Internet Cop

President Obama’s top man at the Federal Communications Commission tries to regulate the Net.

Robert McDowell becomes effusive when talking about the World Wide Web. “The beauty of the Internet is that it has been somewhat lawless,” says the Republican, one of five appointees who run the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The lack of government mandates, McDowell says, has made the Net “the greatest deregulatory success story of all time,” a “sort of libertarian heaven.”

Is that heaven about to crash down to earth? Julius Genachowski, the man hand-picked by President Barack Obama to chair the FCC, insists not. “I’ve been clear repeatedly that we’re not going to regulate the Internet,” he told The Wall Street Journal in February 2010. But his actions suggest otherwise. Since taking office in June 2009, Genachowski, a tech entrepreneur and former FCC counsel, has led the commission on an unprecedented quest for power over the Web’s network infrastructure, sparking a thunderous, confusing lobbying battle over who gets to control the Net. 

“If the government starts to get involved with regulation of Internet network management,” McDowell warns, “you’ll start to see the politicization of decisions in that realm.” At this point, there’s no if about it: From his first major speech to a hurried and secretive rulemaking procedure in the final weeks of 2010, Genachowski has made it his mission to plant the seeds of government control within the core of the Internet—all under the guise of “preserving Internet freedom.”

They Call It Net Neutrality

Like so many political slogans, Internet freedom sounds great. But what does it mean in practice? For Genachowski and the rest of the Obama administration, “Internet freedom” is a feel-good euphemism for the techie idea known as “net neutrality.”

At its most basic, net neutrality is the belief that all bits and bytes that travel over the Internet should be treated equally: no discrimination, no paid prioritization, just first-come-first-served access for everyone all the time. As an egalitarian approach to the Web, it is more a pre-technical philosophy than a clear guide to managing network infrastructure. The applied theory of net neutrality is that routers—the traffic management devices that send packets of information from one computer or server to the next—should treat each piece of information like every other piece, be it an email message, a video, a game, or 3D porn. This is not a bad idea; indeed, it is largely how the Internet works already. But net neutrality advocates warn that without federal intervention, corporate giants won’t leave it this way for long; they will begin setting up pricey, priority-traffic toll roads across the Web.

The neutrality concept is a direct descendant of “common carrier” regulation of phone companies. When wire-based phone networks ruled the earth, they were treated as public utilities. The feds forced them to share their infrastructure with their competitors at regulated rates, a restriction on their property rights that was enforced under the pleasant-sounding banner of “equal access.”

It didn’t take long for politicians to start fretting about equal access on the Web. In a 1994 speech, Vice President Al Gore pondered this loaded question: “How can government ensure that the [emerging Internet] will permit everyone to be able to compete with everyone else for the opportunity to provide any service to all willing customers? Next, how can we ensure that this new marketplace reaches the entire nation?” Access, opportunity, competition—how would these goals ever be achieved without the government’s involvement?

Answer: easily. Internet access exploded throughout the late 1990s and the following decade—no federal broadband regulation required. By 1999 more than 30 million people could dial in from their homes. The Net’s success in the absence of regulation was so apparent that even Democratic bureaucrats preached the gospel of nonintervention: In 1999 FCC Chairman William Kennard declared in a speech that “if we’ve learned anything about the Internet in government over the last 15 years, it’s that it thrived quite nicely without the intervention of government.” In the same speech, Kennard made the case for what he called a “high-tech Hippocratic Oath” for regulators: First, do no harm.

It worked. During the following decade, online activity exploded. Between 2001 and 2008, online commercial activity—which for all practical purposes did not exist the decade before—became big business, rising from about $8 billion a year to about $42 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Simultaneously, broadband Internet access rapidly blazed a path from high-tech luxury service to mass-market must-have. In 2000 just 3 percent of homes had broadband access. By 2010 the figure had climbed to 66 percent, according to a report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

But the net’s success only made activists more vehement that it must be “preserved” through regulation. That’s where net neutrality came in. In 2005, under the leadership of Republican Chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC adopted four “policy statements” outlining the principles that should govern Internet use and operation. Users, the commission asserted, are entitled to access their choice of lawful content, to use applications and services as they wish, to connect legal devices to the network provided they do no harm, and to enjoy the effects of competition among providers and networks. But these statements of principle were not regulations, and thus of dubious enforceability.  

At first, the push for net neutrality was targeted at wire-line carriers—cable companies, DSL providers, and others who delivered Internet connections to fixed locations using expensive-to-install conduits. But by 2007, calls for net neutrality expanded to the growing wireless Internet, bringing mobile data networks like those operated by AT&T and Verizon into the crosshairs. Net neutrality gave online Democratic activists—the “netroots”—an issue in which “equality” was on one side and discriminatory corporations on the other. The sin of these corporate villains? Denying network access to those unwilling to pay for it.

“Network giants believe they should be able to charge Web site operators, application providers and device manufacturers for the right to use the network,” the progressive media activists at Free Press warned in their online guide to the issue. “Those who don’t make a deal and pay up will experience discrimination: Their sites won’t load as quickly, and their applications and devices won’t work as well.”

The issue never really caught on with the broader public, but it did become a partisan rallying cry. In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama made net neutrality a campaign promise, vowing to achieve it through the FCC. The promise was politically smart. Although regulating Internet traffic was barely raising eyebrows among average voters—most of whom were busy enjoying easy access to the Internet—the idea was much loved by two groups important to Obama: the digitally savvy army of online activists whose fund raising and organizing helped put the president in office, and a collection of high-flying, Democrat-supporting Silicon Valley companies. Netroots powerhouses such as Moveon.org got an issue to motivate and deliver their progressive base, while content-delivery behemoths such as Google (whose CEO, Eric Schmidt, took a week off to campaign for Obama) got a policy wedge against the Net’s infrastructure gatekeepers. Both camps expected a payoff in exchange for their support.

Obama’s Basketball Buddy

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  • Suki||

    Good morning reason!

  • Suki||

    What happened to the Frenchman tazing story from Pima County? That one is a modern classic.

  • ||

    Oh, look!

    Another lying scumbag who wants to control part of my life! For my own good, of course.

    Gosh, its been (consults watch) nearly thirty seconds since I saw one of those.

    Jeebus, but I am sick and tired of these people.

  • ||

    RC,

    How are they supposed to run a shake down racket if they don't control anything? Come on now. A guy has to earn doesn't he?

  • ||

    Over the dinner table last week, I was telling the wife how the government operates is functionally equivalent to the mob. She felt that was little extreme. Just then, the evening news showed a story about salt in processed food. The government is asking for "voluntary" compliance, so they don't have to regulate. Perfect timing to illustrate the point.

  • ||

    "" The government is asking for "voluntary" compliance, so they don't have to regulate. ""

    As if companies didn't do jump on the low sodium craze a decade or two ago.

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    Ha ha, I love that image.

    Government: Hey Amer'ca, nice little country ya got here... sure wouldn't want nutin' ta happen to it... oops, how clumsy of me!

  • Not an Economist||

    R C
    You regularly comment on a site known to dissent from the path our Great Leader has chosen. Obviously you don't know what is best for yourself.

  • ||

    I'm with you there.

    Hell, it's getting so that they're not even bothering with the "for your own good" bullshit; they'll come right out and say "it's for the benefit of my favored groups and my pet projects, and if you don't enthusiastically agree then you're an evil selfish prick and I'll just take it from you by force".

  • Ben Dover||

    Here it comes!

  • Realist||

    You are right on, except it is not a "part" of your life...it is all of your life.

  • ||

    Why does every white guy under 60 in the Obama administration look like a frat boy douche?

  • Ice Nine||

    Dunno. Maybe they're all Sig Eps.

  • Leroy||

    +1

  • Bingo||

    They're all Ivy Leaguers.

  • ||

    Which means they are either idiot sons whose parents bought them in the place or they were skillful enough suckasses to tell every lefty teacher and professor for 20 years of schooling exactly what they wanted to hear.

  • Bingo||

    The best of the best manage to do both!

  • ||

    Very true.

  • Mr Whipple||

    They are "White Shoe Boys", who have been "properly groomed".

  • Almanian||

    "Clean and articulate" is what they're looking for

  • Realist||

    Hmmmm, let's see they're all frat boy douches???

  • Mr Whipple||

    Who cares about net neutrality? What I want to know is, why are PureTNA and Empornium websites down????

    Net neutrality don't mean squat, if the federal government is going to apply legal pressures to websites they don't like.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Ah, yes it does. It also means that if you're an ISP you're gonna have to deal with the government telling you how to run your business. It's the end of freedom as we know it.

    The Case Against Net Neutrality (From CNET)
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-10385865-94.html

  • ||

    Why do all statists have incredibly punchable faces?

  • Almanian||

    And is there causality there, and which direction does it run?

    Does having a punchable face lead one to statism? Does being a statist begin to change one's looks to the Douchitarian end of the spectrum?

