Dear Al Franken: Net Neutrality Is Not A Magic Wand You Can Wave At Any Company

from the apples-and-oranges dept

By now, most Techdirt readers are well aware that net neutrality violations are just a symptom of the lack of competition specifically in the broadband industry. If we had lawmakers that were genuinely interested in policies that improve competition, we wouldn't need net neutrality rules protecting consumers from often-unchecked duopoly power. In the absence of said competition -- or lawmakers willing to stand up to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- the FCC's current net neutrality rules, however imperfect, are the next best thing.

And to be clear, net neutrality is something specific to the uncompetitive telecom industry. Yet we've watched for years as people have tried to take the concept and apply it to other, competitive sectors. AT&T, for example, has tried to foist regulations on Google by insisting the company violates "search neutrality." Other folks, like Blackberry CEO John Chen, have similarly tried to push regulation on Google and Apple by trying to insist we need protections for "app neutrality." Usually, these folks are only interested in saddling their own competitors with additional regulation, not actually improving the internet.

These folks consistently ignore the fact that this is an apples to oranges comparison. You don't need search or app store neutrality rules because those markets are actually competitive. While there are certainly some exceptions, users offended by Google or Apple's app store policies, privacy practices, or search engine behaviors have the choice of using a myriad of other services. The same can't be said of the broadband industry, where 75% of the public technically only has one choice for broadband (as defined by the FCC at 25 Mbps). These problems aren't directly comparable.

And while Al Franken has been a welcome and outspoken defender of net neutrality, he too fell into this trap this week during a speech given at the Open Markets Institute, a think tank devoted to fighting monopoly power. While engaged in a well-intentioned rant warning of the perils of unchecked social media power at the likes of Facebook, Franken conflated net neutrality with, well, something else entirely:

As tech giants become a new kind of internet gatekeeper, I believe the same basic principles of net neutrality should apply here: no one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t. And Facebook, Google, and Amazon – like ISPs – should be “neutral” in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platforms.

Following years of hard work and dedication, we found in the Open Internet Order a strong and time-tested framework to protect net neutrality. While we fight to preserve the Order, we must now begin a thorough examination of big tech’s practices in order to secure the free flow of information on the internet.

Again though, net neutrality isn't this universal concept you can just pick up and apply to other markets to try and make a point. And conflating the uncompetitive duopoly shitshow that is the telecom market with more competitive social media markets just doesn't work. Users can and should choose to not visit Facebook if they find the company's ethics troubling. You can use Duck Duck Go if you're understandably wary about Google's schnoz up in your business. There are options. There is competition in these markets.

Net neutrality is about ensuring duopolists can't interfere in the free flow of information. What Franken's proposing here is the advocation of interference, and urging government to dictate "search neutrality" or "website neutrality" could prove to be a muddy free speech rabbit hole, as Wired was quick to point out:

As with much of the backlash against big tech, Franken’s suggestions contain their own contradictions. Applying net neutrality rules to Google or Facebook, for example, could make them obligated to distribute content from political extremists and even foreign propaganda under some circumstances. Unfortunately for Silicon Valley, lack of solutions never stopped a congressional hearing.

Again, it's fine to want to pressure Facebook, Twitter, and Google to better handle disinformation and propaganda (though it's hard to "legislate away" a problem we don't fully understand yet). It's also perfectly reasonable to be concerned about the growing power these companies hold, particularly as it pertains to privacy. But these are very complicated and very different problems that require different solutions and different conversations. Conflating net neutrality here only aids companies like AT&T, which have long wanted to distort the concept of net neutrality to heavily regulate their Silicon Valley nemeses to ill effect.

We went down said rabbit hole once with the fairness doctrine, believing government was competent and incorruptible enough to be trusted to dictate "acceptable" speech. It would be a shame if we used the entirely different fight for net neutrality to justify making that mistake again.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 5:00am

    Hmmm, I think the article is pretty much in line with my thoughts. However, while privacy and the excesses in name of ad revenue are bad enough, this ad-revenue-craze is causing anti-competitive behavior in the dominant players that could be addressed. What comes to mind right now is how Google tries to force new products by leveraging their dominance on others (Buzz and G+ come to mind right now). It would be nice to have some mechanism to prevent such behavior but alas it's better not having anything than getting some bullshit regulation in this specific issue I guess.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 4:24pm

      Re:

      The behaviour is definitely annoying, but total failure of Buzz and G+ is probably a good sign that government interference isn't needed there. Even with all their resources, Google couldn't break into social, because their product just wasn't competitive.

