Is the Internet a Public Utility?

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govIs the Internet a public utility? And what would happen if federal tech regulators classified it as one? Those are the questions at the heart of debate over net neutrality—the concept that all information that travels over the Internet should be given equal access and equal priority.

Today, those questions are playing out in the ongoing fight over the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposed Internet traffic rules. The agency is holding a vote today on a new, not-yet-public proposal from agency chairman Tom Wheeler that would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to offer a baseline level of service to everyone, but would also allow for the creation of some paid prioritization deals, subject to review by the FCC. The proposal has sparked opposition amongst tech activists who want the agency to consider tougher rules, and a far more consequential change to the way the Internet is regulated: They want the Internet to be reclassified under the FCC's regulatory guidelines from its current position as a Title I "information service" to a Title II "telecommunication service"—essentially, a public utility.

Wheeler's proposal doesn't take that approach, but according to The Wall Street Journal, the chairman is expected to "bring it up as an alternative to his plan." Initially, Wheeler, who spent years working as a telecom executive, was wary of even broaching the subject, but the response to his net neutrality proposal—or at least, to what's been reported about the still-not-publicly available rules—was strong enough that he's apparently decided to allow some discussion of reclassification.

Reclassification of the Internet as a utility isn't the primary proposal at today's FCC meeting—but it is up for discussion.

So it's worth thinking a little bit about what might happen if the agency did pursue reclassification.

Supporters of the change say they want an equal access Internet, one that preserves the little guy–friendly ethos that has defined the first few decades of the Internet's growth—and prohibits anyone from being put in a slow lane.

But the Internet has never really been as equal as the activists suggest. As a National Journal report noted earlier this week, big content providers with big data transmission needs have always wrangled service deals with big Internet carriers; billions of dollars are already tied up in these sorts of bargains. Not only have these deals not ruined the Internet experience for the average person, they've enhanced it, allowing traffic-intensive services like streaming video sites to purchase enhanced capabilities. Those deals have made it possible for startups to handle massive traffic spikes without crashing. And the money involved has helped expand, upgrade, and maintain the Internet's permanent infrastructure overall.

Under Title II, some of that money would probably go away. And so would the infrastructure improvements that go with it. A group of large ISPs wrote to the FCC this week to warn that, if the agency moves forward with reclassification, they would spend less money to build out their networks. This is the industry's position, so some skepticism is in order. But it's not an entirely crazy notion. Transform the Internet into quasi-public infrastructure, and it's likely to start taking on, at least to some degree, a few of the characteristics of public infrastructure—which, I think it's safe to say, is not known for its propensity toward innovation and upgrades.

Besides, it's not even clear that reclassification would prohibit the sort of prioritization deals that net neutrality activists say they want to avoid. ISPs are arguing that Title II doesn't prevent fast-lane deals—it simply enforces a standard that prioritization deals not be "unjust" or "unreasonable," which is basically what Wheeler was already proposing.

It's also worth remembering that this isn't the first time the FCC has considered the issue.

Back in 1998, under President Bill Clinton, the agency submitted a report to Congress concluding that, for multiple reasons, Internet access was "appropriately classed" as an information service under Title I. One of the points the report made was that the Internet is more than just a dumb-pipe for carrying information. Yes, it involves data transport, "but the provision of Internet access service crucially involves information-processing elements as well; it offers end users information-service capabilities inextricably intertwined with data transport." In other words, it simply doesn't make sense to classify Internet access as a utility because the service involves than mindlessly moving packets of information from one place to another. And reclassification, the report warns, would result in "negative policy consequences"—specifically, it could have "significant consequences for the global development of the Internet."

Over the last 16 years, that approach has given us the rapidly growing, innovative Internet we have today. The problem now is that the Internet has done so well that net neutrality activists want to turn it into something that looks more like a public utility, essentially freezing the Internet in place. In other words, they want to hold on to the Internet of today, at the expense of the growing, innovative Internet of tomorrow. 

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  • ||

    Is the Internet a Public Utility?

    Not even the "public utilities" we have now are (or should be considered) actually fucking public, so the answer is NO.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    And given my (admittedly limited) experience of actual Public utilities, I think that's a good thing. I grew up in the Cleveland area, and was coming to political awareness during the mayoral campaign that elected Dennis Kucinich. A big part of his platform was "save Muni Light"; a municipally owned "power" company that hadn't generated a watt of electricity in years. It had been created during the depression to "keep the power companies honest". The usual political tricks had been played to keep its fees artificially low, and no maintenance had been done. By the time of the Kucinich campaign it had been buying electricity from private power companies and selling it at a loss for at least a decade. It also wasn't paying its bills, and had put the city millions in debt. The idea of "saving" it was obviously daft at best. The question wasn't whether it should be sold to the power companies to pay off its debt, but why the power companies would accept it anyway.