    Research opportunities abound...

  • Realist||

    Get a government grant!

  • Exception||

    You are clearly an exception to the rule, as I know you are not a statist but I've still wanted to punch you in the face for some time.

  • Rich||

    Genachowski’s office declined a request for an interview.

    Makes sense. You can read on the Internet everything you need to know.

  • Rich||

    If the FCC could pull off this shift

    Nice article, Peter, except for the typo.

  • Number 2||

    Read the history of radio, and how from its inception, governments around the world saw its "subversive" (read: citizens can speak to each other more easily) potential, and the inherent threat to thier postal monopolies, and therefore acted immediately either to monopolize radio themselves or to regulate it pervasively.

    It is taking governments a little longer with the internet, and they may never succeed in monopolizing/regulating it. But it won't be for lack of trying.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It's that ingrained need to play the role of national adult daycare provider. Team Red does it just as well.

  • Old Salt||

    They WILL regulate the Internet at some point. It'll probably happen slowly with a ruling here and a decision there but regulation is as inevitable as the tides. Uncle Sam would sooner shit the Incredible Hulk than tolerate something in his domain not being under his thumb!

  • Liberals||

    It's For Your Own Good.

  • Social Conservatives||

    Hey, that's OUR line!

  • Mrph||

    Yeah, except when you say it you're talking about the human soul, not the human animal.

  • Realist||

    Quite correct.

  • Nancy Pelosi and Chris Dodd||

    In a highly unusual move, Genachowski decided to keep the text of the proposal secret until after it passed.

    It wasn't that unusual.

  • Ice Nine||

    Is it just some weirdness with my computer or did anyone else notice that that frog boiling article/thread - the first one of this day - just disappeared?

  • ||

    I noticed that to.

  • Ice Nine||

    I'm guessing the moderator is French.

  • Realist||

    Yes, the frog now has no legs.

  • slashdotter||

    CORPRASHUNS ARE EVILLLLLL!!!!!

    WE MUST HAVE NET NEWTRALITY SO I CAN TORRENT MY FAVORITE ANIME PRON INTO MY PARENTS BASEMENT!

  • slashdotter||

    oh and COMCAST!

  • Slashdotter's Mother||

    I just cleaned your keyboard. EEWWWW!!!

  • former sder||

    I'm for net neutrality the concept, but not Net Neutrality: The Regulation™.

    Throttling content differently based on provider is inefficient and harmful to the consumer. It's just a way to offload provider's costs so providers can keep selling the completely unsupportable 'unlimited' internet connections.

    But the government doesn't need to get involved. In places where 'teh Comcast' is actually a monopoly go after them with antitrust laws if necessary. In other places, it's not needed.

    Imagine if Amazon started a shipping service, but delayed all shipments for 3 days unless they were purchases from Amazon. No one would use their service.

  • ||

    In 2002, the year Free Press was founded, McChesney co-wrote a book, Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media, which declared “the need to promote an understanding of the urgency to assert public control over the media.”

    To a statist "public control" means "government control".

    In which case, it's a good thing that I'm old enough to remember what it was like before the internet existed, since we'll be back there before long.

    Or perhaps it will still exist, but using it will be as efficient and fun as a trip to the DMV.

  • ||

    Forget all the techno babble from people at slashdot and other similar computer nerds, this is a simply another form of misunderstanding what "free" and "free speech" means.

    First of all free speech is what the government can stop people from saying not private individuals or private organisations. If corporations do not want something to be said (or downloaded) using their property then they have every right to do so.

    Secondly, being free does not mean getting free stuff or services, as dumb as this sounds there are sadly so many people who see freedom as such.

    No doubt the slashdot crowd will support net neutrality, and those that oppose it will be ignorant luddites. At least they will be the ones who will be hardest hit by their desires, one day their porn downloads and their world of warcraft sessions will be stifled as the government throttles their bandwidth with much more puritan and "worthy" societal network downloads, that now have to equally shared on the network.

  • TheShag||

    "Forget all the techno babble from people at slashdot" aka, I have no idea what I'm talking about but here comes an opinion.

    "If corporations do not want something to be said (or downloaded) using their property then they have every right to do so." The internet was not created by private companies. It was an NSF initiative which was handed off to private interests.

    "Secondly, being free does not mean getting free stuff or services, as dumb as this sounds there are sadly so many people who see freedom as such."
    No one wants to get on the internet for free, we just want to make sure that Comcast doesn't block our connection to AT&T. Or NEWS Corp to block Huffpost, or TNT to block FOX news.

    "those that oppose it will be ignorant luddites" - Pretty much.

    Those that oppose Net Neutrality are saying they want the internet to follow the cable model, where the content you are allowed to watch is dependant on your subscription plan. That's fine, until your ISP decides its not worth the legal risks of letting someone get on Wikileaks, or Stormfront, or whatever else offends people these days. Also, if they decide they are losing money letting you watch Netflix, guess who pays another 10 bucks per month?

  • COINTELPRO||

    "That's fine, until your ISP decides its not worth the legal risks of letting someone get on Wikileaks, or Stormfront, or whatever else offends people these days."

    Wasn't it Joe Lieberman and the US Congress that pressured Wikileaks webhosts and payment sites into dropping Wikileaks? This was just with threats of hearings. Imagine what the government could do with the ability to control packets. Assange's site would have been slowed down to a crawl and no one would have been allowed to download any documents.

  • ||

    The internet was not created by private companies. It was an NSF initiative which was handed off to private interests.

    If hot-air balloons were an NSF initiative, handed off to private interests, I wouldn't give the NSF much credit for 747's.

    The grownups are talking here. Go to your room and play whatever binary form of Dungeons and Dragons is currently popular.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You are a goddamn fucking ignoramus if you think the government gives two shits about whether you have uninhibited access to AT&T, or News Corp, or Huffpost, or anything else at all. That being incredibly fucking obvious, what's the motivation for the FCC to make this power grab? Think about it.

  • ||

    As I said already, if a someone wants to block out stormfront or bambi from their network, the one that THEY own (not YOU) then it is their right.

    I have no idea what I am talking about, but I have managed to fool people out of their money by making a living developing software/network solutions, but its for evil corporations and I do not only use slashdots sacred linux for everything, so yes I am a luddite. But please continue with your linux wankfest and start formulating excuses when government does an Egypt with your pr0n surfing.

  • TheShag||

    Oh man, I never thought of it that way, I really need to start putting up my own powerlines, since that is a totally an unregulated free market.

    I love how you basically admit private companies have a government granted monopoly and then wax romantic about the free market. What's the practical difference between a corporate monopoly and a government one? Lately it seems like both my wallet and my vote don't carry the weight they should.

    I don't know what's with the hostility toward Linux, or why you think I'm some member of that church. Go get a chubby watching grown men grab each other. See what I did there?

  • cynical||

    "I love how you basically admit private companies have a government granted monopoly and then wax romantic about the free market."

    No, in most places there is an oligopoly featuring some limited amount of competition. At any rate, the best way to fight monopoly is by destroying that monopoly, not by letting the Ur-Monopoly tame it to use as another weapon against the people.

  • Coeus||

    The problem with the (now admittedly few) monopolies is that they were granted by local municipalities in exchange for running the cables in the first place. The only way the cable companies will allow other access is if they get to move to metered connection (like power or water). Every other proposal has been blocked. Thankfully, wireless will provide an actual market (if the government doesn't get to that first), which is all you really need to insure open access. One of the first posts I ever made on this board was suggesting that metered access was peferable to government control, and I got attacked for not being libertarian enough.

  • ||

    So by your logic you are OK with Verizon blocking all of the incoming AT&T calls? Some regulations are needed to even the playing field for the consumer not the corporations.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Gosh, Shag, how do we trust government implicitly and without question, just like you?

  • Theshag||

    The television in your tinfoil hat shop is still black and white and stuck on the Reagan Network.

    That I trust government in this case more than the private sector is based on the history of collusion and incompetence among content providers. I know you want to go back to the days of renting your phones, but thankfully for the rest of us, the Govt. broke that monopoly.

  • Theshag||

    Being a blowhard is easy, the fact is I hate a ton of things the government does, the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, staying in Afghanistan after we blew off the national steam. These things are BS, but I'm not going to go appealing to the illusion that the free market is a corruption free candy land where life is sunshine and rainbows.

    Someone on this forum once made the argument that communism has never succeeded in bringing real opportunity to the people. Neither has a pure free market. What Libertarians are begging for is a modern feudal system.

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    Please tell me where this "pure free market" exists so that I may move there.

  • Imp of the Perverse||

    And don't say "Somalia" or a pox will befall you. Believe it.

  • cynical||

    "That's fine, until your ISP decides its not worth the legal risks of letting someone get on Wikileaks"

    Where exactly do you think that legal risk is coming from? Oh, that's right, the same institution (broadly) that you're putting in charge of the internet.