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

  • icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 6:18am

    Never forget, Al Franken was a big supporter of SOPA & PIPA.

    That alone should be enough proof that Al Franken doesn't understand the Internet and how it works. No one who understands the Internet and how it works would have ever backed SOPA or PIPA for even a moment.

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  • icon
    daggar (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 6:33am

    Why bury a good article under such a terrible opening paragraph? Real broadband competition would be an excellent thing, but The notion that it would make net neutrality policies unneeded is laughable. The temptation to make money off of packet preference is too high. It turns the customer into the product.

    At the very best, a high-competition broadband market would lead to customers getting to choose between the company that stifles netflix vs the company that stifles hulu.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 6:55am

    "'Neutral' means 'stuff I agree with', right?"

    Applying net neutrality rules to Google or Facebook, for example, could make them obligated to distribute content from political extremists and even foreign propaganda under some circumstances.

    Which would be a little awkward of a position to be in to put it mildly as you'd have politicians grilling the companies for allowing those groups to use their platforms, and politicians telling the companies that they have to take a 'neutral' stance and let everyone who wants use their platform.

    Beyond the notable differences between ISPs and internet platforms, simply asking flat out if he was fine with those groups using platforms freely would probably be enough to scuttle the idea I imagine, as saying 'yes' would be in direct contradictions to those pushing for the companies to 'do something' about The Bad People.

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    • identicon
      JEDIDIAH, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:37am

      Re: "'Neutral' means 'stuff I agree with', right?"

      I'm fine with concepts of liberty being imposed upon large corporations that can potentially control vast parts of the economy and the public discourse. Free Speech shouldn't just be something only for intrusive governments. They should apply to intrusive corporations too.

      It's not net neutrality though.

      Facebook already seems immune to campaign finance laws that would apply to any other form of media. It suited them just fine until their dirty laundry was aired.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 6:59am

    Okay nice job! You have written this article to specifically shut me up about my anti FCC raving. But at least it tells me that someone is listening despite many calling me loony.

    What Franken is doing is exactly what the over reliance on government regulation to protect consumers will cause. This is what 'exactly' what regulatory capture looks like.

    1st the the free market is destroyed by the capitalists trying to build a monopoly. The people see this, but instead of refusing to give that business their money so it will either fall or encourage another business to compete they ask for step 2.

    2nd everyone calls on their reps to create a law to manage these out of control businesses taking every advantage possible from the citizens.

    3rd the businesses are kicking and screaming until they realize they can just buy regulation to protect them from new competition. This is the Oligarchy issue.

    4th is the regulatory capture process where elected officials realize that they have power over ever sector of the economy through regulation and exercise their power to now force businesses to contribute to them "or else".

    Now, just imagine a turd like trump having full access to a fully regulatory captured market... not far away from a dictatorship now are we?

    The more the citizens rely on government to save them, the more lost and enslaved they will become!

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 7:35am

      Re:

      "Okay nice job! You have written this article to specifically shut me up about my anti FCC raving. But at least it tells me that someone is listening despite many calling me loony."

      Yes, it's specifically about you, not an article on something tangentially related which your lunatic mind has taken personally. The rest of your rant is totally coherent and not full of nonsense based on a tenuous grasp of reality, and not proof of your loony, obsessed, self-obsessed nature.

      Any sarcasm detected in my words above is complete coincidence and not meant to be conveyed. Honestly.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re:

        A bit narcissistic ?

        Probably thinks "I'm The Only One That Matters".

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re:

        Would it help you if I changed it to...

        "those like me" then?

        Tell you what, since it obviously okay for you to disparage me without your TD cohorts flagging you I will just assume that you already know that you are ignorant and lost but feel the need to carry the old battle standard into combat even though you have totally lost the entire war.

        Sit back friend... you will have more frustrations to come as the ISP's keep bending you over. Face it, your regulatory zealotry was a complete success.... for the ISP's. You are just to ignorant to realize it.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Would it help you if I changed it to...

