Why Is The Justice Department Commenting On Net Neutrality?

from the not-really-their-area-of-interest dept

There's been a fair amount of chatter over the Justice Department's decision to comment to the FCC about network neutrality, but there's been almost no discussion as to why the Justice Department should be involved at all. It's true that the DOJ covers anti-trust issues, but this isn't about a merger or the potential to create a monopoly. While I'm not in favor of regulating network neutrality, there are a bunch of really questionable statements in the DOJ's filing that simply don't make much sense. Take, for example, the following statement: "Regulators should be careful not to impose regulations that could limit consumer choice and investment in broadband facilities." If the DOJ really feels that way, then shouldn't it have also come out against the FCC's decision to do-away with line sharing rules that actually did allow for competition? Does the DOJ not realize that the market for broadband is already heavily regulated, which is why most consumers here only have one or two choices -- compared to other countries that have created more open markets on top of the infrastructure, allowing for competition, faster speeds and increased innovation? Does the DOJ really not realize how many gov't subsidies and handouts have been given to the telcos so that they could build networks where no one else could enter the market in the same manner?

The DOJ also makes the bizarre argument that without breaking net neutrality, broadband providers will never make enough money to upgrade their networks. It's a dumb argument for the same reason that it's a dumb argument to claim that without network neutrality, it'll be too costly for certain sites to make enough money to offer cool services to users. Both arguments are ridiculous because they focus on the specific benefits to one private party and not how they impact the rest of the market -- and the DOJ shouldn't have any interest in focusing on the benefits of a single private party (and it's even worse for the DOJ to do so under the false guise of "free market" economics). Sure, without network neutrality telcos might be able to make more money in the short term. But you could just as easily argue that if network neutrality remains, it'll be easier (and cheaper) to create the next generation of killer apps that will make more bandwidth more valuable (allowing the telcos to profit handsomely). And, it's not even worth going into the DOJ's use of the thoroughly debunked claim comparing network neutrality to different delivery speeds at the post office. Basically, the DOJ brief (and, again, it's still not clear why they even have an opinion on this) repeats a bunch of the misleading half-truths that the telcos have spouted for months. Yet, it doesn't touch on the really key issue: there simply isn't real competition in the broadband market. Allowing the telcos to break network neutrality doesn't change that.

Filed Under: doj, fcc, net neutrality

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  1. icon
    Richard Ahlquist (profile), 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:06am

    The whole reason the justice dept is commenting is

    They want to allow providers to put a BOX in the middle between you and the destination and that BOX can bandwidht shape and it also servers as a jumping off point for data monitoring.


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

  2. identicon
    RandomThoughts, 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:17am

    Data monitoring? Don't they just use the central office for that?

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

  3. identicon
    matt, 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:18am

    you're a bit late

    they already do that, it's called sandvine.

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

  4. identicon
    matt, 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:19am

    Re: The whole reason the justice dept is commentin

    mind you it is well intentioned and has potentially bandwith increasing use, but can also be used to completely filter a specific type of communication/prevent things such as bittorrent sseeding (comcast uses sandvine)

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

  5. identicon
    Deborah Gray, 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:21am

    Given the black eye(s) the DOJ has received recently, maybe they should keep quiet for a while, and certainly not comment on things that are not within their jurisdiction.

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

  6. identicon
    ReallyEvilCanine, 7 Sep 2007 @ 10:51am

    Missing link

    Mike, I think you wanted to link "faster speeds" (just before the link to "increased innovation") to this graphic.

    As far as the DoJ's involvement, it's purely political, paybacks to the telecomms for their donations.

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

  7. identicon
    RandomThoughts, 7 Sep 2007 @ 11:40am

    In terms of faster speeds, who cares? Most people don't really need faster speeds. They are content with what Cable provides today (or FiOS or DSL for that matter.)

    What would you do with a 100mbs connection anyway? Most servers wouldn't deliver anything on that scale anyway.

    Om Malik wrote a good article on this topic, he tried one out and found that what he has now isn't any different than if he were on 100 mbs. Granny doesn't need 100mbs to check her email once a week.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:08pm

    Who needs faster speeds anyway? Besides, if you drive faster than 35mph, the air goes by so fast you can't even breathe it.