    It seems to me that an awful lot of Liberal campaign ideas have echoed that over the years. That is, they don't make any goddamned sense if you actually look at them, and they dodge the real questions.

  • Rich||

    Alt-alt-text: "The Internet -- you didn't build that."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The internet has already spilled the banks of regulation. It must be gathered up and returned to the confines of what the bureaucracy can abide.

  • kewa622||

    its awesome. Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $500 a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

  • Roger Wilco||

    I can't work from home with Google making $500 a week without Net Neutrality!!!!!!1

  • cw||

    ISPs are arguing that Title II doesn't prevent fast-lane deals—it simply enforces a standard that prioritization deals not be "unjust" or "unreasonable."

    "Unjust" and "unreasonable" legal standards usually mean nearly unlimited bureaucratic discretion depending on which judge sees the case.

  • ||

    The Net Neutrality cretins really, really want this. It's amazing how the stupider the thing is that these types want, the harder and more persistently they fight for it. Net Neutrality is possibly the dumbest, most destructive idea to a bastion of liberty in a completely regulated world, and these fucking retards are going to the mat to make it fucking happen.

    In a way I almost want them to succeed so that in a few years I can watch them rend their clothes and wail as they find their service declining and all their torrents shut down and they just don't understand how this happened. And then I would laugh and laugh and laugh. Unfortunately for that idea, I'd be fucked too.

  • Brett L||

    I think NN would be an eventual good, because the first thing companies would do is build an alternative network for priority transmission on a fee basis, and it would be truly extragovernmental this time.

  • ||

    Until the envious scumbags who pushed Net Neutrality find a "reason" that the alternative network needs to be a public good as well. Never, ever underestimate their envy and hatred. It's what's pushing NN now and wouldn't stop if it succeeded, because it is a bottomless well of repulsive jealousy and anger.

  • Brett L||

    Every time someone posts a NN article on FB, I try to start a petition to outlaw Priority Mail from the USPS. And all they want to do is bitch about how its different because Netflix!

  • ||

    Envy and hate. Comcast! Netflix! Korporashuns! What stupid, myopic little fucks these people are.

  • JW||

    No, no, the price fixing of a service will be completely different this time.

    Besides, porn torrents are the beginnings of our post-scarcity economy. Replicators can't be far behind.

  • ||

    build an alternative network

    NN is not TCP/IP NN it is simply NN.

    Any new network would be covered under it.

    Also from what i have read IP v6 gives priority to certain packets....NN would of course prohibit that.

    Not only will we never get an alternative network we won't even get an update to the network we have now.

    NN will freeze out any network innovation forever.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Not necessarily. The MaidSafe project can sidestep NN, I think.

  • ||

    yeah, if the FCC starts censoring, (and they will with NN) I can see how safecoin would protect against well as namecoin and .bit domains.

    But these things don't take control of internet switches and routers. And I think by design they don't violate NN anyway. At least not the parts of NN that makes all traffic equal.

    Safecoin and Namecoin do not enable priority networking outside of what network routers allow or disallow. Traffic still has to travel through those safecoin or otherwise.

  • datcv||

    I'm enjoying their current horror that the FCC is considering doing the opposite of what they want, after they spent a lot of time lobbying for the FCC to DO SOMETHING.

    That is kind of the danger of asking for an unelected bureaucracy with lots of ties to the industry they are in charge of regulating writing those regulations, isn't it? Derp.

  • ||

    That would almost be hilarious, but unfortunately they're so stupid they wouldn't learn the amazingly obvious lesson right in front of them. That's what makes these morons so dangerous. They learn nothing, ever.

  • Brett L||

    Of course they won't learn. The alternative is a world of personal responsibility where their cozy superiority of holding the "right" opinions on things will count for nothing.

  • Bryan C||


  • some guy||

    As I reported earlier today, the progtards on reddit were loving the idea of having the USPS become an ISP for the entire nation. They want to go way past the point of Net Neutrality or even making the net a "public service" and make it essentially a federal monopoly.

    They also want the USPS to start offering banking services. I don't know which would be worse...

  • Bryan C||


  • Sevo||

    "As I reported earlier today, the progtards on reddit were loving the idea of having the USPS become an ISP for the entire nation."

    These are the people who fantasize about going to the friendly local PO, chatting with the gray-haired woman, rather than STANDING IN FUCKING LINE FOR AN HOUR AS ONE ATTENDANT AFTER THE OTHER TAKES THE MANDATED BREAK!

  • ||

    reddit is only good for porn. Just like the rest of the internet.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    In a way I almost want them to succeed so that in a few years I can watch them rend their clothes and wail as they find their service declining and all their torrents shut down and they just don't understand how this happened.

    Except, Episiarch, you know as well as the rest of us that the cretins wouldn't acknowledge their own cluelessness. They'd insist that this was a case of greedy businesspeople refusing to make the necessary and appropriate investments in public infrastructure with which they've been entrusted, and start clamoring for the government to become the national ISP. Stupid doesn't back down.

