Web Inventor Tim Berners-Lee Gets To The Core Of Net Neutrality Debate: You Need An Open Internet To Have A Free Market

from the the-free-market-is-at-the-service-level dept

The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has now spoken out strongly in favor of net neutrality in an interview with the Washington Post. The headline and much of the attention are going to his quip that what the big broadband providers are doing is a form of "bribery" in trying to set up toll booths to reach their users. And that is, indeed, the money quote, but it's not the most interesting part of what he's really saying. It's in the context that he gets to that, where he's countering the bogus arguments from folks who insist that we don't need net neutrality rules because that would mess with "the free market." That's wrong for a whole number of reasons that we've discussed previously, but Berners-Lee points out that to have a free market, you do need some basic accepted rules, and that's where some basic regulations are useful: regulations to keep the market free and open. And that's true of most "free markets."
"A lot of congressmen say, 'Well, sign up for the free market' and feel that it's just something you should leave to go by itself," said Berners-Lee. "Well yeah, the market works well so long as nobody prints money. So we have rules, okay? You don't steal stuff, for example. The U.S. dollar is something that everyone relies on. So the government keeps the dollar a stable thing, nobody steals stuff, and then you can rely on the free market."
In other words, in most cases, you do need some basic rules in place to make sure the free market is functioning fairly. It's why most free market supporters recognize that there's some sort of government role in preventing monopolies or fraud -- situations where the free market can break down. And that is what net neutrality rules would do. That's why free market supporters should be totally on board with net neutrality as well: because it's about making sure that there is a real free market for internet services that are above the infrastructure level.

This is why we find it so frustrating that the big broadband players and those who attack net neutrality as "regulating the internet" keep conflating internet infrastructure with internet services. They're doing it on purpose, of course. But net neutrality is really just about making sure that there is a free market for internet services by making sure that the big broadband providers, who represent terminating monopolies, can't abuse that position to break the free market. Because if that happens, it harms everyone. As Berners-Lee absolutely recognizes, hence his comment about bribery:
"We need rules," said Berners-Lee. "If businesses are to move here and start here rather than start in Europe or Brazil or Australia — they're going to look around and make sure, 'Oh, does the power stay up?' And they'll look for other things. "Is the Internet open?' Will they have to effectively bribe their ISPs to start a new service? That's what it looks like from the outside. It's bribery."
You have rules against bribery. You have rules against fraud. You have rules against abusive monopolies. That's to keep the free market functioning. And that's all net neutrality is. It's a way to keep the underlying infrastructure players from totally mucking up the free market in internet services. It's great that Berners-Lee gets this, but it boggles my mind that so-called free marketers still have trouble with this.

Again, none of this is to say that reclassifying under Title II is a perfect solution. It's not. There are risks involved, and there are some legitimate concerns. But compared to all the other options out there (short of Congress getting a clue, which isn't a particularly realistic option), it appears to be the best possible solution. Again, rather than "regulating the internet," it's really just setting the rules to keep the internet a free market.

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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 10:55am

    TBL needs to stay out of things. His comment on DRM still has me reeling, and now he's come out to back net neutrality.

    Call me cynical to believe there's ever such thing as a free and open internet when it's plagued by DRM.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 11:42am

      Re:

      Yes, his stance on DRM was incredibly bad (and obviously purely political). However, I don't think that means he has nothing of value to say.

      OTOH, there are a large number of people who think of TBL as some kind of infallible god or super internet expert. He's not -- he's just the guy who came up with HTML.

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    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 11:01pm

      Re:

      There's a pretty clear differentiation between infrastructure and services:
      regulating the internet" keep conflating internet infrastructure with internet services.
      DRM (that I disagree with) is a SERVICE based standard, not infrastructure based. So he can support DRM (a service) while also supporting neutrality at the infrastructure layer.

      I don't agree with his take on DRM, but you can support both DRM and net neutrality without being a hypocrite or crossing issues, as one is a service and the other is infrastructure.

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      • icon
        Sheogorath (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 12:22am

        Re: Re:

        The problem is that the DRM 'service' could be placed directly on HTML5, which is the infrastructure of the next generation of the Internet. Simples!

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I disagree with the notion that HTML 5 is the "infrastructure of the next generation of the internet". It's not internet infrastructure (and not infrastructure at all in the context of the NN debate.) In the context of services (which is what the web is), HTML is part of the "infrastructure" of the web, not the internet.

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          • icon
            Sheogorath (profile), 25 Sep 2014 @ 10:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You're quite correct as regards the actual Internet, but most people have never even heard of TOR, and some who have can't use it for various reasons, so the World Wide Web pretty much is the Internet to them.

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  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:01pm

    Nice but...

