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Everything You've Wanted To Know About Net Neutrality But Were Afraid To Ask

from the let's-do-this dept

Okay, ever since our big Net Neutrality Crowdfunding, we've had some new readers who aren't as familiar with the details and issues -- yet we've been mostly writing as if everyone is informed of the basics. So, we figured it only made sense to take a step back and do a bit of an explainer about net neutrality.

What is net neutrality?

This is not an easy answer, actually, which, at times, is a part of the problem. The phrase, first coined by law professor Tim Wu, referred originally to the concept of the end-to-end principle of the internet, in that anyone online could request a webpage or information from any online service, and the internet access provider (usually called internet service providers or ISPs) in the middle would deliver that information. At the time, the ISPs were starting to make noises about how they wanted to "charge" service providers to reach end users, effectively setting up toll booths on the internet. This kicked off in earnest in October of 2005, when SBC (which became AT&T) CEO Ed Whitacre declared that internet companies were using "his pipes for free."

The phrase has been warped and twisted in various directions over the years, but the simplest way to think about it is basically whether or not your ISP -- the company you pay for your internet access (usually cable, DSL or fiber, but also wireless, satellite and a few others) -- can pick winners and losers by requiring certain companies to pay the ISP more just to be available to you (or available to you in a "better" way). John Oliver probably summarized it best by arguing that it's about "preventing cable company fuckery" (though, to be clear, it goes beyond just cable companies).

The internet access providers claim that service providers, like Netflix and Google, are getting a "free ride" on their network, since those services are popular with their users, and they'd like to get those (very successful) companies to pay.

Wait, so internet companies don't pay for bandwidth?

They absolutely do pay for their bandwidth. And here's the tricky part of this whole thing. Everyone already pays for their own bandwidth. You pay your access provider, and the big internet companies pay for their bandwidth as well. And what you pay for is your ability to reach all those sites on the internet. What the internet access providers are trying to do is to get everyone to pay twice. That is, you pay for your bandwidth, and then they want, say, Netflix, to pay again for the bandwidth you already paid for, so that Netflix can reach you. This is under the false belief that when you buy internet service from your internet access provider, you haven't bought with it the ability to reach sites on the internet. The big telcos and cable companies want to pretend you've only bought access to the edge of their network, and then internet sites should have to pay extra to become available to you. In fact, they've been rather explicit about this. Back in 2006, AT&T's Ed Whitacre stated it clearly: "I think the content providers should be paying for the use of the network - obviously not the piece for the customer to the network, which has already been paid for by the customer in internet access fees, but for accessing the so-called internet cloud." In short, the broadband players would like to believe that when you pay your bandwidth, you're only paying from your access point to their router. It's a ridiculous view of the world, somewhat akin to pretending the earth is still flat and at the center of the universe, but in this case, the broadband players pretend that they're at the center of the universe.

Why is this suddenly big news again? Haven't people been fighting about this for years?

After the last fight over this issue, the FCC issued some pretty weak "open internet" rules, in an attempt to try to appease everyone by effectively creating a "compromise" based, in part, on an agreement negotiated by Verizon, AT&T and Google. Rather than putting in place strong rules to protect an open internet, the FCC's rules were fairly limited and sought to block more egregious forms of discrimination while increasing transparency. However, the rules did not even apply to wireless access and left a bunch of other loopholes -- for example, as long as the broadband players could make a halfway credible claim that what they were doing was for "the security and integrity of the network," it would be allowed. Even though it was part of the negotiations for the rules, once in place, Verizon sued, claiming that the FCC had gone beyond its mandate in issuing the rules.

Following a long court battle, in February of this year, the appeals court ruled that, indeed, the FCC had overstepped its boundaries, and the open internet rules were not enforceable. The ruling effectively said that the part of the law that the FCC had used as the basis for its compromised open internet rules, Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, did not allow for the rules it presented. It did, however, suggest that Section 706 gave the FCC some fairly broad powers that might be used instead.

In the following months, the FCC's Chair, Tom Wheeler, tried to craft a new set of rules, basically looking to rewrite the existing (already weak) rules with the guidance the court gave. The big problem is that based on the February ruling and Section 706, Wheeler basically had to replace a block on "unreasonable discrimination" with an argument saying that any priority efforts had to be "commercially reasonable."

A switch from "unreasonable discrimination" being forbidden to "commercially unreasonable discrimination" being forbidden doesn't sound like that big of a difference.

Well, remember that the original rules weren't very strong in the first place. Secondly, the term "commercially reasonable" means something fairly specific, and it makes it much more difficult for the FCC to prevent internet access providers (big cable and telcos) from picking winners and losers. In short, under these new rules, the cable and telco companies can put in place restrictions on internet companies, and then only after that happens, those companies can go to the FCC and challenge them as being "commercially unreasonable." This is a long, difficult and expensive process. And, rest assured, the cable and telco companies have some of the best and most experienced lawyers around when it comes to appearing before the FCC (or, later, facing off with the FCC in court). A small startup would have to basically go broke arguing before the FCC that certain rules are commercially unreasonable, and there's a decent chance it would still lose to much more powerful lawyers with much more experience. Even if a startup could win in such a fight, it would be a huge time and money waster.

What's all this stuff about "Title II"

What many net neutrality advocates are asking the FCC to do is to "reclassify" broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934, effectively classifying broadband providers as "common carriers," which would allow the FCC to (1) have more power over them and (2) have more of a mandate towards rules and regulations that would stop those services from picking winners and losers among internet-based services. In short, Title II would give the FCC more power to "prevent cable company fuckery."

Why are some people so opposed to Title II?

There are a bunch of reasons -- some of which are more reasonable than others. They range from things like the simple idea that it's crazy to try to regulate modern communications systems under a law from 1934, to concerns about too much regulation "chilling investment" in broadband, to fears about lawsuits that will come about concerning the whole reclassification process.

Wait, why aren't broadband providers already considered "common carriers" -- it seems obvious that they should be?

Well, not everything is obvious. A decade ago, there were questions about whether or not cable broadband providers were technically "telecommunications" services (classified as common carriers under Title II) or if they were providing an "information service" (not under Title II and not a common carrier). The FCC (as always, under tremendous lobbying pressure from the cable companies) claimed that cable modem service should be exempt from Title II regulations. This was challenged, but the Supreme Court sided with the cable companies (and the FCC) in saying that this ruling made sense. Soon after that, as people questioned whether or not such a rule also applied to DSL lines, the FCC also reclassified DSL outside of Title II.

If the Supreme Court already said that, can the FCC switch back now?

Yes, though it is a somewhat complicated process (though not nearly as complicated as the telcos and cable companies would have you believe). It will also almost certainly be fought in court and it will be a few years before a final ruling is made as well. It is certainly doable, however.

Do we really want a law from 1934 ruling over modern internet access systems?

In an ideal world, probably not. But this isn't an ideal world. If we lived in a better world, Congress would update the Telecommunications Act to take into account what's actually happening online. But we all know about how well Congress works (i.e., it doesn't). And when it comes to political hot potatoes like telco policy, where there are tremendous lobbying dollars at stake, not only would it be nearly impossible to get anything through Congress, there's a better than decent chance that anything that did get through would be... messy and potentially even worse.

I've heard that reclassifying will lead to internet companies like Google also being required to live under Title II rules including antiquated issues like tariffs and having rate settings.

This is a little myth that the telcos and cable companies have been spreading. Yes, there's a ton of unrelated crap under Title II (again, why it's not ideal, but the best of a terrible list of options). But there's a (mandatory) process under the law by which the FCC must "forbear" from applying regulations that the FCC determines are not necessary for protecting consumers and thus would not be in the public interest. The forbearance process has been used numerous times, and most of the people advocating for reclassification under Title II are also doing so in combination with recommending forbearance against those obsolete and unrelated parts of Title II, beyond the narrow issue of stopping the internet access providers from picking winners and losers on the network.

Should we be afraid that reclassification will create a massive legal battle that leaves everyone uncertain for years?

No. First of all, no matter which way the FCC goes, there's likely to be a big legal battle that will go on for years. While Comcast and AT&T have more or less said that they would accept the rules under 706, Verizon has made it pretty clear that it would challenge them, just as it challenged the original open internet rules. Second, we already went through a big legal battle over the original rules for the last four years, and there was little indication that that legal battle had any impact one way or the other on broadband deployment or any other innovation.

