Technology policy

The War Over Neutrality

How the tech industry learned to stop worrying and love the FCC.

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In the 1980s, kiddie comic Pee-Wee Herman popularized "I know you are but what am I" as an all-purpose retort to schoolyard insults. Repeated endlessly, the line worked because it turned an attack back on its originator. But in doing so, it dragged both sides into an unpleasant back-and-forth loop in which any insult, no matter how stupid, was simply slung back at its initiator.

These days, "I know you are but what am I" seems to be the motto underlying the tech-world's regulatory bickering. For years, Internet search giant Google has been pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step up net neutrality regulations. By forcing Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat each and every piece of information that passes through their systems equally, Net neutrality regulations would arguably give Google the upper hand in its dealings with ISPs, which would be constrained in how they choose to manage their networks. Google claims its support for neutrality is in the public interest, but the reality is that it is self-interestedly seeking to impose regulatory restrictions on its business partners and competitors.

Yet by pursuing this approach—calling for regulations that may or may not bolster the public good but will certainly bolster its business model—Google has opened itself to similar attacks from its competitors. And now, as in those old schoolyard battles, Google is finding its own attacks aimed right back at itself.

Most recently, Adam Raff, CEO of Foundem, a web tech company, penned an op-ed for the New York Times arguing that the FCC, currently in the midst of ironing out new net neutrality regulations, should broaden the scope of its regulations to include "search neutrality." Raff defines search neutrality as "the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance."  Raff gripes that, by sticking his company with low search results and promoting the results for its own services, Google "stifled [Foundem's] growth and constrained the development of our innovative search technology." Indeed, aside from a warning that we may be headed toward a world of Google Everything, he barely makes any effort to argue for the public good, saying straightforwardly that the goal of search neutrality would be to "constrain Google's competitive advantage."

Perhaps that's because, taken on the merits, Raff's proposal is worthless. For one thing, he simply ignores the consumer's right of exit. If Google's search results become less useful, users can easily switch to a competing search engine. To their credit, the decision-makers at Google know this, and that's why they invest so much time and effort in maintaining the quality of their search results.

Nor is it clear what the danger is in letting search engines promote their own products and services. With net neutrality, advocates have at least constructed an array of doomsday scenarios, however unlikely or implausible they might be. But as Freedom To Tinker's Jonathan Mayer notes, "violations of search neutrality…at most increase marketing costs for an innovative or competitive offering." In other words, the likelihood of harm is so minimal that it's not worth regulating.

Of course, the same could basically be said about broader net neutrality regulations. In a recent paper for the Progress and Freedom Foundation, Barbara Espin notes that, "There is little or no evidence that broadband ISPs are plotting to alter the fundamental attributes of the Internet in such nefarious ways or of actual consumer harms from today's broadband network management practices." Documented instances of neutrality violations are almost non-existent, and those that have been identified—like Comcast's slowing of BitTorrent file transfers—have since been settled and corrected.

But proposals like Raff's make clear the way in which neutrality regulation is being used across the tech sector to tear down or keep competitive advantage. As Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka argue in their paper "Net Neutrality, Slippery Slopes & High-Tech Mutually Assured Destruction," the tech industry is increasingly beset by regulatory warfare, in which companies seek to gain or secure competitive advantage not through innovation, but through government-imposed rules restricting competitors' business models. Raff, for example, isn't the only one calling for a form of search engine neutrality: AT&T, which faces stepped-up neutrality regulations in both its business as a traditional ISP and its wireless data service, has knocked Google for "search-engine bias" and called upon the FCC to impose strict neutrality standards on Google.

The end result of these battles could be a tech sector crippled by competing, ever-expanding mandates and restrictions. Thierer and Szoka say we may be witnessing "the first strikes in what threatens to become an all-out, thermonuclear war in the tech industry over increasingly broad neutrality mandates." An absurdist like Pee-Wee Herman might be proud, but in this Internet-scale exchange of I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I, the rest of us stand to lose.

Peter Suderman is an associate editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. Do not question the Google hive mind.

  2. Next Up – blog neutrality.

    1. Blog fairness doctrine.

  3. What happens when Internet service providers have a stake in the content transmitted?

    If Comcast owns NBC, who’s to say they won’t give packets streaming from Hulu a higher QoS rating (or some other way to increase throughput) than say, packets streaming from Fox’s website?