  • DEG||

    If the NSA can modify Cisco switches, why not have the Internet be a public utility?

  • some guy||

    Don't worry, they only build in back doors for hardware that is shipping internationally.

  • ||

    If someone else is paying for it and I get it for free then yes, it is a "public utility".

    Gimme gimme gimme.

  • north of y'all||

    Amazon paid the shipping on my last order so I got that for free. Amazon is a public utility?

  • ||

    Check your sarcasm meter north.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I guess it depends on how apt the metaphor the 'information super highway' is. If it is very much so, then I guess it could squeak through some libertarian's gate at the ROADZ! exception.

  • Brett L||

    “So", Randy continued,"to get back to where we started, the Information Superhighway is a bad metaphor for the internet, because I say it is. There might be a thousand people on the planet who are as conversant with the Internet as I am. I know most of these people. None of them takes that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D.”
    "Oh. I see", Kivistik said, a little hotly. He had seen an opening. "So we should rely on the technocrats to tell us what to think, and how to think, about this technology?"
    The expressions of the others seemed to say that this was a telling blow, righteously struck.

    From Cryptonomicon, in what is perhaps the best take-down of PoMo bullshit "Studies" people in writing.

  • Dweebston||

    Jesus, I was going to look for this next. The jackass pseudo-intellectual who wants to fuck Randy's girlfriend is who I think of when I hear that term.

  • stoneymonster||

    Except in this case, most of the "technocrats" are in favor of NN, and the ones against are the telecon executives who probably were Kivistik back in their day.

  • Brett L||

    I don't see that. You don't see the engineers at Cisco and FB leading this fight. Most of the agitation is from high-bandwidth users who have an interest in not being charged more for using more of the pipe or wanting their data delivered on a higher priority.

  • Virginian||

    Most of the agitation is from high-bandwidth users who have an interest in not being charged more for using more of the pipe

    Bingo. They're afraid that they, who stream Netflix five hours a day, have uTorrent constantly on, and who's main hobby is online gaming, will have to spend more then some old lady who checks her email and then turns the whole machine all the way off.

  • Juice||

    Each person pays for a certain amount of bandwidth. It doesn't matter if one person uses all of it and another uses almost none of it.

  • stoneymonster||

    I work for cisco and have for nearly 20 years, I assure you the opinion of networking engineers differs greatly from the corporate stance. Of course cisco wants to avoid NN: they can sell differentiated service equipment and software at much higher profit margin than pure high speed switches and routers.

    My own feelings are decidedly mixed. I'd feel better about what's going on if the ISPs returned all the billions of subsidies that got them to their monopoly positions.

  • R C Dean||

    I'm gonna assume you got the ROADZ! thing totally backwards in an attempt at humor.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Many libertarians, including quite prominent ones, allow for a state role in building, maintaining and operating public roadways.

    Non-libertarians like to bring up ROADS to us in a way to argue our positions are hypocritical or absurd, but it's funny to us because libertarians easily respond that 1. we are fine with public roads and 2. sans a government monopoly on roads we might have a private system that works better.

  • Juice||

    1. we are fine with public roads

    But the facile response to this is that it's hypocritical to be fine with a coercive monopoly state being in charge of courts, cops, and causeways and nothing else. I don't think it's hypocritical, but it does seem contradictory.

  • Kevin47||

    "Non-libertarians like to bring up ROADS to us in a way to argue our positions are hypocritical or absurd, but it's funny to us because libertarians easily respond that 1. we are fine with public roads and 2. sans a government monopoly on roads we might have a private system that works better."

    I respond that, if highways are your shimmering tribute to the efficacy of government, you have lost the argument rather emphatically.

    The only sensible defense of public roads is that we have already invested so much in the system we have that much of our private infrastructure is built around it. That's the only "exception" I am willing to grant, and it has nothing to do with this issue.

  • MuhROADS||


  • BakedPenguin||

    Everyone here knows it's really, a series of tubes.

    Tubes full of porn.

  • Dweebston||

    And now they want to stopper those glorious tubes.

    Is nothing sacred?

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's the National Information Infrastructure, an information superhighway. Those words, even back in the 90s, demonstrated in amazing clarity just how little the government understood the Internet.

  • Dweebston||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Save us from teh evul profiteering kkkorporations, Mommy!

    It makes me want to puke.

  • ||

    It's funny when net neutrality supporters point to electricity and compare it. Here in Texas I can pick my electricity provider just like I can pick my ISP, hell the electricity market offers far more choices. If some dumb shit wants 100% renewable there are dozens of choices for exactly that.

  • Juice||

    You get to pick your ISP? You lucky dog.

  • Stilgar||

    Actually, you are the dumb shit. No you do *not* get to pick your electricity provider. You may get to pick the supplier but you most certainly only have one company who will deliver that electrcity to your home.

