Should the Gov't Regulate the Internet?

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That's the topic for the next America's Future Foundation roundtable, which will be held in DC tomorrow.

Details:

Will the dire predictions of advocates on both sides of the debate really come true, or is net neutrality just business as usual in the annals of rent-seeking? And can a conservative case be made in favor of government regulation? Answering those questions will be James Gattuso, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Patrick Ross, senior fellow and VP for communications at Progress & Freedom Foundation, Alex Curtis of government affairs manager at Public Knowledge, and Frannie Wellings of Free Press. Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Center will moderate the discussion.

Please note: This event will take place on Capital Hill, in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-338. Drinks start at 6:30 p.m.; panel begins at 7 p.m. AFF Roundtables are free for members, $5 for non-members. So join!

More here.

NEXT: A Kinder, Gentler Execution

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  1. “And can a conservative case be made in favor of government regulation?”

    When the targets of the (pricing) regulation are government-created monopolies in the first place, I think the presumptive answer is “yes.”

  2. Should the internet regulate the government?
    Government regulating the internet ought to be an even bigger knee-slapper.

  3. When the targets of the (pricing) regulation are government-created monopolies in the first place, I think the presumptive answer is “yes.”

    I agree. Plus ISPs have been overselling bandwidth for a long time, and now it is finally catching up to them. It’s not our fault that the ISPs did not plan accordingly. They should just suck it up figure out how to upgrade the Internet.

  4. We can blather all we want, but the internet will soon be regulated, both in terms of things like net neutrality, and eventually, in terms of content.

  5. HELL NO!!!!!!!

  6. And can a conservative case be made in favor of government regulation?

    Considering that, in these times, a conservative case has been made for regulating virtually everything else, I’d be surprised if this turned out to be any exception.

  7. What Kip said. As Jeff Taylor eloquently put it, what’s good for the Bells is bad for America.

    But it has been amusing to see a group of giant, state-sanctioned monopolies who have received handouts left and right, engaged in all kinds of dirty tricks to keep competition to a minimum, and have an ungodly number of Beltway politicos in the back pocket, wage a PR campaign about how they’re avid defenders of the free market and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Internet against heavy-handed government regulation.

  8. Let’s also not forget that in this context, “regulating the internet” is a bit misleading….

    The internet has been regulated to enforce net neutrality since inception. The question is whther to let this regulation go away or not….it isn’t adding a new regulation. Net Neutrality is in place as we speak….its only once the new FCC rules take place (in a couple of months i think) that the internet will lose that regulation.

    And I have not seen one instance of the current net neutrality requirement stifling innovation.

    So if it ain’t broke– don’t fix it.

  9. I REALLY don’t get the telecos here. It’s obvious what they want, but it should be equally obvious that the public isn’t going to like it when they do it.

    Let’s face it: Google and EBAY are a shitload more popular with the public than AT&T. If Google and EBAY start working shitty because they refuse to pay their protection money (and the telecos have been pretty open that they want to charge successful companies a surcharge — not just for the bandwidth they use), and Google and EBAY flat out blame AT&T….

    The public is going to side with Google and EBAY. People LOVE those companies. Nobody loves the phone company.

    So even if the telecos win, they’re going to sooner or later be stupid about it, piss off their customers, get wiped away in a PR battle, and be right the fuck back where they are now, without ever having made back a fraction of what they’ve blown on lobbying.

  10. I suppose there’s a difference between hugely popular sites and sites that stream high-resolution video. The latter do create a potential problem down the road. Though I’m not sure what we can or should do about that, other than build bigger, better, and more pipe.

  11. Why not, they did such a great job regulating spam.

  12. So even if the telecos win, they’re going to sooner or later be stupid about it, piss off their customers, get wiped away in a PR battle, and be right the fuck back where they are now, without ever having made back a fraction of what they’ve blown on lobbying.

    I’d like to think so, but don’t underestimate their lobbying power, particularly with an FCC that’s eating out of their hands. Just look at how much the MPAA and RIAA got away with in spite of their unpopularity with the public (broadcast flag anyone?).

  13. I suppose there’s a difference between hugely popular sites and sites that stream high-resolution video. The latter do create a potential problem down the road. Though I’m not sure what we can or should do about that, other than build bigger, better, and more pipe.

    They also can address a lot of these problems by charging for bandwidth and data throughput limits at the user request level (all things that are currently allowed to do)

    Removing net neutrality isn’t really solving any problems that can’t be solved by slightly modifying existing business models when the time comes that too much video downloads actually becomes a problem. It is merely giving telcos the ability to arbitrarily put up toll booths on the internet and have some control over what content can and can not be accessed and how effectively.