    The larger point (getting away from that specific example) is this: if the ISP can treat different data differently *at its own discretion*, then it has the power to influence the content of the Internet–which, to me, is a huge problem.

    1. Customers notice when their ISP is slow and switch to another ISP.

      I switched from Cox Cable to FIOS. I’ll switch again in a heartbeat if sites I care about are slow. Plus, if I hear it was intentional, I will carry a grudge and avoid the offending ISPs pet sites.

      1. You must be one of those lucky people who have a choice of ISP.

        Most Americans do not. Broadband coverage in this country is terrible. Most people I know have at most two options for internet service, and usually one of those is DSL and significantly slower. Those of us who live even vaguely rurally will usually have only one. When you have a local monopoly on a service like this (usually government enforced, or at least startup-cost enforced), there is no ability to just switch when the service starts sucking.

        Free market solutions require an actual free market.

        1. Free market solutions require an actual free market.

          And net neutrality fixes this situation how? Maybe I’m just some kooky libertard with no sense of reality, but it seems to me that you don’t fix an unfree market by making it even less free.

          1. He’s whining about government intervention and asking for more government intervention.

            Win!

        2. Is satellite internet not available everywhere? Yes, it doesnt work for gaming, but otherwise is has okay bandwidth.

          I have choice of two cable internet providers and multiple DSL providers (and satellite).

          1. I’ve tried to argue that there are two satellite providers that act as competition to any land-line based system. But that’s doesn’t fly for a lot of people here.

            1. You should also note that cell phone companies provide internet now. And their service is only getting cheaper and better.

            2. Latency on satellite Internet systems is not to be underestimated, and makes response times and overall bandwidth pretty mind-warpingly bad.

        3. Has your local government actually criminalized starting up an ISP? So if, for example, you were to get up off your couch, dig the accumulated quarters out of it, and waddle off to find two friends and some old Centrex equipment to start up your own ISP — because the local CableCo were unrighteous shits — then The Law would be there in two shakes to put the cuffs on you?

          Because, if not, you seem to be complaining that you have to pay for your lunch, and, worse, only one entrepreneur has seen fit to wheel his falafel cart close enough to Your Majesty’s throne for you to sample the wares without getting up.

          I love how today’s pampered proles equate free market with a market that delivers anything I want at a price I’m willing to pay for it. Next up, “justice” turns out to mean I win, and “feminine liberation” turns out to mean I get all the free pussy I can handle. Yee ha!

          1. Has your local government actually criminalized starting up an ISP?

            No, just the operation of serving customers with it within their borders. In Monkey County MD, ISPs have *ask permission* of the county council to offer the public its product.

            1. OMFG! Retail business licenses! Can the jackboots and concentration camps be far behind?!

              1. They usually aren’t too far behind, usually right behind the clerk’s counter, the jackboots that is.

                The concentration camps keep getting held up with environmental impact statements, but the council has vowed that this is the year they’ll get that through.

                1. +1 for JW

                  No cake for you Troll Pham.

                  1. Kiss my ass, loser parasite.

        4. Mike you are woefully undereducated in this area. Clearly demonstrated by you comment. There is certainly no lack of ISP offerings in the vast majority of the country. As the telco/cable business is my field of expertise I tend to take umbridge with your assumption. Here at my current company we are constantly fighting the competitors and doing our best to stay out front (we are currently the highest throughput speed offering in the US…well at least two months ago and full market deployed we were). There are anywhere from 4 to 12 choices for ISP/Broadband service in almost every mettrpolitan area. Rural areas, while they do ahve fewer choices, are by no means left as a wasteland. The trype of offerings, bundles, speeds, and packages available are varied and many. If you would just do a little shopping this would be obvious.
          Example: Denver- Comcast, Qwest, Liberty Bell, Satelite, CBeyond, TWTELECOM, FRII, ATT, a host of others whose name escapes me.