    Likewise, a large portion of the population has only one or two ways to get internet - the phone company or the cable company, assuming they are separate providers. I discount sat. internet as the product is not equivalent due to high latency and much higher costs.

  • ||

    Yes, one company manages the infrastructure in my zone and they get a set fee which is a small fraction of my monthly cost but I get to pick the provider. There are many choices competing on both price and services. Dumb shit. And I have 5 or 6 different options for internet. Dumb shit.

  • Kevin47||

    "Likewise, a large portion of the population has only one or two ways to get internet"

    The vast majority have multiple ways to get internet. The exceptions tend to be rural and/or impoverished communities the government forces the ISPs to serve.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    (part 1) Getting to the internet is not the standard we ought to be measuring. If dialup is your standard, then yes, we have multiple ways to get access.

    Same goes for wireless broadband. But heavier data usage requires fast wired broadband in order to scale. And most people do NOT have choices there. If you are close to a phone company terminal, you get tolerable dsl, otherwise it's usually cable and only cable. fios/uverse are not that expansive.

    I live in Los Angeles, my only choice for high speed wired broadband is time warner cable. This is effectively a terminating monopoly for the fast internet broadband market.

    The consequence is that services like netflix/hulu/etc need to connect through companies like time warner cable and comcast and at&t to reach their user base.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    (part 2) No biggie? What's the problem? The problem is that because all roads into large chunks of netflix customer base go through companies like comcast, comcast is in a position to collect rents from these video streaming services (or any service that gets put in the cross hairs). So what? They SHOULD be able to collect rents, right!?!???

    Even if you think they should be able to extort/demand tribute from companies to reach their paying customers without degraded service, who determines what a fair market rate is? Comcast? Remember, they have a series of local monopolies for HIGH SPEED wired broadband in most markets. You can't stream netflix on some alternative service in many places, so you either pay what comcast wants, or lose customers.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    I'm normally fine with letting companies do whatever they wish to do, if the market is free and competition is healthy, but when you have a monopoly market, I am OK with allowing some constraints on the business practices of those companies. I constrain their activity in the service of not allowing their market position to constrain the activity of thousands of other companies that have to go through them to do business.

  • Sevo||

    ..."when you have a monopoly market,"...

    Which we don't.

  • Jordan||

    Yeah, we should totally turn over the internet to the folks who run the NSA and propose laws like SOPA. I'm sure nothing could go wrong there.

  • Bryan C||

    But we'll have our own top men in charge this time. Look! They play video games and let us come to their parties! They really like us! We might even get laid!

    - Desperately Lonely Geeks

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the first thing companies would do is build an alternative network for priority transmission on a fee basis

    I don't think it would be feasible to do a hard line network, and the FCC would probably squelch any attempt to do it over the airwaves.

    Maybe I'm wrong.

  • cw||

    I just saw a Facebook post that claims the following: "Chattanooga has the only taxpayer-owned public internet. 50 times faster speed than the rest of the country."

    Smells like bullshit.

  • Virginian||

    There's a whole series of wonderful progtarded bullshit memes. "The opposite of how *insert progtard villain here* does it."

    Example. How long will it take you to figure out why that's bullshit?

  • Brett L||

    1) "Record" compared to what? Wal-Mart?
    2) If they're paying the guy who said, "I'm just the guy who puts out the chicken out" last time I was at the store $45000/year, the shareholders need to bring suit.

  • cw||

    Well, the first thing I think about is the customer base Costco tends to serve over the one Walmart serves.

    Second, I point out that, if paying your employees more means more profit per employee, then why doesn't Walmart, that bastion of evil capitalists, act in its self-interest and pay its employees more? Are Walmart CEOs too stupid to realize what's in their self interest?

  • some guy||

    Walmart's obvious lack of success speaks for itself.

    Has anyone done a study of what Walmart would have to pay its employees if there were no social programs paying those employees and no minimum wages?

  • cw||

    I also wonder how many more people Walmart actually employs over Costco. I'll wager it is much easier to get a starting position at Walmart than at Costco. Highly-paid employees = fewer employees.

  • KWebb||

    Long enough to notice how much product in the background is still on pallets and in case quantity.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Except Costco's CEO isn't telling you he hires a fraction of the number of people per store that Wal-Mart does and leaves a lot of the distribution process to the customer.

  • cw||

    Yep. There's that whole "retail" vs. "wholesale" business-model distinction.

  • Bryan C||

    If it's a local fiber network then it might be "50 times faster" than the average speed of whatever else they define as "the rest of the country".

    But any new, properly designed small network can be fast. That has nothing to do with being "taxpayer owned".

    And in a few years, when market competitors introduce new technologies that leave their "50 times faster" far behind, those taxpayers will be paying ever higher costs to maintain the same crappy service and aging hardware.

    And God help you if the local fascists decide they need to keep violent video games, bourgeois porn, online bullying, etc. off the People's Network. Because you won't be asked.