    It's all nice and everything to talk about an "open" internet, but I really do wonder at what point ISPs need to be forced to support every wank-a-doodle business model that comes along that uses 4 or 5 meg a second of bandwidth in a constant manner.

    Imagine for a second that upstart "cable" companies come along who us IP TV for distribution, and they become popular (think Aereo done legally). Now imagine that many of the ISP clients move to this service, and thus are streaming 1, 2 and sometimes 3 streams into their house(one for each TV) at 5 meg a second each (for decent quality true HD). Should the ISPs be required to support this? Should they be forced to raise customer connection speeds to support it? Should they be forced to increase they network capacity to accept it?

    In true "net neutrality" they wouldn't be able to say no, even if the product totally swamps their market and makes customers demand much higher connection speeds. Even if the product was overwhelming their networks, true net neutrality would say they cannot "pick winners and losers" and thus everyone who suffer.

    Does true and open mean supporting every bandwidth hog idea that comes along, no matter how much it harms your other customers?

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    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Nice but...

      Not at all. True Net Neutrality simply means if the customers pay for a 10 meg/sec connection, then they have 10 meg/sec of bandwidth to use however they want, whether on this or something else, and the ISP doesn't get to make that choice for them.

      If it swamps their network, then the ISP is engaged in fraud, selling something they cannot provide, and needs to either upgrade their network very quickly, offer refunds and equitable remedies to their consumers very quickly, or face the legal consequences of defrauding their consumers.

      There's nothing scary or harmful in the least about any of this... unless you're an ISP that's making money hand over fist by defrauding customers of course. Then it looks like the end of the world.

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      • identicon
        Bob Robertson, 26 Sep 2014 @ 6:20am

        Re: Re: Nice but...

        The problem lies in the previous government interventions that now cause problems that people think government interventions can solve.

        Phone and cable companies have enjoyed territorial monopolies granted by municipalities, state, even the Feds. These grants prevent competition.

        Competition is how service is guaranteed in any market. If I can take my business elsewhere, the service provider must provide the service I want of they lose my business.

        A "free market" is not created by preventing competition, a "free market" is not fostered by preventing innovation and service experimentation.

        While I completely agree with you that I would prefer all packets to be treated equally, I also understand that real-time voice and video are far more effected by transient packet loss than web browsing or file transfer. I understand the business ideas behind prioritizing various applications upstream.

        Would I run my business that way? I don't think so, and I would change ISPs if their decisions impacted my usage negatively. The ISP would thereby lose business or do it better.

        I would, if I could.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:35pm

      Re: Nice but...

      "Should the ISPs be required to support this? Should they be forced to raise customer connection speeds to support it? Should they be forced to increase they network capacity to accept it?"

      No, no, and no. None of those are related to NN at all. That you pose these questions just reinforces that you don't really understand what NN is and is not.

      "In true "net neutrality" they wouldn't be able to say no, even if the product totally swamps their market and makes customers demand much higher connection speeds."

      Not true at all. Net neutrality doesn't mean that ISPs must provide any kind of minimum service. What it means is that ISPs can't play favorites. It's really as simple as that.

      The issues you're raising are more about service agreements. Here's how it works with NN: My ISP contracts to give me a minimum level of service. It doesn't matter one bit what I'm using that service to do (either logically or technically) -- they've agreed to transfer bits, and it simply doesn't matter what those bits represent. This is the essential thing that NN is intended to ensure. The video service has a similar agreement with their ISP.

      If an ISP can't support the level of service I need, they shouldn't offer it. NN doesn't enter into it.

      "Does true and open mean supporting every bandwidth hog idea that comes along, no matter how much it harms your other customers?"

      I honestly have no idea what you mean by "supporting". The ISP sells a certain level of service. Either they can provide it or not. They aren't "supporting" anything beyond moving bits as promised.

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      • identicon
        fortiori, 22 Sep 2014 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re: Nice but...

        Furthermore if ISPs can't or wont provide the bandwidth needed for our emerging Internet marketplaces and culture then we will need to bypass them and create a utility like structure that can handle the load.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 1:31am

        Re: Re: Nice but...

        Indeed, the main thing all these ISP's that are so in favour of breaking NN are trying to hide, is that they oversold their own capacity to provide bandwith to their users.

        If they sell 10Mbs to 100 customers, and then complain that they can't deliver because these users are actually using their bandwith (on whatever service), then they start to look like a restaurant with 100 table reservations (all paid for in advance) and only one cook. Think that's a good business model?

        And do you think that's the problem of the cook?

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      • icon
        nasch (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:05am

        Re: Re: Nice but...

        Here's how it works with NN: My ISP contracts to give me a minimum level of service.