  • KJFX||

    "Those that oppose Net Neutrality are saying they want the internet to follow the cable model, where the content you are allowed to watch is dependant on your subscription plan"

    Hmmmm sounds pretty good, the bulk of material is available thru paid commercial advertisements and who is gonna provide those if most of the web is not attainable. Otherwise you pay a little more of a premimium if you want services that provide a little extra for the extra money spent. Like areas that hog much more band width and there for justify a bit more of a charge but with less commercial interuptions.

    " That's fine, until your ISP decides its not worth the legal risks of letting someone get on Wikileaks, or Stormfront, or whatever else offends people these days."

    Which is why competition between markets would take over here and people would choose the providers who offer the largest amount of access for the buck, or most reflect how they choose to view the web. Besides it's not the network providers who are liable for content of sites, it's the sites who provide the content. Which yah, could all change under regulation of the fcc...

  • CommentARRRR||

    Might want to go read slashdot before pretending you have a clue.

    Most slashdot people support Net Neutrality while calling the current proposal a worse solution than the current model.

    Meanwhile, your complaints about "freedom" betray your complete ignorance on the topic. Go bone up on what slashdot folks feel Net Neutrality means before rambling off some irrelevant subject matter.

  • ||

    I said they support net neutrality, and you confirm that they do as well, so where is the contradiction here ?

    Net neutrality is a fundamentally wrong no matter how the law is scripted, freedom of speech does not mean that others are obligated to provide you with the means to practice it.

  • Strawman||

    Your arguments are suffering from an 'I don't think that word means what you think it means' problem.

  • ||

    So, net neutrality is bad because the rules are vague? Or because there haven't been many examples of why it is important? This is a pretty biased article toward the "all regulation is bad" side.

    Just wait until ISPs start charging extra for Netflix access. Then we'll see what the people think of Net Neutrality.

  • ||

    That's right! Because, Zog forbid that people pay for things they use.

  • ||

    Zog forbid! People do pay for Netflix access, to Netflix. Maybe my ISP doesn't want me to use Netflix because they have a competing movie providing service. Its all OK for the ISP to block their competetors.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    ISP's have competitors, too. And where they don't, they will soon if they start blocking or charging extra for Netflix service.

  • ||

    Don't confuse the boy, Fatty. He grew up in a world where Pauly Krugnuts was considered a legitimate Nobel winner.

  • ||

    And you missed that whole growing-up thing entirely. Can you be more of a troll with nothing to say? I hope your head explodes reading my comments, though your eight year old brain might have some trouble with critical thinking

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, Kant is a notorious HnR troll - thanks for banishing him, dickweed!

  • ||

    True, but how many internet providers are there to choose from in one area? Like utilities and telephone service, there are not many competitors because of the required infrastructure investment. This is one case where the free market has limited ability to regulate ISPs.

  • ||

    You probably think thats a clever retort but its down right stupid. Unless you think that Apple needs to allow flash into the Ipad, or Macdonalds needs to have a KFC queue inside it, yes one should have every single right to block ones competitor.

    The slashdotters scream "the Indians are stealing our jobs, government help us", funny how in that instance they want to block all competition access.

  • ||

    Apple should allow flash on the iPad. However, the iPad is an electronic device that they design and produce. They can do whatever they want with it, and people can choose not to buy it. The iPad is not a service. You can choose from any number of electronic devices from any other company. McDonalds is not a service. Food is available from innumerable businesses. Any argument against net neutrality that involves a consumer good or fast food is downright stupid.

    Service providers should not have the right to block their competitors. We pay for access to the entire internet, not just the parts they approve of.

  • ||

    MacDonalds is a service, why should it matter whether a business is a service or not ?

    There are some places where food is not available from innumerable businesses (in fact most places), so just like the argument that some places have few ISP's we need a food neutrality law to cater for the dangerous possibility that there is no KFC access in some far away rural area.

  • ||

    "we need a food neutrality law to cater for the dangerous possibility that there is no KFC access in some far away rural area"
    I realize this is tongue-in-cheek but it is probably the most blazingly stupid thing I have read in a while. This in no way parallels the argument for net neutrality.
    Again, talking about fast food in a discussion about net neutrality is downright stupid. McDonalds is not a service provider unless you consider peddling delicious empty calories a service.

  • ||

    It parallels the argument perfectly, because just like the KFC problem, net neutrality solves a problem that has not happened, yet you have no problem solving it regardless. If it is a stupid argument, then what is it, it is exactly your own argument.

    You are making a value judgment based on your own beliefs, some believe that is a valuable service and it is their right to believe so. I could just as easily say that you are wasting your time watching porn on internet.

  • ||

    So your belief is that net neutrality is bad because it solves a problem that doesn't exist? My value judgement here is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • ||

    If your ISP is offering you adeal you don't like,, then you should change ISPs. The simple fact of the matter is that THEY own their own infrastructure and you have no right to tell them what kind of business arrangement they can offer you. Where do you people come from.

  • ||

    From a place where its not OK to be a corporate censor. You guys like China-style internet where the infrastructure owners get to decide the content?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    No, we *don't* want the Chinese model, where the infrastructure owners decide what we get to see on the internet.

    Which is why we hoist the finger to fucktards like Genachowski and anyone else who wants government control over internet content. And NN is just another means to that end.

  • ||

    China-style internet is where the government controls the internet, something that YOU want.

  • ||

    I know its hard for you to see that NN is the government saying China-stlye internet is what is NOT going to be allowed.

  • ||

    "Trust us we are from the government, we are here to help", funny enough thats exactly what the Chinese government says. I mean the US government would never dream of wiretapping its citizens, they are the good guys.

  • Realist||

    "I know its hard for you to see that NN is the government saying China-stlye internet is what is NOT going to be allowed."

    It sure as fuck is...in fact it is impossible!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    And what is hard for you to see, slashdot-boy, is the government shouldn't be saying is or isn't going to be allowed on this fine set of tubes.

  • cynical||

    "I know its hard for you to see that NN is the government saying China-stlye internet is what is NOT going to be allowed."

    No, NN is the government saying that private corporations will not be allowed to implement Chinese-style control over the internet. It says nothing about whether the federal government will be allowed to implement Chinese-style control of the internet (which is the more analogous situation anyway, since any given telecom can only exert control over its portion of the internet), but by increasing the scope of their authority, it brings us closer to that point. Any promise by the government not to allow itself to violate our rights carries all the weight of the typical New Year's Resolution.

    It wasn't evil corporations that decided to illegally wiretap U.S. civilians, that was the result of government pressure and overt punishment of those CEOs that gave a shit about the civil liberties of their customers. I suspect that Wikileaks loss of corporate support was the result of government pressure as well. The executive branch is relentlessly pursuing Net Neutralization despite pushback from the other two branches, plus the government seeks an Egypt-style killswitch (again, justified as "for our protection"). It is, as the Declaration of Independence would say, "a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, [evincing] a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism". If you can't see that, you're nothing more than a useful idiot.

  • Realist||

    Correct, but what the hell are you doing in California with an attitude like that?

  • Hooha||

    Lots of us are stuck behind California's painstakingly legislated Economic Berlin Wall. It's too damned expensive to do anything here, including escape.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the very existance of the barrier itself is what allowed many of us to dodge the indoctrination that permeats the golden state, and realize we were trapped instead of 'liberated'.

  • Paul||

    The article does amount to a slippery slope argument against a slippery slope argument based on political ideology that I tend to lean to. It would be nice if the argument could be extended outside the bounds of all government regulation is bad. From a route-around-the-censoring-natural-monopolies perspective, I could really go for some transparency regulations on the providers. I do call bullshit on Cato's alternative argument that there *is* meaningful competition when it comes high speed internet providers. I admit, the competition likely meets the needs of the old geezers writing said articles while on commercial break watching their black and white tv's. If you want high speed internet without paying excessive premiums for several T1 lines, you generally have one good option for cable internet, possibly one somewhat ok option for dsl, and several bad options involving satellites, cell towers, and dial up modems. Cellular technology may become viable competition with cable (this would be wonderful). I do find it disturbing that Comcast is throttling peer-to-peer traffic, but frankly, I have no confidence the government will be neutral on the matter when they have a massive copyright lobby beating down their door. Anyhow, if the internet providers are forced into providing transparency in regards to traffic control activities, I think the consumers should have enough teeth to keep them in line. There likely *are* valid engineering techniques for optimizing an end user's experience. There may be reason to need specific optimizations for traffic similar to that of OnLive, Worlds of Warcraft, Netflix, and Youtube. You could probably track speed improvements over the general network. However, I feel as though any specifically explained traffic routing based on the end server identity can generally be routed around if its functionality is known.

  • Paul||

    Just wait until ISPs start charging extra for Netflix access. Then we'll see what the people think of Net Neutrality.

