdensome, and did quite a lot of good.

I wanted to explore in greater detail what it was that made me change my opinion on this — and I’ll do it while also countering someone else’s arguments. A bunch of people have been pointing me to what Ben Thompson from Stratechery has been saying about net neutrality over the past couple weeks. Ben is very smart and extraordinarily insightful on issues related to innovation and policy, and I probably agree with him about 85% of the time. Thus I do find it interesting to explore where we disagree — and net neutrality is one of those places. But what’s most interesting to me is that after going through Ben’s thoughts on this multiple times, I think that he’s really in the place I found myself a decade ago — supporting net neutrality, but being wary of the FCC’s implementation. So, as part of my reasoning for why I changed my mind, I’ll also try to explain why Ben should change his mind as well. If you haven’t followed Ben’s statements here’s his original blog post, which was initially called “Why Ajit Pai is Right,” but was later changed to “Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II.”

His second blog post on it was entitled The Broadband Tradeoff; The Importance of Antitrust. Finally, he did a podcast discussing his views called Two Terrible Options, which focuses on the supposed “tradeoffs” between the current rules and Pai’s plan, arguing that he thinks Pai’s plan is better for actually keeping net neutrality. But he, unfortunately, bases that conclusion on a series of incorrect or misleading facts, some of which I’ll try to correct below.

Ben’s starting premise — which I agree with — is that there are tradeoffs to any regulations and he, like me, comes from a starting place of being skeptical of the need for regulation without significant evidence that it is necessary.

Any regulatory decision ? indeed, any decision period ? is about tradeoffs. To choose one course of action is to gain certain benefits and incur certain costs, and it is to forgo the benefits (and costs!) of alternative courses of action. What makes evaluating regulations so difficult is that the benefits are usually readily apparent ? the bad behavior or outcome is, hopefully, eliminated ? but the costs are much more difficult to quantify. Short-term implementation costs may be relatively straightforward, but future innovations and market entries that don?t happen by virtue of the regulation being in place are far more difficult to calculate. Equally difficult to measure is the inevitable rent-seeking that accompanies regulation, as incumbents find it easier to lobby regulators to foreclose competition instead of winning customers in an open market.

Ben’s second point, then, is on the difference between ex ante (beforehand) and ex post (afterwards) regulatory regimes, noting that ex post regimes can allow for more experimentation that can be good:

I absolutely support regulation of ISPs and the preservation of the neutrality (at least in terms of blocking content), I just think we should stick to ex-post instead of ex-ante until there is compelling evidence of systematic abuse.

And, again, that was my position more than a decade ago, and remained as such for quite some time. Here’s why I’ve changed my mind. First, Ben’s position (and the position of everyone, including Ajit Pai) who insist that there’s no evidence of “systematic abuse” are (conveniently) ignoring (or are unaware of) the long history here. This is not a situation where broadband providers have shown no interest in abuse. They have regularly and clearly stated their intent to systematically abuse their dominant position in the market. As we’ve discussed, this goes back to AT&T’s former CEO Ed Whitacre declaring, back in 2005, his intent to charge edge providers for daring to be what his broadband subscribers demanded from the network:

“Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!”

But — Pai, Ben and others may retort — since then there hasn’t been any evidence of them actually doing so. First off, that’s not entirely true. There is a decently long list of examples of bad behavior by broadband providers (though Pai and his supporters like to dismiss those as anomalies). But the more important point is that it’s always been the Feltenesque threat of rules that have kept the big broadband providers in check. Because it was right around the time that Whitacre announced his intention to start charging edge providers, that then FCC chair Michael Powell had released his guiding principles paper on “preserving internet freedom” that noted the FCC needed to “keep a sharp eye on market practices” to stop broadband ISPs from doing things like blocking competing services. And, soon after that, the FCC fined Madison River for blocking VoIP services.

In other words, the FCC had made it clear that it would crack down on such bad behavior that the big broadband players had clearly stated they planned to engage in. Of course, what followed after that was a series of attempts by the FCC to enforce such rules against other abuses, where the courts repeatedly told the FCC that it didn’t have the authority to punish the broadband providers if they were classified as Title I information services. So, you have to know all of this history to understand the threat of systematic abuse. Ben claims that there’s no evidence of it, but that’s not true. There are the stated intentions of the broadband companies to abuse net neutrality. Beyond the Ed Whitacre statement above, during one of the lawsuits against the FCC (filed by Verizon over the 2010 rules), the company flat out said in court that it intends to violate net neutrality and would do so if the rules were not in place:

“I’m authorized to state by my client today that but for these rules, we would be exploring those types of arrangements,” Verizon’s attorney, Helgi Walker, said at the time.

So, again, we have multiple examples of the broadband players directly saying that they would violate net neutrality if given the opportunity — repeatedly held in check by an FCC that tried to set rules saying it wasn’t allowed. But eventually, the courts made it clear that such rules were not enforceable under Title I, and the only way to make rules that stick is under Title II, which the Tom Wheeler Open Internet Order finally did.

In other words, the big broadband providers have been clear that they intend to violate net neutrality. They were only held in check by the FCC, but the courts had twice thrown out attempts at rules, until Wheeler reclassified to Title II — which the courts have since blessed. Given that history, it’s reasonable to shift from my Feltonian position of a decade ago to one where it seems fairly obvious that if we are to keep neutrality, we need Title II to make it work. That’s exactly what the courts have said.

That’s not the only reason either. Another thing that had become clear over the intervening decade was that these broadband companies had only grown larger, more dominant and more powerful — along with a long history of horrible customer care (being so dominant does that) and outright nefarious behavior (leading to various fines). Going back to the Powell days, where he insisted that broadband-over-powerlines was the Great Broadband Hope for competition, we’ve seen consistently less and less competition in the broadband realm.

In short, the situation has consistently gotten worse on the competitive front, at the same time the big players have insisted that they intend to initiate bad behavior, and the only check against that bad behavior (the possibility of rules from the FCC) got shot down in the courts until they were reclassified as Title II. Put all that together, and if you support net neutrality, as Ben claims to, there’s almost no argument against Title II.