Won't Title II reclassification cause the big broadband providers to give up all hope, stop investing in broadband and destroy all that is good and holy about broadband in the US?

Uh, no, though that's the story that the companies will tell you. They'll also leave out the fact that they actually really, really like to be classified under Title II when it comes to getting tax breaks, subsidies and rights of way for installing their lines in the first place. Also, the largest period of investment in broadband infrastructure happened before the big Brand X Supreme Court decision, when broadband was still considered to be under Title II. Other areas of telecommunications, including mobile phone service, are still classified under Title II, and there's a ton of investment going on in that space. The claims that Title II will chill investment have little basis in reality.

Even so, shouldn't we be at least a little uncomfortable about "regulating the internet"?

Yes, we should always be somewhat concerned about internet regulations, but this part of the internet is already heavily regulated. Remember how Verizon begged to be classified under Title II to install its lines? Installing cable, fiber and other broadband infrastructure already involves tremendous regulatory systems, in which local governments are granting all sorts of subsidies, rebates, tax breaks and allocating spectrum to these companies -- basically having the public pay. And all of this is heavily regulated. The real question here is under which regulations this will happen. It's not about suddenly "taking over" the internet or "regulating the internet," it's about which laws will be used for a process that is already highly regulated.

What about all this stuff with Netflix being slowed down by Comcast, Verizon and AT&T and paying to be sped up?

That's a related issue, but slightly different. That concerns "interconnection." Historically, net neutrality was just about "the last mile" -- the connection point between you as an end user and your internet access provider's router. However, there are many other issues happening beyond that, including interconnections between giant companies moving lots of traffic back and forth across the internet. Sometimes this happens via transit agreements and sometimes via peering arrangements (which are usually free). In the last year or so, the biggest broadband players -- Comcast, Verizon and AT&T -- appeared to be letting their connections to Netflix clog up at their border router, slowing down the delivery to end users.

Effectively, these big broadband providers had figured out a different way to accomplish the same result: getting big internet companies to pay extra to reach you efficiently. By letting their ports clog, they've really just moved the problem upstream to another point they control, and getting Netflix (for now, but soon others) to pay up, even though there's plenty of bandwidth on all sides. All the broadband players need to do is connect a few cables to turn on a few more ports, a trivial and inexpensive process.

Historically, most people following this space never expected interconnection to be a problem, because what kind of sick broadband company would purposely let its own ports clog up and deliver such a crappy experience to consumers? The answer, apparently, is Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, once they realized that they're basically the only game in town and that they could squeeze a lot of money out of internet companies.

So, in the end, while interconnection wasn't originally considered a "net neutrality" issue, it is. It's the same basic concept concerning "broadband company fuckery" in picking winners and losers and harming your internet connection.

Unfortunately, however, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has said he doesn't yet consider it a net neutrality issue (even if he did instruct the FCC to begin investigating these agreements). Thus, even if the FCC reclassifies broadband under Title II, the interconnection loophole may still be a powerful tool for broadband fuckery.

But I've heard that Comcast supports net neutrality? It's been running all these ads saying that.

The company is lying. Or, at the very least, it's being incredibly misleading. What it supports is Chairman Wheeler's proposal to use Section 706, which we already explained earlier is the path by which net neutrality dies. Furthermore, Comcast is effectively "required" to abide by the old net neutrality rules as a condition of its merger with NBC Universal a few years ago -- and it was the one that proposed the condition, knowing full well that it didn't really limit the company and its plans for setting up toll booths.

But is the internet really neutral already? Don't some companies already have faster access than others?

This is another misleading argument made by the broadband companies and their supporters. Yes, big companies will often have faster connections or more use of content delivery networks that cache content and make it available closer to the end points so that it's faster to access. But that's about improving access for everyone online, not about a particular broadband company charging the companies to better reach its users. Again, it goes back to the question of whether or not the broadband providers are picking winners and losers.

If you don't like what your broadband provider is doing, why don't you just switch to a competitor?

That would require real competition, which there is very little of in the US. While broadband providers like to point to things like mobile data offerings or Google Fiber as proof of competition, the truth is that there is very little real competition in the US for broadband services, when broadband is properly defined. Most places have one cable option and one DSL/fiber option, mostly from the large players mentioned above. Basically as you get into true broadband speed ranges, competition almost entirely disappears. And, even where there is competition, it may be getting even weaker, as Verizon is basically pushing its own users to cable, and has effectively stopped expanding its fiber offering. Verizon has made it clear that it wants to focus on wireless.

So what about wireless? Isn't that competition?

Not really. Most mobile data offerings are incredibly limited, slow and much more expensive than DSL/fiber/cable. They tend to have ridiculously low caps (usually on the order of 5GB) and restrictions on things like streaming. Many have terms that effectively bar you from using it as a home broadband replacement. Is it possible that these wireless offerings will eventually be true competition? Maybe, but it's still a long way out. Besides, as currently in place, the open internet rules don't even apply to wireless data anyway, and the largest players in the space are... Verizon and AT&T already. So, wait, how is wireless a real competitor?

Google Fiber! Doesn't that prove there's competition?

Google Fiber is a really interesting experiment, but it's only in a very few locations and expanding pretty slowly. There's little indication that there are any plans to make it a nationwide or even widespread offering. Besides, Google has also backed away from its early promise to allow competing networks to use its infrastructure.

Do we need more competition in broadband?

Hell yes. For basically a decade we've been saying that the risk of losing net neutrality is more of a symptom of a lack of competition. And, in fact, we've seen that when things like Google Fiber do show up, offering viable competition, the incumbents suddenly start ramping up their own offerings. Funny how that happens.

Okay, then how do we get more competition?

There are a bunch of possible options, though none are particularly easy or definite at this point. One idea is to encourage open access networks instead of just facilities-based competition. Under such a system, the broadband infrastructure players would wholesale their internet services to third-party service providers who could then offer service directly. The internet world used to work this way, prior to the original broadband reclassifications. There's little indication that the FCC is even considering pushing the big broadband providers to go back to wholesaling their connections, but it's an idea that has some amount of merit. Australia started down this path years ago, but that's been tied up in politics. There have been some other ideas designed around encouraging similar infrastructure competition, such as the "homes with tails" idea, where individuals would own the connection from their home to a network where services could compete.

The basic thinking here is that the core infrastructure is costly to install and inefficient to do multiple times in multiple ways (which is part of the reason why we have so little competition). Thus, rather than focusing on competition at the infrastructure level, you can put the competition at the service level and have multiple providers on the same network. It's effectively a "natural monopoly" argument, akin to the highway infrastructure. You don't want "competing" highways, because that's wasteful and inefficient. So you build one (massive, super fast) infrastructure, and then wholesale it out to lots of competitors. For now, this idea seems to have almost no support at the policy level, however.

Much more focus these days is on municipal networks and their ability to offer local competition. I'll expand this a bit to suggest that some local private networks (including Google fiber) are in the same camp. Allowing more local area competitors has long been shown to improve all connections as the incumbents freak out and realize they really have to compete. Many muni-broadband providers get a bad rap because they're derided as "government-run" or "local utilities." And, indeed, some attempts at municipal broadband have failed badly (often due to bureaucratic incompetence). That said, there are a growing number of successful muni-broadband implementations that offer real competition -- and often better services at a lower price.

Great! So let's get muni-broadband competitors everywhere!

Not so fast, sparky. The big broadband providers (them again!?) have been able to pass laws in about 20 states that either ban outright or severely limit the ability of local municipalities to offer such broadband to residents. The big broadband providers have done little to hide the fact that these bills were written by the broadband companies themselves and designed solely to limit this kind of competition. While Tom Wheeler did make a statement earlier this year claiming that he would use the FCC's power to preempt such laws if they were blocking competition, this caused the big broadband players and their friends to freak out. Congress is now trying to stop the FCC from being able to move forward on such plans.

The claims by supporters of such bans are ridiculous. They usually argue that states have the right to "make their own choice" about these kinds of laws without federal interference. However, they are then leaving out the fact that the states tend to be blocking cities from making their own choices to create municipal broadband competitors.

The simple fact is that this is a messy front in the broadband players' war against competitors. In an ideal world, cities and states would actually be making it easier to enable competition (whether private or muni-) and then get out of the way. Once again, we don't live in an ideal world.

What about other forms of competition?