          "those like me" then?"

          No, because the article still isn't about what you think it's about. You just jumped at the chance to stroke your own ego a little too quickly.

          "Face it, your regulatory zealotry was a complete success.... for the ISP's. You are just to ignorant to realize it."

          No, I live life comfortably in countries that have BOTH effective regulation and a competitive market. Your hilarious religious zealotry is just part of the entertainment that the cheap, fast, stable, unimpeded connection that I get as a result of effective regulation and competition provides.

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "No, because the article still isn't about what you think it's about. You just jumped at the chance to stroke your own ego a little too quickly."

            Why are you such an idiot? I know what my post was about, it's my post, I wrote it. There is a never ending need for you clowns to continually, ad nauseum, to rewrite everything I post to mean something else. You are so stupid, it is not even possible to have a normal conversation with you because you only care to twist everything that is said to mean something else.

            My post was about some of the things written at the very top of the article itself. If you don't like me responding to the article instead of the specific subject the article is focused on then I don't know what to tell you? Seek some counseling or something if it hurts your butt that much!

            They is why you get played by the politicians EVERY DAMN ELECTION! Stop jumping off the cliff idiot... we only told you to look over the edge!

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Why are you such an idiot? I know what my post was about, it's my post, I wrote it."

              Then, why did it not address the article at the top of the page?

              "They is why you get played by the politicians EVERY DAMN ELECTION! Stop jumping off the cliff idiot... we only told you to look over the edge!"

              As stated, I'm not American, I'm not in the US. I just like laughing at tossers like you who demand your own interests get destroyed because you're scared of effective government regulation.

              But, you're too busy being smug to notice that you're attacking figments of your own imagination.

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

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:51am

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

                You are just too ignorant to talk to. I told you what it addressed in the article. Go and find an English teacher to explain it too you.

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    • identicon
      TRel, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:17am

      Re: Okay nice job!

      ...well, i don't know about any of your personal disputes with TD, but this is the first time I've seen TD temper its all out enthusiasm for Net Neutrality... and impose some realistic context to it.

      Al Franken is just a convenient punching bag for this issue. Franken is totally wrong on most all economic, political, and social issues -- he should be reflexively ignored.

      Government economic regulation is always bad and normally cascades into ever more regulation in attempts to patch the damage caused by previous regulation. The FCC should not exist.

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re: Okay nice job!

        ...well, i don't know about any of your personal disputes with TD, but this is the first time I've seen TD temper its all out enthusiasm for Net Neutrality... and impose some realistic context to it.

        Really? Here's this from 2005. And we've pointed back to it all the time.

        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20051028/1128249.shtml

        Here's a 2014 article where we had all the same caveats and concerns:

        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140901/16294128388/everything-youve-wanted-to-know-abo ut-net-neutrality-were-afraid-to-ask.shtml

        I'm not sure what you've been reading, or think you've been reading, but no... we've raised all of this for many, many years.

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

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

          He is still right... you do, as you say, point out several of the problems and have been very active in raising concerns, this is true, but NOT the point he was making

          The point is that despite your efforts you are still recommending the WRONG solutions, which are the solutions that got us here to being with!

          Government is the source of the problem right now... it will NOT be the source of the solution. At best like you said... NN is only better than NOTHING right now, and I agree, but that does not mean that it is a solution! It is just a band-aid... a treatment for the symptom instead of a cure of the underlying problem!

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

            So, yet again, this is where you furnish us with the solution that we're not discussing, and bask in the glory of everyone realising how wrong they were!

            Do you have such a solution, other than something that depends on the fantasy of a free market and effective competition without regulation? Because we've debunked that wildly unrealistic shit before.

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

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

              "Because we've debunked that wildly unrealistic shit before."

              Lol, no you have not. But sure, keep living in la la land... it's working out real well for you right now is it not?

              We are sitting here in the middle of the failure of regulation, and you keep advocating for MORE of it!

              I have also never said NO regulation. I just say limited, but for you limited regulation is the same as NONE apparently, hence my constant concern for your mental capacities since simple English is beyond your grasps!

              You keep getting fucked and the next election your stick your asses right back into the air!