But, while we’re at it, we need to correct a few other misconceptions put forth by Ben (and some other supporters of Pai’s plan). First, is the idea that this can all be dealt with via antitrust and the FTC. As we noted recently, depending on the outcome of an AT&T lawsuit, the FTC may be blocked from having any regulatory say over broadband providers as well. Relying on the FTC is unlikely to solve many of the problems put forth by violating net neutrality, because they don’t fall under areas where the FTC can regulate — whether it’s false advertising/misleading users or outright scams.

Ben, somewhat oddly, makes a number of other factual errors during his podcast. He claims that the 2015 rules have really only caused problems for small ISPs because of the burdensome cost of those regulations. That’s… wrong. A whole bunch of those ISPs told the FCC they want the rules to remain. They’re not the ones agitating to remove the rules. Indeed, they point out that by killing the rules and consolidating the power of the giant broadband players (i.e., AT&T, Verizon, Comcast) it creates an even more unfair market. Those giants can craft deals with internet services and companies that make it harder for the smaller ISPs to compete.

Along those same lines, Ben insists that the 2015 rules are obviously costly in compliance terms. But there is no compliance issue. There’s nothing you need to do to comply other than not block, not prioritize, and not throttle. If you read the 8 pages of actual rules, there’s no compliance issue if you’re not violating net neutrality. As one small ISP, Sonic, has noted, the 2015 order is only a regulatory burden if you plan to violate net neutrality. And that’s because there are some provisions for services that want to violate net neutrality, whereby they’d need to ask the FCC for permission to do so:

The Commission may waive the ban on paid prioritization only if the petitioner demonstrates that the practice would provide some significant public interest benefit and would not harm the open nature of the Internet.

Another point that Ben and others have raised, partially correctly, but mostly misleadingly, is that the key issues that people point to recently on the net neutrality front: interconnection disputes and zero rating, were not covered by the 2015 order. In one sense, this is accurate. Indeed, one of our big complaints with the 2015 rules was that they left these loopholes in place. But… that’s not (as Ben suggests) a reason to ditch those rules. After all, literally days after the new rules were voted on, the big broadband players magically ended all their interconnection disputes. And that’s because they knew that without fixing that, they’d face net neutrality complaints, and the FCC would almost certainly find those efforts to violate open internet principles.

As for zero rating? Well, Ben insists in his podcast that the lack of any FCC authority over that meant that the rules don’t matter. Apparently, he missed the fact that the Wheeler FCC actually told companies that zero rating was anti-competitive late last year, telling AT&T it needed to knock it off. Of course, it was easy for people who don’t follow this stuff to miss, because one of Ajit Pai’s first moves upon taking over from Wheeler was to tell AT&T not to worry about that complaint.

This also highlights another error that Ben made in his writing and podcast. In the podcast, he keeps insisting that the difference between Title II and Title I is ex ante v. ex post rulemaking. Specifically, he argued that using Title II is silly because it only allows preset rules, and doesn’t allow for “ex post” rulemaking to go after new bad behavior (citing interconnect and zero rating as examples). But, as we just pointed out in the previous paragraph, under Title II, the FCC could still make some ex post rulings on bad behavior that went against net neutrality (which is also why the interconnection fights disappeared — because companies knew the FCC would find it problematic). What Ben misses is that under Title I, there’s basically no “ex-post” process at all. The Pai FCC is washing its hands of any authority or any concern for neutrality at all (removing even the Feltonian “threat” of rules), and handing it off to the FTC which may not have any authority at all, and if it does, fairly limited authority that can’t go after much of the promised bad behavior.

On top of that, there’s much more uncertainty without the rules — and uncertainty itself can be a pretty large regulatory barrier. The rules set out principles and key issues that the FCC believe in about the internet. And they allowed the FCC to step in “ex post” to correct behavior that violated those principles. But under the new lack of rules, there are no such principles. And while the FTC may step in, ex post, to go after some really egregious behavior, it’s not clear what it will focus on (if anything) or why. That leads to much greater uncertainty than the set rules of the 2015 Open Internet Order.

During the podcast, Ben also suggests that the FCC’s “success” in getting Comcast to stop throttling BitTorrent (pre-Title II) shows that we don’t need Title II, and that the FCC’s ex-post orders under Title I were sufficient. Except, once again, that ignores the actual history here. Yes, Comcast stopped throttling BitTorrent. But it took the FCC to court and won. So, what “worked” back in 2008 would not work the next time. It’s odd to claim that the FCC succeeded against Comcast when it lost the lawsuit. Comcast didn’t go back to throttling BitTorrent because other net neutrality rules were still pending (and because the company had agreed to some temporary net neutrality conditions for mergers. But those will go away).

I’ll just end with one final oddity from Ben’s position. During the podcast, he argues (as we have argued for a long time) that getting more competition should be the focus — and to get there he’s specifically a supporter of local loop unbundling. That’s the process by which the service layer is separated from the infrastructure layer and you can have multiple service providers offering service on the same fiber. I’m all for that as well. It’s what we had in the dialup days when there was a ton of competition. But… amazingly, what Ben seems unaware of, is that the law that enables local loop unbundling is Title II. It’s right there in Section 251(3). Of course, it’s important to note that the Wheeler order (unfortunately) deliberately promised not to make use of this part of the law (via “forbearance”). But moving away from Title II is, by definition, moving away from local loop unbundling. So to say you’re against Title II, but for local loop unbundling is just… strange.

The larger point here, though is that while there certainly were a number of reasons to be hesitant about supporting Title II or even explicit rules from the FCC a decade ago, enough things have happened that if you support net neutrality, supporting Title II is the only current way to get it. Ajit Pai’s plan gets rid of net neutrality. The courts have made it clear. The (non) competitive market has made it clear. The statements of the large broadband providers have made it clear. The concerns of the small broadband providers have made it clear. If Ben does support net neutrality, as he claims, then he should not support Pai’s plan. It does not and will not lead to the results he claims he wants. It is deliberately designed to do the opposite.