For years the FCC has been holding out for some miraculous new broadband method, and it's failed to show up. Under Michael Powell, the FCC insisted that "broadband over powerlines" would present a "third pipe" into the home to compete with phone and cable lines. This was despite multiple reports noting that broadband over powerlines was not a particularly good way to do broadband (especially with the way the US sets up its electrical grid). We already discussed wireless competition above. There is the potential that if there were much more spectrum made available, new competition might spring up, but the FCC (them again?) hasn't been able to make that much spectrum available (a whole different issue for a whole different day). There's also satellite broadband which has gotten much better in the past few years, but is still limited by reliability problems and crappy latency. For years, we've made fun of the claims of satellite broadband providers for never living up to their promises. There may be some promise there, however, especially as satellites and space launches are getting much cheaper. There may be some exciting developments there in the future, but it's still a ways off.

And what's this I've been hearing about data caps?

Another somewhat related issue (which the FCC insists is not a net neutrality issue, but certainly does fall under the "broadband company fuckery" label), is that broadband companies are increasingly interested in putting data caps on your broadband usage, trying to get end users to pay more. This has taken a variety of forms -- some more draconian than others -- but the broadband providers have made it clear they'd like to use it as a way to get more money out of users. Yes, they always pretend it's about getting low bandwidth users to pay less, but there's little actual focus on that, because why would they, other than for PR reasons?

So what's going to happen now?

Well, chances are that before the end of the year, the FCC will officially announce the new rules that it wants. If there's enough public and political support for it, they might actually vote to reclassify internet access under Title II, but so far Tom Wheeler has been afraid to go there. If Wheeler chickens out (as is more likely), they'll stick with the plan using Section 706, opening up "commercially reasonable" fuckery. Either way, there are likely to be lawsuits (with Verizon leading the charge), and nothing will be determined finally for a few years. Congress could act, but won't.

The public pretty clearly wants reclassification under Title II. So do many, many internet companies who know they'd be targets (or wouldn't even be able to exist at all) under a system where the broadband access providers get to set up tollbooths. But, tragically, things in DC don't happen just because the public wants something. Reclassifying would also lead to a political fight in Congress.

Why is Congress so messed up on this?

For reasons that still don't make much sense, sometime around 2006, net neutrality went from a wonky issue that wasn't particularly partisan, to a stupid partisan issue in which Republicans decided it was "regulating the internet," and Democrats deciding that it was about free speech. Neither is entirely accurate, though the Democrats are much more accurate. As stated above, the internet is already regulated. The reality is that the Republicans arguing against net neutrality tend to be those who often (you guessed it) receive the most money from the big broadband players. It's unfortunate and silly that Republicans -- who claim to be the party of business and innovation -- haven't yet realized that startups and innovators are actually helped by a neutral internet with real competition.

So what should I be doing?

Make some noise. Join the effort to send comments to the FCC. While many have argued the process is a foregone conclusion, it's not. If there really is enough support for reclassifying, it can absolutely happen. Not helping because you don't think it will make a difference is only a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can be cynical, right and end up with a limited internet... or you can be idealistic, right and have a chance at creating real change with a more competitive, open internet. Your choice.

Anything else?

That's about it for now, but feel free to submit more questions in the comments. Also, special thanks to everyone who supported our net neutrality reporting crowdfunding effort, which has helped make posts like this possible.

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The First Word

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  • identicon
    Alfonso P. Gozuko, 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:21am

    Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

    The folks around GOOG and Netflix dreamed up this concept to hamstring the big ISPs. There's never been neutrality and it would never work. Some bits need better service than others and it just makes sense to allow the companies to rank them.

    What? You're probably screaming. Every single bit must move the same way through the network. Balderdash. Streaming video needs to move at a predictable rate or there will be hickups. Email can move slowly. A few bits from your pacemaker should move quickly to your cardiologist-- once they get around to figuring out how to link them up.

    As for the notion that you're "paying twice", nothing could be further from the truth. You're paying an average cost based on a guesstimate on how much you're going to consume. But GOOG and Netflix want the rest of the web to subsidize the huge volumes of bandwidth they consume with video. So they love the idea of getting the nonusers to pay an "average" of everyone.

    If you're going to consume huge piles of bandwidth, you're going to need to pay more. That's just fair. But the "net neutrality" isn't about fairness, it's about getting the suckers to subsidize the other business models.

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    • icon
      Nigel (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:27am

      Re: Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

      Shit. My shill radar just imploded.

      "As for the notion that you're "paying twice", nothing could be further from the truth."

      Not even going to go there.
      N.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:19am

      Re: Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

      The folks around GOOG and Netflix dreamed up this concept to hamstring the big ISPs.

      Interesting. Can you explain why those two companies actually disagree about what they want the FCC to do? Netflix supports Title II. Google does not. We support Title II. Google does not. How is this apologizing for Google when we support a different solution than Google?

      What? You're probably screaming. Every single bit must move the same way through the network.

      Except, no. That's not what we said and that's not what net neutrality is about. What we said was that the ISPs should not be picking winners and losers.

      As for the notion that you're "paying twice", nothing could be further from the truth.

      It's absolutely the truth. Ed Whitacre's comments more or less made that clear.

      You're paying an average cost based on a guesstimate on how much you're going to consume.

      If it's not enough, the ISPs are free to raise their rates. But they are selling access to the internet. So they should deliver it.


      But GOOG and Netflix want the rest of the web to subsidize the huge volumes of bandwidth they consume with video.


      You don't think Google and Netflix pay for their bandwidth? Are you nuts?

      If you're going to consume huge piles of bandwidth, you're going to need to pay more.

      And ISPs can and do price accordingly. But that's not what the net neutrality fight is about, at all. It's about the big ISPs trying to get "successful" internet companies to pay more.

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

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:28am

      Re: Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

      You are correct. Mike is wrong when he writes that we're being asked to "pay twice". He's very wrong. But then, so are you. We're being asked to pay thrice.

      1. Consumer pays for connection to Internet services.

      2. Google (Youtube, or Netflix) pays for their bandwidth...as well as buying up their own fiber, running their own networks, and peering. They pay for CDNs, edge storage, redundancy, etc. So do many other fat content providers. I'm not sure how anyone thinks AT&T pays Google's Internet bills??!

      3. Whitacre et al want Youtube to pay yet again to connect 'reliably' all the way to the ISPs subscriber.

      Seems pretty clear that the big ISPs want to be paid three times. I see getting paid twice as fair, but thrice as a shakedown.

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      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re: Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

        You are correct. Mike is wrong when he writes that we're being asked to "pay twice". He's very wrong. But then, so are you. We're being asked to pay thrice.

        Amusingly, we'd had a big internal debate yesterday about whether or not we should describe it as being paid three times or just twice... and I felt that twice was a much clearer explanation, but others disagreed. Though, you make it much more compelling your way...

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        • identicon
          Michael, 11 Sep 2014 @ 7:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Lotsa blah, blah apologizing for GOOG

          4 times

          Don't forget that they were given tax subsidies for building out the network.

          We were paying them before they even started providing service - and it is tax dollars, so everyone paid even if they don't have an internet connection.

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  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:30am

    There are so many problems with these explanations that it's hard to know where to start. But for fun, let's start with the obious issue:

    Should ISPs be required to obtain, maintain, and pay for significantly more interconnection to support certain business models? Is there a point where the amount of data flowing from a given "service" is just too high?

    When ISP networks are generally 25 to 1 or even 100 to 1 bandwidth to subscription, does there need to be a mandate that says "you must have 1 to 1 interconnection for every user?". What level of interconnection should be required, and who should bear the costs?

    Moreover, should companies like Netflix be able and allowed to "peer" directly with ISPs when others may not be financially able? Does that not create more problems than any "cable company fuckery"?

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:42am

      Re:

      Hmm, I think your questions indicate a misunderstanding of what net neutrality is about. It's about treating data streams the same regardless of what company or individual is the source/sink of them. It is not about treating all packets the same no matter what kind of data they are.

      "Should ISPs be required to obtain, maintain, and pay for significantly more interconnection to support certain business models?"

      If we had a real marketplace with actual competition, then the answer is "of course not." From a NN perspective, This isn't even implied. You pay for the bandwidth you use, regardless of who you are. If an ISP cannot support the amount of bandwidth that you require, you use a different ISP. There is no need for a "requirement".