    Just wait until you're still browsing on your 12mip connection through comcast ten years from now because there was no incentive to increase bandwidth to users, and we'll see what people think of Net Neutrality.

    Minitel must be preserved in its current state... for... ever...

  • ||

    The ISPs are going to start charging for NetFlix access, either directly, indirectly with surplus charges, or they are going to charge NetFlix to use their networks.

    The reason: NetFlix is killing their capacity. NetFlix is essentially free-riding on capacity paid for and owned by others.

    Not only that, but the contracts the ISPs have typically allow them to surcharge the NetFlixes of the world if their usage exceeds certain levels.

  • ||

    You can't "free ride" on somthing you pay for. People pay for internet access, and they deserve to use it in whatever legal way they want.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    If you pay for cable access, shouldn't you get pay channels for free? Don't you deserve it?

    If you pay for phone access, don't you deserve to automatically get call waiting, caller ID, etc.?

    Do you find it strange that the FCC, which specializes in keeping things off the air, suddenly has a burning desire to protect your access to whatever you want on the internet - even though that access is not even currently threatened?

  • ||

    "If you pay for cable access, shouldn't you get pay channels for free? Don't you deserve it?"
    Yes, if you pay for access to the pay channels. Funny how they name them in such a way that implies they cost extra.
    "If you pay for phone access, don't you deserve to automatically get call waiting, caller ID, etc.?"
    If you pay for phone access it comes with the services you opt to pay for. Those services are not essential to the phone service part.

    Would it be ok for the phone company to block the numbers from other phone companies?

  • Unforgiven||

    they deserve to use it in whatever legal way they want

    "Deserve's" got nothing to do with it

  • ||

    I agree. Replace the "deserve" with "have the right to"

  • Coeus||

    Didn't read the fine print, did you?

  • Paul||

    I call bullshit. Netflix and its consumers are paying for their share. The cable companies don't have a good way of stopping Netflix short of getting the government to intervene. The only reason the cable companies care is because they happen to make a lot of money off of cable tv subscriptions. Blocking some individual ip from the DNS so that you compete with them is asking for people to route around your crappy scheme. Online on-demand services are here and there's not really a good way of stopping them short of a government ban (yeah right). The ban is what happened with some free online phone services around the year 2000. Google voice is sort of bringing that back... Anyhow, the real gatekeepers to cheap instant content are in fact the copyright holders. They want more money than what Netflix may be charging. The cable companies now have massive holes in their once mighty content embargo. The consumers have more choice - and they're frequently choosing the services that provide higher value. Even if the cable providers dropped their prices to Netflix levels, they still lack a service that compares in on demand quality. In a sense, the cable company's old cable tv model is frankly - in its death throws. The cable companies *could* diversify their product lines to actually compete, or they could just focus on being good at their primary business model - providing high speed internet. Do you know what the difference is between a high speed internet provider that tries to embargo content and a high speed internet provider that doesn't try to embargo content? The second one actually worth buying.

  • LeSigh||

    Nonsense.

    Netflix isn't free-riding. Netflix is paying it's provider for internet access.

    I am paying Comcast for my internet access.

    Comcast and Netflix's provider either directly or through intermediaries have a peering agreement which is what allows Netflix and I to communicate with each other.

    Comcast is getting paid by me. Netflix is getting paid by me.

    What's 'killing their capacity' is their decision to sell limited bandwidth as 'unlimited' and their desire to be the new AOL but still call their service 'internet access'.

  • Sandy||

    What few people bother to point out is that Comcast explicitly markets its high-bandwidth plans to consumers interested in things like streaming video, teleconferencing, high-speed downloads, and online gaming.

    ...the very same things it wants to charge extra for.

    I'm already paying Comcast extra for them. I'm buying their higher-bandwidth plan. There is no greater costs for them except for my useage of higher bandwidth. The higher bandwidth I'm ALREADY paying for.

    Have one flat rate for all unlimited Internet rather than arbitrary bandwidth restrictions you have to pay to loosen, Comcast, and THEN you can whine about congestion.

    Until then, don't advertise services you can't support, and then complain that you're not making any extra money off high-bandwidth consumers. You sold them their plans, and now you complain because they're using them too much? It's an "unlimited" (which is already a lie, re: hidden bandwidth caps, Bittorrent throttling, etc...look up Hart v Comcast, a class-action suit in California over false advertising and deceptive practices) data plan. The very definition of "unlimited" data is "they'll use it as much as they want."

    Basically what Comcast is doing is offering unlimited, high-bandwidth plans marketed explicitly for things like streaming video and downloads, and then complaining that too many people are paying extra for this plan and then streaming too many videos.

    That's like a car lease agreement stipulating that you can't drive it over 45MPH unless you pay extra to offset the risk of driving at speed. And then having the car dealer complain about needing more money because of all the people that are buying their more-expensive plan to reduce their restriction that was entirely arbtirary in the first place.

  • cynical||

    "The reason: NetFlix is killing their capacity. NetFlix is essentially free-riding on capacity paid for and owned by others."

    Hardly. Netflix provides the content that justifies having that sort of bandwidth in the first place. If you purchase a contract with UPS where you pay a fixed rate and they'll ship you as much crap as you want, and you buy a metric fuckton of stuff from Amazon and Ebay, it isn't Amazon and eBay's fault, nor is it yours -- UPS should have made a less stupid deal.

    ISPs aren't planning to charge major content companies because they must, they're planning to do it because they can. Frankly, content companies should fire back by explicitly charging the payment back to the customers of those ISPs that leverage charges and explicitly list it as a delivery fee charged by the ISP (and perhaps list local ISPs in the area that feature lower charges or none at all)

    If there are unfair peering arrangements, ISPs can deal with that, but that's a completely separate question from content providers. If their users are causing congestion problems, then they can deal with that on a user by user basis, but they need to be up front about what their terms are. That said, most of their attempts so far have failed because they've involved either hard data caps, caps with overages, or DPI-based throttling (which is more suited to anticompetitve behavior than congestion management). All of which piss their customers off and create an atmosphere that threatens to make regulation politically palatable.

    An honest and pro-consumer approach would feature two QoS levels -- one with a cap that regenerates over the course of hours (rather than being reset each month), the other being unlimited but crappy and devoid of congestion management.

    We can't always easily prevent monopolies and oligopolies from forming, but it's worthwhile to prevent them from leaking into markets that otherwise tend toward vibrant competition. Obviously not a hardline libertarian position, but how to deal with the question of topography and property (ie ROADS!) is always going to divide pragmatic and fundamentalist libertarians, and for now, all telecom issues tend to fall under that heading.

  • Coeus||

    An honest and pro-consumer approach would feature two QoS levels -- one with a cap that regenerates over the course of hours (rather than being reset each month), the other being unlimited but crappy and devoid of congestion management.

    Haven't seen this proposal before. I like it. But the bandwith hog argument Comcast made about bittorrent was bullshit anyway (time will tell if the netflix one is as well), they were just trying to protect the market value of their cable content. So they'd never go for this.

  • ||

    We pay for access to the entire internet, not just the parts they approve of.

    No, you pay for access to the ISP. I doubt you will find in your agreement with ISP any statement that entitles you to access to the entire internet.

  • CommentARRRR||

    Weak argument, and one that would likely get beat in court. I can understand the ISPs using contracts to wall off sites that compromise their network, but I'd be incredibly surprised if they could pull of a lawsuit victory stating that they get to piecemeal the entirety of the Internet based on their own whims.

  • ||

    Why not? It's their network not yours. Get a different ISP if you don't like the deal they are offering you.

    The Net Neutrality argument boils down to "I want a different deal so I'm going to seize control of those resources and make the owners offer me the deal I'd like".

    What I don't understand is why this reasoning stops at internet bandwidth. I want cheaper shoes and more selection but my local shoe store doesn't have the shoes I want. I think I'll just seize control of it and force them to stock the shoes I want at hte price I'd like.

    I could just go a different store but nah... that would require effort on my part why not just recruit the government to force them! What could possibly go wrong?!

  • Lame||

    Perhaps the stupidest thing I've ever read from you.

    I have a box of mints here. It doesn't say anywhere on the box that there are actually mints inside. So I should be happy if it is filled with packing peanuts.

  • ||

    ISP stands for Internet Service Provider, as in they provide access to the internet.

  • ||

    Sure that true, but to highlight RC's point, you don't have a Internet account. You have a ISP account with a user ID and password to access the ISP's servers which allows you access to the internet. It's not like the Internet just comes to your house.

  • ||

    And my power account allows me access to the electric company's power lines through my electrical outlets which connect me to their power plants. Yet its like the power just comes to my house!

    My point being that the technical details of how the internet arrives wherever I consume it is irrelevant.

  • ||

    Technical details are never irrelevant.

  • ||

    In the general sense of this discussion, they are.

  • Realist||

    Your electric rates change depending on how much power you use.

  • ||

    Yes. And your point?