So, yes. For a long time — like Ben does now — I worried about an FCC presenting rules. But the courts made it clear that this was the only way to actually keep neutrality — short of an enlightened Congress. And the deteriorating market, combined with continued efforts and statements from the big broadband companies, made it clear that it was necessary. You can argue that the whole concept of net neutrality is bad — but, if you support the concept of net neutrality, and actually understand the history, then it’s difficult to see how you can support Pai’s plan. I hope that Ben will reconsider his position — especially since Pai himself has been retweeting Ben’s posts and tweets on this subject.

Update: And… just as this post was going live, Pai was, once again, tweeting about Ben’s post, even though Pai must know that Ben’s claims are wrong, and Pai’s plan does not match with what Ben claims:

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Comments on “Why I Changed My Mind On Net Neutrality”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Problem with NN.

Is the fact that they are now necessary in this regulatory cliamte. We would not even be talking about it if regulations were prevented from becoming so burdensome on consumers and the market.

As usual, over time, regulations have become nothing other than a way for big businesses to solidify their death grips on the economy.

Well meaning or not… you just simply will not stop corruption. You just WONT! The only result is varying degrees of that corruption where it is so common place that small to moderate levels of corruption are not even recognized for what they are.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "You just won't stop corruption"

That’s a pretty extreme presumption. I don’t think corruption can be defined so absolutely. Some of our departments and some of our industries are way more corrupt than others.

But let us put it this way: corruption increases proportionately to population as well as does possibility for logistical vectors and infrastructure. The bigger our population, the more keen services (power, water, internet, big science) become accessible to us. And the more we can keep corruption under control, the bigger we can get.

So this is a problem about which we have many incentives to not give up, especially since competing nations that do figure it out will roll right over us, if not through direct conquest, then by dominating our culture, supplanting our religion, and acting all imperialist at our social engagements.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "You just won't stop corruption"

“That’s a pretty extreme presumption.”

Lets take a look at the simple facts.
The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me.

How hard is it for any of us to start a new ISP?
Regulations make it hard, you will need loads of capital just to build the infrastructure and loads more to fight off all of the lawsuits by incumbent businesses.

You can dress it up however you like, but right now, the government is more of a problem for me than the businesses because government is now a paid front man FOR big business.

Lets solve the problem and stop wasting time on NN. It is just a symptom of the problem, and we all know that fixing the symptom does not fix the problem. It just makes you feel good until it is done killing you!

An Onymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "You just won't stop corruption"

How much do you get paid to shill this stuff? This is just more “but what about…” misdirection.

NN is about preventing the large corporations from abusing their near-monopoly positions and screwing the public. Saying “but it won’t stop corruption” is truly disingenuous as having no laws, rules or regulations on the books will surely do far less to protect the public.

Regulations or no, symptoms and root causes be damned, we need something right now to protect us while we work on a longer term solution (such as breaking up these corporations). Net Neutrality is it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "You just won't stop corruption"

“NN is about preventing the large corporations from abusing their near-monopoly positions and screwing the public.”

Regulations GAVE them their Monopolies. I guess you didn’t catch that part.

“Regulations or no, symptoms and root causes be damned, we need something right now to protect us while we work on a longer term solution (such as breaking up these corporations). Net Neutrality is it.”

Like I said… treating the symptom just makes you feel good while you are still dying. Sure NN will feel good. You can even dance in the streets and high five all your friends if you manage to get them to keep them.

But you are still going to have the same ISP choices and they are still going to find ways to throttle you in legal and other yet to be conceived ways. And you are still going to get those exorbitant bills and shit tasty customer service. And they are still going to try to get other providers to pay up by reclassifying things to skirt the law.

Kinda like how Kraft now calls their cheese natural instead of real.

You might be easy to fool, but I am not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "You just won't stop corruption"

The EU market is more regulated than the US one, and actually, it’s even more competitive.

It isn’t strange, at least in cities, to have 6-8 ISPs (at least) competing with each other to give you the service.

From what I’ve heard, Comcast will never hunt (or even want to) in AT&Ts or Verizons turf, and vice versa.

That doesn’t happen in the EU, where you see all major ISPs stabbing each other to get their share of the market.

Still, the problem isn’t with the regulation itself, but with the nature of it. You have pro-consumer regulation and anti-consumer regulation.

It’s up to you what you want: while an anti-consumer regulation “might” be better for business, it screws up you in one or other way.

On the other hand, pro-consumer regulation might sound as worse for business, but you forget the fact that there is already an unbalance in consumer-vendor relationships:

The vendor has the advantage, because it’s his job. He knows better the market, the loopholes, the deals and in general, he has more information than the customer in that area.

So in an apparently equal environment, you’re the one who is going to get screwed. This is like the casinos, the house always wins.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Market Allocation [was "You just won't stop corruption"]

From what I’ve heard, Comcast will never hunt (or even want to) in AT&Ts or Verizons turf, and vice versa.

Price Fixing, Bid Rigging, and Market Allocation Schemes:
What They Are and What to Look For
: An Antitrust Primer

Market Division

Market division or allocation schemes are agreements in which competitors divide markets among themselves. In such schemes, competing firms allocate specific customers or types of customers, products, or territories among themselves. . . .


What You Can Do

Antitrust violations are serious crimes that can cost a company hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and can send an executive to jail for up to ten years. These conspiracies are by their nature secret and difficult to detect. The Antitrust Division needs your help in uncovering them and bringing them to our attention.

If you think you have a possible violation or just want more information about what we do, contact the Citizen Complaint Center of the Antitrust Division.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "You just won't stop corruption"

“It isn’t strange, at least in cities, to have 6-8 ISPs (at least) competing with each other to give you the service.”

Not just cities. I’ve relayed this here before, but I live in an area with a population of around 30,000 people (technically 3 towns, but we count as one area for most reporting purposes), nowhere near a major city. I have a wide choice of operator – off the top of my head, at least 4 ISPs who can provide fibre service, slightly more than that who can provide ADSL (both of these going through lines owned by Telefonica), around the same number of mobile/4G operators and additional satellite and wireless options for people who live in areas too remote to have the above. The only thing I don’t have is a cable option, but I don’t really need it and am glad that fibre was installed instead when it came to my area.

