Comcast: We Must Kill Net Neutrality To Help The Sick And Disabled

from the you-do-realize-nobody-believes-anything-you-say,-right? dept

For years now, large ISPs like Comcast have tried to have it both ways on net neutrality. They consistently profess to support the concept of net neutrality, but they don't want any meaningful rules actually holding them to their word on the subject. And if there are rules, they want them to be so loophole-filled as to be utterly useless. That's effectively what the FCC's initial 2010 rules did, and that's why companies like Comcast are now pushing to have the tougher 2015 rules killed and replaced with a new net neutrality law they know either won't happen, or will be quite literally written by the industry itself.

This have your cake and eat it too approach continued in this week's Comcast comment on the FCC's proceeding to kill net neutrality. In it, Comcast again pats itself on its back for the company's non-existent dedication to net neutrality, uses industry-paid economists to falsely claim net neutrality rules hurt broadband investment, and trots out all manner of flimsy justifications for the kind of feeble rules that look meaningful to the nation's nitwits, but allow Comcast the leeway to act anti-competitively whenever it likes.

One long-standing ploy used by giant ISPs to scare people into compliance is to argue that net neutrality rules will somehow prevent ISPs from prioritizing medical network traffic. That point was most starkly made when Verizon tried to argue that net neutrality protections would hurt the deaf and disabled by preventing ISPs from being able to prioritize needed communications tools. That's never actually been a problem, and every set of rules we've had so far carves out obvious, glaring exceptions to these services. But that didn't stop Comcast from trotting out this bogeyman once again in its FCC filing (pdf):

"...the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public. For example, a telepresence service tailored for the hearing impaired requires high-definition video that is of sufficiently reliable quality to permit users “to perceive subtle hand and finger motions” in real time. And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it."

The goal here is to scare policy makers into "more flexible" rules (read: embedding all manner of loopholes into net neutrality protections) or we'll inadvertently hurt the disabled, disadvantage the sick, or kill the smart-driving car industry in the cradle. But again, this has never actually been a problem. The 2010 net neutrality rules had so many exceptions of this type as to make them utterly meaningless, letting ISPs do pretty much whatever they'd like provided they argued it was for the health and security of the network. The 2015 rules also include broad, tractor trailer sized exceptions for this kind of traffic.

What Comcast really wants is rules so "flexible" and broad they don't actually address any of the real hot-button subjects in the net neutrality debate. Like Comcast's decision to abuse the lack of broadband competition to impose arbitrary usage caps and overage fees. Or the way it exempts its own content from these unnecessary limits to put competing streaming providers at a notable disadvantage in this emerging market (aka zero rating).

So it's important to understand that when Comcast pens blog posts insisting it supports net neutrality, what it's really saying is it supports an absurdly-broad definition of net neutrality, which includes so many caveats and loopholes as to make said support utterly meaningless. That's again why you're currently seeing large ISPs argue that they want to do away with the strong 2015 rules (which more clearly differentiate anti-competitive behavior from justifiable paid prioritization), and replace it with a new, industry-written law that takes us back to the murky definitions seen in the FCC's since-discarded 2010 rules.

So once again with feeling: anybody that actually cares about net neutrality should support the simplest and easiest way to protect consumers, startups and small businesses moving forward: keep the existing rules intact.


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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 10:55am

    Anyone??

    ANYONE WANT TO WRITE THEIR OWN RULES AND LAWS OUT THERE???
    HOW ABOUT GROUPS that would LOVE to WRITE THEIR OWN RULES AND LAWS...
    ANYONE WANT A HAND CHOPPED OFF, BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE 1 THING, and WE another??

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:06am

      Re: Anyone??

      This may be the first comment in the history of the internet written in almost all caps to properly use "their" and "there". You should have included a "they're" to cement your place in the Online Hall of Fame.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:50am

      Re: Anyone??

      We will take amputation for 500, Alex...

      ~Everyone

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 8:04pm

      Re: Anyone??

      Dear comcast..
      Im sick and disabled..
      And after paying rent, utilities, Food..and the Gas I need to get to the doctor..
      You are the last thing on my List to pay..,
      And I have not gotten a Raise in my SS in over 3 years..