  • ||

    One more time: You don't own their stuff. If you don't like the deal they are offering you, go somewhere else or start your own company.

    If the content-blind delivery model is the best one for all,then you can make a billion by offering it if all the other providers abandon it.

    Good luck I will invest if you do.

  • No||

    Net neutrality at its purest is truth-in-advertising. The gist is that you can't sell 'internet access' unless you are actually selling access to the internet.

  • Hooha||

    So you're asserting that under NN, any ISP could conduct business any way they pleased, so long as they made public the limitations of their service?

    Fortunately, we already have false-advertising laws, so at its best, NN would be redundant, wasteful legislation. But we all (I'm betting even you) know that this is not the case with, or even the aim of, NN. It won't allow any sort of 'limited internet access', reguardless of the business model, and is therefore an unpreecidented governmental power-grab. A precursor to legislation far more insidious.

    And you, sir, are either a liar, or an ignoramus.

  • No||

    I'm saying that in it's purest form a net neutrality law would serve as the litmus test for whether false-advertising laws were violated.

    And you sir, are an asshole. You're conflating concept and implementation and saying since I understand one I must be in favor of the other. Fuck you.

  • ||

    He's neither a liar nor an ignoramus, the problem comes from how you define the "internet." "No" is defining the internet as a series of protocols and interconnects that are defined by basic rules such as the end-to-end principle (any traffic on one piece of the network should be able to get to any other bit of the network). Otherwise, you're not really on the Internet, but a "private" network that has some level of Internet access. In this case, "private" doesn't connote ownership but to imply separation and seclusion (think most business' intranets). In No's definition, this is distinct from the Internet in the same way that highways are distinct from parking lots: they're both made of pavement, and they connect, but the rules of traffic are different.

    You, on the other hand, Hooha, are defining the Internet as a physical piece of equipment (mainly wires), regardless of how the traffic protocols are implemented. As such, Internet service is still subject to the whims of whoever owns the wires. As long as there is some kind of IP traffic on the network, you're willing to call it an ISP.

    No is claiming that it would be unfair for a company to disregard the protocols that control IP traffic and still call itself an "Internet Service Provider." By his definition, its valid, by yours, its not. Whether that is fair or wise is a matter for debate.

    Either way, the both of you aren't really debating, but just asserting at one another without really listening. Which is why you each think the other is evil and/or stupid.

  • Mattxdc||

    On another note, anyone know how to delete/edit a comment on Reason? Didn't really want my email address out there...

  • ||

    I like the idea of companies being neutral about the data. But I can't support a government effort to enforce it. How many times have they claimed to want to do a little, then a little becomes a too much.

    Once they get their foot in the door, they become the unwelcomed guest that never leaves.

  • ||

    "How many times have they claimed to want to do a little, then a little becomes a too much."
    Do you have an example? Without support this is just paranoid anti-regulation rhetoric. Not all government regulation is good, but at least give some critial thought to individual regulations themselves before bashing them.

  • ||

    The critical thought is in the article, there are ZERO examples for net neutrality other than the vague threat of an evil corporation do something bad in the future.

    The number of examples where small regulations end up being big ones are endless. Do a search on google, but be quick, comcast might switch you off any minute now, they do not want you knowing the truth !

  • ||

    There are also ZERO examples of how this regulation is inherently bad. The only argument against it is the same tired argument leveled at any government regulation. If the examples are really endless, then why can't you provide one?

  • ||

    You ever here of the drug war or the prohibition or the patriot act. Ever here how the British lost their rights to gun ownership. Biofuels, corn subsidies no side effects there. The airplane industry after regulation as opposed to before, check out what happened to the train industry that got regulated.

    Enough examples ?

  • Theshag||

    Enron's Californian power fiasco, the current mess with prescription drug advertising on TV, Love Canal, the fiscal collapse of 2008 (yeah, I went there).

    Bad regulation is Bad, but to ignore the good done by government is as foolish as ignoring its failures.

  • ||

    Amen. Regulation itself is not good or bad.

  • ||

    Depends on the specifics.

  • ||

    You must have missed the "this regulation" part. I never claimed to be for regulation at all times.
    Those are all good examples of regulation in general gone bad.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Yes, there is one glaring example of how it is inherently bad.

    Solutions should not go searching from problems that don't exist.

  • CommentARRRR||

    Despite the article's handwaving of examples, Comcast tried to market unlimited Internet while LIMITING it in certain situations. It's that kind of shenanigans that needs to be put to rest or explicitly advertised by the carrier. Let them fess up to the consumer how they plan on handling a busy network as opposed to secretly modify services that were not limited by contract.

  • Hooha||

    Yes, we must protect consumers from their own ambivelance! It's for their own good!

    You know, part of my family used comcast. We were often subject to their ninja restrictions - there was lots of DLing and online gaming going on, and your connection being dicked with is really apperant when you have latency spikes or your FPS drops to .5.

    It was/is not/never will be the job of 'we the people' to prevent this from occuring. It was my family's job, as spurned customers. We positively destroyed a few of their customer service representatives, and the problem went away. Had the problem not gone away, we'd be AT&T customers now, or something.

    Problem solved, no gov't intervention required.

  • Paul||

    The problem went away? Are you sure you didn't change providers? I'm pretty sure you just screamed at some 15 low wage call center employees who didn't give a crap, nor did they actually do something. I'm against moving anywhere that Comcast is the local government's choice monopoly. Why are people still getting Comcast? Because they don't live 100 miles away where they can get a decent service from Time Warner or Cox. Then again, I suppose it's normal to have to bitch for hours at a company to cancel after some fees to then have to get technically inferior but higher "quality" internet from what a massively anti-competitive company called AT&T...

    The consumer solution: move to a different city or start a lawsuit.

  • Hooha||

    I'm 'pretty sure' I know damned well what happened. I wasn't the one who actually navigated the phone maze, so I can't tell you who was talked to, but yes, the problems went away.

    Funny thing about making waves in the corporate world; those companies usually REALLY want your X bucks a month. Or at least to avoid a lawsuit. Either way, shit gets done. I know it flies in the face of the liberal 'We're helpless before the might of corporate opression' theology, but that's how it works in a free market. Companies live in abject terror of their competition, and it -usually- keeps them in line.

  • Jim||

    I'm against NN as much as the next libertarian, but jesus, I wish I lived in the world you live in. Every time I've called my cable internet provider I was dicked around for hours, only to have nothing done. When I spoke to a supervisor and threatened to leave, he told me I coulnd't because we were still under contract. The contract never specified that we would get good, consistent service, so they were not obliged to do anything to fix our problem. And when my contract was up several months later, and I called back and let them have it as I cancelled, the escalation guy I got just basically said they have enough customers, and no, they are not concerned with my leaving enough to offer me anything.

  • Paul||

    I guess your part of the comcastmustdie.com crew, which apparently feels comcast has magically turned into a competent company, while it is smoothly merging with NBC. When my parents moved to a new place around Miami, it took Comcast about a month to FAIL to connect them after coming out some 4 times. Never my friends in Houston with regular connection problems. Want another cable provider in those areas? You're SOL. There's no reason internet should be that hard to get taken care of. If I had this much trouble with something that *should* take more time, like renting an apartment, I'd not consider renewing my lease, and I might even go through the process ending the lease. The fact of the matter is, you get some shit company like this or say - a credit reporting agency, and you're not going to get service. You're not going to get much of a choice. It probably won't be worth your time in court beyond making the point that your efforts are futile in court, and even if you do win, the company may just pay whatever fine it is and continue doing the exact damn same thing. The problem is not network neutrality, it's a "natural monopoly" (look the term up) and government collusion where their their model seems to be to cut every possible corner in the book and abuse a form of monopoly power. Maybe they're improving, but that didn't stop Consumerist.com from ranking Comcast as Worst Company in America 2010. With it being the runner up in 2009 and 2008. Also, here's something that apparently flew right over the head of this article...

    http://www.marketwatch.com/sto.....2010-11-29

    If you're for network neutrality and for a free market solution, then maybe you'd better start working on a crush Comcast kind of solution. Anyhow, why fear the competition when you're the only good connection you can legally get in town?

  • ||

    ""but at least give some critial thought to individual regulations themselves before bashing them.""

    Perhaps you should give some critical though about the difference between bashing a individual regulation and acknowledging federal regulation creep.

    I didn't bash net neturality, I simply pointed out that you can't trust government to resist expanding authority.

  • ||

    But if you really want an example. How about the government going from food safety regulations, to entertaining the idea of being your nutritionist.

  • ||

    It couldn't hurt, 30% of the population is obese. They obviously can't do it themselves.

  • ||

    and so you reveal yourself at last. Well done.

  • Hooha||

    Indeed. Confirmed troll and/or socialist.

    "Revoking people's freedoms to the point of legislating what they eat 'couln't hurt', after all, they can't be trusted to do 'it' themselves!"