A major part of the reason for all this? Regulators have forced Telefonica to allow others to use their lines, unbundle, install fibre to certain areas and so on. Without the regulators, they would have happily continued to monopolise the lines, provide as slow a service as possible and hoard the profits. Effective regulation have forced competition, and forced installation and it’s working very well for the consumer.

This obsessed fool seems to think it’s the regulators who have caused the problems. In reality, it’s the corporations he wants to hand everything over to who are at fault.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "You just won't stop corruption"

“Regulations GAVE them their Monopolies”

In part. But the real reason we have telecom oligopolies is because this industry is a “natural monopoly”.


It’s not caused by regs. It’s caused by naturally occurring:
High CapEx to start
Smaller Addressable market for new entrants
Higher total costs of redundant infrastructures
Economies of scale.

John Stuart Mill first explored natural monopolies, concluding that these services should either be delivered by the government, or by a tightly regulated private monopoly. We tend to call these businesses “utilities”.

So, the market failure you say regs will cause is a real risk. The the market failure with no regs is a SURE THING. Given the choice of being thrown in a volcano (no regs, certain market failure), or flipping a coin – heads we throw you in the volcano, tails we don’t (regs that may cause market failure)…you should prefer the coin toss.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "You just won't stop corruption"

I was just coming here to type this, but Derek beat me to it. If there’s any argument that regulations gave broadband providers their monopolies, it would be around local franchising (an attempted solution to the natural monopoly issue), which was a corrupt mess. But that’s separate from the FCC and net neutrality.

Of course, there are some — especially in the extreme libertarian camp where this regular commenter appears to reside, who like to argue that there’s no such thing as a natural monopoly. But those people are silly.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me."

Again, an extreme generalization and a false correlation. I can empathize with your frustration, but this is not a problem that is solved by simple, sweeping policy, and making decisions based on frustration isn’t going to fix things.

And if you’re saying that business-controlled government is a problem for you, how is that not saying business is the problem?

If the ISP industry had robust competition, then yes, providers that promised net neutrality (some do!) would be able to provide that as a feature. But given that the nation is served by too few companies, in some cases (like mine) there’s a regional monopoly.

When a necessary service is only accessible from a monopoly or a small group behaving as a cartel (such as an oligopoly) then they are an authoritarian power, in that they control the public by controlling its resources.

In the past, we’ve made monopolies illegal, but since the United States does not believe in competitive markets anymore, we have to control them by regulation.

If we give up the power to regulate dominating businesses, we give up liberty for oppression by those businesses.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me."

“The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me.”

Kinda like how regulations that say meat can’t be tainted screw us out of our right to eat rotten meat, or mad cow meat.

Methinks we have an extremist who refuses to see one side of the issue

Chip says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me."

My Doctor days ithere’s nothing wrong with eating “Rotten” meat!

He does Not have a “Medical License”. Who is the “Government Regulators” to tell “me” where I Should and Shouldn’t get “medical Advice”? Lwt the Free “market” decide, leftists!

Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "The more regulations we add, the more businesses seem to screw me."

“And if you’re saying that business-controlled government is a problem for you, how is that not saying business is the problem?”

More to the point, how does removing the government part and letting them control you directly and unopposed fix anything in any way?

That’s the end game with his ranting nonsense, and it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. If the fence protecting his sheep from the wolves is letting them get in too often, why does his solution involve removing the entire fence?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "You just won't stop corruption"

The idiot american thinking everybody else is about dominating them, and conquering, and imperialism, ROFL.

Supplanting our religion, loooooool. What are you a right wing extremist?

Will roll right over us. Hahahaha, but you have never been on top. You don’t have the greatest country in the world to live. Many indexes like Gini and HDI put many countries above USA in regards to quality of life, for a long time now, years.

Oh ignorance is bliss. Travel much?

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"As usual, over time, regulations have become nothing other than a way for big businesses to solidify their death grips on the economy."

Please explain how the current NN regs, in place for two years and popular with everyone except the big ISP thugs, are allowing "big businesses to solidify their death grips on the economy." No hypotheticals or dystopian predictions, no broad generalisations about regulation in general; tell us how are these rules that are about to be killed are harming consumers in any way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agree with you. What he meant is that over time greedy corporations start bending the law and enacting new ones in their favor by corrupting politicians. They game the system and the laws, through corruption, through lying, through propaganda, etc.

No law is perfect and those willing will eventually found holes in it. I think that was his point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The USA has a particularly corruptible method of appointing heads of regulatory agencies, that of political patronage by the president. Most other countries do things differently, in that agency heads are career civil servants, and political oversight and input is via the government appointing a secretary from the elected representatives of the people. This usually avoids the revolving door problem, where heads of agencies are always looking for the their next job.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Is the fact that they are now necessary in this regulatory cliamte.”

You spelt “corporate” wrong.

Once again, the regulations are there to try and stop corporations from screwing you as hard as they want to. The fact that they’re ineffectively and sometimes counter-productively implemented in the US is not a reason to remove all restrictions.

“As usual, over time, regulations have become nothing other than a way for big businesses to solidify their death grips on the economy.”

…and your fix is to remove the restrictions completely and hope they won’t do it in far worse ways. Good luck.

Anonymous Coward says:


That’s an excellent article that sums up many key points.

I also wonder if existing anti-trust laws will ever be dusted off and applied to broadband. Because the future seems rather predictable, and we’ll probably one day see the end result in which all major broadband providers are also content providers, and who have established “fast lanes” for their own in-house content, as well as bundling services to customers, resulting in the vast majority of cable internet users also buying that company’s VOD and content streaming services, thereby in effect locking out competing services from the marketplace.

If we don’t want complete vertical integration of cable TV/telephone/internet/VOD/radio/etc in our local monopoly (or duopoly) provider, then we should think about what steps can be taken to avoid that future likelyhood, because the eventual end-result looks an awful lot like a single all-encompassing walled garden of the kind that the 19th century trust-busters worked so hard to bust up..