        Do you have a business account? Every home ISP I've ever heard of in the US agrees to give you a maximum level of service.

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      • icon
        Whatever (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:15am

        Re: Re: Nice but...

        If an ISP can't support the level of service I need, they shouldn't offer it. NN doesn't enter into it.

        As I have mentioned before, many people make the mistake of assuming that your connection speed (the speed at which your modem device connects to the local ISP network) is some sort of guarantee of an absolute internet speed. it is not.

        Not true at all. Net neutrality doesn't mean that ISPs must provide any kind of minimum service. What it means is that ISPs can't play favorites. It's really as simple as that.

        You are correct, sort of. In practical terms, it means that every "5 meg" connection has to deliver 5 meg end to end in theory, which is NOT how IP networks are generally built. IP networks built to "surf the web" have always been oversold, because if you had to pay the real cost of your connectivity, most Americans would still be stuck at 512k and thanking their lucky stars for it. It's only really in the last couple of years that the costs of the connectivity has dropped below the physical costs of maintaining it.

        So what happens? Right now, if everyone actually asked for their full connectivity speed as actual 100% bandwidth, you run into networking issues. Standard solution is some sort of traffic shaping or QoS to make sure that everyone gets some. The problem is that if (as an example) streaming video is the big part of the traffic surge, and the ISP manages their network by traffic shaping that stuff, they are changing the balance of the internet and thus, picking winners and losers. If they don't add enough bandwidth to support the streaming companies, they are ALSO picking winners and losers (or at least turning all of them into losers). So the only way they can avoid NOT having any influence on traffic at all is to have enough bandwidth to the level of peak for every user at all times.

        In a business where they have traditionally been doing ratios between 10 to 1 and 25 to 1, this represents a huge cost increase. It's unlikely that you will see that happen. The unintended result of net neutrality will likely be the ISPs turning down the connections. Your 10 meg "peak" connection will get suddenly get reclassed as a 1 meg "constant" and they will provision enough bandwidth for that. That would be at 10 to 1. At 25 to 1, you wouldn't even get 512k.

        Look, it's pretty simple: net neutrality isn't specifically about setting minimum bandwidth standards for ISPs, because in the end, to be truly compliant it has to happen anyway. Anything less (any network saturation with "management") could pick winners and losers. One could even argue that if Comcast refuses to add more bandwidth and increase customer connection speeds, they are picking a winner and loser between their own cable product and other streaming products / IPtv providers.

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        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:32am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          IP networks built to "surf the web" have always been oversold....

          Funny how you admit this...but still believe that it's the high-demand start-up (who pays for thier bandwidth) or the customer (who also pays for their bandwidth) who is to blame for creating the situation.

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          • identicon
            Bob Robertson, 26 Sep 2014 @ 6:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

            So many people seem to forget that there is already tiered service: One pays for one's bandwidth at BOTH ENDS of the transaction.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          "One could even argue that if Comcast refuses to add more bandwidth and increase customer connection speeds, they are picking a winner and loser between their own cable product and other streaming products / IPtv providers."

          Which is one of the reasons it's often argued that ISP's should not be in the content business. Their job is to deliver bandwidth. Local governments often restricts competition under the guise of natural monopoly. Communities that have attempted to build their own broadband network have been lobbied against by existing ISP giants who wish to continue making their very high monopoly rents. Consequently in the U.S. we pay more for worse service. The solution to your problem is either for government to allow competition or, if the ISPs and cable providers want to insist they have a natural monopoly, for the government to regulate them as such. The government should regulate their prices and service provided. That's how natural monopolies are supposed to be regulated.

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

          • identicon
            Bob Robertson, 26 Sep 2014 @ 6:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

            "Local governments often restricts competition under the guise of natural monopoly."

            And that intervention is what causes the problems which seem to require more intervention to "solve", which cause more problems, which then gets more interventions to "solve", ad infinitum.

            Abolish the previous restrictions before calling for new ones.

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        • icon
          nasch (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          So the only way they can avoid NOT having any influence on traffic at all is to have enough bandwidth to the level of peak for every user at all times.

          Yes, ISPs should have enough bandwidth to support peak usage. This seems pretty obvious, but you seem to be stating it as an impossibility.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          "IP networks built to "surf the web" have always been oversold, because if you had to pay the real cost of your connectivity, most Americans would still be stuck at 512k and thanking their lucky stars for it."