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

              • icon
                orbitalinsertion (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:59am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                No, we are sitting in the middle of the failure of allowing corporations to exist. Your move.

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

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                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:54am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                  So Venezuela for you then?

                  Have you checked the news lately?

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:09am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                Honestly, it’s hard to take a ranting loon seriously, especially one who offers none of the supposedly obvious solutions we’re missing. Especially while attacking people on other continents (who have told you many times who they are) for how they supposedly vote for in the US elections they can’t /don’t vote in.

                Did you try calmly discussing things with at least some glancing relation to objective reality? It might help.

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

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                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:52am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                  "Honestly, it’s hard to take a ranting loon seriously,"

                  It's the other way around. You are so loony that sanity is not something you understand any longer.

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

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:59am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                    “I know you are but what am I”?

                    Wow, yeah you got me with that playground talk. It’s not that you were attacking a Brit living in the EU for his supposed American voting record, it’s that I’m hallucinating my existence. That will surely show everyone how regulation is bad, honestly.

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

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                      identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:12pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                      The debate on free market ideas vs overt regulation is not a nation specific debate. Is twisting or trying to derail the the discussion the ONLY game you got?

                      You either have, non-sequitors, straw-men, misrepresentations, or just plain old ad hominem attacks without any substance backing them up.

                      I enjoy a good ribbing, as long as it is factually correct and not based off of religopolitical gum bumping!

                      People that support any regulation that does not facilitate a free market are specifically trying to give control away to people the people that are going to abuse it. It's simple. Stupid Simple!

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

                      • icon
                        PaulT (profile), 11 Nov 2017 @ 2:26am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                        “The debate on free market ideas vs overt regulation is not a nation specific debate.”

                        No, it’s not but you can take input from other areas. All I know is that I have a reasonably priced 300MB fibre connection in an area that’s only serviced because regulators forced it. Left to corporations I would only have 10MB ADSL. I merely hope that Americans get the same opportunity.

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

                        • identicon
                          Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2017 @ 9:34am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                          No. You don't get it, he's right: it goes like this.

                          Canadians have the queen in their bills, like Australians, and Australians are British, therefore British people are Canadians, but Canada doesn't exist! You claim to be from a country that doesn't exist, you're a loon!

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:13pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ovkay nice job!

                Ingesting paint anally is dangerous.

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

            • identicon
              Thad, 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:27am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

              Oh, is that guy still around? I never notice unless someone replies to him.

              Something something paint chips it Deserves!

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

              • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:02am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                Well... by the time I get to the bucket you folks have already eaten them up. But, since you folks seem to lack any critical thinking skills, I should be thanking you all for hogging that bucket.

                So, Thanks Man!

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

                • icon
                  Toom1275 (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 1:56pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                  You interpreted the situation wrong (naturally). The bucket was empty on your latest approach because you've gone through the entire stock. You'll have to wait 'til the delivery shipment arrives before we can refill your feeding trough.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 2:04pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                    See here sir... I have ordered only 1 and it was empty by the time you delivered it!

                    I demand a refund, or you will be hearing from my lawyers! I have not even bothered to purchase a trough because you did not state the buckets weight so I have no idea what size to get!

                    I believe you took my money AND ate all of the paint chips before you even shipped!

                    I should have paid attention to my friends when they said to never buy from a dealer that samples their own product!

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

                    • icon
                      Toom1275 (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 6:59pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                      And why, exactly, did you try to place an order at the buffet table? Those weren't covered platters coming for you, those were just covers - to close off the chafing dishes you just polished off.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:07am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                Many think that lead poisoning is a thing of the past, but it is still with us and does have a detrimental affect upon the human body. It seems to be an issue that mostly affects the poor but many in politics show signs of its effects.

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

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

            you are still recommending the WRONG solutions

            By all means—suggest the right ones.

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

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

              this comes up every time, and each time you are dishonest about it.

              All I am going to do is sit back and laugh at you guys every time Pai or now in this case, Al Franken uses the things you think should exist against you.

              Keep it up, everything you support is going to be taken and used against you. And since you have been warned it was going to happen you deserve it now when it happens to you.

              Good luck! You are soo going to need it!

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

              • icon
                Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:13pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                If you have no solutions to offer, despite referring to other solutions (including “keep the status quo”) as “wrong”, say so. I could at least respect that level of honesty.