      This gets confused into the NN debate because the two things are linked in effect, but it really is a different issue.

      "Is there a point where the amount of data flowing from a given "service" is just too high?"

      No. The ISP provides what they promised to provide. If they promised more than they can deliver, that's a problem with the ISP. It's not related to net neutrality.

      "When ISP networks are generally 25 to 1 or even 100 to 1 bandwidth to subscription, does there need to be a mandate that says "you must have 1 to 1 interconnection for every user?"

      Of course not. I don't understand why this is even in question.

      "What level of interconnection should be required, and who should bear the costs? "

      The level of interconnection required is what the ISP needs to fulfill its promises. The customers bear the costs through their bills.

      "Moreover, should companies like Netflix be able and allowed to "peer" directly with ISPs when others may not be financially able?"

      That's an entirely different discussion that has nothing whatsoever to do with net neutrality. But yes, of course they should. To say they can't is to say that the entire way the internet currently works is not allowed.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 5:15pm

        Re: Re:

        "I think your questions indicate a misunderstanding of what net neutrality is about"

        I think he is paid to post like someone who misunderstands

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      • icon
        Whatever (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:51pm

        Re: Re:

        Oh John, please!

        Net Neutrality is (and I quote from Mike) about not choosing winners and losers. The understory of that is not denying anyone, anything, any size equal network access.

        So sit back and think for a moment. P2P? You have to accept ALL of the P2P traffic and a "neutral" network wouldn't be able to do anything about it. Skype? Home servers? Gaming servers? You have to accept all of them, because denying them network access would in effect pick winners and losers.

        Simply put, net neutrality is a two way street. They cannot pick the winners and losers sending to their network, and conversely, they cannot choose the technology, software, or services that the consumer chooses to use. Any attempt to block P2P, as an example, would be a violation of net neutrality at it's very basic level.

        So what that means is that consumers can "turn up the wick" on their usage without any fear of repercussions from the ISP. Traffic shaping, bandwidth management... it's all out the window. If you sell the consumer 10 meg connection, the consumer should be able to access all 10 meg END TO END. Anything less would be choosing winners and losers, as with the current netflix issues.

        Say someone wants to start a IPtv distribution system. Previously the question would be bandwidth, as in can the consumer get enough bandwidth to do it. In a "neutral" net, the ISPs would have to accept that traffic, and anything that would limit it (such as network congestion within the ISP or in it's gateways) would be an issue to fix.

        So one of the implications of TRUE net neutrality is the question of "how much bandwidth must the ISPs provide?". If a consumer has a 10 meg connection, are the entitled to use all of it, part of it, etc? Must they accept network congestion? Or would the ISPs be obligated to obtain more and more peering and more and more paid transit in order to satisfy customer demands while avoiding anything that might tilt things one way or the other?

        The level of interconnection required is what the ISP needs to fulfill its promises. The customers bear the costs through their bills.

        have you priced out what real transit costs these days? Even in the US, you are looking somewhere around $1 a meg. Do you think consumers are willing to pay that? Do you think consumers are willing to bear the true costs of their internet connections?

        For that matter, what do you think happens to the fuller transit network when all of the ISPs suddenly are forced to open up the gates and accept a ton more traffic to support all of these data intense services that have somehow been denied in the past? Remember, the average consumer is on an ISP that probably has at least a 10 to 1 ratio of customer connectivity to actual web connectivity - many more are at 25 to 1 or higher. If that number drops in half... you can think of the wider implications for the net as a whole.

        See, the problem is that true net neutrality may end up leading to a bunch of business models that are not currently economically viable. Massively shared free storage? Turn every computer on the planet into part of a massive redundant storage system? Using P2P to distribute movies and web content rather than actual CDNs? Remember, you can't pick winners or losers, and if the consumer has a 10 meg connection, they should be able to do anything they want with it - including selling or trading it with others for services.

        The idea of net neutrality is not to block any traffic, and people think of that as free speech, don't block my favorite website and make sure netflix streams properly. There are much bigger implications once you tie everyone's hands and say that they must effectively turn a blind eye to everything for risk of choosing winners and losers.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 8:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "They cannot pick the winners and losers sending to their network, and conversely, they cannot choose the technology, software, or services that the consumer chooses to use. Any attempt to block P2P, as an example, would be a violation of net neutrality at it's very basic level.

          So what that means is that consumers can "turn up the wick" on their usage without any fear of repercussions from the ISP. Traffic shaping, bandwidth management... it's all out the window."

          P2P is not really a bad thing if managed correctly. If it's designed to obtain necessary information from the closest peer then it saves bandwidth across extended routers. It's more efficient.

          Think of it this way. If I have a router (lets call this level 1 router A) with 6 computers connected to it and that router is connected to another router (a level two router) with two (level 1) routers connected to it (router A and router B) for me to get information from my computer to a computer on router B would require going through the level two router. This will hog up level two bandwidth and, if there is too much traffic traveling through level two, may require upgrades. However if the same information exists on my local network why hog up level two bandwidth? Instead I can just grab it off of my local network requiring no level two upgrading to accommodate me.

          I know much of what you say shows a complete lack of understanding of ... well .... basically everything (basic economics, finance, algebra, networking, etc...) but peer to peer is actually more efficient and requires less upgrading. Taking something from my neighbor doesn't have to affect the rest of the ISP but only the intermediary router(s) between me and my neighbor hence requiring little to no upgrades.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 11 Sep 2014 @ 8:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Any attempt to block P2P, as an example, would be a violation of net neutrality at it's very basic level."

          Exactly so, yes.

          "So what that means is that consumers can "turn up the wick" on their usage without any fear of repercussions from the ISP. Traffic shaping, bandwidth management... it's all out the window."

          This isn't true. Nothing about NN prevents that stuff. What it prevents is doing that based on who is generating the traffic.

          "If you sell the consumer 10 meg connection, the consumer should be able to access all 10 meg END TO END. Anything less would be choosing winners and losers, as with the current netflix issues."

          No, not at all. That's a different (but tangentially related) issue.

          "have you priced out what real transit costs these days?"

          Yes, I know the costs.

          "Even in the US, you are looking somewhere around $1 a meg."

          That's not even close. The actual cost is lower than that by quite a lot -- but "real transit cost" is a very vague term. Perhaps you're talking about something different.

          "For that matter, what do you think happens to the fuller transit network when all of the ISPs suddenly are forced to open up the gates and accept a ton more traffic to support all of these data intense services that have somehow been denied in the past?"

          This is nonsense. Nothing about NN forces any network to increase their available bandwidth at all. It's about fairly dealing with the bandwidth they do provide.

          "The idea of net neutrality is not to block any traffic"

          Not really. The idea is that if you're going to engage in network management, you have to do so in a manner that is agnostic in terms of who is generating or receiving the traffic.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 1:54pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "That's not even close. The actual cost is lower than that by quite a lot -- but "real transit cost" is a very vague term. Perhaps you're talking about something different."

            It's amazing how Whatever keeps repeating the same lies that aren't even close to being true over and over as if he's completely oblivious to the fact that everyone knows what he's saying is not true. How is he supposed to expect others to take him seriously? The only thing he ever has to support his lies of facts are his unsourced opinion.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      That's what the consumers pay for, dumbass.

      A simple solution to this would be more balanced connections over the last mile, even if they were lower overall speed. And to answer The Netflix Question, Netflix offered to pay those costs, and the US' major ISPs refused to upgrade at Netflix's cost, or to have Netflix pay for a server in their regional datacenters.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:22am

        Re: Re:

        Netflix also asked for changes to any future Net Neutrality rules, requiring ISPs to interconnect to Netflix and other major services providers with CDNs for absolutely nothing.

        It is time we stop pretending Netflix is innocent here. Net Neutrality is great and we need it. But Netflix doesn't want it to simply protect themselves for being abused by ISPs. They want the rules to be bended to their own wants, and give them free bandwidth. No more paying Cogent/Level3/Comcast/etc. This would cut their existing expenses significantly and give them a massive leg up on their competition who can't afford to build CDNs and networks to interconnect with ISPs.

        "Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai, or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers," Hastings wrote. "Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge." -Hastings

        http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/03/netflix-says-it-will-pay-tolls-to-more-isps-not- just-comcast/

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        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:27am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Netflix also asked for changes to any future Net Neutrality rules, requiring ISPs to interconnect to Netflix and other major services providers with CDNs for absolutely nothing.