  • Virginian||

    If it's a local fiber network then it might be "50 times faster" than the average speed of whatever else they define as "the rest of the country".

    Just like the same NN idiots bemoaning the "terrible" American Internet speeds. Because obviously there is no difference in land area and population density between the USA and Japan. Fucking progtards.

  • Bryan C||

    Tell me about it. We have states so big that one of those cute little European countries could get lost in the empty space. I've lost track of how many times I've tried to explain that. But it's not about reality, it's some kind of twisted Bizzaro Jingoism that requires them to believe their own country is the absolute worst at everything.

  • Cytotoxic||

    'Terrible' American speeds are not solidly better than European ones. Their talking points are way out of date.

  • JWatts||

    This. American average speeds have increased greatly within the last few years, and are better than the European average. Despite having a lower population density.

  • KPres||

    Yep. US ranks 10th in the world in average internet speed...behind Asia, but ahead of most of Europe.

  • ||

    Depends on what you mean by Asia.

    US is way faster then India and China and Russia which makes up the vast majority of the population and geographic area of Asia.

    Japan and South Korea beat the US. Though the US has 300 million people and 50 states. I am thinking some states/regions in the US probably beat Japan and South Korea.

  • ||

    American average speeds are faster then most of Europe.

    it is only a few small countries in Europe where they have faster speeds.

    US is faster then Germany, France, Spain and basically faster then all of what one considers western Europe....this is despite the fact that these countries are far more densely populated.

    Yes the US is solidly faster.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    I'm less worried about top speeds than I am about the ability for large ISPs to collect rents from companies that are sending content to their customers. The market is not a competitive one, and so the local cable monopoly has fewer constraints on what they charge.

    The most recent spat between comcast and netflix centered around degraded netflix service on comcasts network. This was not an issue of netflix not paying its bills, what happened was some of the lanes that netflix traffic was flowing through into comcasts network were getting clogged. Normally, this is when the company in charge of maintaining and upgrading that infrastructure pitches in and makes the upgrades. That did not happen. Comcast allowed those lanes to saturate because netflix refused to pay them extra money to do what they should be responsible for in the first place. Making sure the interconnects to/from the outside world are flowing freely.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    This is not even a last mile problem, it's just doing something BASIC like not allowing the connections to the world saturate and degrade service. That is orders of magnitude cheaper than running cable to millions of households. But they refused to do that, service on netflix suffered, until they paid comcast directly. Then all of a sudden content flows freely again.

    I pay my cable company for internet access, I don't expect them to guarantee service for all traffic, they are not responsible for slowdowns happening somewhere else in the world, but when THEY are refusing to upgrade their own network connections (their god damn job) because some company did not pay them for what they are already supposed to be doing with the funds "I" give them, they need to be checked.

    If I had access to competitors who were not doing that, there would not be a need to check them. If comcast let their network fill up and refused to upgrade it, I could switch to a company who did not sit on their ass like google fiber or cablevision. Then COMCAST might lose customers because they had an actual non monopoly market to check them.

  • UCrawford||

    Fully agree, Jon. The thing that drives me absolutely nuts is that nobody at the federal level seems to be telling local and state governments to stop handing out monopolies to cable providers because they believe that b.s. claim that providers need a monopoly or they won't be able to invest in "infrastructure".

    Companies that don't have competition have even less reason to upgrade their services,

  • Dweebston||

    For less than $70 a month, consumers enjoy an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic connection that transfers data at one gigabit per second.

    In other words, it's a taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle that they still have to pay for.

    EPB, the city-owned utility formerly named Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, said that only about 3,640 residences, or 7.5 percent of its Internet-service subscribers, are signed up for the Gigabit service offered over the fiber-optic network. Roughly 55 businesses also subscribe. The rest of EPB’s customers subscribe to a (relatively) slower service offered on the network of 100 megabits per second, which is still faster than many other places in the country.


  • fuck you tulpa||

    50 times faster than this?

  • Bryan C||

    So, is the Internet a technologically backward, customer-hostile, government-maintained monopoly ruled by politicians the convenience and financial gain of their ideological allies and private-sector cronies?

    No. Not yet. But the Slashdot Socialists are always trying to take us along on that great leap forward.

  • JW||

    Look, you glibatarian twits, the only thing that can fix the thing that the government fucked up to begin with is more government. If you weren't so far up your self-owned assholes, you'd know this.

    :::drops mic:::

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    The photo of the POTUS is hilarious. The man looks like a dullard.

  • ||

    He has a very punchable face. Almost as punchable as Santorum.

  • UCrawford||

    "Looks like" a dullard?

  • Rev Match||

    Supporters of the change say they want an equal access Internet, one that preserves the little guy–friendly ethos that has defined the first few decades of the Internet's growth—and prohibits anyone from being put in a slow lane.