          (citation needed)

          ISPs and cable providers make huge profit margins. In the U.S. we pay more for less bandwidth than other countries (with varying geographical attributes and population densities). ISPs have done everything in their power to lobby against community bandwidth efforts. Even level three, given how little they charge to carry bandwidth across their network, seems to suggest that ISPs overcharge their customers. ISPs and cable companies have long engaged in anti-competitive behavior to overcharge their customers for poor service and the government should step in and penalize them (one example being TWC buying exclusive use of the Dodgers). A functional government wouldn't have allowed this sort of anti-competitive behavior to continue for so long.

          and how are we not paying the 'real cost' of our connectivity. All connectivity costs are already paid for by customers. We are paying the 'real cost' plus a huge premium. All evidence suggests that if we only had to pay the real cost, and not the overinflated price that we currently pay, we would be paying a lot less for a much better service. But you will continue to dishonestly ignore this and pretend that we pay too little.

          You don't get to just come here and make things up out of nowhere and reasonably expect to be taken seriously. Bandwidth (and cable service) in the U.S. is way overpriced. But you will continue to ignore this.

          I agree, we should pay something much closer to the real cost. We shouldn't have to pay a huge profitable premium due to a lack of competition. Cable companies have long claimed to be a natural monopoly. The government should regulate them as such. They should have their prices and services offered regulated to something more reasonable.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          "In practical terms, it means that every "5 meg" connection has to deliver 5 meg end to end in theory"

          No, it doesn't. It means that every 5 meg connection has to deliver t megs from the customer's device to the peering point. Not end-to-end to the customer's final internet destination.

          "Standard solution is some sort of traffic shaping or QoS to make sure that everyone gets some. The problem is that if (as an example) streaming video is the big part of the traffic surge, and the ISP manages their network by traffic shaping that stuff, they are changing the balance of the internet and thus, picking winners and losers."

          Again, no. Nobody is picking winners and losers by engaging in traffic shaping, so long as the traffic is being shaped based on the nature of the traffic itself and not based on who is providing that traffic.

          "net neutrality isn't specifically about setting minimum bandwidth standards for ISPs, because in the end, to be truly compliant it has to happen anyway. Anything less (any network saturation with "management") could pick winners and losers."

          Not true at all. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what NN is about.

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

        • icon
          Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 10:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          "oversold".

          What’s oversold? It is nor hand, nor foot,
          Nor arm, nor connection, nor any other part
          Belonging to a ISP. O! be some other name:
          What’s in a name? that which we call a fraud, selling something you do not have and cannot provide
          By any other name would smell as dishonest.

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        • identicon
          Donglebert The Needlessly Unready, 24 Sep 2014 @ 3:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

          Your confusing the bandwidth available to service providers with the bandwidth paid for by service customers.

          Service providers pay for a minimum level of service based on their expected usage, and then pay for more bandwidth within their defined contract as they need it.

          Service customers pay for a maximum level of service, with a reasonable expectation of average service.

          Neither side of the fence requires the ISP to identify what the bandwidth is actually used for.

          If a customer can't use the services it wants because the services bandwidth requirements are too high, the customer will have to find an alternative. That's the free market working.

          If a service's bandwidth requirements are too high, it will lose customers. It'll need to innovate to reduce the bandwidth used to a level reasonable for the customers access. That's the free market working.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice but...

            If a customer can't use the services it wants because the services bandwidth requirements are too high, the customer will have to find an alternative. That's the free market working.

            Though that generally isn't possible in the US.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Nice but...

      "...but I really do wonder at what point ISPs need to be forced to support every wank-a-doodle business model that comes along that uses 4 or 5 meg a second of bandwidth in a constant manner."

      The ISP's should be required to provide the speed advertised.
      If they say "20Mbps", I should get 20Mbps to anywhere on the Internet that I want to request data from. I should be able to divid that up how I see fit. Four 5Mbps streams or maybe two 10Mbps streams or whatever the heck I want, as long as I get my 20Mbps I am requesting all is well.

      If I can only get 20Mbps to Amazon Prime streaming but not Netflix, then the ISP is doing something wrong and needs to fix their network OR stop being network biased.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 2:33pm

      Re: Nice but...

      I wonder... should network speeds be covered by the weights and measures act?

      See, what we're saying is the equivalent of saying that if a grocery store is going to sell you 5 lb of flour, they don't then get to ask for more money from the farmer in order to fulfill the order; they have told the customer they're selling 5 lbs, and have an obligation to sell that.

      Can you imagine how you'd feel if you went in and bought 5 lbs of flour, and discovered you only got 3 for the advertised price, with the explanation "the farmer was unwilling to pay us more money, so we couldn't invest in the trucks needed to ship the entire 5 lbs -- so you only get 3?"

      You'd be upset, and the company pulling this off would be the subject of some major lawsuits.

      Yet this is exactly what the multi-tiered system as proposed would be doing with internet connectivity.