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

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                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:40pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                  Anti-Trust and Anti-Monopoly "ONLY" regulations.

                  Every regulation we create should be to only one end... preservation of a free-market. It is the only way to provide the most liberty possible for consumers. Businesses should be able to easily and safely enter the economy to provide consumers with more preferred services and products.

                  Any other system will invite more control and corruption than this one. The only Achilles heel to a free market... stupid, ignorant, and lazy consumers asking for government to save them from themselves.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:16pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Okay nice job!

                    How is Somolia by the way? You never talk about the free market paradise that you moved to because you’re way to smart to live in a place with regulations.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:33am

      Re:

      It's the microwave that is listening to you, of course.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re:

        No one and nothing at my house listens to me. Ever. The dog, the cat, the wife, nothing.

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

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:39am

        Desk Lamps and whatnot.

        Given current technology, there's no reason it can't. That tech might even already be in the microwave already rather than needed to be added to something like a desk lamp.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:13am

          Re: Desk Lamps and whatnot.

          Well, there is no reason anything cannot have a microphone inside of it. But it does not stop them from trying to crack stupid jokes about it so they can run over to a mirror and giggle with themselves like self absorbed girls.

          Everyone made fun of Hemingway. The people that call me a paint chip eater and claim that I am nuts are the same ones that laughed at and ridiculed Hemingway. They don't even have the mental capacity to understand the situation, they only know to do one thing... parrot their political religious leaders positions and make fun of others with a differing opinion and acting like they are crazy. They are the very cause of the political & economic trouble they constantly whine about.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:26pm

            Re: Re: Desk Lamps and whatnot.

            "The people that call me a paint chip eater and claim that I am nuts are the same ones that laughed at and ridiculed Hemingway."

            and you know what happened to Hemingway...hope you don't keep guns around.

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

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:51pm

              Re: Re: Re: Desk Lamps and whatnot.

              Yea, it is not possible for me to do that and I have guns.

              I would rather spit in the eye of the problem I am facing than to give up.

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

  • icon
    ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:01am

    Some consumer services just don't lend themselves to competition. Few municipalities would tolerate two or three sets of poles delivering electricity and/or phone service. Add in the capital required to wire an area, be it phone, electricity, cable or natural gas is very high. That leaves a very strong incentive to allow monopolies AND a layer of bureaucratic regulation to protect the consumer.

    The consumer is a product. Those products return profits on the company's investment. If they didn't make a profit, they wouldn't be in business. However, there is that layer of bureaucratic regulation that prevents excessive profit while insisting on a minimum level of quality.

    The problem with internet service is it has come along in an era of "regulating is bad". It has also removed the concept of regulating from a local area to be protected at a Federal level. Regulating content though is a new area that is waiting to be defined. One major problem here is trying to pigeonhole the internet into one nice easy package. Remember, your terrorist may be someone's mentor. And Rush Limbaugh is a terrorist.

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

    • identicon
      TRel, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:30am

      Re: Toleration v Freedom

      "Few municipalities would tolerate two or three sets of poles delivering electricity..."


      Would they tolerate multiple supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, hospitals ... all taking up valuable physical space and resources ??

      Obviously the government should regulate ALL commercial activity to ensure efficient use of real estate and to avoid redundancy (?)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:09am

        Re: Re: Toleration v Freedom

        Nice false equivalents.

        Utility poles, ducts, and distribution pipe work need to serve every building in an area, and reach rather than capacity is the main issue. With supermarkets etc. capacity is an issue, and multiple units spread out the traffic, and keep the size down to being reasonable to shop in. A single ultra large units would be a nightmare to use, by either being over crowded, or requiring too much walking.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:14am

          Re: Re: Re: Toleration v Freedom

          A single ultra large units would be a nightmare to use, by either being over crowded, or requiring too much walking.

          Most cities with a Wal-Mart—a typically extra-large retail store—usually have only one.

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

    • identicon
      JEDIDIAH, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:41am

      Lame excuses

      We already have a very viable and functional model for dealing with physical monopolies when it comes to communications networks. It's just that no one seems interested in applying it to today's networks.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 10:57am

        Re: Lame excuses

        "viable and functional"

        non-sequitur... slavery is also viable and functional but damn sure on the way to do things!