Anonymous Coward says:

NN and the 13th amendment.

I’ve concluded that it is completely unnecessary to even talk about networking when characterizing the NN debate. It is really all about the business models.

Backbone providers sell pipe. Edge providers sell higher efficiency delivery so you don’t have to buy pipe. Content providers sell content and advertising. Consumer broadband providers who violate NN are selling eyeballs.

The issue here isn’t the network, and it isn’t about “what” they’re selling. It is “who” they are selling. Those eyeballs do not belong to them.

The details of the network hardly matter. They’ve intentionally isolated their companies into positions fundamentally conflict with the 13th amendment.

The utility of a humans behavior, is being occupied in offensive ways without consent or compensation, on the behalf of a party who is generating revenue from that occupation. Is there any other way to define “involuntary servitude”?

The 13th amendment did not stipulate that it only applies to certain organs of the body. The labor utility of my eyeballs belongs to me. I cannot separate myself from that utility even if I wanted to. There has been plenty of precedent in the U.S. that a human cannot legally divorce themselves of their 13th amendment rights under contract.

It isn’t about networking. It is about billing for services that are provided unwillingly and without compensation. Comcast is levying a charge to Netflix, to provide access to human behavior that Comcast doesn’t own, and is explicitly prohibited by law, from selling.

Their business model is fundamentally unlawful. In many many ways. But the one that requires almost no understanding of tech at all, is that the “product” that Comcast is selling to content providers, simply isn’t Comcasts to sell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NN and the 13th amendment.

Interesting argument.

But remember… the government OWNS you.

If you don’t think so… avoid paying taxes and find out how many people with guns come to remind you of a few things.

On a positive note… they won’t break your legs, but they will send you somewhere that has people that might be willing to break them.

no_account says:

Re: Re: NN and the 13th amendment.

But remember… the government OWNS you.

If you don’t think so… avoid paying taxes and find out how many people with guns come to remind you of a few things.

People say that all the time, and is not at all true. From first hand experience and from direct knowledge of many, many other examples: if you don’t pay your taxes, the government will fine you, garnish your wages if you work, or seize property you own. Generally people don’t go to jail for it, and they certainly don’t send armed marshals to your door over it (unlike failing to pay your rent on time while non-white, or other insults to hegemony).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: NN and the 13th amendment.

“If you don’t think so… avoid paying taxes and find out how many people with guns come to remind you of a few things.”

Yep, you fail to pay the bills that come with providing the many benefits of a modern society that you enjoy, and you’ll find people coming for the payment. Avoid paying any other bill, and sooner or later you’ll end up being chased for the money or cut off (or both).

Same with anything else, but I never see ranting morons talking about how it’s theft for them to pay, for example, their grocery bill, only the the taxes that make sure it’s safe to transport and eat.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: NN and the 13th amendment.

But remember… the government OWNS you.

No, you own the government. It’s like a dog; if you feed it and train it, etc., Fido will give you years of love and service but if you neglect and starve it don’t be surprised if it goes feral and attacks sheep, etc.

AC @ 12:59pm your line of reasoning actively prevents effecting a solution to government overreach, which would be to do more to hold it to account. You’d be amazed at the effectiveness of public pressure on Our Glorious Leaders, I see this all the time. They fear public opinion and they love guys like you, who would rather cry, "Gubmint bay-ad!" than get on the phone, call them up, and demand change on pain of losing you vote come election time. This is why I’ve always said that Libertarianism is an intellectual dead end: all you lot can do is repeat the same old tired talking points and whinge instead of offering solutions.


Any time I ask how you intend to overcome anti-competitive practices the best you can suggest is "Do without." What you forget is if you take the labels away from the people inflicting the actual tyranny, it’s all tyranny. I’d rather have a system wherein I can hold the powers that be to account with a vote than with the paltry few quid I earn as a call centre worker.

MyNameHere (profile) says:


While your post and your thoughts are measured and thorough, I think you missed one measurement that changed it all:

Is Title II standing worth kicking the FTC to the curb, and are the supposed offenses of the past not better served and dealt with within existing laws and legal frameworks.

As an example, would blocking a big part of the internet and denying certain companies access to products not be an anti-trust violation? You (and Karl) often repeat that ISPs are monopoly players. In that situation, would not the stringent overview of the FTC be better to assure a fair and level playing field? Is there a reason to essentially lock the FTC out?

Moreover, isn’t the longer term goal the concept of either getting competition in the last mile or turning the last mile into a commons where many companies can compete? NN would seem to instead lock the current system in and make it harder to move forward.

FamilyManFirst (profile) says:

Re: Measured

What part of Title II standing would kick the FTC to the curb? Heck, the FTC took action against AT&T (and are being sued for it) while Title II was in effect.

The "offenses of the past" are not "supposed," they are well-documented abuses of the monopoly and near-monopoly power that ISPs have committed.

As this article and many others have iterated, the "overview of the FTC" is not stringent. There is already a legal question about whether the FTC will have the legal basis to deal with ISPs at all. Moreover, the FTC is already overburdened and must choose its battles. The ISPs are counting on that.

Finally, NN doesn’t "lock the current system in" in any way. It’s a set of rules of what ISPs are not allowed to do, not a set of rules about what ISPs must do. If we, the public, get our heads out of our behinds and pressure our representatives to remove the state regulations that bar local competition, NN will have no impact on new ISP businesses, save to prevent them from crafting NN-violating policies themselves.

I applaud your attempt to appear reasonable, but you read like an industry shill. Go find some other venue; TD readers are too well-informed to fall prey to this kind of rhetoric.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Measured

“What part of Title II standing would kick the FTC to the curb? Heck, the FTC took action against AT&T (and are being sued for it) while Title II was in effect.”

That wasn’t related to internet service, rather related to “cramming” on mobile bills (voice / text message services)


“As this article and many others have iterated, the “overview of the FTC” is not stringent. There is already a legal question about whether the FTC will have the legal basis to deal with ISPs at all. Moreover, the FTC is already overburdened and must choose its battles. The ISPs are counting on that.”