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

  9. identicon
    The Business Perspective, 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:44pm

    NetNeutrality is Lies, Lies, Damned Lies

    AT&T had to divest much of their unused fiber as part of the terms for the BellSouth/SBC merger, and has to dig up the roads again to adequately compete with companies like Level3, which won a Smithsonian Award for a "Upgradable network".. As part of the divestiture, AT&T can't fully compete and bring most specifically, video to it's millions of customers across the USA. Also, it's interesting to note AT&T's involvement with the NSA, and that many senior folks at AT&T contributed to Bush's election.

    All the bandwidth in the world exists, but it's not in the hands of AT&T or Verizon... They have to partner with Level3 or Qwest or another major backbone provider.

    This whole debate is nothing more than the outcome of good lobbyists, by a company that decides to compete through legislative action, while hiding the core problem behind a very thin veil.

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

  10. identicon
    RandomThoughts, 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:50pm

    Doesn't do you any good to have a car that goes 100 mph if you just have to sit on the side of the road to wait your turn.

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

  11. identicon
    Pappy Gargamel, 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:53pm

    Video Over IP.... Maybe sometime

    In Germany, they are offer 70+ HDTV Channels, 2000 on-demand programs, delivered thru HDMI to your HDTV... The IPTV service comes with 80GB media reciever with TiVO-capabilities, home phone service, delivered over VDSL2 (50 Mbit/s downstream, 10 Mbit/s upstream) starting at a paltry 49.95€ /month.

    Sounds like U-Verse.

    Of course, the Country's Telecom Monopoly also owns the backbone.

    Below is a piece of creative they are using to advertise the service.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2007 @ 1:45pm

    I imagine proper legislation will be put in place if the system starts to get abused. But I can somewhat see the need for freedom at this point. There are lots of technologies for prioritizing bandwidth that make sense for everybody. For instance, VoIP and video-streaming technologies need reliable, high-quality bandwidth to work properly. On the other hand, data like e-mail and file downloads can easily be broken up into bits and pieces that get routed around other, higher-priority traffic, with little to no noticeable effect on the end-user side.

    What I have a problem with is abuse of this technology, which would allow businesses with the biggest bank account to try and squash out the competition. If and when that actually happens, then the need for legislation will be revisited. Until now, it's best to leave it alone. I am always in favor of fewer laws and smaller government. After all, everybody is human, and if we (humans) can't control our own lives, what makes you think the government (also composed of humans) can do any better?

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2007 @ 2:37pm


    Heh, I always love the comment "who needs faster, bigger, better...".

    I want faster speeds. I live in London and have a 24Mbit connection syncing at 16Mbit. That effectively gives me a download speed of approximately 1.5MB per second. Now that is definately fast and I do appreciate the speed. But the reality is even at that speed it will take several hours (longer than real time) to deliver a fully fledged HD movie.

    The UK may only have started to offer online, on demand content and admittedly the quality is no where near high enough to require fast speeds, but I want the day to come when I can get an HD subscription from BT, the BBC or whoever is offering on demand content online and I want it at the very least in real time.

    Now scale that demand up to a household running 2 TVs or 3 all watching multiple HD channels. Then BAM there's where you need phenominal speeds. Even if you seriously compress the HD source.

    As for Grandma, frankly I don't care what she wants I care what I want.

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

  14. identicon
    Matt Bennett, 7 Sep 2007 @ 2:38pm

    Uh, they have an opinion cuz someone, somewhere, whether inside the DOJ or an outsider who could pressure on it, was bribed. Duh. It could be illegal bribes, but more likely was the usual scuzzy-but-legal campaign contributions or lobbyists. Duh.

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

  15. identicon
    Iron Chef, 7 Sep 2007 @ 3:16pm

    The Intertubes are overflowing.

    I was chatting about this with a colleague in Anaheim, CA the other day... As the NavStar/SiRF constellation reaches end of life, (these are the satellites that provide GPS data) wouldn't it be an interesting idea if the replacements had additional transponders on it to facilitate highspeed internet?

    Sure it would only be fast on the downlink, but for example, the iPhone could use terrestrial connections for requests. It's also in a MEO or medium Earth Orbit so the latency isn't too bad.

    CableLabs just ratified DOCSIS 3.0 which enables 160MBps, which is hawt.

    Point is that there wouldn't be anything to fight about if it was available in excess. Instead of controlling the scarce resource, be it Oil, internet, or civil liberties (Shameless plug- Yes, Ron Paul would be a breath of fresh air), we should probably look at solutions that flood the market with it.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2007 @ 5:51pm


    It is interesting that the DOJ felt the need to weigh in. It's very interesting about timing too because it looks like

    But I agree with the above posts. The solution to increased usage is not restricting usage. The solution to increased usage is increased infrastructure.