      The real issue here is that ISPs have been selling 3 lbs in a 5 lb bag for years, and now their customers are using recipes that call for the entire 5 lb bags, and are understandably running into difficulties. Arguing "well, you'd get the entire 5 lbs if the supplier paid us to upgrade our systems" or arguing "well, if we hadn't sold out, I'd be able to sell you 5 lbs, but because others want it too, I only delivered 3 even though I told you it was 5" doesn't make it legal, and doesn't make it "free market". These are deceptive trade practices, and should be called such.

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

    • identicon
      Zonker, 22 Sep 2014 @ 3:22pm

      Re: Nice but...

      When I purchase "4 or 5 meg a second" or more of bandwidth from an ISP then yes, the ISP should be forced to support it. Not delivering the agreed upon level of service is fraud. It does not matter what I use that "4 or 5 meg a second" for: whether it be a video conference with my doctor, a NetFlix movie, Facebook and Twitter, or porn, it should not impact the service I paid for.

      I paid my ISP for internet service up to the posted speed limit, not for speed governors that engage if I refuse to take the toll road, or my destination takes me to the wrong exit ramp, or I commute too much. If your lanes are congested, invest in adding more lanes or stop overselling what you can't provide. Deliberately reducing the number of lanes at the state border (network peering) to pressure your neighbors into paying for exclusive high capacity private road access to your residents is simply criminal.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 4:07pm

      Re: Nice but...

      It appears that blind allegiance to all things authoritarian impedes rational thought.

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

    • identicon
      Zonker, 22 Sep 2014 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Nice but...

      Imagine for a second that upstart "cable" companies come along who us IP TV for distribution, and they become popular (think Aereo done legally). Now imagine that many of the ISP clients move to this service, and thus are streaming 1, 2 and sometimes 3 streams into their house(one for each TV) at 5 meg a second each (for decent quality true HD). Should the ISPs be required to support this? Should they be forced to raise customer connection speeds to support it? Should they be forced to increase they network capacity to accept it?
      I pay for a 50 Mbps internet connection at home. I pay a shitload of money per month for that speed. Yes, the ISP absolutely should support three 5 Mbps streams (15 Mbps total) over my 50 Mbps connection. I should still have 35 Mbps left available to download whatever I damn well choose to at the same time. They offered it. I paid for it. What my ISP cannot do govern my internet speeds based on what sites I visit or whose content I download.

      Streaming from NBC/xFinity/Hulu should be no different than streaming from NetFlix or Amazon or Google. When NetFlix gets more subscribers than their servers can handle, they add more servers and place them closer to their customers. When Comcast gets more subscribers than their hubs can handle, they do nothing and then charge more for it. When Google introduces 1 Gbps connections in an area, suddenly the incumbents double the bandwidth they had before with the flip of a switch. Could they do that if you lacked the actual capacity to do so (or are they just doubling down on fraudulent service claims)?

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

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 10:11pm

      Re: Nice but...

      but I really do wonder at what point ISPs need to be forced to support every wank-a-doodle business model that comes along that uses 4 or 5 meg a second of bandwidth in a constant manner.
      The moment they sold their customers 5 MB/s or more of bandwidth. Any more simple questions you need answered?

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    • icon
      nasch (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:07am

      Re: Nice but...

      It's all nice and everything to talk about an "open" internet, but I really do wonder at what point ISPs need to be forced to support every wank-a-doodle business model that comes along that uses 4 or 5 meg a second of bandwidth in a constant manner.

      At what point will you get tired of pulling this out to get it shot down? Every single time the subject comes up, you talk about ISPs "supporting" the business model of internet companies, only to have it pointed out, repeatedly, that all they need to do is support their own business model: providing internet service to their customers. So just stop it, it's getting old.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:01am

      Re: Nice but...

      So let me get this straight. Antidirt is the IP shill while you are the ISP shill? For years you guys sucked at being generalists so now you guys have decided to work together and become specialists? Maybe then you can focus your shilling on your specialties and do a better job? So far ... so bad.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:48am

      Re: Nice but...

      "Now imagine that many of the ISP clients move to this service, and thus are streaming 1, 2 and sometimes 3 streams into their house(one for each TV) at 5 meg a second each (for decent quality true HD). Should the ISPs be required to support this?"

      Sure, why not. They claim to be a natural monopoly and so the government should regulate their service to force them to invest customer money back into their infrastructure to upgrade it. That way we can stop falling behind the rest of the world.

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

  • identicon
    kingstu, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:13pm

    "Does true and open mean supporting every bandwidth hog idea that comes along, no matter how much it harms your other customers?"

    Excellent point! This is precisely why "net neutrality" is a FAR inferior solution to more competition among ISPs. If four or five companies are competing for a household's broadband business and each company throttles a certain bandwidth hog, perhaps that bandwidth hog should be throttled. The other option is to pass a crude law (that is likely hundreds of pages long) which nobody can quite interpret (think Obamacare) and open the floodgate for trial lawyers...