      I figured that paying $50-60 1 time to PUT UP AND ANTENNA, insted of watching your 300 channels(I only watch 20) and Paying Every month, more then $20..
      Was CHEAP..with an average of 20-50 channels in a METRO AREA..ALL LOCAL telling me whats happening HERE..

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

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:15am

    Robber Barons

    It's like the robber barons of the 19th century are resurrecting. And they demand that they must be able to create monopolies, corner markets and corrupt government. All to help the poor of course.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:18am

    Ironically...

    Even if you don't pay for prioritization, Comcast will still prioritize your traffic for you (just not the way you prefer)

    That's the part they don't explain.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:37am

    You know what would help the disabled?

    Keeping the net neutral so they can access all of it at the same speed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:47am

    Like it or not, it is Congress that should be deciding this issue...as opposed to nameless and faceless bureaucrats. The regs that are currently in place were a regulatory power grab by the FCC using a law that was long ago enacted for the limited purpose of regulating the telephone industry. Just because one may happen to like a set of regs is no good reason to ignore the constitutional role of Congress.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:54am

    You did it again!

    This have your cake and eat it too approach continued in this week's Comcast comment on the FCC's proceeding to kill net neutrality.

    Nice article, but... You used the one phrase that pushes my buttons: "You want to have your cake and eat it, too!"

    Well duh! What good is having cake and not being able to eat it?!?! What kind of sick bastard hands you cake and then tells you "You can have this cake, but eating it is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!" The whole point of having cake is to eat it.

    No, the PROPER way to say what is INTENDED is "You want to eat your cake and have it, too!" That makes a LOT more sense. Once you've eaten the cake, it's gone and no amount of crying will allow you to have it afterwards.

    People have this saying backwards, and I won't rest until people use it in the correct fashion! Given this rant, I feel this is mandatory:

    http://xkcd.com/386/

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:59am

      Re: You did it again!

      Once you've eaten the cake, it's gone

      If we're being pedantic, that's not true: if you've taken one bite, you've eaten the cake but probably still have cake.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:12pm

        Re: Re: You did it again!

        Are you trying to prioritize certain bits of cake and their traffic on the digestive network? This is why we need protections from people like you!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 12:09pm

      Re: You did it again!

      The Cake is a lie.

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

    • icon
      William Braunfeld (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:58pm

      Re: You did it again!

      While I applaud your pedantism (I'm pedantic myself), you fail to understand the genesis of the phrase. "Have your cake amd eat it too" isn't referring to a dime-store confection; think more like wedding cake, or finely detailed jubilee cake. The term is referring to having your cake - having this beautiful, aesthetically pleasing piece of artwork; and also being able to eat it. If you eat it, you lose out on the prettiness and the symbolism of whatever it is celebrating; if instead you opt to keep it, you lose out on delicious cake.

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

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 5:00pm

        Re: Re: You did it again!

        You do realize that the wedding party eats the cake, right? At best, a scant few people will keep the very top layer with the figurines. Cakes exist solely to be eaten... except in advertising, where the food tends to be fake and you don't DARE eat it. :)

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 20 Jul 2017 @ 2:31am

      Re: You did it again!

      Thanks a bunch - I just spent half a day on XKCD pressing the random button. I blame you entirely.

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RidiculousProcrastinator

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

  • identicon
    Shilling, 19 Jul 2017 @ 11:56am

    'For example, a telepresence service tailored for the hearing impaired requires high-definition video that is of sufficiently reliable quality to permit users “to perceive subtle hand and finger motions” in real time.'

    So basically the ISP is saying that their product is a basic package that is not equipped to meet the modern demands of an internet connection and if you pay a little bit more they can fix it.

    I like this monopolist logic.

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

  • identicon
    Ntlgnce, 19 Jul 2017 @ 12:22pm

    OMG

    Why is it any concern of the ISP's who's traffic gets prioritized? This should be a mute discussion from the ISP standpoint. The ISP should NOT have a say in the rules. The public and companies that run the autonomous cars, that have netflix in them should have the floor to say why their videos should get top priority over the video games that I play.. The ISP's should just sit back and do as their told.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 12:46pm

      Re: OMG

      Well yeah, that makes sense to you and I (consumers), but the ISPs complaining loudest in this case are also content providers looking for an easy way to extinguish competition in their content space.