  • Rhywun||

    So it's kind of like a toll road and all the lanes are tolled at the same rate regardless of demand. Gee, I wonder what happens when that road gets crowded.

  • silverfang789||

    The reason people are calling for the Internet to be a public utility is so that ISPs cannot create this fast lane for a fee structure where YouTube videos would play at normal speed because Google paid extra to the ISPs, but DailyMotion video speeds would be throttled because DailyMotion couldn't afford to pay the fast lane fee.

  • Cytotoxic||

    IOW the real reason is because a lot of people are pro-egalitarian idiots. ISPs have every right to offer a fast lane.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    We'll see if they have that right.

    Comcast has xfinity service, and in some test markets they have data caps. If you stream content from some other company all that data goes to your monthly cap. BUT if you stream content from THEIR service, NONE of it goes to your cap. Does that not strike you as anti competitive?

    Using your position as an ISP and content provider to favor your own content over others? Again, if last mile wired broadband was a competitive market, then I could switch to someone else if they behaved in a way I disliked, but that is not what we have.

    And as such, allowing for fast lanes will likely distort the internet market (in the cable monopolies favor) far more than putting some checks on their activities.

  • JWatts||

    Yes, but why would I use an ISP that provided crappier service than it's competitors?

  • Jon Irenicus||

    Because you have NO OTHER CHOICE.

    wireless broadband = draconian data caps
    wired broadband = ONE company for many/most people in the US

  • Sevo||

    ...'the concept that all *HOI POLLOI* information that travels over the Internet should be given equal access and equal priority.'...

    Fixed. You can damn well bet info used by TOP MEN is not considered equal or equally accessible.

  • Adam.||

    I don't know what to make of all this in general; i mean, Level 3 has accused "monopoly" ISPs of deliberately harming the service of customers to attempt to extract more money even though the ISP is the one at fault, such murky waters

  • Sevo||

    ""monopoly" ISPs"

    What are those?

  • guru||

    I am still trying to figure out what effect a QoS enabled internet would have except that my real time voice and video get better.

    Or, more accurately, what effect it will have that isn't the drugged addled hallucinations of backwards hilly billy Luddites.

  • Stilgar||

    that is wishful thinking as every hop must honor your QoS.

  • guru||

    But thats what the "fast lane" is. Its just a weighted priority queue.

    Think of how awesome it will be. All the providers will have queuing strategies, and offer them to their customers. Then they will negotiate mapping and billing models between themselves. Robust modeling will get done, and continue to be done to determine queue sizes on various links. New QoS aware routing protocols will route packets based upon markings and the financial costs of that queue on different partner networks to choose the least cost route. It will be glorious. Think of the jobs that using shit that has been around forever.

    As long as they are offering access to the queues at similar prices to similar customers, that should satisfy most of the objections.

  • sungazer||

    If you got rid of DRM, the network providers (who are also media owners currently) could actually set up priority caches at distribution points for people who follow internet standards (except video, because that's a DRM standard). It would be more cost efficient for the cable companies to just automatically do this algorithmically, without backroom deals between EA and Comcast. If I pay the cable company and I tell them I want to get a file, I don't want my connection throttled because Comcast is too busy video streaming low tech soccer games that would better be rendered on a computer at the end point. If you ask me, the cable companies should be paying rent for the land the government subsidized them to use if they can't follow some basic rules.

  • Sevo||

    ..."If you ask me, the cable companies should be paying rent for the land the government subsidized them to use if they can't follow some basic rules."

    Which just shows that no one here is going to ask you; we already got plenty of statists.
    Get lost.

  • sungazer||

    I didn't know libertarianism was primarily about protecting easements for open sewers the government paid for.

  • Adam.||

    I personally wrestle with this as a libertarian, on the one hand getting the fcc to classify the internet as a public utility could be disastrous for innovation and inserting a bureaucracy is almost never the right answer. On the other hand I pay an ISP to deliver a certain bandwidth, a packet is a packet and where it comes from shouldn't be any of their business. I expect that level of service no matter the source (within geographical reason of course)

    anyone have any good thoughts on reconciling these issues?

  • Juice||

    Isn't bandwidth rationed now? You pay for a certain amount of bandwidth. Pay more get more. Pay less get less. I guess I don't get the throttling aspect. If your business pays for, say, 25 Mbps upstream and they throttle you below that, aren't they screwing you? Maybe it's "up to" whatever bandwidth you've bought.

  • Adam.||

    well right, pay more get more. i usually consider myself in the know on these tech issues but i have to admit this one is more confusing than most. doesn't netflix already pay for their upstream bandwidth? it was my understanding that comcast wants to double dip and get them to pay AGAIN, for what netflix and i have already paid for (netflix up, me down)

    maybe i just don't understand

  • JWatts||

    Netflix always paid a middleman for its uploading. Comcast offered to provide the same service for the same price. Netflix agree.

    So, Netflix and Comcast cut out the middleman.