    Who you cater to is very easy to understand by which side of the issue they are on, and yes it smells like a bribe to me. The sooner the telecoms wake up and realize that they are a utility just like water, gas, and electric, the better.


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

  17. identicon
    PJ, 8 Sep 2007 @ 12:09am

    Who needs bandwidth anyway?

    Don't make me dust off TheDraw!

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

  18. identicon
    Taylor Bentwell, 8 Sep 2007 @ 6:59am

    Its called bait and switch. Start the internet and get businesses to invest in setting up shop under the pretense that it is open and fair.

    After everyone gets on board, and sets up shop, switch to oh sorry we think we will now charge you on whatever we feel like based on whatever else we feel like.

    Bend over America, and thank GWB for the priveledge.

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

  19. identicon
    Bill Burns, 8 Sep 2007 @ 7:10am

    Net neutrality

    Every time the government is involved there is a giant cluster. Let the people decide at voting time. Sounds like there is something rotting in Denmark and someone at the DOJ has some pocket lining to loose (money) here. Why wait as long to get our packets as it takes to get our mail. Send all these suites with there hands in the till to Europe to see how its done.

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

  20. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, 8 Sep 2007 @ 8:28am


    I have tried several times to respond to this comment and had to delete it and try again. This comment is so stupid that I just can't find the words.

    Your talking about leaving the system the way it is even if more and more people are realising how slow they are forced to go. More and more people are getting online witch causes the rest to slow down along with them. More people are being introduced to YouTube and others every day. How many Xbox 360s, Wiis and PS3s are out there right now downloading vary large files? (Filled my 12G HDD in 5 days and didn't pay for any of it)

    The image of the granny that checks her E-Mail only once a week is dying. Even mine, who was one, is starting to complain that her dial-up is too slow. I told her to go to broadband but no one offers it in her aria. NO ONE.

    Having 100M down isn't to get one download going at the full 100 but to have several while one is streaming or video chatting with a friend. Even with my Comcast running at 20-24M down and 1.5M up it's really hard to do video chat. I have a security cam running at my place to let me monitor it from work. How many live web-cams are out there. Damn, I could go on forever.

    Don't let the cable or DSL companies tell you that no one needs any more. Don't let them show you the granny who only goes online for 5min at a time and tell you it's the norm. Definitely don't let them tell you that if you download more than 5G a month it must be for illegal things.

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

  21. identicon
    Dick Fer, 8 Sep 2007 @ 8:46pm

    Government backing

    Frankly, I think the Justice Department needs to shut the fuck up.
    The flunkies in the Justice Department need to realize that they are NOT in the legislative branch. At no time do I want the Justice Department to decide what is (and what isn't) law. I want them to FOLLOW the law. Period. End of story. Shut up, go about your business, and don't "comment" on what you think. You're not paid to legislate.
    As for AT&T and their business model, at no time do I trust any of the big telecommunications carriers. They are not looking to serve us. They are looking to separate us from our money. They have very little concern for providing a quality product. They cherry-pick. They abuse the system. They do whatever they can to influence and interpret the rules to benefit themselves and no one else.
    If AT&T and the other carriers had their way, we'd get a low-priced AWFUl service, and an extremely over-priced "better" service, and a high-priced "best" service.
    If you think you want disparity between rich and poor people, wait until AT&T has their way. The rich will have fantastic connections. The poor will be left with the crumbs.

    We already have an FCC that kisses AT&T's ass. Let's not get a Justice Department (or any other department) that does too. Can we impeach the Justice Department?

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

  22. identicon
    dondoo, 10 Sep 2007 @ 6:42pm

    what a sham

    The whole sham starts way back when the founder of AT&T partnered with the US Government and the US Military. His goal? "One company to serve all" ...... period. Simple fact is that they have been in bed together from the very beginning. Our Grandparents, our Parents, and ourselves have paid for the lines (all of them), which were funded by taxpayer dollars from the very beginning. As part of "the deal" our wisest of the wise politicos and their lobbyist cronies (which is also not a new development in US politics by any means) peened in the transfer of ownership clause. Effectively, "we the people" hired some contractors to build and oversee something for us and the contractors "own" the fruits. Just imagine if you had a house built, paid for it in full plus, but the contractor still "owned" it! We got royally fucked here me thinks.

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

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