  14. Not to mention that there already IS a protocol for high-priority packets. The issue at stake here is that telecos want to the ability to, say, preference their VOIP packets over Vonage’s. Or tell Google and Yahoo that whomever forks over the most gets the fastest response to HTTP requests, screwing the other out.

  15. The “duopolistic” nature of the telecoms/cable is a *direct* result of government regulation. The telecom providers have lobbied for, and received, plenty of assistance over the years under the auspices of “regulation and supporting competition.”

    However, in reality, they stifle competition and innovation by making it next to impossible for competition to enter the market. These regulations are simply bad laws.

    Lobbying on behalf of net neutrality is merely asking for more bad laws to counter balance the previous ones. It’s tantamount to trying to put out a fire by using gasoline.

  16. And can a conservative case be made in favor of government regulation?

    They will find a way. The neo-liberals that have control of the US government have always hid behind the mask of “conservatism,” meanwhile expanding the role of government in every way they saw fit.

    “Small government” used to be an ideal; now it’s a buzzword. Politicians only dredge up “small government” if someone wants to regulate something that they don’t want to, not because it’s the foundation of American political thought.

  17. Not to mention that there already IS a protocol for high-priority packets. The issue at stake here is that telecos want to the ability to, say, preference their VOIP packets over Vonage’s. Or tell Google and Yahoo that whomever forks over the most gets the fastest response to HTTP requests, screwing the other out.

    which in turn would encurage the loser to find alternatives to the main hubs thus paying other providers more money to put in infrastructer thus making the internet more robust…WTF is the problem with charging for band width again?

    Should the Gov’t Regulate the Internet?

    gee hmmm i don’t know this is a hrd one…hmm how about i go with “Fuck NO!”

  18. I couldn’t help but notice that those on one side of the issue keep writing comments that demonstrate a strong working knowledge of the issue, while those on the other side keep writing comments that show a strong working knowledge of political shibboleths.

  19. I couldn’t help but notice that those on one side of the issue keep writing comments that demonstrate a strong working knowledge of the issue, while those on the other side keep writing comments that show a strong working knowledge of political shibboleths.

    Run this through the joe translator and you get the following:

    people who agree with me are smart and well reasoned, people who do not are not.

  20. I have a different take on this than a lot of people. I WANT my legitimate, paid-for services to have priority. What is clogging up the pipes, and would be screwed if “net neutrality” disappears, are peer-to-peer and porn. Should that bother me? I don’t understand why people use Google or Yahoo as examples. They do not use much bandwidth, and speed is darned near irrelevent. A .05 second delay in my Google search affects me not a whit. The same delay in my VoIP does. That is why the latter needs priority. If Vonage and Skype lose out, well, that just means they can finally start paying for the infrastructure they built themselves upon. They will then pass that cost along to the consumer. Again, is there a problem with this?

  21. which in turn would encurage the loser to find alternatives to the main hubs thus paying other providers more money to put in infrastructer thus making the internet more robust.

    No offense, but do you think that any startup with some spare cash will be given a green light to run some fiber to your home? Even ignoring all the lobbying efforts that the Bells and the cable companies have engaged in to prevent the emergence of any alternative last-mile infrastructures (which makes their current pro-market posturing all the more shameless), chances are that your local municipality wouldn’t think of allowing the streets leading to your home to be dug up.

    City-wide Wi-Fi is one alternative, provided that a municipality allows it, but the emergence of IPTV and other multimedia services will prevent it from staying in the same league as wireline solutions over time.

    WTF is the problem with charging for band width again?

    Nothing wrong with charging extra for more bandwidth. In fact, most cable and DSL providers already do it. The question here is whether they should be able to use their monopoly power to extort money from consumers and service providers under the threat of delivering crappier service than what your average IP network has been delivering thus far.

  22. I have a different take on this than a lot of people. I WANT my legitimate, paid-for services to have priority.

    1. Multimedia services are already given priority on almost every telecom IP network in the world. The routers, ATM switches, and Layer 4-7 Ethernet switches they use all have the technology built in.

    2. Surely you don’t think that every service you access is going to end up paying your ISP for prioritization. Some will invariably get left out. On the flip side, to the extent that the cable and DSL companies charge consumers rather than service providers for prioritization, they won’t differentiate between services.

    If Vonage and Skype lose out, well, that just means they can finally start paying for the infrastructure they built themselves upon.