      They also really don't like when people actually USE their connection that they pay for (like streaming HD video) - because it forces them to actually improve their infrastructure, which costs money they could instead be using to pad their bottom line and or lining politicians' pockets with.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:18pm

    It's not what Comcast says that matters, it's how much they pay Congress to believe it.

    Those bill payments have to go somewhere, right?

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

  • icon
    William Braunfeld (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:52pm

    The Information Superhighway

    "But if we have to treat all traffic the same and not charge businesses for being on the offramps, we can't let ambulances bypass other traffic!"

    Disingenuous.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 5:58pm

      Re: The Information Superhighway

      Disingenuous is when an ISP prioritizes and charges less when the content they are associated with is at issue, as compared with when content comes from content providers not associated with that ISP and charges more and puts caps on transmission of that content. Understand the issue you are arguing.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:31pm

    The sooner these dirt bags run the internet into the ground the better. I will spend the savings on healthcare for the children. And if they agree to give up their cellphones there will be food in the house, again.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 3:07pm

    "For example, a telepresence service tailored for the hearing impaired requires high-definition video that is of sufficiently reliable quality to permit users “to perceive subtle hand and finger motions” in real time."

    That's a bandwidth issue far more than any prioritization issue. So how about they get on the damn ball with that. And when you paid for higher bandwidth, well, you have paid for priority already.

    These people have always been full of crap, and this only reminds me of how cable ISPs used to overload their local loops and then whine about people using the service they paid for. (Only without any actual congestion problems anymore, which were only ever due to the bad practices of ISPs in the first place.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2017 @ 4:50am

    Not this again...

    It is a huge lie they are trying to spread here. It kind of sounds like the same issue but they are trying to mislead.
    Traffic prioritization by type of content has nothing to do with NN.
    NN is about WHO the traffic is from (or to) and not WHAT the traffic is.
    In many companies it is used for things like making sure that conference calls with video streaming takes priority over any other video or audio streaming going on.
    Yeah content prioritization is fundamental to how the internet works but in the NN aspect it is like comparing grapes with drapes; it rhymes but it is not even in the fruit category.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2017 @ 7:21am

    The dinosaurs are using the same old tactics in digital age.

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

  • icon
    Wolfie0827 (profile), 20 Jul 2017 @ 8:54am

    On the Privacy side...

    They might be right, without their data collection I can't get my offers for viagra/cialas from those cheap china companies (Really lead/mercury tainted with arsenic) and will have to rely on the US Pharmacy charging me $150 per hardon!

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

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 20 Jul 2017 @ 10:24am

    Comcast Is Trying to Confuse Different levels of Networks.

    A packet-switching network, such as the Internet, sits on top of a frequency (lambda)-switching network. Certain frequencies are reserved for the use of the packet-switching network, and the packet-switching network's switches only have the capacity to transmit and receive on those frequencies. Possible congestion on a given packet-switching network is confined to that network's frequencies, and does not affect other frequencies used by other networks running on top of the same frequency-switching network.

    Likewise, a frequency-switching network sits on top of a fiber/core network, with the same comments applying.

    In the cases of lambda, cores, and fibers, what one purchases is an "Indefeasible Right of Use" The frequency, the core and/or the fiber, as the case may be, is reserved to one, and no one else is allowed to use it, even when it is idle. People with special high-reliability applications purchase Indefeasible Rights of Use, and run their own networks on top of them. That is pretty much what Comcast does with broadcast television.

    Now, of course, since it takes something like a million users to even come close to saturating an optical fiber, there are practically very few limits on how many separate packet networks can be set up, running on their own reserved frequencies. There would be a certain additional cost in frequency-switches, or "multiplexers."

    Facilities requiring specially high-reliability data are not in practice located at random over the landscape. For example, sheltered housing for medically-at-risk people is commonly located next door to a hospital, so the ambulance doesn't have too far to go. It isn't too expensive to run a dedicated optical fiber. There is always something much less portable than data which dictates location. For example, nuclear power plants are commonly located around the question of: how are you going to deliver a thousand-ton reactor vessel, say twenty feet in diameter? Or, where is there an electric power line mighty enough to carry away thousands of megawatts of electricity?

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


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