    Legislation is ALWAYS an inferior solution to allowing market forces to find the optimal solution. Having a noncompetitive market in broadband (i.e. too few broadband providers from the pole to the house) is not an excuse to make the market less competitive by requiring all traffic to be treated the same.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      you lost me at "...four or five companies are competing..."

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:38pm

      Response to: kingstu on Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

      Four or Five, huh?
      Let's put that to the test shall we?

      Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are four companies competing in the same space.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 1:01pm

        Re: Response to: kingstu on Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

        "Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are four companies competing in the same space."

        But when we are talking about WIRED connections into your home it is rare to see that many competitors.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 2:38pm

          Re: Re: Response to: kingstu on Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

          I think you fell for the bait -- how much of the US is covered by all four of those wireless carriers?

          They might be providing similar services, but not usually to the same markets. And when they do, they tend to collude on price and service rendered (except T-Mobile).

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

      • identicon
        Stephen Hutcheson, 22 Sep 2014 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Response to: kingstu on Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 3:37pm

        Re: Response to: kingstu on Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

        More along the lines of...

        Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are four companies 'competing' in the same space.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      " This is precisely why "net neutrality" is a FAR inferior solution to more competition among ISPs."

      Everyone agrees that more competition is incredibly desirable. The problem is that there's no way to get there (without Title II reclassification, anyway).

      "If four or five companies are competing"

      Four or five companies is a far cry from "healthy competition".

      "and each company throttles a certain bandwidth hog, perhaps that bandwidth hog should be throttled."

      There's no such thing as a "bandwidth hog". Without outright hacking, it is literally impossible for someone to use more bandwidth than is being provided. This whole "bandwidth hog" nonsense is a bunch of BS the major ISPs are using to try to scam their customers out of even more money than they already do.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:56pm

      Re:

      Even if four or five companies are competing, network neutrality is still needed to prevent a cartel arrangement where one company supplies good bandwidth to Netflix, another to Hulu..... that is the split the content services amongst themselves so that everybody has to subscribe to several of them to get all the content services that they desire.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      "each company throttles a certain bandwidth hog, perhaps that bandwidth hog should be throttled."

      Um, no.
      If the ISP's customers are requesting data from this "bandwidth hog" then the ISP should allow that data through without throttling it below whatever Mbps plan the user has subscribed to.

      If I have a 10Mbps plan and Netflix (as an example ) has the capability to stream at 5Mbps, I should get the 5Mbps stream because it is below my limit.

      You see, its the ISP customers asking for the data, not Netflix trying to shove it down everyones throats.

      The problem we are seeing is that ISPs are not increasing the capacity of their connections to other networks to support the data their customers are requesting.

      I am sure some bean counter at Verizon thought:
      "We can save money by not upgrading these level3 interconnects, customers will bitch at Netflix and Netflix will come with a fist full of dollars to resolve the problem and we will also make money! Its a win-win, for Verizon, muwahahaaaaaaaa!"

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 1:33pm

      Re:

      Not disagreeing that legislation is inferior as an ideal solution. When that is said, monopolies have a tendency to form over time and even free market economys father Smith had that in mind. In case of ISPs, they have two separate markets to compete on: A physical setup and an electronic transfer. The physical service setup is by far the most expensive and completely uninteresting for the consumers!

      It is very expensive to cover geography with it and if they cannot assure that they can pay that investment back, it is not worth it. Competing means having several companies covering the same area and therefore a dilution of the customer potential while the costs are almost the same as building new: It is not a linear cost-increase per customer!
      It is not rational to compete for the ISPs, since the cost of the physical setup and the added market penetration costs in an already mostly saturated market is increasing the expense to ridiculous levels while only giving an uncertain percentage of the customers. As mentioned before: Costs for ISPs are to some degree independent of customers, while income from customers is pretty linear, making it quite a risky business!

      In countries where these services have been split, the results have been pauwer too, maybe because of a wrong approach or maybe because the cost of making the different standards match and splitting the costs correctly haven't worked etc.

      In any case, nobody seems to have found the right solution and competition remains a wet dream for the last decade or two. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see a way to force competition on this market without some further regulation. Legislation thus seems like an appropriate last resort here. The market is simply not on the same planet as optimal which is the requirement for free market models to apply. I would also argue that no market will ever reach a level where the "optimal solution" is no laws at all! Legislation against murder may be advantageous for society to work well etc. The basic legislation of done right could even be considered as market optimizing if done right.