    They already do. Those softswitches and media gateways don’t pay for themselves.

  23. ISPs and telcos already received huge government subsides to build high bandwidth connections in the late 90’s. Did they do it? No. Now they’re crying about not being able to keep up with increasing bandwidth demand, that they’ll have to spend money upgrading their networks, extend fiber etc. We (the tax payers) already gave them money to do this. Now add in land right of way for lines and cable run. I wish I could run a company that got this type of treatment.

    Net neutrality also applies between ISP’s. How would you like to be charged everytime your data enters a new backbone.

  24. The problem is that it won’t necessarily be possible for companies in the future to enter the market, considering the large barriers that can be thrown up to laying any new cable since it requires tons of permits and such. It’s not hard to imagine the telephone monopolies being able to stop any new competition if they wanted to. Nonetheless, it is technichally impossible to reliably VOIP or video or any other time-sensitive communications on the current internet.

    I know it’s a wishy-washy position, but network neutrality would be a good idea in some future world where the phone monoplies are non-existant instead of just geographically divided, but it seems risky at the moment.

  25. Well there is all that dark fiber lying around that Google is buying up.

  26. I am sure glad experts like Eric 2 can predict the market so well that he can forsee all potential compettition is such clarity and forsight that he is able to protect all of us suckers from evil corperations and thier plans…

    hey dumb ass eric 2 when did i ever mention last mile?

    No sorry dude i was talking about big pipes that are controlled by a few players.

    last mile is easy…you have cable, telephone, electic companies, cell phone companies and satalight…i really think we have lots of competition in that area…and net nutrality will do nothing to enhance it.

  27. Well there is all that dark fiber lying around that Google is buying up.

    You do realize that this completely contradicts your previouse statement.

  28. I am sure glad experts like Eric 2 can predict the market so well that he can forsee all potential compettition is such clarity and forsight that he is able to protect all of us suckers from evil corperations and thier plans…

    If only factual responses came as easy to you as ad hominem-laced verbal diarrahea.

    Still, the “evil corperations” bit is pretty funny, for multiple reasons.

    hey dumb ass eric 2 when did i ever mention last mile?

    No sorry dude i was talking about big pipes that are controlled by a few players.

    Well, genius, you were talking about how companies like Google and Yahoo! would find infrastructure alternatives in the event that the major telcos started charging extra to guarantee QoS. If you’d been paying scant attention to the details of this debate, you’d realize that it has nothing to do with the “big pipes” they lease from carriers (where someting close to a free-market competitive environment does indeed exist), but about delivering services at a high quality level to their end-users. Which, in the event that neutrality doesn’t exist, they don’t have control over unless they finance last-mile alternatives.

    last mile is easy…you have cable, telephone, electic companies, cell phone companies and satalight

    Do you have any understanding of the bandwidth limitations faced by mobile and “satalight” networks? Or the basic technological challenges that would-be powerline carriers are dealing with? Or is your knowledge about these matters as limited as your spelling skills?

  29. As I understand net nutrality it is to counter act the easing of regs of the phone companies in regards to charging content providers…A privilage that the cable company now has…and who also oppose net nutrality on the grounds that they would be put into regulations that would prohibit say movies on demand and such.

    I really don’t see that adventage to stopping cable companies from providing a service i enjoy at the same time proventing telecoms from entering that same market to compete.

  30. “You do realize that this completely contradicts your previouse statement.”

    Dark fiber is optical fiber that’s not connected to anything.

    You should read this completely:
    http://news.com.com/Google+wants+dark+fiber/2100-1034_3-5537392.html

  31. I know what dark cable is…and if google is buying dark cable then they have the means to deliver thier own content.

  32. but about delivering services at a high quality level to their end-users.

    umm yeah so what? How is competition to bring those services to the end user going to hurt the end user again?

    this part is great though:

    Do you have any understanding of the bandwidth limitations faced by mobile and “satalight” networks? Or the basic technological challenges that would-be powerline carriers are dealing with? Or is your knowledge about these matters as limited as your spelling skills?

    reminds me of all the screaming and yelling about how we are ever going to get beyond dial up…or hell it reminds me of the dial up 56k standard wars…or even better yet the digital divide.

    But eric 2 oh spelling guru with lots of boast of how markets fail before they fail…tell us how different providers will diferentiat thier services from one another if all they can offer is the same service as everyone else becouse what kind of services they can provide are mandated my law?

    and how will this lead to inovation.

    Yes you are right satalite and cell phones will never get to compete and enter that market if big nanny sits its fat ass on top of them before they even have a chance.

    anyway government mandating the comodification of digital services is the surest way to insure the creation of a new ma bell monopoly.