This is true in some senses, but misleading in others. The egregious issues forecast if NN is removed would most certainly rise to a level that the FTC would get involved. The use of monopoly power to favor one over another, to promote your own products at the detriment to others, the denying of access to websites or products, all would situations that the FTC would best address. More important, the FTC has the power to enforce tougher resolutions to issues, including using anti-trust measures to break up monopolies.

With Title II and NN rules in place, the FTC has their hands tied. Provided ISPs respect those rules (no matter how poorly), the FTC is unlikely to have anything specific to take action on. The end result is that monopoly power stays with the incumbent players and there is little reason to move ahead.

“Finally, NN doesn’t “lock the current system in” in any way. It’s a set of rules of what ISPs are not allowed to do, not a set of rules about what ISPs must do. “

While it is written like the former, it actually ends up creating the latter. It very much puts ISPs into a mode of maintaining their internet services at a reasonable but not impressive level, and to move on to other things.

The vast majority of improvements made at Comcast, example, is to support their X1 cable box. That is internal reserved bandwidth (as per standard) and not really an internet improvement per se. Improvements are made only as they benefit the companies themselves, and no others – and certainly not consumers. They will instead be pushing forward with payTV solutions that don’t invoke the NN rules, essentially stunting the internet side in favor of their own services.

“I applaud your attempt to appear reasonable, but you read like an industry shill. Go find some other venue; TD readers are too well-informed to fall prey to this kind of rhetoric.”

First, a personal attack isn’t needed. I am not an industry shill.

Second, and this is important: Mike’s opinion is that, an opinion. With only a few minor blips (quickly dealy with, it should be noted) the internet has had 20 years of incredibly strong growth without regulation. It is without dispute that without NN style regulations, the internet has flourished around the world. Some of the most unregulated markets have some of the fastest internet speeds and are powering forward. The US is engaged in regulatory navel gazing, and is rapidly falling behind.

Would it not be better to choose a better battle? The whole pole / one touch make ready situation is perhaps the biggest hinderance to true competition in the ISP world. The Title II declaration of 2015 purposely avoided that issue. Isn’t that where the most energy needs to be spent? If Google and others could easily roll out fiber in every major city in the next few years, don’t you think that “net neutrality” would be better served in that manner? Consumers with choice don’t need a nanny state to regulate services.

ECA (profile) says:


Enforcement on both sides..
Pro and Con..

Lets think about a CORP trying to get away with something..Like RENAME something, and say its NOT the same as the other name..Its different, so its not covered by THAT law..

Lets be a Enforcement agency..TRYING to Enforce the basic rules, and NOT get complicated.. While dealing with an Intelligent 2 year old, that Just renamed something, so it would NOT be the same..

Try to be this agency and KNOW how things work, and All the parts needed to be Covered under regulations..
4 Parts to DATA transfer..
How long it takes to GET THERE..
HOW long it take THAT computer to Send the data..
And each part of this adds to What You all call LAG..

As an ISP, I Could take PART of this and Add Just ABIT of extra timing to Do things..

So trying NOT to get complicated, MEANS you have to get complicated..

Ninja (profile) says:


Because they should always be as fast as the connection you bought, without discriminating traffic. If you choose to stuff your pipes with cat videos they should come at the same speed regardless of if you are loading from Youtube and from Dailymotion.

It’s quite simple, really. I’m amused that you can’t understand it.

PaulT (profile) says:


“NN basically says there cannot be slow and fast lanes, but it doesn’t even start to cover how fast those lanes should be”

Because those are 2 completely separate issues.

NN means that your ISP should not be able to make traffic 10x faster to their own video servers than to those owned by other companies. They should not be able to make one company’s content go faster to your client than a competitor because they pay more money. It doesn’t cover them screwing you because it’s more profitable to give you a 10Mb connection instead of upgrading your line to 1Gb, or refusing to spend money installing better lines in your area because they have zero competition.

These are very different issues, which you are presumably conflating because you have nothing on the issues actually involving NN.

Anonymous Coward says:


“NN basically says there cannot be slow and fast lanes, but it doesn’t even start to cover how fast those lanes should be”

How fast they should be is covered by false advertising laws. NN offenders pretty much all engage in rampant false advertising of their capacity. And that reality can be validated by subpeoning their QOS switch configurations.

They advertise a rate to the consumer that they can’t sustain at the peers. Instead of advertising actual capacity or building more peering, they corrupt the whole Internet to make their lie irrelevant.

Which goes to the other point as well. If the FTC was able to deal with this THEY ALREADY WOULD HAVE. Because false advertising is definitely within their wheelhouse.

MyNameHere (profile) says:


This is where I can’t take you seriously.

I have already pointed out that Comcast is in the process of upgrading the IP network. They aren’t doing it to make the internet faster, they are upgrading it to run the X1 IPTV boxes. What is important about this sort of technology is that it runs in it’s own internal reserved lane, and is not part of the general internet traffic.

So, they can work to improve their cable TV style product, give greater choice, more pay per view, more optional programming, and still not be in any way in violation of the NN.

The reality is that in some cases, if enough consumers are using the sort of thing, it might actually limit the amount of bandwidth available on their network for internet users at peak times.

All of this, of course, not in violation of NN. Things that use the IP networking but are not “internet” aren’t part of NN.

So you see, while you can say “well, that isn’t NN, is it?” it’s an explanation of why it appears a company like Comcast is still spending on their network when in fact it’s not at all for internet users. For your reference (in case you are too laxy to look) all of the reports saying “look, they are still spending on their networks with NN” also show Comcast as one of the biggest spenders. Now you know why, and why it’s not really a truthful conclusion.

Anonymous Coward says:


“upgrading the IP network”

That is what you do before you advertise transmission rates, not after.

“X1 IPTV boxes”

You’re conflating public and private OSI layer 2 networks to suggest that applying filtering on public networks isn’t distinct from selling private virtual circuits. Private network products are not effected by title II. Your argument is completely irrelevant.