    Jackass. Move to Cuba, N3rd. Be sure and let us know what a progressive wonderland it is.

  • ||

    Damn, you guys are good if you can figure out my beliefs over the internet.
    You also excel at detecting sarcasm.

  • Hooha||

    I call bullshit. People don't drop statistics in their sarcasm unless it's painfully ironic.

    You sure do seem to think socialism is great... why are you so afraid to admit it, I wonder?

  • T3rd||

    Not true! I only like socialism when it benefits ME!

  • ||

    Entertaining an idea is not the same as implementing one.

  • Realist||

    You are too fucking stupid!

  • ||

    Very critical and deep. I see you thought about this one a lot.

  • Tony||

    They already have their foot in the door, having invented it and established the way it is organized.

    Take your irrational government-hate blinders off for a second, and realize what the facts are. This government action wants to preserve the Internet status quo, and corporations want to change it for their own purposes. Government is on the side of freedom, they are not. Sometimes that happens.

  • ||

    Again can you give one single example where a corporation has restricted the status quo, and no China is not corporation.

  • ||

    How is "preserving the status quo" a good thing in and of itself? WTF.

  • Tony||

    It's not, but we're talking about a specific way of handling Internet data. Do you know of some way to improve that status quo?

  • Paul||

    It's not, but we're talking about a specific way of handling Internet data. Do you know of some way to improve that status quo?

    By not codifying it into law regulation.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This government action wants to preserve the Internet status quo

    Preserving the Internet status quo? How conservative of you, Tony.

  • Realist||

    "President Obama’s top man at the Federal Communications Commission tries to regulate the Net."
    Huh, who would guess that a sack of shit with big ears would try that???

  • ||

    Yes. Being a name caller is the best way to show your level of thought, i.e., less than a sack of shit.

  • Realist||

    I did not call anyone a name, it was a description only...and an accurate at that!
    I quote from one of your earlier stupid posts "And you missed that whole growing-up thing entirely. Can you be more of a troll with nothing to say? I hope your head explodes reading my comments, though your eight year old brain might have some trouble with critical thinking"

  • ||

    Wow, just, wow. I guess I shouldn't feed the trolls. Hi-five there genius for making your comment 70% my words. Its actually convenient because I considered copy-pasting them for you. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

  • Safari guide||

    "Wow, just, wow."

    Look, everyone! Douchenozzle droppings...

  • ||

    Look everyone! A live troll appears!

    I'm pretty sure those Douchenozzle droppings are Realist's.

  • Realist||

    Yes, they are for you to eat!

  • Paul||

    I caught an argument for net neutrality which referenced Egypt turning off the internet as a reason to support net neutrality. The argument essentially boiled down to: Look what the egyptian government did to the internet... this is why we need to give more control over the internet to the government. There was a footnote in the article that said government control of the internet would be ok here because "our government would never be like China".

    I embraced and accepted his argument after I read that. The right people are in charge... I'm good. I'm good.

  • ||

    Its not just that the right people are in charge, but they are accountable to the people as well.
    My main gripe is that the only arguments I see against net neutrality boil down to simple anti-regulation rhetoric. Regulation itself is not inherently good or bad. Each regulation needs careful planning and forethought. I would much rather be able to trust the companies that provide access to the internet to remain neutral without regulation, but a corporation's main goal is making money, not being fair.

  • ||

    You definition of fairness is not the same as other peoples definition of fairness. Yet you have no problem wanting to impose your "fairness" on others.

    Regulations are not accountable to the people, they pick winners and losers in business, in this case the winner is Google, unless you honestly think they are supporting this out of the goodness of their hearts.

  • ||

    They are accountable to the people because we elect the people who enact them.
    What is your definition of fairness? That there should be no rules for anyone?

  • ||

    I own a business, I provide services that I decide, not someone else, pretty fair. I decide what I want to sell not others, a good rule for anyone.

  • ||

    That is just fine. How does net neutrality relate to telling you what to services you provide?

  • ||

    I was talking about whats fair, thats what you asked, and that was my answer. If I want to sell Lemonade not Orange juice that is my choice, you have no right to tell me what I can sell.

    Let me give you an example. I own a little mom and pop shop ISP that only provides access to Japanese sites, that is how the money is earned. Now net neutrality comes along and says, you have to provide access to everything, see how effects what services I provide.

  • ||

    The thing is, there aren't any mom-and-pop ISPs.
    Even if there were, if your only service is to provide access to Japanese sites, and that is what people knew that they were paying for, its A OK to only provide access to those sites.

  • ||

    Unless a law says otherwise.

    You've made RC's point below.

  • ||

    The idea of Net Neutrality would not force this mom-and-pop ISP to provide access to all sites.

    Its a bad example. I think it highlights some of the misunderstandings about NN and the internet. The internet is not a physical commodity, its an abstract concept; it is not dependent on location. Japanese sites could be hosted on servers right here in the US and nobody viewing those sites would have any knowledge where the actual data is stored. The idea of a company providing access to only Japanese sites is ridiculous and is rooted in a pre-internet mode of thinking.

  • ||

    "" its an abstract concept;""

    Only to those not interested in the details.

  • Hyphenated American||

    "The internet is not a physical commodity, its an abstract concept; it is not dependent on location."

    Can the government regulate an "abstract concept"?

  • Coeus||

    Can the government regulate an "abstract concept"?

    Unfortunately. See: "Cartoon Porn".

  • Paul||

    That is just fine. How does net neutrality relate to telling you what to services you provide?

    Wouldn't an ISP which billed itself as a high speed, streaming video preferred model by prioritizing streaming video be illigal under Net Neutrality rules?

  • ||

    I don't think an ISP like that could exist by definition. ISP - Internet Service Provider, not streaming video provider.

  • Paul||

    I don't think an ISP like that could exist by definition. ISP - Internet Service Provider, not streaming video provider.

    I'm not talking about content provider, I'm talking about an ISP which made streaming video a priority traffic- an ISP which might sell itself to enterprise organizations for Video conferencing technologies and the like. If they're the ones providing the "last mile" of infrastructure that gives you your internet connection-- and offers you all of the standard internet service but built itself in a way where "streaming video" was the "best on the planet" because they QOS the shit out of it... would that not be illegal under NN rules?

  • ||

    Maybe.

  • ||

    In other words, "Yes, but I'm too much of a pussy to admit it, because it destroys my argument above about how net neutrality doesn't restrict what services ISPs can sell to their customers."

  • Rob||

    Days late, I know, but what a hilarious reply!

  • Paul||

    They are accountable to the people because we elect the people who enact them.
    What is your definition of fairness? That there should be no rules for anyone?

    We do not elect people who enact them. We elect people who appoint the heads of the agencies. It becomes a very indirect, hands-off kind of democracy for our legislators- a hands-off paradigm that I'm increasingly uncomfortable with.

  • ||

    True, but I would rather have indirect control than none.

  • ||

    The only thing stopping you from having a voice in how a company is run is your own unwillingness to buy shares of its stock.

  • Hyphenated American||

    If I don't like my IPS, I can switch to another one - same day. It's my personal choice. If I don't like Obama - well, I am stuck with his policies, and I have no alternative. And even if I vote against him 2 years from now - if won't help me if imbeciles re-elect him.

    See the difference now?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    They are accountable to the people because we elect the people who enact them.

    Funny, I must have missed Julius Genachowski on the 2008 or 2010 ballot, or whichever ballot he was on?

    Did anybody vote for this guy?

  • Hooha||

    I think Obama did.

  • ||

    I'd be incredibly surprised if they could pull of a lawsuit victory stating that they get to piecemeal the entirety of the Internet based on their own whims.

    I'd bet on whoever has the better argument, based on what the contract actually says, winning. From the ComCast customer service agreement:

    Subject to applicable law, we have the right to change our Services, Comcast Equipment and rates or charges, at any time with or without notice. We also may rearrange, delete, add to, or otherwise change programming or features or offerings contained in the Services, including, but not limited to, content, functionality, hours of availability, customer equipment requirements, speed, and upstream and downstream rate limitations.

    e. Material Downloaded Through HSI. In addition to any content that may be provided by us, you may access material through HSI that is not owned by Comcast. Specific terms and conditions may apply to your use of any content or material made available through HSI that is not owned by Comcast. You should read those terms and conditions to learn how they apply to you and your use of any non-Comcast content.

    I don't see anything that guarantees you access to anything and everything on the internet, and plenty of language that ComCast can use to "tier" their services, or simply block sites.

  • ||

    Right, there isn't anything that guarantees access to anything and everything on the internet.
    That is what net neutrality is, a guarantee that if you pay for internet access that you get access to the whole internet.

  • ||

    Does that include poker websites overseas?

  • ||

    If they are legal to use in the US, yes.

  • Paul||

    So you're for a mostly neutral internet. As long as it's an unelected career bureaucrat with spiffy matching binders making the rules (Thank you Wind Rider) then you're ok with it.