          Free or at cost interconnection is a perfectly reasonable request for a functioning network.

          They want the rules to be bended to their own wants, and give them free bandwidth. No more paying Cogent/Level3/Comcast/etc

          That's inaccurate. They want free interconnection. The company has shown that it's more than happy to pay for transit. The difference is important...

          This is about not setting up tollbooths on the transit. Netflix and others have always paid their way for transit. The problem is when the big ISPs try to set up tollbooths for access.

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          • icon
            Whatever (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's inaccurate. They want free interconnection. The company has shown that it's more than happy to pay for transit. The difference is important...

            That's not really true. The longer term goal is to push equipment out at or near the ISP interconnect points so that they don't have to spend anywhere near as much in bandwidth. The idea is to make it so that they can serve the stuff directly onto the ISP network from machines in the same building as the internet, and thus significantly lowering their delivery costs - all the while increasing the load on the ISP network to handle it.

            The long term goal is free interconnect. Then they only need a much smaller amount of paid bandwidth to distribute and update their "ISP attached" servers.

            Basically, they would be able to buy their way closer to the ISPs, making themselves more likely to be a winner...

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 1:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              That's not really true. The longer term goal is to push equipment out at or near the ISP interconnect points so that they don't have to spend anywhere near as much in bandwidth.

              So how does that impact the final mile ISP, Netflix either pays transit to them, or puts a cache at the interconnect. In both case Netflix is paying its way, and hoping that the Final Mile ISP delivers what they promised to their customers. What the final mile providers are complaining about is that they have sold more bandwidth to customers that they have interconnect capacity for, and that is their problem to fix at their own expense.

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              • icon
                Whatever (profile), 11 Sep 2014 @ 2:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                So how does that impact the final mile ISP

                If impacts them only because even in an attempt to be neutral, such a connection would give Netflix a better connection to their customers than say "other distant service" which depends on third party transit to get there. In essence, agreeing to such a direct peering relationship helps them pick a winner - Netflix will always have the best service to their network.

                Google has reportedly done the same thing, pushing youtube and others to peer directly with the major ISPs in the US by putting their equipment near or even in the ISP data centers. By bypassing the masses using the transit companies, they are "closer" and thus able to offer a better service.

                What the final mile providers are complaining about is that they have sold more bandwidth to customers that they have interconnect capacity for

                No, what they are complaining about it that traditional internet allows for ratios between 10 to 1 and 25 to 1 for realistic use. Netflix, streaming (and P2P for that matter) are high bandwidth, high intensity constant demand services that effectively have changed those ratios in a matter that vastly increases the costs to the ISP with absolutely no hope for a return. They cannot raise customer rates to get it back, having created a customer expectation at a certain price point that they cannot move away from.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 4:03am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  If impacts them only because even in an attempt to be neutral, such a connection would give Netflix a better connection to their customers than say "other distant service" which depends on third party transit to get there. In essence, agreeing to such a direct peering relationship helps them pick a winner - Netflix will always have the best service to their network.

                  Where content providers can choose how to deliver their content to the final mile ISPs, they have choices as to how to deal with their delivery requirements, and the final mile ISP has no say in whose content gets delivered at high capacity. Let the final mile ISPs charge for delivery, then the gain the lever to decide who gets high speed delivery, so Netflix building out its own CDN is not anti neutrality, they are simply exercising their right to manage their delivery in a fashion that best suited them. Depending on their bandwidth requirements, other sites can let users directly connect, use a third party CDN, or build out their own CDN, depending on demand, and their requirements.
                  Hand the power to charge for delivery to the final mile ISPs, and they can decide who gets fast access to their customers, which is when net neutrality goes out the window, because there is no alternative for content providers.

                  No, what they are complaining about it that traditional internet allows for ratios between 10 to 1 and 25 to 1 for realistic use.

                  The problem is that the model of customer use that they used to design their network has become obsolete. Because of that, they have oversold on what they can deliver. Failure to predict the future, or read what others are predicting is their own problem, and not the problem of those who made their model obsolete.

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                  • icon
                    Whatever (profile), 11 Sep 2014 @ 4:42am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Hand the power to charge for delivery to the final mile ISPs, and they can decide who gets fast access to their customers, which is when net neutrality goes out the window, because there is no alternative for content providers.

                    You miss the point entirely. I am not trying to hand the choice to the final mile guys, I am trying to say "TAKE IT AWAY". The problem here is that high dollar companies can push their CDNs right to the door of the ISP, and basically use an interconnect to have direct access to the ISP network, and advantage that others would not have. The ISP is basically picking and choosing who wins and who comes in second.

                    Reality is that the ISPs should have all of their connectivity through third party interconnections - and content companies should be in the same position. Direct peering is a "rich get richer" thing, where those companies who can afford to have a higher deliver rate can skip the front door of the ISP and sneak in the side door. It creates an unfair advantage.

                    The problem is that the model of customer use that they used to design their network has become obsolete.

                    Expecting them to change overnight and suddenly assume much greater costs with no hope of recovery isn't going to work out. You could potentially see ISPs turn around and cut connection speeds down to match their available bandwidth just to avoid issues. 10meg connection? Replace it with a 1 meg connection and have a nice day - oh, same price! Want true 10 meg full on? That will cost you quite a bit more.

                    We have reached a point where the existing ISP model is obsolete, that is true. However, the potential replacements (outside of the heavily subsidized Google fiber) are out of the price reach of most consumers. It's pretty hard to force the current ISPs to spend an ass load of money with no hope of a return.

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                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 9:52am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      "We have reached a point where the existing ISP model is obsolete, that is true. However, the potential replacements (outside of the heavily subsidized Google fiber) are out of the price reach of most consumers."

                      Except this isn't really true. In the U.S. we pay way more for much less bandwidth than many other countries. It's not an issue that the replacement is out of the price range of most consumers it's that consumers are receiving a service way lower than what they should be receiving for what they are paying for.

                      "It's pretty hard to force the current ISPs to spend an ass load of money with no hope of a return."

                      Which is why we need government to force them to.

                      Sure, when they have government monopolies and have been heavily subsidized by governments as well it's hard to make them spend money when they can just charge more for the same service. Why spend money on upgrading your infrastructure when there is no competition and it's not as profitable to spend such money. Just charge the customer more for what you already have to offer. In a competitive market this won't work because doing that will make you lose customers. When there is little competition then it doesn't make sense, from their perspective of profitability, to invest in their infrastructure.

                      But that's the whole point. ISPs and cable providers like to argue that they are natural monopolies. Cable companies have been arguing this for may decades now. Then they should be regulated as such. The regulations should force them to spend money not in hopes of getting a return in the form of an economic profit but on simply making a normal profit. The problem right now is that ISPs make huge economic profits instead of using that money to upgrade their infrastructure and offer customers with a better product for cheaper. This is unacceptable if we are to believe they and cable companies have a natural monopoly as they always have argued to limit competition. Natural monopolies should be government regulated for the common good. Your comment illustrates the point exactly, upgrades are unprofitable in an uncompetitive market of natural monopolies so why should they upgrade? Why not just continue to screw consumers over? Because if they don't upgrade and offer a better service for a lower price the government will make them.

                      So lets give an example of exactly what you are arguing. Without government regulation and with a lack of competition they can charge $100 and invest $20 back into their infrastructure for maintenance purposes. That's an $80 profit. You ask why should they lower their prices and charge only $50 in opposed to a hundred and invest $30 of their revenue, in opposed to twenty, into upgrading and maintenance to offer customers with a better service for a better price? There is no competition, they have a natural monopoly as they argue, so it's more profitable to simply pocket the $80 profits? So you're absolutely right, why should they do it? Because if they don't the government will make them. From a social perspective for them to overcharge the customer and offer them a worse service is socially harmful. It's horrible. Good for their bottom line so you're absolutely right they have no incentive to change, but bad for society and economically a bad thing. and as a society this isn't what we should allow.

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                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:12am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      "You miss the point entirely."

                      No one is missing the point. The point is that you have a different definition of net neutrality than everyone else and, by your personal definition, what Netflix does violates net neutrality. But by the definition everyone else uses it doesn't.

                      "I am not trying to hand the choice to the final mile guys, I am trying to say "TAKE IT AWAY". The problem here is that high dollar companies can push their CDNs right to the door of the ISP, and basically use an interconnect to have direct access to the ISP network, and advantage that others would not have. The ISP is basically picking and choosing who wins and who comes in second."