          Being as I ahve worked this industry for the past 15 years and have managed networks across the entire lower 48 I know very well how much competition is out there. To cry for mommy gubmint when so much competition and product variety exists is contradictory to your own self interest. Please take some time to research your options then come back and let us know how many choices you actually do have where you live.
          Look before you Leap

          1. Right outside of Washington DC, in Monkey County, you have 3 ISPs to choose from (2.5 really) Comcast, Verizon and RCN. RCN and Verizon only serve small parts of the county. RCN is pretty much dead meat, but Verizon is expanding it operation.

            1. An incomplete list of ISPs and Transport porivders in the Bethesda area:
              Verizon
              Comcast
              RCN
              Here

              TOAST.net Internet Service
              Intergate
              Cheap56k.com
              ISP West
              ISPAnywhere.com
              CPU-NET.COM, INC.
              MONSTER-ISP.com
              Copper.net, Inc.
              SysMatrix
              Trip.net
              GlobalNet
              Leapfrog Internet
              Here

              Also, both satelite providers, ATT cellular, and Sprint.

              TAKE THAT

              1. Seriously? Dial-up ISPs?

                I suspect that the technology will force market changes much faster than the FCC will, despite Genachowski’s paeans to comply! or else!

                1. Wireless technology that is.

              2. Every ISP in a market does not necessarily cover every house in the market. As a 15 year employee in telecom, I am surprised you didn’t know that.

                1. Seriously. My dad works for AT&T and only Verizon FiOS provides service in the area where they live, while the guy who works for Verizon and installed everything can only get AT&T U-verse in his area. NTTAWWT.

          2. Just for some insight. The bandit will be eating lunches and spanking others monkeys when it comes to isp network thingies. If you’re gonna call BS better have your ducks in a row, or flying V formation, or missing man formation, or…

            Just a warning. Kind of like I offered the Jaysea guy.

            1. STFU hmmm, you ignorant elitist asshole.

          3. There’s a basic problem with your assumptions, though – Dial up and satellite services are not comparable to cable or DSL. WiFi is somewhat closer, but still much slower. Only cable, DSL, and fibre are reasonable options for someone trying to experience the full range of the internet – movie downloads, bittorrent, Hulu, youtube, game servers, etc.

            I did research my options extensively when I bought this house, after I found the cable provider had been mistaken when they told me I could get service. It was one of the happiest days of my life when I found out that a DSL provider had extended to my area.

            The people I know in major, upper-class suburbs of Columbus Ohio have two options – Time Warner and ATT DSL. Those are pretty much the options across the vast majority of the Columbus metropolitan area (some people get to swap another provider for TW, and a very lucky few can get FiOS. Most can’t). Just because both Time Warner and WoW both service parts of Franklin county does not mean in almost any circumstances does an individual homeowner have a choice between those services.

            Pointing to dialup, satellite, or cell modem as actual competitors shows willful ignorance of the actual quality and cost of those services.

            Look… I’m not in favor of this FCC regulation. I think it’s a huge power grab by the FCC. But I do think there’s an argument for net neutrality of some kind – it’s essentially codifying what *has* been the way ISP’s do business since the start of the internet, and only recently have started to go away from (or planned to go away from). Moreover, it seems in practice to be completely pro-consumer. If you want to make the argument that it’s restricting ISP’s from offering innovative packages where you can get better rates on their services, show me *one* plan that an ISP has publicly considered that *wasn’t* just cutting down on what users can already do.

        5. Free market solutions require an actual free market.

          All the more reason to make the market free, not clamp down on it with more restrictions.

    2. if the ISP can treat different data differently, then it has the power to influence the content of the Internet–which, to me, is a huge problem.

      So Google should have that power? or the government? If ISPs tried to control content they would be screwed in the ass with a power drill by the market. All Google wants is to not pay ISPs and keep ISPs from competing with them and they are using government to secure their position. And that is a far bigger problem.

      1. “If ISPs tried to control content they would be screwed in the ass with a power drill by the market.”

        Market fundamentalism. Just have faith brother, the Market will never let anything bad happen!

        1. MUNG, if your ISP was giving you bad service on certain sites that you enjoyed, would you sit around with your thumb up your ass or would you change ISPs?

          Oh oops, I guess I’m being a fundamentalist if I think that people actually care about the quality of service and products they pay for…

        2. you need to explain why markets that are reasonably more free always perform better before you pretend to pith.