  33. Now add in land right of way for lines and cable run.

    as a land developer i can tell you it isn’t the government giving those right of ways away…it is evil land stealing pirates like me…

    want to know why?

    becouse there is no way in hell i could sell the lots i am developing without phone, cable, fiber and power conduits to each lot.

  34. How is competition to bring those services to the end user going to hurt the end user again?

    This isn’t about competition, numbnuts. It’s about charging for something that’s been offered for free for a long time. And can be offered for free at little to no cost to the carrier. I can assure you if there was anything resembling a genuine competitive market for last-mile consumer broadband services (as there is for dial-up services), the carriers wouldn’t even think about doing it.

    tell us how different providers will diferentiat thier services from one another if all they can offer is the same service as everyone else becouse what kind of services they can provide are mandated my law

    Oh, little things like bandwidth levels, customer support quality, and bundling value-added services like VoIP, IPTV, web hosting, etc. And even if we were dealing with a pure commodity business (which we’re clearly not), it doesn’t mean that there would be no room for the carriers to eke out a profit.

    Yes you are right satalite and cell phones will never get to compete and enter that market if big nanny sits its fat ass on top of them before they even have a chance.

    Actually, they’ve been competing for a long time, but can’t make much headway outside of the niches they service given the technological limitations of their offerings. Again, do you know a damn thing about the issues being covered in this debate, or are you just going to keep spouting off these inane platitudes?

  35. Girls! Take it outside and have your little spelling bee on the sidewalk. I can’t make sense of either of ya.

  36. Sorry for bothering you, sweety. Anyway, there’s no need for you to worry your pretty little head trying to learn those big words.

  37. Lobbying on behalf of net neutrality is merely asking for more bad laws to counter balance the previous ones. It’s tantamount to trying to put out a fire by using gasoline.

    No, it’s creating a firebreak. I would like nothing better than to see some real competition in telecommunications, but we won’t get it from this Congress or this FCC. What we can do is limit the damage while (hopefully) building support for reform.

  38. What we can do is limit the damage while (hopefully) building support for reform.

    How will putting limitations on competition build support for allowing competition in the future? I think that the past examples have shown well enough that the only solution is to remove *all* regulatory favoritism. The current recommendations just seem to be trying to dispense them more “fairly”, which is oxymoronic.

  39. This isn’t about competition, numbnuts. It’s about charging for something that’s been offered for free for a long time. And can be offered for free at little to no cost to the carrier. I can assure you if there was anything resembling a genuine competitive market for last-mile consumer broadband services (as there is for dial-up services), the carriers wouldn’t even think about doing it.

    Ha now we get down to it…you want others peoples property to be given to you for free and you want the government to force those free gifts…nice Eric. By the way there is competition where i live with at least 3 ways to get broadband..if one stops giving me Gmail…i will switch.

    tom you are an idiot:

    No, it’s creating a firebreak. I would like nothing better than to see some real competition in telecommunications, but we won’t get it from this Congress or this FCC. What we can do is limit the damage while (hopefully) building support for reform.

    so in your wierd world we won’t get real competition (i can get at least three in portland OR and at least three in Wenatchee Washington but what the fuck ever what do i need 4 or five to be competetive) from congress and the fcc…but we will get net nutrality from them.

  40. Ha now we get down to it…you want others peoples property to be given to you for free and you want the government to force those free gifts.

    No, I want the status quo to remain in place. And if you call the status quo the stealing of private property, then practically every major web site on the planet is guilty of it.

    Of course, it’s nothing of the sort. The web sites pay their web hosts and bandwidth providers, who in turn pay interconnection fees to other carriers, with virtually every carrier giving and receiving those fees for bandwidth transfers. Ultimately, everyone gets paid for the services they render. Only right now, the carriers can’t discriminate based on the source of the content being transferred, so as to keep them from trying to extort individual content providers in the event that they have the monopoly/duopoly power to do so.

    Inanity like yours is truly an artform.

  41. No, I want the status quo to remain in place.

    And what a great place to start for the changing world of the internet…I can almost hear inovation screaching to a dead halt.

    By the way where are these supposed charges that verizon is going to lay on google? And what is to prevent me from changing my service to comcast when verizon slows down my gmail account?

    Perhaps is not the time to chase after ghosts of market failers and actually wait and see if the market fails.

  42. the funniest part of this whole debate is that cable companies have always been considered as Information Services by the FCC and yet have not charged google extra…why is it magically different that now DSL providers will be considered Information Services that they will suddenly start charging google?