                      No, the ISP is not picking and choosing who wins and who comes in second as long as the ISP is neutral about who gets to install CDNs on their network. So long as that condition is met no one, besides you, has a problem with it and it doesn't violate net neutrality by the definition that everyone else uses.

                      "Direct peering is a "rich get richer" thing, where those companies who can afford to have a higher deliver rate can skip the front door of the ISP and sneak in the side door. It creates an unfair advantage."

                      and richer people can afford bigger houses as well. It creates an unfair advantage. This isn't communism.

                      If a service generates enough traffic, like any other service, to create enough revenue to support more network upgrades they can use that money to invest.

                      Netflix can also install a huge hard drive in my house with all sorts of content that I can watch as well or they can send me the content via snail mail like they used to hence skipping the ISP altogether. Some companies maybe able to afford it and others may not be able to. The point is that we don't want ISPs to arbitrarily charge whatever they want for content going through their network because if they started doing that they will disproportionately charge a lot more than their costs and they will collect the highest monopoly rents possible making everything more expensive and less accessible to consumers and minimizing the profits of service providers that do all the work of providing the service just because ISPs are in the middle of service providers and users. ISPs will overprice their service simply because they can even though their service costs way less than what charge. This will also enable them to offer their own similar services and overcharge customers for it as well. I want them to be a dumb pipe. They deliver bandwidth just like the electric company delivers electricity. What I do with that electricity and what people provide with that bandwidth is none of their concern. How much Google makes by using it is none of their concern. They don't get to charge Youtube based on how much Youtube makes and they don't get to charge service providers based on the value of such services to providers and consumers (but only based on the cost of delivery). The law shouldn't allow them to. That's why net neutrality is necessary. Otherwise they will eat up all the surplus in the market by minimizing consumer surplus and minimizing the surplus of service providers so that they can have all the surplus to themselves like a typical monopolist. This reduces aggregate output and hurts society. It's bad economics. The prices they charge should be based only on their costs and not based on the value of the services that other service providers provide through them. Which is why it's fine for Netflix to install equipment on the ISP so long as the ISP is neutral about who does it. Because that's a natural cost and no one has a problem with that. It's not an economic profit and it's not potentially an arbitrary price that the ISP charges based on their desire to maximize economic profit because this is what everyone is against.

                      It's fair so long as the ISPs are neutral about who they grant such access to. Yes some services can afford more equipment than others. This is true even if Netflix were directing all their traffic through 'a third party interconnection' service.

                      But you really ask for is to make the Internet more expensive for everyone. You want to make the Internet more inefficient. Requiring all traffic to go through a third party interconnection when it's not necessary is very inefficient. Instead of the traffic only passing through a few routers to get to its destination it must pass through many largely separated routers. This forces more unnecessary and much more expensive in transit upgrades. I wonder why you would support such a position? Is it because you want competing content delivery to be more expensive? Is it to discourage competing content so that you can encourage people to pay more for mainstream content (ie: cable T.V.)? It would seem so.

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                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 8:27am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Whatever needs to understand something. This isn't about 'fairness'. Yes, some people have an 'unfair advantage'. Some people are taller and so they have an unfair advantage as basketball players. Some businesses are better positioned to offer certain services than others and so they have an unfair advantage. This isn't communism. This is about economic efficiency. Allowing a monopolist to charge whatever they want for a service is economically inefficient. It reduces aggregate output and creates deadweight losses to society.

                        Yes some people can afford better network equipment than others. So long as the ISP is neutral about who gets to install equipment it's not the ISPs that are choosing winners and losers. It's the natural ability of the second party service provider to provide their service that's choosing winners and losers. and everyone is fine with that. Just like some people and businesses are naturally more able to provide certain services than others. Google has a natural advantage when it comes to being a search engine than, say, the grocery store down the street. They have an 'unfair' advantage when it comes to being a search engine. No one has a problem with that.

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                        • identicon
                          Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:07am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          but what we're against is allowing intermediary monopolists to set prices.

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                          • identicon
                            Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 9:08am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            (because then they set prices based on the simple fact that they're an intermediary monopolist and not based on the service they provide and their costs and their hard work).

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 10:03am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Netflix, streaming (and P2P for that matter) are high bandwidth, high intensity constant demand services that effectively have changed those ratios in a matter that vastly increases the costs to the ISP with absolutely no hope for a return."

                  But you're missing the point. The customer has already paid for that bandwidth. They're covering their costs with customer subscriptions (and they're making huge profits on top of that).

                  They're natural monopolies as they like to argue. Not every 'cost' needs a profitable 'return'. They shouldn't be regulated in such a way as to ensure an economic return on every dollar invested. Again, if they spend $20 per person on infrastructure and charge the customer $100 that's an $80 profit. So you're arguing that they have no reason to spend an extra $10 on infrastructure if it won't make them an additional $11 so that they can make a profit on those $10. the point is that they're already making an $80 profit for every $100 they charge the customers. They're making huge, unethically high, profits by abusing their monopoly privileges. They don't need to recoup every dollar past the $20 in maintenance per $100 that they spend. They should be forced to charge the customer less and spend more. To do that the government must make them. That's how natural monopolies are supposed to be regulated because that's what's socially beneficial. That's what you learn in an introductory economics class. and they have a natural monopoly, or so they always like to argue.

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                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 10:08am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    The government needs to make them offer a better product for a cheaper price. Yes it may mean some of their executives and higher paid employees may need to take a pay cut, yes it may may mean they may make a lower economic profit, yes it may mean they may have to actually work harder like everyone else instead of making easy money by abusing their monopoly position, but there is nothing wrong with that. That's what's socially beneficial.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Sep 2014 @ 9:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "The long term goal is free interconnect."

              It's not free. The customer pays for it. The customer is paying the ISP. It's not like the ISP is printing money or ISP employees have a second job to fund it.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm not pretending, for one second, that Netflix are an innocent party; it's that the US major ISPs have a long and storied history of legal and ethical malfeasance. And this is simply another extraction of borderline illegality.

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    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:42am

      Re:

      "Should ISPs be required to obtain, maintain, and pay for significantly more interconnection to support certain business models?"

      As a consumer who uses Netflix, I am not advocating for what you wrote above at all. Instead, I am advocating that my ISP delivers to me, their customer, what they said they would deliver:

      fast, unfettered access to the Internet, anywhere I want to go, and at the speed and caps to which I agreed.

      If that means the ISP needs to spend more money interconnecting with Netflix, why should the subscriber care so long as I stay below my caps? And what's more, it's immaterial to the ISP: Would it be less of a burden to them if, instead, I generated an equal amount of traffic spread over 100 different sites?

      When I go to an "all you can eat" buffet with pasta and salad, should the restaurant try to stop me if I choose to eat all salad? No. That's kinda part of the buffet, isn't it.

      Seems the ISPs sold me a buffet, and are now angry that they have to deliver it. Yet they are still on TV and radio pushing ads to sell more of the same to others. Seems schizophrenic. Do they want to sell their ISP services or not?

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      • icon
        MonkeyFracasJr (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 12:41pm

        Re: Re: their customer ....

        You and I are NOT their customer, we are the product (the goods).

        Their customers are advertisers and companies who sell advertising.

        And the services of course is the bandwidth.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: their customer ....

          The problem for final mile ISPs is that you are the customer, and all that advertising revenue is going to the service providers, and they are not getting their share.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: their customer ....

            And that's a problem how? They are complaining because they're not getting a share of something they have no right to a share of.

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            • icon
              MonkeyFracasJr (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:03pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: their customer ....

              ^^^ EXACTLY ^^^

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:23pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: their customer ....

              The elephant in the room, is as they increase bandwidth and caps to their broadband users, they lose cable subscriptions and income, including advertising income. It seems to me that they want Netflix et al. to pay for access to customers to replace that income.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 2:33am

        Re: Re:

        "Do they want to sell their ISP services or not?"

        Sell? Yes. Deliver? No.

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      • identicon
        Chris Schwinn, 15 Feb 2015 @ 8:59pm

        Re: Re:

        This is what I've been thinking the whole time. I love the salad bar metaphor. Give me what I signed up for. Don't sell me unlimited bandwith then turn around and say that I actually have a cap...