      As for net neutrality it is a very advantageous situation if the ISP can double dip as in charge internet companies to increase service quality, while at the same time selling that increased service to the customer for an extra price. That is the main problem NN is meant to deal with besides the contractual situation. What you are spewing is pure insufficiently through ideology with no specific hinges in reality.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re:

        "It is very expensive to cover geography with it and if they cannot assure that they can pay that investment back, it is not worth it. Competing means having several companies covering the same area and therefore a dilution of the customer potential while the costs are almost the same as building new."

        This is one of the strong arguments for why the infrastructure should be a public utility.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 2:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Not to mention, the current private utilities are already getting government handouts to cover the costs of covering the geography -- and they've failed to use the money to do so, instead using it to compete with other vendors in urban areas where there is competition, giving them unfair advantage.

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

      • identicon
        Donglebert The Needlessly Unready, 25 Sep 2014 @ 3:59am

        Not saying that infrastructure isn't costly

        but it isn't that expensive or difficult to do when balanced against the money coming in.

        Big cables are easy to install along existing infrastructure - railroads and highways - especially if installed during the routine maintenance work. That's particularly helpful when it comes to tunnels and suchlike. And remote locations can pretty easily be covered with wireless connections.

        It's far trickier to get the connections up residential roads to people's houses.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 3:13pm

      Re:

      Bad width hogs? Are you kidding me, uniformed, or a telco apologist?

      Here's news, there are no bandwidth hogs. You are sold a package with X amount of bandwidth. You can not exceed that bandwidth but you are sold it with the expectation you can use that bandwidth 24/7. If you are not getting what you paid for, you are getting ripped off. You can call that fraud.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:10am

      Re:

      Having a noncompetitive market in broadband (i.e. too few broadband providers from the pole to the house) is not an excuse to make the market less competitive by requiring all traffic to be treated the same.

      How would net neutrality make the market less competitive?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 6:20pm

    It all went downhill fast once "sponsored data" schemes started popping up. I believe that's the bribery Tim Berners-Lee is referring too.

    Pay the bribe or get stuck in the slow lane. That's what net neutrality is attempting to fight.

    Throttling users and content delivery services, like Netflix, into fast lanes and slow lanes is not the answer. Throttling only addresses the symptom, not the root cause.

    The root cause is overloaded networks. Network upgrades or properly advertising the network's capacity solves the root cause.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 8:08pm

      Re:

      It's possible, likely even, that the 'sponsored data' plans were their attempt at testing the waters, seeing if they could get away with charging companies for preferential treatment. Once that went over without a hitch, well, time to up the scales.

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

  • identicon
    Vinquus, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:01am

    Governments create markets

    It's as simple as that. No government, no market.

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

  • identicon
    Jeremy, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:44am

    I've never seen a more ridiculous statement...

    Web Inventor Tim Berners-Lee Gets To The Core Of Net Neutrality Debate: You Need An Open Internet To Have A Free Market


    net neutrality - noun 1)the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

    free market - noun 1) an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.

    So, in order to have a free market, where ISP's price their service based on how much of it you use, ISP's must then be allowed to charge extra for services that use up more bandwidth. But according to some, in order to have a free market, we must force ISP's to price their service how we want it priced, where everyone gets flat fees regardless of what services they use.

    People should f-ing engage their brain before they spout such nonsense. I'm all for a fully open internet. But you cannot legislate such a thing, you can only insist upon it when you pay for your service. The reason you can't negotiate with your ISP's on what services you use? All those cable companies, and even some fiber/DSL companies still effectively enjoy monopoly power.

    You don't have a free market to begin with, so you cannot hope to even pretend that you need a new "rule" to guarantee a free market.

    Stupid moron is stupid.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:47am

      Re: I've never seen a more ridiculous statement...

      In principle you are correct. In reality his argument was based on the current structure of the internet. If you let ISPs differentiate based on sites in preferential lanes, you are losing that.

      Your argument is completely in line with the general consensus: fiber/DSL companies are effectively monopolies and that needs dealing with too. But NN is about the bit delivery service part and its interaction with consumers on one hand and internet companies on the other. If you let them sell preferential treatment, it will inevitably have effects on the internet, thus breaking with the free market for internet companies and in this case discriminating against the smaller companies who cannot afford the cost of getting fast-laned.

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

    • identicon
      Zonker, 23 Sep 2014 @ 11:32am

      Re: I've never seen a more ridiculous statement...

      Network neutrality is not a new rule, it is how the internet has been since it's creation until Comcast and Verizon got big enough to interfere with significant portions of it.

      Why should anyone have to pay again for the bandwidth we already paid for? We paid for XX Mbps bandwidth to use for whatever we want, why should we pay again to actually use that bandwidth we paid for?