  4. if the ISP can treat different data differently *at its own discretion*, then it has the power to influence the content of the Internet–which, to me, is a huge problem.

    Right, because people will flock to those service providers who restrict access that they want to see and abandon those who do not.

  5. “Exit” Google. Then do business on the internet. It is still possible, barely.

    So they’re buying laws against it. “Net Neutrality” is one of them. And the laws that block consumer exit will be next.

    Google is the most evil company in the world. They’ll be Doubleclick with tanks in twenty years. Viagra-ad-mind-ray-shooting tanks. And in forty, GOOGLE MACHT FREI. It’s inevitable.

    1. You do realize that Google peers as (i.e. IS) YouTube, Google, Doubleclick, and Postininet.

      Just sayin’

      1. Google is following in the age old tradition of Rockefeller. Gain wealth with (mostly) free markets then lock the market doors behind you.

  6. Re: jammerms,

    What happens when Internet service providers have a stake in the content transmitted?

    Nothing, provided there are enough ISPs in the market.

  7. Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to have the freedom to have my internet as f*cked up as my cable!

    The liberty of waiting longer for some sites to download or paying differential fees, man, oh man, sign me up!

    1. Is this happening to you now, MNG? If not, why would it happen if Net Neutrality regulations were not enforced?

      1. I think some sites take longer to load due to the complexity of what’s going on on the site, but as I understand it w/out net neutrality there can be differential times paid to differential fees.

        1. Ach, I meant “tied to differential fees.”

          1. But there aren’t differential fees right now, are there? Is someone planning differential fees?

            1. Again, as I understand it I can pay to get some faster overall service and then everything comes through at the same speed, but w/out net neutrality providers can make certain sites come in faster because, say, they pay a premium to the ISP, etc.

              1. Okay, here’s how I see it. Right now, there are no regulations enforcing net neutrality. Are ISPs engaging in those kinds of practices on a large scale right now? If not, why put in regulations that will likely have loads of unintended consequences?

                1. “Right now, there are no regulations enforcing net neutrality.”

                  Correct. And there are no laws allowing it either, which is why nobody is doing it. Net neutrality is the status quo.

                  “Are ISPs engaging in those kinds of practices on a large scale right now?”

                  No, but that could change if the are explicitly allowed to.

                  1. Sorry, I meant: there are no laws allowing for a non-neutral Internet. Nothing that states explicitly that an ISP may restrict traffic.

              2. And this is bad… how? If Google wants to pay a premium to have YouTube come through the intertubes faster through Comcast, then sign me up, baby! I have no problem with Google throwing its cash around for my benefit. And even if I don’t watch YouTube much, so what? What have I lost?

                1. IOW – you want to pay for access to the content on the Internet? Isn’t that what AOL was all about?

                  http://i.imgur.com/5RrWm.png

                  Enjoy.

                2. Many sites will become relatively slower without the premium paid…

                  1. Many sites will become relatively slower without the premium paid

                    Look, dude, it isn’t like there is some regulation preventing that from happening that we want to dismantle. What specifically that you think Suderman is advocating will bring about that outcome?

                    1. There have already been some attempts at discrimination (Comcast etc),

                      does that mean there will be more, hard to say.

                      I do know that a lot of companies are interested in it, if they can figure out a way to get away with it.

                  2. “Many sites will become relatively slower without the premium paid…”

                    Right, because the internet doesn’t get faster like every year.

                    Come on MUNG you’ve already lost this fight.

        2. And you needn’t subscribe to those providers. And if your provider behaves in a way you do not like you are the new target market for their competitor.

          Which is a reason it doesn’t happen now

    2. Change cable companies.

      What, you have a government mandated cable monopoly?

      1. robc
        If the government mandated something that made the service better, say a la carte cable, then I’d be for it. Imo opinion the government mandating neutrality on the internet seems the best way for me to get what I want out of the net, and for most people.