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:10am

          Re: Re: Lame excuses

          Slavery is still practiced ... is practiced the correct term?

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Lame excuses

            Yes, the word practice is one correct term for that.

            I also noticed a typo in my post... on should be NOT, my apologies.

            The problem with most of the over zealous regulatory folks around here is that while even I can recognize that regulations are viable and functional I still see them as bad solutions.

            Take for example that there are several ways to viably and functionally stop a bully. But I am pretty sure people would think that pushing the bully off a cliff to their death would not be a good solution.

            In the case of NN, they are trying to push Free Market over the cliff to its death because Capitalism is bullying them. They are not even going after the actually bully, they are actually punishing the one getting bullied... but as we all know... that is just exactly what these no tolerance policies tend to do... punish the abused... because that is just how these clowns think!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 8:38am

    Opting is out isn't quite that easy

    "Users can and should choose to not visit Facebook if they find the company's ethics troubling."

    I don't. I have the domain blacklisted and the network ranges firewalled. But Facebook still holds a lot of data about me, because friends have posted pictures, races have posted results, some people have invited me (thus allowing FB to associate me with them), there are links to non-FB URLs where I appear, etc.

    And there's no way for me to tell FB to delete all this data about me, and even if there was, there's no way to tell if they did it (since they lie constantly), and even if there was, there's no way to stop them from collecting more of it.

    So while its nice to think that "don't go there" would suffice, it's not even close.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 11:38am

      Re: Opting is out isn't quite that easy

      FB is working just like the Equifax... you WILL participate whether you like it or not.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 9:30am

    I read the title wrong

    I thought it read A I Franken and my mind was off on a whole different tangent of what this was going to be about.
    I was expecting it to be directed at some potential first AI being named Franken.

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

  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:00pm

    What is with Techdirt and the huge blind spot around "platforms"?

    There is no "competitive social media market", because network effects favor concentration.

    It so happens that I do "choose not to visit Facebook" (and others), and I suffer serious negative effects from the resulting social isolation. Meanwhile, people are still discussing me and probably tagging photos of me, on those platforms.

    Obligating them to distribute "foreign propaganda" sounds fine to me. I don't know where anybody got the idea that free speech stoppedat a border. And I'm perfectly capable of rejecting Putin's bullshit, and so will other people be once they stop kidding themselves that they can depend on others to filter it out for them.

    At this point I'm about ready to root for SESTA and all the other stupid, jackbooted government assholery, just out of the hope that it will force these companies to degrade their services enough that competition from truly decentralized systems is actually possible and something better can emerge.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      If you believe that you are suffering "serious negative effects from the resulting social isolation" of not being on Facebook, the problem is not with Facebook.

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

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:11pm

    "Dear Al Franken: Net Neutrality Is Not A Magic Wand You Can Wave At Any Company

    . . .

    And to be clear, net neutrality is something specific to the uncompetitive telecom industry. "

    Net Neutrality is a government intervention 'necessary' to correct a problem caused by earlier government intervention. And here we have someone in government trying to abuse it for their own benefit - qeulle surprise.

    Give politicians a power and they will always always always always push it as far as they can. We've seen it with the Drug war, the War on Terror, sex registries, every police power the government allots itself - no matter how much they protest and promise that prosecutors and politicians are 'reasonable' and will only use these powers for good, pinky-sweat - is used to hammer politically disfavored people and companies.

    You want Net Neutrality implemented by angels. Well, there are no angels. Just venal men.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:19pm

      Re:

      "Net Neutrality is a government intervention 'necessary' to correct a problem caused by earlier government intervention. And here we have someone in government trying to abuse it for their own benefit - qeulle surprise."

      Well said.

      "You want Net Neutrality implemented by angels. Well, there are no angels. Just venal men."

      According to TD those venal men need to have more power.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 12:44pm

    Step back and understand

    Once again Karl, I think you can't see the virtual forest for all the trees... you almost grok the point, but you in the end miss it by getting hung up on how and now what.

    The how you are worried about the "net neutrality". Franken chose a term which is common and active right now, much like any other buzz word using politician (or hack Techdirt writer) would do. He essentially used a term somewhat out of place to make a point and get your attention. It worked.