        In a world with true free markets people would switch to a different company that did that. Unfortunately we have cable provider monopolies. These monopolies should be regulated heavily, or broken up, and deregulated entirely in order to give more competitors a fair shot.

        We, the consumers demand a great service, and should have more than one option if other companies are happy to provide it.

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

        • identicon
          Chris Schwinn, 15 Feb 2015 @ 9:04pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          And when I say, "These monopolies should be regulated heavily". I mean that if they have been granted monopoly power through lobbying (which is pretty much the case now). Then they should be required to offer service that people are actually happy with, otherwise, that power needs to be taken away, deregulated, infrastructure access to other companies granted, and open up the free market to any company to get a fair shot in offering a better product the users.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      Should ISPs be required to obtain, maintain, and pay for significantly more interconnection to support certain business models? Is there a point where the amount of data flowing from a given "service" is just too high?

      Netflix mocked Verizon and offered to pay the 10k they needed to add another piece of equipment that would simply make the 'congestion' go away. Something that Verizon should be doing itself because their users are already paying for the ability to access Netflix if they so wish (remember that interconnection issue affects the whole connections). So basically Verizon sold more flow than they could sustain but they could fix it with 10k dollars.

      When ISP networks are generally 25 to 1 or even 100 to 1 bandwidth to subscription, does there need to be a mandate that says "you must have 1 to 1 interconnection for every user?". What level of interconnection should be required, and who should bear the costs?

      Most bigger players (ie: L3) have much, much, much more capacity than the required. Why shouldn't the ISPs have capacity to provide what they sold (!!!) and a little spare just in case? L3 didn't oversell their capacity, Netflix has PAID for plenty of bandwidth to serve their customers and the ISP subscribers (also Netflix customers) have PAID for enough bandwidth to get what Netflix can deliver. So let's summarize as a water company:

      Netflix has the water and pays for the major pipes (L3), households want the water and pay for the distribution pipes (the ISP). The hub where these distribution pipes connect to to get the water from the high flow pipes is the problem, the ISPs (the ones responsible for the low flow distribution part) are refusing to add more pipes to serve the flow their customers PAID for. And they want to make Netflix pay for the privilege of serving the people that already PAID for that access. In the water case the product would mix somewhere in the system and the distribution network wouldn't be able to pick where it came from but packets can be traced so there is that.

      Moreover, should companies like Netflix be able and allowed to "peer" directly with ISPs when others may not be financially able? Does that not create more problems than any "cable company fuckery"?

      This was explained in details to you a while back but you can't help being a moron it seems. Or you are mentally handicapped. Peering means the company providing the data moves their servers near the consumption points meaning the gain in speed is due to PHYSICAL advantages. If the other smaller companies can get near in the same way they are getting the same advantages. What the ISPs want is to give priority to the company that pays them effectively making the packets of Netflix go to their destination faster even though they have the SAME PEERING AGREEMENTS AND SETUPS of Netflox. That's the difference.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 5:55pm

      Re:

      That's funny, the government already pays significantly to support certain business models.

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

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:38pm

      Re:

      There are so many problems with these explanations that it's hard to know where to start

      Which is probably while you failed completely to disprove any of the claims made. Good job.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 10:38pm

      Re:

      "Should ISPs be required to obtain, maintain, and pay for significantly more interconnection to support certain business models?"

      ISP's don't 'pay for' anything out of their own pocket. It's not like ISP employees have alternative jobs they are making money from and using that money to pay for the service they provide customers with. It's not like ISPs print money and use that to pay their expenses with. Everything they 'pay for' comes from money that their customers paid them with. So it's the customers that are paying for everything and not the ISPs.

      and since ISPs like to argue that they are natural monopolies they should be regulated as such. They should be forced to make a normal, and not an economic, profit. Part of that involves net neutrality. Part of that involves the government regulating prices and service. Part of that involves the government forcing ISPs to invest customer money into upgrading their service regularly to support customer demand. So yes, ISPs should be forced to 'pay for' whatever business models the customers ask for because it's not the ISPs that are paying for it it's the customers. and ISPs should not be allowed to tax every service to make it prohibitively expensive for a larger majority of service providers and customers to have access when the ISPs are contributing almost nothing and are simply having someone else do all the work while they reap all of the profits of abusing their monopoly position.

      This crony capitalism that we have in America, this abuse of monopolistic power, needs to end.

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

  • icon
    Namel3ss (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:04am

    Thumbs up to you Mike

    This is a really good summary of the state of net neutrality affairs. Good job Mike.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:13am

    The last thing I want is to grant the State even more power to regulate/control. The power to regulate is the power to grant favors.

    I really wish sites like Techdirt would focus on the core issue here: the State forced monopolies on internet access (for example, where I live Comcast has a State granted monopoly).

    Without the ability for the consumer to take their business elsewhere when a company engages in undesireable practices, then said company has enormous power/leverage (granted by State force/violence) to engage in all sorts of "cable fuckery" that hurt the consumer.

    Please stop advocating for more State power - when force/violence is used as a means (State regulation is force/violence in the end) the result is opposite of the original claimed intent.

    I prefer consensual relationships and exchange.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:24am

      Re:

      The last thing I want is to grant the State even more power to regulate/control. The power to regulate is the power to grant favors.

      As explained in the post, this is already about state power. It's not about more or less -- but about which rules apply. That's it.

      I really wish sites like Techdirt would focus on the core issue here: the State forced monopolies on internet access (for example, where I live Comcast has a State granted monopoly).

      We do talk about that. Did you read the post?

      Please stop advocating for more State power - when force/violence is used as a means (State regulation is force/violence in the end) the result is opposite of the original claimed intent.

      We're not.

      I prefer consensual relationships and exchange.


      I find that people using the language choices you've chosen "state power" "force" etc. tend to be idealists rather than realists. That's great. The world needs idealists. But this post is about the reality of the situation. And also, some things aren't as black and white as you make them out to be. Okay, so do away with all regulations on internet, then what? The entire internet starts to break down because you can't install any more infrastructure. Not so simple in the real world as utopian libertarian scenarios.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      "The last thing I want is to grant the State even more power to regulate/control. The power to regulate is the power to grant favors."

      I agree. Municipalities need to stop granting exclusive rights of way to ISP's and government needs to stop restricting competition. but they do. They claim it's a natural monopoly. But natural monopolies are supposed to be regulated. So we have a natural monopoly, or so the ISPs would like to keep arguing, and so it needs to be regulated so that they make a normal, and not an economic, profit.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 3:40pm

      Re:

      "I really wish sites like Techdirt would focus on the core issue here: the State forced monopolies on internet access (for example, where I live Comcast has a State granted monopoly)."

      and I agree with you here. This deserves more attention and these city/state granted monopolies should be abolished.

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

  • identicon
    boomslang, 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:28am

    Winners and Losers

    First, I agree with Alfonso, and would like to add a few more points.

    There isn't, nor has there never been, "Net Neutrality" in USA law. With all the talk of telcos picking winners and losers, how come we haven't seen it yet? Where are all the start-ups that are being shut down by Comcast and Verizon? We should not be trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

    Second, "Net Neutrality" is dangerous in a lot of ways. As a technical person, I worry that it will stifle innovation. Whether or not telcos will invest the extra money into their network, they certainly have no incentive to do so with "Net Neutrality" in effect. On the other side, "Net Neutrality" might stifle researchers, system engineers, and network admins efforts to improve network speeds/protocols/etc. I still remember during the SOPA hearings where every politician admited ignorance by beginning with, "I'm not a nerd, but..." I don't want those idiots running the Internet.

    Finally, I don't buy the argument that all network traffic should be treated equally. The best example regards malicious activity. I don't want DDoS traffic or spam traffic being treated the same as my regular browsing traffic. I don't want some unfortunately user with a malware infection scanning the Internet for more victims to infect.

    Increasing competition, I think, would solve all of the problems that "Net Neutrality" tries to solve, but without all the downsides.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:44am

      Re: Winners and Losers

      Are you guys all pulling from the same playbook?

      There isn't, nor has there never been, "Net Neutrality" in USA law. With all the talk of telcos picking winners and losers, how come we haven't seen it yet? Where are all the start-ups that are being shut down by Comcast and Verizon? We should not be trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist

      Watch any Netflix lately?