  • ||

    This particular unelected carrer bureaucrat happens to share my views so I am very OK with it.
    He was also appointed by someone I voted for.

  • ||

    The alternative to the unelected career bureaucrat is an unelected career corporate CEO who has the interests of his company in mind, not his customers.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The alternative to the unelected career bureaucrat is an unelected career corporate CEO who has the interests of his company in mind, not his customers.

    A business that makes money without a customer base. Will wonders never cease?

  • Paul||

    This particular unelected carrer bureaucrat happens to share my views so I am very OK with it.
    He was also appointed by someone I voted for.

    You do realize that we have a palace coup in this country every 4 to 8 years and he won't be there forever, right? Or did you just get spoofed?

    The alternative to the unelected career bureaucrat is an unelected career corporate CEO who has the interests of his company in mind, not his customers.

    A corporate CEO always has the interest of his customers in mind, because when his customers leave him, he has no company.

  • ||

    But he's there now, while they're making the rules.

    "A corporate CEO always has the interest of his customers in mind, because when his customers leave him, he has no company."

    With internet service providers, his customers can't leave him because in many cases he has a pseudo-monopoly on internet access. Any arguments against net neutrality that boil down to "the free market will fix it" don't work because there are too few ISPs. You aren't going to have a bunch of other ISP's appear out of thin air just because of competition.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    With internet service providers, his customers can't leave him because in many cases he has a pseudo-monopoly on internet access.

    Your ass-hole is not a good place to talk out of. There are large ISPs (Verizon, Comcast, SBC) and smaller ones (XMission, Verio, Optimum Online).

  • ||

    Its not about the total number of ISPs, but how many ISPs a person has access to in a given location.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    And you have access to at least three in any given location, not including regional ISPs and the ever helpful wi-fi hotspot.

    How many ISPs do you need to go from "pseudo-monopoly" (a nonsensical term) to a market? 2? 10? 300?

  • Paul||

    Many of these pseudo monopolies were created by the regulatory frameworks of municipal and county governments. we will only cement these monopolies in place with NN.

  • ||

    ""If they are legal to use in the US, yes.""

    Well then, you are not for having the access to the whole Internet. Which up to now has been on of your arguements.

  • ||

    Access to parts of the internet that are illegal are....already illegal. Therfore net neutrality has no effect on them.

  • ||

    But it has everything to do with your claim that you should have access to the whole Internet.

    You seem to be just fine with the government regulating which site you can go to, but not the ISP it's self.

  • cynical||

    So, you believe that you should be allowed to go absolutely anywhere on the internet, with no constraints, unless the government doesn't approve. Scratch a prog, find a fascist.

  • ||

    Dude, Iron Law #1....
    I gave up on them over an hour ago. Stop validating them by engaging them.

  • CommentARRRR||

    I don't see anything that guarantees you access to anything and everything on the internet, and plenty of language that ComCast can use to "tier" their services, or simply block sites.

    Service agreements/contracts are never a good measure seeing as courts have previously protected consumers in the face of overreaching and/or intentionally open agreements that give the company too many outs as protection from lawsuits.

    More importantly, the ISPs would get laid out in court trying to argue that they can play gatekeeper with web content under their current contracts. The language you quote wouldn't stand as a blanket ass covering for blocking access to certain networks. The current levels of services and contracts are, unfortunately for the ISPs, too structured around availability and accessibility of the services in question as opposed to what the services in question can access.

  • putra||

    The internet is the revolution of technology. I believe maybe 10 or 15 years later the presidential campaign just over from the internet.

  • ||

    Now who can argue with that? I think we're all indebt to putra for stating what needed to be said.

    I am particulary glad that these lovely children are here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed the courage little seen in this day and age.

  • ||

    Someone has been watching too many Mel Brooks movies.

  • ||

    You must disabuse yourself of the notion that there is such a thing as "too many Mel Brooks movies".

  • ||

    This is true

  • Paul||

    Then if we could get legislation over the internet, and then deprioritize that traffic, that'd be greeeaat.

  • Paul||

    Despite its relative newness and its radical ideas, Free Press has had an outsized influence on the net neutrality debate. It has a former staffer in the FCC chairman’s office: In June 2009, Jen Howard left her job as press director for Free Press to become Genachowski’s press secretary.
    [...]
    Free Press has used its influence to push the FCC toward the strictest regulations possible. By opposing Genachowski’s initial rule proposal as too lax, the coalition made it clear that only the heaviest regulatory burden would do. And Free Press hasn’t been afraid to turn its fire on the chairman. In July the group created a mocked-up “Wanted” poster using a photo of Genachowski’s face and encouraged activists to post it “all over Chicago” during an FCC meeting there. FCC insiders say the group’s influence is strongly felt. According to Commissioner Baker, the chairman “is under tremendous pressure from the netroots base not to compromise on net neutrality.”

    Once again, we have this bizarre pimp/ho relationship between leftists and the government. They have disdain and fear for the institution, all while desperately pining for its love and acceptance.

  • ||

    Ahhh those damn leftists. Its all clear now....
    The leftists are to blame, for what exactly? Trying to influence the government to get things they want? "leftists" aren't the only ones trying to do that. Heard of the Tea Party?

  • Paul||

    I know very little about the Tea Party. I presume you might be talking about the "keep your government hands off my Medicare" types?

    Yeah, strange and annoying, isn't it?

    The call to "Regulate us, tax us, set us free!" has always been an enigma to me.

  • ||

    I was refering to the fact that the same type of relationship with the government exists regardless of political alignment.

  • Paul||

    I argue not. Most libertarians are skeptical of governmental institutions, even in places where we might acknowledge that it's done some good-- all because of the larger principles at stake.

    Take marijuana. Even some libertarians have been calling to "tax us, regulate us, set us free" in regards to medicalizing marijuana. I argue that's a dangerous road to go down. When you complain about the government's war on drugs and then demand the governments love and acceptance regarding those same drugs-- you will regret it one day.
    Legalize it, full stop.

  • ||

    Agreed. Why stop with marijuana?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    You're fishing in the wrong pond for Team Red defenders, boy.

  • COINTELPRO||

    Here's a question. Government enforces copyright laws and they gave copyright holders the right to take down content according to the DMCA. In fact, last year, they were trying to push through the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the Justice Department to access and block ISPs and servers with copyrighted content, but it was stalled and would have to be voted on this year.

    Government also wants to regulate the flow of traffic and content via the FCC. Now consider this: if they can't get the COICA passed, but the FCC gets to control internet access, wouldn't this essentially act as the COICA by blocking or slowing down torrents and sites hosting copyrighted content? Yes, that wouldn't keep the internet "Neutral", but they could argue the sites were lawbreakers according to the DMCA, so they were just doing their jobs.

  • Paul||

    I'm not sure I understand your point. But websites illegally offering copyrighted material can already be shut down by the copyright owners taking legal action. What did the COICA do that legal action already doesn't? Did this have something to do with foreign sites out of Justice Department jurisdiction?

  • COINTELPRO||

    The difference between the DCMA and COICA is that the DCMA allowed copyright holders to file takedown notices against websites hosting the content, but it would only affect the content. COICA would allow the Justice Department to block the entire site, including content that doesn't break copyright.

  • ||

    Julius Genachowski's greatest disappointment is that he was born 50 years too late to get a plum job in the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

  • Paul||

    “You can’t get an unbridled, roving commission to go about doing good,” he said.

    In April, Randolph laid down the law: “Policy statements are just that—statements of policy,” he wrote. “They are not delegations of regulatory authority.”

    I like this judge. In this one, very small way he slapped down the notion that by a "mission statement" alone you can't expand your regulatory authority. That was an epic win for democracy. Let's hope this precedent expands into every corner of our oligarchy of bureaucrats.

  • ||

    I am really disappointed in Reason on this point. Yeah, property rights are good, but so are efficient markets.

    The key point you're missing is that in the "golden era" of the Internet explosive growth (the 1990-2006), there are competition in ISPs (CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, et.c), and there was functional separation between the ISP and the physical network (your local phone company). So your local phone company had no say in which ISP you dialed-up to; as long as they had a local phone number you were good to go.

    Today neither of those are true. The cable companies and phone companies have formed local monopolies in most of the American market. The physical network and the ISP are the same company, and they can unilaterally decide which websites you can access and which web services you can engage in. There's no choice; it's their way or the highway. You like YouTube? Too bad.

    Just look at the problems with HGTV on CableVision to get an idea of what I mean.

    Further, you seem to think that it's a property rights issue for AT&T, Verizon, et. al. to charge Netflix or YouTube to use the content. Wrong. It's a gatekeeper, monopoly rent issue. Every megabyte of data that comes over their network is already paid for - by the end user. I pay Comcast my $65/month for my 10 MB/sec connection. How I choose to use it is my business. Comcast wanting to charge Skype, or YouTube or Hulu for that traffic -AGAIN- is them taking a second bite at the apple.