    The WHAT is actually key here: The idea that certain companies, which dominate a marketplace (some would suggest are monopoly players) may end up being held to a higher standard, similar to what net neutrality would force on ISPs.

    If Google has the vast majority of the search market (they do) and they as a result control where most people on the internet will go when searching for something, shouldn't they be more transparent and inclusive in doing so?

    When you stop worrying about the words "net neutrality" and start thinking about it in terms of "how to deal with am monopoly player", it's a much more enlightened discussion.

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

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 10 Nov 2017 @ 1:01pm

    When There Is A Conflict Of Interest In The Operations Of A Corporation ...

    ... that is the point where Government regulation needs to step in.

    All kudos to these companies for creating entirely new areas of business where none has existed before. But the time for the Wild West is over, it’s now the time for civilized settlement ... which means being subject to civilized laws.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 1:15pm

      Re: When There Is A Conflict Of Interest In The Operations Of A Corporation ...

      Well that is just one huge platitude without any substance right there, but I like it!

      Congratulations on passing the TD sycophancy test. You receive an A+ for supporting regulation like a good citizen without a single meaningful control or condition, we really like these!

      We will be around to buy whichever politician you get to regulate us and we will have them create regulations that let us take your money and stop new competition to boot. We will also laugh our collective asses off and say that we hate all of these regulations only to get you to keep asking for more... which we will of course buy as well. We will also take a little extra time to write laws to look and feel good while they are being packaged with loopholes and slippery slopes just to fuck with you. After all... you were dumb enough to buy the last several decades of our bullshit and we have so much more where that came from and we sure hate to disappoint!

      Hi, I am Rodger!
      Welcome to Big Telecom!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:20pm

        Re: Re: When There Is A Conflict Of Interest In The Operations Of A Corporation ...

        Every time you say sycophant a regulation gets passed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2017 @ 2:02pm

    The way I read it, he isn't calling for super strict regulation that requires all content to be treated absolutely equally. You have to take the current situation revolving around Russian meddling in the election into account to put Franken's words into context. My guess is that he wants laws that require these companies to disclose more info about who their advertisers are and who those advertisers want as an audience, as well as laws that require tech companies to allow their users to avoid getting caught in filter bubbles thanks to nebulous algorithms. The latter law would make all of the content "Neutral" while still allowing the platforms to remove certain content based on their own personal policies.

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

    • icon
      David (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:27pm

      Re: Then read it again.

      Franken does want massive regulation on Google, Facebook and any other corp that gets his ire up.

      First he wants Congressional Hearings to give his bias a veneer of legitimacy so others in the Congress will see his very clear viewpoint that they are *just too big*.

      Then he wants to legislate their actual interface with their users, how they do their business (search, social contact) so it makes Franken happy. And, while they are legislating away, let's break 'em up because big is bad.

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:22pm

    Still Franken after all these years.

    He hates Google. Now he hates Facebook as well, it appears to me anyway.

    Thus they should bare the burden of Congressional Hearings and new laws that will be written to punish them specifically. Because Franken Hates Google.

    He's a joke. A sad one at that.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 10 Nov 2017 @ 3:35pm

      Re: Still Franken after all these years.

      While Franken is misapplying net neutrality concepts by conflating content platforms with ISPs, I think there really is a need for greater regulation of both Google and Facebook. Specifically, their data retention and sharing policies, and user control over same, need to be addressed in a more transparent way.

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

  • icon
    CISP029 (profile), 11 Nov 2017 @ 9:07am

    Ma Bell and the disservice of service

    In this age, you would think that the U.S. has some of the best, fastest internet available. But, this is not so, I have a friend in Australia, and their internet speed is unfathomable when you compare it to ours.
    Why, I wondered. When the I-net was young, MA-Bell said, if it runs over cable it is ours (loose quote maybe).

    Every since it has been regulated and handled by the large 'Phone' companies of the past merging and morphing into the quagmire we have today. Yes we could enjoy the surprising speeds of other countries - we are far down the list for speed - but that would be counter to the profit schema and iron fisted controls Ma-Bell's use to generate revenue (mass revenue).