      If you pay your ISP $35/month for 15 Mbps service, you should not have to pay your ISP another $10 to stream a 5 Mbps NetFlix movie over it. If you offer 15 Mbps to 100 customers but can only provide 5 Mbps each when they all actually use it then you have failed to deliver the service you advertised, you oversold your capacity. You are overcharging 100 people and delivering less bandwidth than they paid for. This is a bad business model that only a monopoly could get away with actually doing.

      If municipal broadband or other companies were allowed to compete, you would have a choice of providers. Every new competitor would add more infrastructure providing more capacity to more people.

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

    • identicon
      Donglebert The Needlessly Unready, 25 Sep 2014 @ 3:50am

      Re: I've never seen a more ridiculous statement...

      You're not wrong regarding the monopolies, but you're confusing things on the free market.

      As a comparison. There is a free market in cars - lots of makes and models and prices. (If there isn't in the US, this is just an example).

      However, say the US government and anyone else who's involved gets together and lets a massive roads contract. The winning contractor effectively runs all the freeways and major highways and also access to those roads.

      Then that contractor does a deal with Toyota and says that at least one lane on every carriageway can only be driven by Toyota cars. If the carriageway only has one lane, than only Toyota cars can use it.

      That immediately destroys the free market in cars.

      Making a better or cheaper car has no affect on the market. The only option the manufacturer has is to try and get a contract to allow their cars on the road. Even if new roads are built, it makes no difference because the national contract would automatically own them. And then your food costs go up because logistics and haulage companies have to buy new toyota vehicles. And the US car manufacturers might as well leave the US, so all the workers lost their jobs.

      That's why true net neutrality is important.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:52am

    The U.S. dollar is something that everyone relies on. So the government keeps the dollar a stable thing
    Have you seen what the Federal Reserve has been up to in the last few years?

    Deliberately reducing the number of lanes at the state border (network peering) to pressure your neighbors [...] is simply criminal.

    Is it? Governor Christie didn't seem to get into much trouble for doing exactly that.
    GP may have been speaking metaphorically, but even if not, I could list out plenty of other cases where government-favored parties have escaped punishment for acts that are, or reasonably appear to be, criminal.

    - Operation Fast&Furious
    - IRS targeting scandal and associated highly convenient loss of relevant e-mails. (Note: whether or not the IRS scrutinized liberal groups is irrelevant to the base problem that they were handing out unwarranted scrutiny to any group, regardless of political affiliation. I am unhappy with them on that basis alone, not on the basis of who they targeted.)

    Wikipedia has a nice list of US Federal scandals, broken out by which administration was in office at the time.

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

  • identicon
    pdkl95, 23 Sep 2014 @ 12:49pm

    discriminating between content must bring liability

    If ISPs want to inspect the content they deliver, they need to be responsible for it as well. They don't get to have it both ways.

    There are numerous threats to ISPs, from every religious nutter that wants another Miller Test lawsuit because their kid saw something they think is "obscene" or the never-ending and expensive demands of the media companies that wish they could un-invent digital copying and the internet.

    The way to avoid liability for that is to ignore the content being delivered while demonstrating you only look at the to/from on the "envelope", and then only to the extent needed to properly execute the delivery. That is, they can become a Common Carrier where the liability is limited only to damage done during transit, and even then limited only to a refund.

    Just like every other "transportation" industry.

    Given that some ISPs are acting like Standard Oil and picking and choosing what they will transport so they can demand a drawback from people like Netflix, we can also respond in kind: hit them with the Sherman Antitrust Act.

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

  • icon
    mdpopescu (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 10:35pm

    Please stop with this nonsense...

    So the government keeps the dollar a stable thing, nobody steals stuff, and then you can rely on the free market


    The government has never kept the dollar stable, people steal stuff all the time, and you can still rely on the free market. Hell - the free market was the only thing still functioning in Orwell's 1984.

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

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 12:32am

    Did my email have some effect?

    The email I sent:
    Dear Tim Berners Lee,
    Why in the ^hell^ are you helping the MAFIAA to feed your baby the poison that is killing it? Please immediately kick the MPAA out of the W3C and fully withdraw your support for Digital Restrictions Malware in HTML5, or there soon won't be a World Wide Web and we'll all be using the replacement that springs up to route around the damage dealt to the Internet. I don't claim to be psychic or anything, but even I can foresee the negative effects caused by a locked down information retrieval system.
    Yours sincerely, Sheogorath.

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

  • identicon
    Donglebert The Needlessly Unready, 24 Sep 2014 @ 3:31am

    Something that would probably kill the the arguments for Net Neutrality

    would be for all states/counties (whatever the breakdown is in the US) to be required to allow multiple cable suppliers in their areas. Put some actual competition for quality of infrastructure out there.

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


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