    So to wrap up, what the Democrats are trying to do here is RESTORE the competitive landscape that existed in the 1990s when everything was great. Please get with this, or Comcast is going to decide to start charging you an extra $3/month for "premium" websites, regardless of the amount of bandwidth they actually require.

  • ||

    Can you name a single company that has blocked youtube, I can name more than one government that has blocked it, yet government is the guy to trust.

    I do not see how everything was great in the 1990s, expressions like the "world wide wait" come to mind. Things have never been better before, most people in the world have cheaper, faster and reliable internet.

  • Brock||

    Click on the website on my name for an example of their plans to charge based on the websites/services you access. They can't do it yet (the law won't allow it), but this is their plan. They know they can extract a lot more money from you if you have to cough up extra $$$ each month to reach YouTube, Google, Facebook, or Reason.

  • cynical||

    They plan to do a lot of shit. Data caps, throttling, you name it. Without the government actively backing them, it always blows up in their face. What they're trying to do is extort money from the content companies, because they know that trying to hold their own customers up over a barrel will lead to some major blowback.

    But all YouTube has to do is refuse to give in -- if they block it, there will be a shitstorm of epic proportions. If they throttle it, YouTube can just look at the IP address and tell (e.g.) Comcast users that if things are running slow, it might be due to throttling, and they may want to use services X, Y, or Z in the area that don't throttle.

    But honestly, what is hilarious to me is the notion that the president, who is buddy-buddy with the head honcho of the content company that just merged with Comcast (motherfucking Comcast, the AT&T of cable companies) has any fucking interest at all in the well-being of consumers.

    This is about getting control over the internet, plain and simple, same as the killswitch, same as the clipper chip, same as any number of other initiatives. Whether the scare tactic is hackers, pedophiles, terrorists, or corporations, the end goal is the same. The internet scares the shit out of the power elite, and they're desperate for a way to neuter it.

  • ||

    "with a bias toward restrictions that favor content providers."

    You've got that wrong, it should read:

    "with a bias toward restrictions that favor content consumers."

  • Random Dude||

    The great thing about this whole debate is that very soon net-"neutrality" will be revealed as the fraud that it is based upon purely technical constraints.

    The wireless spectrum has extreme limits which are already being exhausted in places like S.F. Also, VOIP technology basically requires packet prioritization.

    So, no surprise that Verizon and Skype were in "discussions" with the White House and FCC for exemptions. The Slashdot folks, unsurprisingly, have no good response to this, other than "the government will do the right thing."

  • Rob||

    Agree, NN has no concept of QOS. If your Skype call keeps dropping audio because someone is downloading oodles of pr0n, who cares?!

  • Remove Before Flight *Tag*||

    The regulatory effort called Net Neutrality is compleatly bizzare. It shows a compleate lack of understanding what the internet actually is. An ISP wants to block my access to something, I route around the blocking network. If my ISP wants to block or limit my access, tough. I route around my ISP by getting another.

    If my government blocks my access. The same principle applies. I get a different government. Or just plain ignore them. After all if I want to was my mule inside city limits on sunday by gooly I will!

  • Remove Before Flight *Tag*||

    Random,

    Wireless internet access is the whole can of worms in a nutshell. It's the golden goose that hasnt been properly fleeced yet. And the fight to control who's fleecing who is begining to get nasty.

    Telco's offering internet access for phones are desperate. Their looking for any way to defray the costs of over selling a service they can NOT provide in high customer density area's.

    Blaming netflix is ludricris. Netflix pays for every single bit of data that leaves their servers across the internet. They are charged by the bandwidth that is used to access their servers every month. And because telco's are NOT able to their customers the promised access to such sites like netflix. It's time to regulate in favor of the telco's!

    But before the FCC can regulate in favor of the telco's, it has to have the authority to do so. And so here we have the bouncy baby monstrosity known as Net Neutrality.

    They all so cute at this age..

  • KJFX||

    After reading the article and these comments that follow I am left with the feeling that people are simply too impatient to allow the natural order of things to prevail. Yes new technologies offer limited resources at first but these become ever expansive as time and investment shows there is a viable market that wishes these technologies to be expanded. Monoplization of a market isn't an end result, it is an early adaptation of a limited market till there comes a market answer to the limits monoplization offers, through it's own self serving needs. Just as wireless, satalite, and cable have been answers to the monoplization of older thechnologies, many investors are looking to jump on to and provide the next big thing, just because you cannot see the next big thing does not mean it does not exist or that it is not coming, and would be a shame to saddle it with these arbitrary regulatory concepts that reflect an impatient demanding society that wishes to force a newly forming market to act as it demands, even before the full potential of this market is known. Gov does not create anything, it can only covet, stifle, or inpede. Regulation of a market does all of this and demanding that gov regulate this newly forming market will only cause to further slow it's evolution. This is already evident when this market runs into areas where regulation already exist. An example is limits to ISP's in certain areas only due to which gov sanctioned "utility" is allowed to provide access in that area, this would only be further exasborated by more regulation. If I want to buy or rent space on existing utility poles to run my own lines for my new state of the art cable technology, I would be blocked by the companies I want to compete with by their being the state's sanctioned and regulated authoritive power for their given area. Because it would constitute as unfair competetive nature to hedge into someone's else predetirmed district where outside forces may not provide the kind of local service that a certain area is garuanteed under the protections of this already regulated authority. Big business can only become a monoply when it wields the power that it holds only on loan from the one true and only monoply holder on power which is the gov, regulation offers the in for business and gov alike to hold this power over us, and truely keep us from further advancement of more creative and limitless options.

  • ||

    Bad ISPs

    Out of the US ISPs on that list, only four of them treat their traffic completely neutrally. Unless you happen to live in an area where one of those four offer service, there is no alternative.

  • ||

    WOW, just wow..
    What a load of political horse shit.

  • ||

    It amazes me the thin line between libertarianism and anarchocapitalism. The government is pretty much entirely incompetent, but I don't see how a major corporation can't stamp out your rights to things like data privacy and access to information any slower than the government can.

    I buy my cars from auto companies, but only because they're required to build them for the protection of the passengers.

    And no, sometimes it's prohibitively expensive to move to a new location just to get a different ISP. This coming from a VERY bitter Comcast customer who is STILL unable to access bittorrent - and I'm an information systems major in college, so just trust me when I say I know how to configure a bittorrent client and this is not user error. I'm also an avid gamer who basically can only play video games away from home because of the consistently terrible service.

    I've had Comcast in more than one state. Every single time, it was because they were the only ISP in our area. We searched for months before a recent move to DC, and the realization that any neighborhood close enough to where we needed to be had Comcast only was met with great sorrow.

    I'm not usually in favor of greater government power, but I'm no less in favor of being abused by a giant corporation who knows there's no other cable ISP anywhere near here.

    Now that Comcast owns NBC-Universal, they'll have even greater reason to subvert network neutrality at every possible opportunity. They already all but declared war on bittorrent to protect their profit margins - network congestion is a load of BS and everyone in the industry knows it - and they've also in the past interfered with things like VoIP and are now gunning for Netflix.

    Again they say it's for network congestion reasons, but if they have billions of dollars to throw around buying media companies, perhaps they could spare a few dollars for fixing their broken infrastructure instead. One percent of their sum NBC-Universal deal could significantly improve service in an entire region, without stamping out our ability to access things like streaming video or peer-to-peer filesharing.

  • M||

    My problem w/ deregulation of internet/telecommunications systems is that it keeps us from getting exhaustive levels of market penetration which would get internet access to poorer and more rural people which would in turn give their kids a leg up in education and computer skills and make them more competitive businesspeople when they're older. Dial-up is insufficient for wikipedia

  • San Francisco Locksmith||

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  • Matthew Kirez||

    I would say that trying to regulate the internet is bad move folks, really bad move. Where is the freedom of speech?

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  • Insulin Resistance||

    Who cares about net neutrality? What I want to know is, why are PureTNA and Empornium websites down????

  • Movies||

    Here's a question. Government enforces copyright laws and they gave copyright holders the right to take down content according to the DMCA. In fact, last year, they were trying to push through the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the Justice Department to access and block ISPs and servers with copyrighted content, but it was stalled and would have to be voted on this year.

  • Naruto||

    Again they say it's for network congestion reasons, but if they have billions of dollars to throw around buying media companies, perhaps they could spare a few dollars for fixing their broken infrastructure instead. One percent of their sum NBC-Universal deal could significantly improve service in an entire region, without stamping out our ability to access things like streaming video or peer-to-peer filesharing.

  • John Wayne||

    I've had Comcast in more than one state. Every single time, it was because they were the only ISP in our area. We searched for months before a recent move to DC, and the realization that any neighborhood close enough to where we needed to be had Comcast only was met with great sorrow.

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