    So, if Net Neutered is an issue, price and speed should be included, since there is no reason we should not have had gigabit speeds a very long time ago, but it is doled out by providers with small chunks going for huge profits.

    Don't get me wrong, the local small isp's are being charged a huge fee for bandwidth and pass this cost along to users. It makes soo many the 'bad guy' while the source of this problem is overlooked, or unknown, by the masses. IF you look at Mbs vs Cost, places like Australia whip us, and when we finally do pay for this gigabit, we probably will use their tried and true technology to support it.

    Hmmm, a tech giant like the U.S. getting whipped up on by a bunch of smaller players (Countries)? What a setup, for those Ma-Bell's, doling out what they consider theirs because the shortsightedness of a few a long time ago (If it runs on the wire, it is ours).

    Well think of dial up, dsl, cable, now even microwave - not many gigabits yet, and it will be at a premium (I am sure). We are backwards in the world because history did not see this coming, and set a few up to be extreme winners in the 'coming field'.

    Net Neutrality should be a far reaching concept, which includes de-monopolizing 'my opinion' the stranglehold that larger companies have on a 'service' that never was meant to be a telephone based tech, yes pay for the minutes on your phone bill, but not pay for speed of Inet connection. Inet providers that throttle customers, may do so not to throttle users, but to dole out evenly the limited bandwidth they possess to resale to the public (some may just to make you pay for more but Mbs vs cost?).

    But if the system was not rigged - perhaps you would not be buying speed, but have some other schema involved, one that does not 'limit' a privileged few to make or break our speed with outlandish costs for precious speed.

    Think of the big players you know of, and think if they are getting richer on the backs of all who are downstream - time warner, comcast, spectrum - as you go the list gets harder to see the major players, and the minor one's are too many to list. And the small ones, try to offer what they can, but usually in a close-in-market cannot compete with the Mbs/Speed provided over the wire, or fiber (wire of sorts).

    So smaller providers are the outliers who provide to people where a cable is not viable. Hmmm, Revamp the system, I think not!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2017 @ 7:20am

      Re: Ma Bell and the disservice of service

      But, this is not so, I have a friend in Australia, and their internet speed is unfathomable when you compare it to ours.

      Don't worry, their politicians are working hard to fuck it up. The original plan was fibre everywhere, and some areas got it... others are stuck with fibre-to-the-node (and some form of DSL after that).

      Still, as in the UK, making sure the ISPs don't control the physical infrastructure produces good results wrt. competition.

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

  • icon
    GaMtnGuy (profile), 11 Nov 2017 @ 9:31am

    Network Neutrality

    Please let Mr. Franken know he should be fighting for Government Neutrality. Taxpayers should only follow the rules the government enacts if they agree with it.

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

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 13 Nov 2017 @ 10:53am

    Public Service Announcement

    Again: Please say "Network Neutrality" in full rather than referencing just "net" neutrality. ISPs operate networks to provide their customers with access to the Internet (a network of networks). They are common carriers delivering goods as contracted, and those networks should not be conflated with the Internet. Websites and website content, while seen by some as "the Internet" are not networks, and need no neutrality enforcement.

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

    It's as different as requiring a carrier deliver packages from any store VS requiring a store to sell items from any manufacturer.

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

  • identicon
    Richard Stallman, 13 Nov 2017 @ 11:23pm

    "Competition" for app stores

    I agree that it is the lack of competition in the ISP field that makes network neutrality regulations necessary, but since each ISP needs an expensive network of cables and transceivers, I don't think it is feasible to make that field competitive enough to eliminate the problem these regulations correct.

    Meanwhile, there is no competition in app stores for iPhones. The only app store they permit is Apple's censored app store. Apple has a back door which can remotely erase installed apps.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3358134/Apples-Jobs-confirms-iPhone-kill-switch.html.

    The cell phone market offers only one other alternative for the iPhone, and that's Android. There are many Android models that compete about minor differences, but at this level they are all the same alternative. Android includes a back door (in Google Play) that gives Google the power to remotely erase installed apps.

    http://www.computerworld.com/article/2506557/security0/google-throws--kill-switch--on-android-p hones.html

    Google can also forcibly install apps.

    https://jon.oberheide.org/blog/2010/06/25/remote-kill-and-install-on-google-android/

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


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