  • Stilgar||

    Yes. The so called last mile should be classified as a common carrier. Who is providing that last mile? Phone or cable company physical monopolies.

    Once past that point a third party ISP is capable of peering as they see fit and likewise honoring commitments to their customers.

    Please note that in all of ATT's whining about Netflix, the ISPs Netflix were using were peering with ATT. That means they delivered the content to ATT's doorstep. ATT's customers requested that data, it is at ATT's network and it is ATTs responsibility to their customers to deliver it the rest of the way. This is what their customers pay for. Content providers pay their ISPs to get the requested data to the network serving the end user.

    The arrangements Netflix has made is to directly peer with the end network... or else. This really should be viewed as RICO. "We pick up your garbage or we break your legs, understand?"

  • guru||

    But a packet is not just a packet.

    We spend a lot of money to get organs from one hospital to another because it is extremely delay sensitive. Some packets are more delay/jitter sensitive than others. This isn't controversial.

    You are correct, you are paying for a certain amount of bandwidth.... from the providers switch or router. After that its best effort. In absolutely no world or potential world is anybody going to guarantee anything beyond the bandwidth available on that 1 leg.

  • Loki||

    net neutrality activists want to turn it into something that looks more like a public utility, essentially freezing the Internet in place. In other words, they want to hold on to the Internet of today, at the expense of the growing, innovative Internet of tomorrow.

    Net Neutrality activists: "Change is SCARY!!! Unless it's some ill defined nebulous concept being pushed by a slick sounding politician, then it's TEH AWESOME!!111!!!"

  • Adam.||

    Level 3 accuses six broadband providers of degrading network traffic

    certainly not as simple as i had previously believed

  • Sevo||

    Maybe not as simple, but certainly chock full of bullshit:
    "Shouldn't a broadband consumer network with near monopoly control over their customers be expected, if not obligated, to deliver a better experience than this?" Taylor asked."

    A "near monopoly"?
    IOWs, you can buy it somewhere else. Shaddup and buy it elsewhere.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    Read this, thinking people should find it clarifying.

    To the anti government libertarians here, YES Vox leans left, but listen to the arguments on their own merits.

  • eathdemon||

    The resson NN is a big deal is because without it ISP's like Comcast can restrict netflix or youtbe to 56k even though you are paying for 50mbs. the issue is that isps refuse to upgrade their peering pints to allow for more exchanging of data between networks. they would rather use a fast lane to force content providers to pay twice, and restrict the people who do not pay twice to way less than they are paying for.

    ps the only reason this is a issue is because of government granted monopolies to start with.

  • Sevo||

    eathdemon|5.15.14 @ 2:57PM|#
    "The resson NN is a big deal is because without it ISP's like Comcast can restrict netflix or youtbe to 56k even though you are paying for 50mbs"

    Go to another ISP.

  • eathdemon||

    except mot parts of the country do no have another choice. Also, it is illegal so sell a service and not provide it. if I pay for 50mb I should get something near what I pay for, if you have been handed a government monopoly like they have in many areas.

  • ||

    As always, the obvious solution is to destroy the government monopolies/duopolies.

  • Sevo||

    eathdemon|5.15.14 @ 3:09PM|#
    "except mot parts of the country do no have another choice."

    Pretty sure it's rare you don't have a choice, unless you're 'way out in the boonies.
    I agree that if you've paid for a service you should get it.

  • sungazer||

    Kind of like the boonies of a major tech hub like Seattle?

  • Sevo||

    So two suppliers is a "monopoly" such that you're pleased to introduce price-fixing?
    Where did your brains leak out?

  • ||

    Read your service agreement closely and you'll see that speeds are never guaranteed. There are also almost zero government-granted monopolies in the industry. Even in the rural area where I live there is a selection of about 6 ISP's using at least 3 different last-mile delivery systems.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    How many of those are capable of streaming 1080p + HD content? How about for multiple streams that a family might be using?

    Average cable internet speeds are significantly higher than average dsl speeds. In the FAST home wired broadband market, competition and choice is remarkably slight. I live in Los Angeles, not the boonies, and my only choice is time warner cable. dsl is too slow (you need to be close to the home office to get OK speeds), wireless has data caps so is not suitable for video streaming. Sattelite broadband is a joke, same issue with data caps and horrible latency. Every time you say there are options, you reveal yourself to be confused on the issue. The options are a midsize car vs a bunch of tricycles to get you from A to B. Stop pointing to the tricycles and claiming we have real choice.

    It's a lie, or a confusion.

  • Sevo||

    "B. Stop pointing to the tricycles and claiming we have real choice."

    Stop lying. A tricycle is a choice. You may not lick it, but fuck you, slaver.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    It's not a choice if part of your internet usage is streaming high quality video. Dial up does not work, dsl is not an option for most people, wireless broadband has caps that make it too expensive.