“Comcast as one of the biggest spenders.”

You are conflating size with service. Yes they spend a lot of money. But they have always shoe-string budgeted their hardware, and used more of it than necessary to constrain access.

Proprietary CPE is redundant in the modern market. The ONLY reason it exists is to deny service. And the fact that they are now using CPE nodes to offer wifi, is a crime against the 3rd amendment.

So how much do you get in your Packi shill center to make these bullshit claims? Do you get paid by the post, or is it hourly?

MyNameHere (profile) says:


“You’re conflating public and private OSI layer 2 networks to suggest that applying filtering on public networks isn’t distinct from selling private virtual circuits. Private network products are not effected by title II. Your argument is completely irrelevant. “

You almost understood my point. People are pointing to Comcast upgrading their IP network and saying “look, they are still investing in the internet, NN hasn’t stopped them”, but the reality is that Comcast’s investment in their IP network is to support their own products. They aren’t upgrading for better internet (they might in passing achieve that, probably at a higher retail price) they are upgrading so they can ditch their legacy stuff over time,

“So how much do you get in your Packi shill center to make these bullshit claims? “

I can honestly say you are a racist pig. Hopefully everyone downvotes your racist comment into history.

PaulT (profile) says:


Once again, you’re either missing the argument others are making, or deliberately making something up to attack because you can’t address the words actually being said by others.

Look back through this thread. You said “NN basically says there cannot be slow and fast lanes, but it doesn’t even start to cover how fast those lanes should be”. I answered by saying you’re conflating 2 completely separate issues and the latter actually has nothing to do with NN. You then reply with a load of irrelevant drivel about how you think Comcast are updating their network, while not addressing the fact that you were, once again, completely wrong about an objective claim.

It is rather sad that you insist on inventing arguments to “win” rather than addressing the issues at hand, but you are wrong on the subject actually being discussed here.

ECA (profile) says:

Its wonderful

Iv seen SLOW and Boost speed on the net..
Iv seen 16gig transfer in LSS THAN 30min, with a 150mbps connection.
Iv seen the SAME connection take 6-8 hours..And HIT 56kbps..
Iv seen Downloaders RUN GREAT, until you start up another connection like Youtube THEN FALL into the DIRT..For no reason..
Not ALWAYS sure WHO is doing what, the ISP, the Main Server, the Downloader, WINDOWS slowing things down..

Richard Bennett (user link) says:

Masnick has his facts wrong

Like most TechDirt posts, this one is long on emotion and short on facts. Most of the alleged facts aren’t facts at all, but merely advocacy group talking points.

Here’s Mike’s most egregious error: Title I means ISPs will be subject to the same ex post legal guidelines that apply to Cloudflare, Rackspace, Google, Facebook, and the rest of the Internet Association’s members. Mike denies this , but the enforcement mechanism is the FTC and the rule book is the FTC Act, the Clayton Act, and the Sherman Act. The FCC is a poor judge of economic harm, as we’ve seen since 2005.

The FCC has never won a net neutrality enforcement case, so we’re losing nothing by shifting market regulation to an agency that knows how to do it lawfully.

Net neutrality is policy fraud and its supporters are suckers.

intrautarchy says:

Net Neutrality was Deceptive … getting rid of it should bring about more space to decentralize our telecommunications infrastructures from techocrats

Net Neutrality is the next greatest sike out that will usher in yet another government-mandated, privately-owned cartel for only those that can afford it while stifling competition at the lowest points of entry into providing internet services. The last government-designated cartel of this magnitude was the Federal Reserve, which was created out of a well-coordinated string of financial "failures" and was orchestrated by the private owners of the soon-to-be-secured-by-income-taxes Federal Reserve:

Goodbye Net Neutrality; Hello Competition

We should take our deregulation where we can get it.

At long last, with the end of “net neutrality,” competition could soon come to the industry that delivers Internet services to you. You might be able to pick among a range of packages, some minimalist and some maximalist, depending on how you use the service. Or you could choose a package that charges based only on what you consume, rather than sharing fees with everyone else.

Internet socialism is dead; long live market forces.

With market-based pricing finally permitted, we could see new entrants to the industry because it might make economic sense for the first time to innovate. The growing competition will lead, over the long run, to innovation and falling prices. Consumers will find themselves in the driver’s seat rather than crawling and begging for service and paying whatever the provider demands.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, is exactly right. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

A Fed for Communication

The old rules pushed by the Obama administration had locked down the industry with regulation that only helped incumbent service providers and major content delivery services. They called it a triumph of “free expression and democratic principles.” It was anything but. It was actually a power grab. It created an Internet communication cartel not unlike the way the banking system works under the Federal Reserve.

Net Neutrality had the backing of all the top names in content delivery, from Google to Yahoo to Netflix to Amazon. It’s had the quiet support of the leading Internet service providers Comcast and Verizon. Both companies are on record in support of the principle, repeatedly and consistently, while opposing only Title II which makes them a public utility – a classic "have your cake and eat it" position.

The opposition, in contrast, had been represented by small players in the industry, hardware providers like Cisco, free-market think tanks and disinterested professors, and a small group of writers and pundits who know something about freedom and free-market economics.

The public at large should have been rising up in opposition, but people were largely ignorant of what was going on with net neutrality. Consumers imagined that they would get censorship-free access and low prices. That’s not what happened.

Here’s what’s was really going on with net neutrality. The incumbent rulers of the world’s most exciting technology decided to lock down the prevailing market conditions to protect themselves against rising upstarts in a fast-changing market. The imposition of a rule against throttling content or using the market price system to allocate bandwidth resources protects against innovations that would disrupt the status quo.

Industrial Giants

What was sold as economic fairness and a wonderful favor to consumers was actually a sop to industrial giants who were seeking untrammeled access to your wallet and an end to competitive threats to market power.