    The reality is that telcoms will start acting like cable companies and start to offer on demand services and cable like porgraming in addition to regualr internet service. In other words they will compete with the cable companies and lower prices for end-users.

  43. How will putting limitations on competition build support for allowing competition in the future? I think that the past examples have shown well enough that the only solution is to remove *all* regulatory favoritism.

    Allowing a government-protected monopoly in one market to use that status to gain an advantage over their competitors in other markets isn’t competition in any meaningful sense. To answer the honest part of the question, it’s an opportunity to sell the idea, not something that just happens. People are thinking about Internet policy, and the rent-seeking threatened by the privileged carriers would be clearly and directly harmful to existing businesses.

    so in your wierd world we won’t get real competition (i can get at least three in portland OR and at least three in Wenatchee Washington but what the fuck ever what do i need 4 or five to be competetive) from congress and the fcc…but we will get net nutrality from them.

    I think we’ll get nothing, but a few months ago that wasn’t clear. One of the reasons we won’t is that a number of legislators support network neutrality but oppose preemptive regulation.

    Unless you’re counting satellite, which isn’t technologically competitive with terrestrial services, three broadband providers to a given household is extremely rare. The most optimistic numbers I’ve seen (outside the FCC’s fantasy land) are something like 10% with no service, 20% with one option, 70% with two, and fewer than 1% with other choices.

    why is it magically different that now DSL providers will be considered Information Services that they will suddenly start charging google?

    AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre has said so. Verizon and Comcast executives have been more diplomatic, but they’ve also talked publicly about tiered networks.

  44. If they could charge you for bandwidth, and then a transfer fee for every switch to another ISP, could it get to be like NY cabbies that drive you all over hell and back just to bank meter?

  45. People are thinking about Internet policy, and the rent-seeking threatened by the privileged carriers would be clearly and directly harmful to existing businesses.

    wow so I guess bread companies can’t charge super markets more money becouse it would be “directly harmful to existing markets.” This is possibly the stupidist arguement ever constructed. As if a company should not search for new revenue sources. And as if that same company will not use that money to improve the customers experiance.

    I like how you call competition between at least 2 or more players in 70% of the market a monopoly…oh yeah and with countless other smaller tier providers like dial up, satalite and cell and free wireless networks…but yeah that is an FCC fantacy land.

    http://capwiz.com/atr/issues/alert/?alertid=8734261&type=CO

  46. wow so I guess bread companies can’t charge super markets more money becouse it would be “directly harmful to existing markets.” This is possibly the stupidist arguement ever constructed. As if a company should not search for new revenue sources.

    Go look up “rent-seeking”.

    And as if that same company will not use that money to improve the customers experiance.

    Do you have any idea what commitments the telephone companies have made over the past 15 years, what they’ve received from various levels of government for infrastructure improvements, what they actually spent, what dividends they paid, etc.?

    I like how you call competition between at least 2 or more players in 70% of the market a monopoly

    Most households are served by a telephone monopoly and a cable monopoly. The markets overlap but are not identical.

    oh yeah and with countless other smaller tier providers like dial up, satalite and cell and free wireless networks…but yeah that is an FCC fantacy land.

    The FCC considers an entire zip code served by a broadband provider if there is a single subscriber anywhere in the zip code. It doesn’t distinguish between home and business services, even if the companies selling them do. It defines broadband as 200 kilobits per second in one direction. (It also tracks deployment of “advanced service lines”, which are 200 kbps in both directions and a bit more useful.)

    Dial-up isn’t broadband and requires a phone line from the telephone monopoly. Satellite, like I said, isn’t competitive with terrestrial services; bandwidth is much more restricted, especially upstream, and latency is much higher. Cellular broadband (using the FCC’s definition) isn’t available in most of the country, and where it is, it has the same problems as satellite.

    Terrestrial wireless networks can be divided into two kinds. Local area networks have to use the existing last-mile infrastructure; they’re complementary, not competitive. Metropolitan area networks are one of the more promising alternatives, but the vast majority of people don’t live in an area where one has been deployed, and in some states the phone and cable companies have successfully lobbied for laws restricting them.

    http://capwiz.com/atr/issues/alert/?alertid=8734261&type=CO

    They mention “MoveOn.org, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats” but not Microsoft, the Christian Coalition, or the NRA. They call enforcing monopolies a “hands off approach” and maintaining the status quo a “reversal”. Also, the Reps already voted. ATR ought to stick to taxes.

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