    If you want to engage in that activity, most people have to pay the local cable company or go suck lemon. Now that is what you seem to want and prefer. You are perfectly fine with the ONLY viable option for fast wired broadband to be the local cable monopoly (monopoly for high speed broadband - this needs to be spelled out for you since you repeatedly ignore it).

    Well I, and many others are NOT fine with that. Deal with it.

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    I don't care what it's called, you can call it a banana republic, so long as the government stays the hell out of it and away from us.

  • Jon Irenicus||

    Theology, not policy.

    goverment involved = it's bad

    pure dogma / theology, can't be reasoned with.

    I suppose the government rule for home loans in the state of texas that requires ~ 20 % equity to qualify is evil too, since guvment was involved in imposing such a vicious rule. Restricting the freedom of individuals and companies to lend to who they choose to lend to. The result of that EVIL government rule? The state of texas did not have the same sorts of massive real estate drops and rises of other states like California, that GOVERNMENT rule actually made their housing market more stable and healthy by raising the standards of lending.

    This is why dogma is counterproductive, it teaches people to turn their brains off.

  • Kevin47||

    As someone who has advocated on both sides of this issue, I find it hard to take a strident position. Net Neutrality is a stupid idea in a vacuum, but the fact various telecom regulations have substantially limited competition lends some credibility to the claims of its advocates.

    That said, the people who support NN tend to be particularly belligerent and stupid.

  • REMant||

    We used to be concerned about a chicken in every pot.

  • Ortzinator||

    I don't want a regulated Internet, but the idea that people have multiple choices in ISPs is utter bullshit.

  • Acosmist||

    Who the FUCK doesn't have choice in ISPs?!

  • ||

    Very, very few people. And to the extent they do it's usually not because of a government-issued monopoly like, say, an electricity or gas company might get. I live in a rural area with shitty connection speeds, but there's still several providers, including cellular, WiMax, satellite, DSL and cable. All but one uses AT&T's main data trunk into the nearest major city, but all use different delivery systems to reach residences.

    What people like Ortzinator there usually mean when they say that is that there's only one provider at the price they are willing to pay or that the alternative providers have lesser service. Mistaking a lack of options that suit your needs for a lack of options is a mistake.

  • Sevo||

    "What people like Ortzinator there usually mean when they say that is that there's only one provider at the price they are willing to pay or that the alternative providers have lesser service"

    Every time some bozo claims he has 'no choice', it's an odds-on bet he has already made the choice and now wants free shit.

  • Ortzinator||

    "Mistaking a lack of options that suit your needs for a lack of options is a mistake."

    If I need a truck then I buy a truck. It doesn't matter that other companies sell cars. I can't transport loads of dirt in a car. The fact that most people don't need to transport loads of dirt is absolutely no comfort to me.

  • Ortzinator||

    Me and 20% of Americans,00.asp

    And that's only people that have no choice, they didn't include people that have few choices. And had they asked about cable specifically it would be even higher.

  • Frank22||

    I think that internet must be allowed as a public utility with free traffic and no boundaries for users to have their access.

    Food Technology Coursework

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    That's a nice sentiment. Now, who is going to pay for it, and how will it be administered? And keep in mind that it the answer is "the government", that governments are notorious for delaying maintenance in order to keep fees low in the short term, and then wringing their hands when whatever it is breaks and they have to spend billions to fix what would have cost thousands if they'd done the work regularly.

  • rickl7069||

    An example of why we are screwed. It doesn't matter if this measure is defeated, the people that want to control will keep at it over and over until they eventually get stuff through. People that want power over our lives do not give up and they number in the millions and they are the sole reason why the tree of liberty has to be refreshed - only fear makes them back down.
    For the life of me, I just don't understand people that want to run my life. I have no problem understanding that I was born with no right to tell anyone else how to live their life, why are there so many that believe they have a right to tell me how to live mine? I am no ones ruler. John Lennon was wrong in his song; I only need to imagine one world, a world where everyone just grasped the simple concept of living their own life and leaving everyone else alone. Imagine.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    This, perhaps even more than defense against a foreign foe, is why our Founders put the second amendment into the bill of rights. The idea that busybodies should be constantly aware that if they annoy enough people, somebody might come after them with a gun.

    And BOY do they resent that!

  • Allen Taylor||

    I don't disagree, but my question to you is, do you think the alternatively proposed idea to create a "fast lane" and a "slow lane" is a good idea?

    I don't like the Republican idea to leave it in the hands of Congress, which essentially means debates over legislation, which always inevitably leads to regulation in order to meet the demands of new laws. Why do we want to jack with something that is working so well the way it is?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Because as matters stand the State has an argument that it is State property. That needs to change, because the State screws up anything left in its hands for too long.

  • Homework help||

    Hi Peter,

    First of all thank you for sharing such a nice article on the utility of internet. I don't think there is any need of reclassification of internet. It is like freezing an internet and blocking the success that we have achieved over the years.

    Homework Help


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