      And, uh, yes, there are real examples of them picking winners and losers. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140413/15112526896/yes-net-neutrality-is-solution-to-existing-pr oblem.shtml

      Second, "Net Neutrality" is dangerous in a lot of ways. As a technical person, I worry that it will stifle innovation.

      Okay, I'm not claiming that you're an astroturfing shill. I'm just saying, if you aren't, you should drop that phrase, because it TOTALLY reads like those fake astroturfing comments we discovered in the past. They always start with "as a so-and-so..." as if that makes them sound legit. Real people don't talk that way. Shills do.

      Whether or not telcos will invest the extra money into their network, they certainly have no incentive to do so with "Net Neutrality" in effect.

      Bullshit. As explained above, investment in broadband infrastructure was greater under Title II. Verizon still begs for its fiber to be classified as Title II. Competition drives investment. The idea that they have no incentive is bunk. We see it now in the mobile space, where there's much more competition... regulated under Title II... and plenty of investment. SO, really, drop that awful talking point. You look silly.

      Finally, I don't buy the argument that all network traffic should be treated equally. The best example regards malicious activity. I don't want DDoS traffic or spam traffic being treated the same as my regular browsing traffic. I don't want some unfortunately user with a malware infection scanning the Internet for more victims to infect.

      Again, as explained above, that's not what people are actually asking for. So, nice strawman.

      No offense, but all your points read like they come from a talking points handbook.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re: Winners and Losers

        Sorry to say I'm not a shill, and I do think your write-up is a very good explanation of Net Neutrality. I used to be in favor of Net Neutrality, but I've been sliding over to the other side lately. How do you think Net Neutrality could be implemented and enforced?

        I think competition alone can break up the telco cartels and solve the winners/losers problem. If one ISP throttles Netflix, people will just switch to one that doesn't.

        Maybe I'm crazy, but I think one of the most powerful aspects of the Internet is that it is largely a lawless, anything-goes frontier.

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

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 12:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

          How do you think Net Neutrality could be implemented and enforced?

          Under Title II the FCC would have the power to enforce keeping the internet open, not allowing the carriers to pick winners and losers.

          I think competition alone can break up the telco cartels and solve the winners/losers problem. If one ISP throttles Netflix, people will just switch to one that doesn't.

          I used to be totally in agreement with that. And I've argued before that net neutrality is really a symptom of the lack of competition. However, I'm less convinced of that today. In Europe they have much greater competition -- but net neutrality has been under significant attack.

          I still agree that we need much more competition, but that isn't happening yet. So without it, what do you do?

          Maybe I'm crazy, but I think one of the most powerful aspects of the Internet is that it is largely a lawless, anything-goes frontier.

          Right, and the FCC's current proposal would remove that, by basically making the big ISPs "the law." And, to be clear, you're confusing the "lawless, anything goes frontier" of the internet with the ALREADY HEAVILY REGULATED infrastructure side of the internet.

          As explained in the post, this is not about adding regulation. Just changing which kinds of regulations...

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

          • identicon
            boomslang, 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

            > Under Title II the FCC would have the power to enforce keeping the internet open, not allowing the carriers to pick winners and losers.

            Right, but how? Will the government need to install their own hardware to monitor networks? Hmmm...

            It's a tricky issue, and I'm worried that even if Net Neutrality is enforced, between lobbyists and the gov't, they'll find a way to screw it up.

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

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

              And if net neutrality isn't enforced, ISP's will continue to get worse and more blatant about screwing the public over, so who would you rather take the risk on, a company that you have no control over, or a government agency that (at least in theory) answers to the public?

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

          "I think one of the most powerful aspects of the Internet is that it is largely a lawless, anything-goes frontier."

          Except, of course, that it's not that at all and never has been.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

          One interesting piece of the history Mike left out. In the early 2000's before the major traditional telcos got heavy into the consumer ISP business, they were all for having ISPs re-classified as common carriers under Title II. In fact they were practically screaming at the FCC to do it. Why, you may ask? That is because the lower operating costs due to the lack of regulatory fees was allowing ISPs like Comcast to take away phone service business by offering VOIP service on their networks. Once the telcos got into the ISP business and their wireless services that, for whatever reason, didn't get classified as Title II started surpassing their POTS offerings, now they are completely against it.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

          Actually, several of the points he made addresses those reasonable statements:

          He is advocating a title II classification and a forebearing on the unfortunate effects of such.

          Competition is an issue he goes to pretty lenghty explanations on. He suggests a lot of improvements and idealize the "common infrastructure"-approach. That is very unlikely to happen politically since several of the larger providers already have cables down and don't want a nationalisation of their expensive investment or opening up the monopoly their cable investment hinges on. As mentioned there is a lack of real competition. On the worst connections (4/1 Mbit) a majority have 2 choices total and a fifth no competition or no connection at all. At the better connections (50/3 Mbit) more than 80 % have 1 or no providers. When talking telemedicine or other video-enabled services you would like 1+ Mbit upload, making the higher connections preferrable. Since those uses are not science fiction (it is infact used in in situ experiments) that is probably what should be used as the standard for future net-uses and that is where any kind of competition breaks down completely. Even 2 or 3 competitors can be said to be a very sad competition on a market.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:54pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Winners and Losers

            The solution there is to regulate owners of local infrastructure while removing their ability to provide retail service. That would instantly create competition in the marketplace.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 1:26pm

        Re: Re: Winners and Losers

        Okay, I'm not claiming that you're an astroturfing shill. I'm just saying, if you aren't, you should drop that phrase, because it TOTALLY reads like those fake astroturfing comments we discovered in the past. They always start with "as a so-and-so..." as if that makes them sound legit. Real people don't talk that way. Shills do.

        To be fair, it could have been much worse.

        "As a part-time trucker, part-time teacher, who travel-teaches in rural areas..."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:33am

    Virtual Network Operators has improved pricing and service in the mobile phone market. I use Straight Talk as my VNO with no contract, 3GB month data, unlimited talk/text for less than $50 a month.

    Then again cable and DSL companies might charge "commercially reasonable" data cap prices and extort the VNOs.

    Perhaps Title II classification is the only real answer. Cable and DSL companies DO provide Telecommunication services

    "Telecommunication is communication at a distance by technological means, particularly through electrical signals or electromagnetic waves."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunication

    Fits the definition of telecommunications to the letter. Not only do they carry voice like when the Telecommunications Act was drafted in 1934, now-a-days they also carry video, news, education, and so much more.

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

  • icon
    antidirt (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 11:38am

    I appreciate the write-up, Mike! I haven't followed the net neutrality stuff at all, and I needed an introduction like this--this is why I donated to your crowdfunding cause. I'm sure there's other points of view worth investigating, but this has given me a good starting point. Thanks!

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

  • identicon
    wec, 10 Sep 2014 @ 12:35pm

    The way the Internet is used now, when a state starts making laws about who can establish broadband connections can't that be said to be interfering with Interstate Commerce.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Sep 2014 @ 4:20pm

    I thought Oliver established it pretty well

    What is net neutrality?

    Preventing Cable Company Fuckery.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 12:31pm

    And besides...

    Communism isn't a thing to be disparaged on its own if making a thing communist actually works, then maybe a communist model should be utilized.

    This anti-communism rhetoric is left over from containment-era propaganda.

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

  • icon
    fgoodwin (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:07pm

    Cable modem was never Title II

    Masnick writes:
    the largest period of investment in broadband infrastructure happened before the big Brand X Supreme Court decision, when broadband was still considered to be under Title II.
    It is true that DSL was considered a Title II service before it was reclassified in 2005. But the largest providers of broadband Internet access in the U.S. are by far the cable TV companies. And their infrastructure was never classified as Title II.

    In the 2002 decision that classified cable modem service as a Title I Information Service, rather than a Title II Telecommunications Service, I think the FCC made a mistake, but what they didn't do was reclassify cable modem from telecom to information service; it was never a telecom service to begin with.

    So to say all broadband was Title II before Brand X is nowhere near correct.

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

  • identicon
    Richard Russell, 29 Jun 2015 @ 8:49pm

    I have witnessed several net neutrality debates in the past few years. As a consumer, I think everyone who supports net neutrality might be a part of an Internet service provider who makes money by providing the internet. Every money paying consumer, would like to have equal speed to whatever they do with my internet connection and pay equal charges for them. I don’t know any technical aspects of it, but net neutrality should be maintained by every internet service provider like ABC communications, https://www.abccommunications.com/ in Vancouver.

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


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