Let’s grasp the position of the large content providers. Here we see the obvious special interests at work. Netflix, Amazon, and the rest don’t want ISPs to charge either them or their consumers for their high-bandwidth content. They would rather the ISPs themselves absorb the higher costs of such provision. It’s very clear how getting the government to make price discrimination illegal is in their interest. It means no threats to their business model.

By analogy, let’s imagine that a retailer furniture company were in a position to offload all their shipping costs to the trucking industry. By government decree, the truckers were not permitted to charge any more or less whether they were shipping one chair or a whole houseful of furniture. Would the furniture sellers favor such a deal? Absolutely. They could call this “furniture neutrality” and fob it off on the public as preventing control of furniture by the shipping industry.

But that leaves the question about why the opposition from the ISPs themselves (the truckers by analogy) would either be silent or quietly in favor of such a rule change. Here is where matters get complicated. After many years of experimentation in the provision of Internet services — times when we went from telephone dial-up to landlines to T1 connections to 4G and 5G data coverage — the winner in the market (for now) has been the cable companies. Consumers prefer the speed and bandwidth over all existing options.

But what about the future? What kind of services are going to replace the cable services, which are by-and-large monopolies due to special privileges from states and localities? It’s hard to know for sure but there are some impressive ideas out there. Costs are falling for all kinds of wireless and even distributed systems.

Raising Costs

If you are a dominant player in the market — an incumbent firm like Comcast and Verizon — you really face two threats to your business model. You have to keep your existing consumer base onboard and you have to protect against upstarts seeking to poach consumers from you.

For established firms, a rule like net neutrality can raise the costs of doing business, but there is a wonderful upside to this: your future potential competitors face the same costs. You are in a much better position to absorb higher costs than those barking at your heels. This means that you can slow down development, cool it on your investments in fiber optics, and generally rest on your laurels more.

But how can you sell such a nefarious plan? You get in good with the regulators. You support the idea in general, with some reservations, while tweaking the legislation in your favor. You know full well that this raises the costs to new competitors. When it passes, call it a vote for the “open internet” that will “preserve the right to communicate freely online.”

Neutrality was Deceptive

But when you look closely at the effects, the reality was exactly the opposite. Net neutrality closed down market competition by generally putting government and its corporate backers in charge of deciding who can and cannot play in the market. It erected barriers to entry for upstart firms while hugely subsidizing the largest and most well-heeled content providers.

So what are the costs to the rest of us? It meant no price reductions in internet service. It could mean the opposite. Your bills went up and there was very little competition. It also meant a slowing down in the pace of technological development due to the reduction in competition that followed the imposition of this rule. In other words, it was like all government regulation: most of the costs were unseen, and the benefits were concentrated in the hands of the ruling class.

There was an additional threat: the FCC had reclassified the internet as a public utility. It meant a blank check for government control across the board. Think of the medical marketplace, which is now entirely owned by a non-competitive cartel of industry insiders. This was the future of the internet under net neutrality.

Good riddance, then. No more government-managed control of the industry. No more price fixing. No more of the largest players using government power to protect their monopoly structure.

In the short term, the shift by the FCC does not mean the immediate emergence of a free marketplace for Internet service. But it is a step. If we let this experiment in liberalization run a few years, we will see massive new entrants into the sector. As with every good or service provided by market forces, consumers will gain the benefit of innovation and falling prices.

The end of net neutrality is the best single deregulatory initiative yet taken by the Trump administration. The simultaneous, contradictory, and economically absurd attempt by the Justice Department to stop the merger of Time-/Warner and AT&T–which might only be a government attempt to punish CNN and therefore an abuse of presidential power–is another matter for another time.

We should take our deregulation where we can get it."

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Net Neutrality was Deceptive … getting rid of it should bring about more space to decentralize our telecommunications infrastructures from techocrats

Well, that was a bunch of misleading crap. You can usually tell when someone uses “socialism” as an attack on something that was literally created by public funding.

Why do you people have to insist on lying about net neutrality in order to criticise it? Do you not have factual information to depend upon?

Anonymous Coward says:

Ben's Response

Ben posted a response in his daily newsletter

Several folks have asked me to respond to Mike Masnick’s piece on TechDirt disagreeing with me on Title II, and yesterday’s post is a useful place to start. Specifically, there was an obvious tension in my discussion of antitrust: if I am concerned about a lack of competition, then why would I not favor FCC regulation via Title II?

The answer lies in what Masnick does not discuss: investment. Were broadband static, I would be much less concerned about regulatory overhead; however, there is a clear correlation between the expansion of broadband over the last twenty years and the explosion of tech as an economic force. To that end, my bias is strongly in favor of maintaining the status quo (which has resulted in investment — but not enough!) absent clear evidence that something as heavy-handed as Title II is necessary. Unfortunately, Masnick does not spend a single word discussing the most important reason I’m willing to wait-and-see.

In addition, I am surprised to hear that Masnick used to be against Title II a decade ago but now is for it; if anything, the competitive situation today is much better than it was ten years ago. Wireless is a viable substitute for much of what we do online (except streaming — again the tension!), and most major metropolitan areas now have at least two high-speed wired options; neither was the case a decade ago. Again, I don’t think this is good enough, but things are ever-so-slightly better — and the tension between investment and regulation, which I discussed at length and which Masnick does not address, remains.

There are obviously other areas where I disagree with Masnick’s piece, particularly some of his characterizations of my positions, but for now I plan to leave the issue alone. I appreciate the many emails I received, both in support and in opposition to my pieces; for what it’s worth, I am the opposite of Masnick — I was in favor of the Title II approach, and then changed my mind while researching and writing those pieces. What is clear, though, is that many people have already made up their minds, or, more accurately, classified the issue as a partisan test of loyalty, and while I welcome sincere disagreement (like Masnick), I’m not interested in being either a prop or a punching bag.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How convenient that you "changed your mind" just in time for the fake net neutrality support PR stunt Google and Facebook are pulling

Huh? No, I changed my mind about 5 years ago. And if you look back through the past few years of our net neutrality coverage we’ve slammed Google and Facebook for their failure to give a damn.

But, yes, how convenient for someone to state things against me that are clearly untrue.

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