        I realize you guys have more faith in markets. The markets will provide choices and no bad actors will stymie consumers because they will just go to a better provider, etc., etc. I just don’t have that faith. I imagine it could end up like movie theaters where they show an ever-increasing stream of commercials and previews even though most of the public doesn’t like it. In “theory” the market should have knocked this out, but “in theory” communism works 😉

        1. False, in theory communism doesnt work. Read more Mises. 🙂

          How much doesnt the public like commercials before movies? Enough to pay $3 more for a ticket (I have no idea what they make off commercials, $3 is a WAG)? I dont think so. I dont like commercials on regular TV, but I prefer that to paying for HBO. Actually, I rarely watch commercials anymore since I time shift everything. I even watch football games that I want to watch “live” on about a 20 minute delay to avoid commercials. Catch up at halftime, go do something else for a 1/2 hour, catch up late in the 4th.

          1. Look, the previews are still there and the consumers generally hate them. The movie theaters have found out that the customers they may lose give them less of a hit than the $ they make from advertisers. But of course the consumer is getting the shaft here robc, exactly what I’m concerned about here. Some sites, some advertisers and the providers will benefit, most people will not.

            1. Clearly, the consumers value the service they are getting enough to sit through the commercials that they hate. In other words, people are getting what they want. You must think that the fact that people have to wait in line at an amusement park is a demonstration of market failure too.

              1. What Panglossian bullshit. They value it more than watching no movies, which are the basically the two alternatives the market has given them.

                1. Which in no way contradicts what I wrote…

                  1. well, when it comes to the internet i like the third option: net neutrality mandated by the gov.

                    1. What a crock of shit. Who doesn’t like the previews? Don’t wanna watch ’em? Wait 5 minutes and then come into the theater. Most people I know make sure to get there in time specifically to see them. Haven’t you ever heard someone say “Hurry! We’re missing the previews!”?

                2. That’s not true — there are theaters that don’t show commercials before movies, but they generally charge higher admission. Those theaters have not driven the commercial-showing theaters out of business.

                  Also, savvy consumers quickly realize that you can avoid commercials by arriving 5 minutes late for the movie.

                  1. What movie consumer hates previews? It’s the best way to find out about the newest movies.

        2. Re: MNG,

          If the government mandated something that made the service better, say a la carte cable, then I’d be for it.

          Yes, because everybody knows that only government mandates makes things better.

          I realize you guys have more faith in markets. The markets will provide choices and no bad actors will stymie consumers because they will just go to a better provider, etc., etc. I just don’t have that faith.

          Neither did the Soviets, but: Wow! Did they have access to the better things in life.

        3. No, we mostly have less faith in government. Regulating these kinds of things almost always has unintended consequences that make people worse off.

          Let’s take your two examples. Government mandated a la carte cable and restriction on advertisements in movie theaters sounds like good ideas, and they would certainly make my life better if those were the only results the regulation had. But they would also almost certainly make cable and movie tickets more expensive. Some people might still consider that a good trade-off, but for most people it would make them worse off.

          1. Somehow movie theaters were able to make money back in the days before they showed a half an hour of commercials while charging a profitable ticket price.

            The problem is that there are only a handful of big movie chains and they just realized that as long as all of them engaged in the same f-u to the consumer everyone who still wanted the product would be sol.

            Now “in theory” they would realize they could gain more customers by eliminating the ads or some other big company would try to get these folks by creating a new chain. But in the real world enterprises don’t necessarily maximize (think about it, in theory you could work 18 hours a day every day and make more, but you’re not going to do that) and new ones don’t make the capital investment into something like building a multiplex unless they are going to make a killing.

            Of course, I don’t have to provide an explanation for an empirical example that contradicts your theory because, as Sherlock Holmes said in the film I saw yesterday, “we must twist theories to fit facts, not facts to fit theories.”

            1. Somehow movie theaters were able to make money back in the days before they showed a half an hour of commercials while charging a profitable ticket price.

              And of course, nothing else about the movie industry has changed since then.

            2. Somehow movie theaters were able to make money back in the days

              Non seequitur. This ain’t the old days. Lots of shit has changed since then.

              The problem is that there are only a handful of big movie chains and they just realized that as long as all of them engaged in the same f-u to the consumer everyone who still wanted the product would be sol.

              So you are saying cinema theaters make monopoly profits? That there is some sort of cartel without real entry barriers and despite the existence of antitrust regulation? More evidence is required for that sort of bold claim, I’m afraid.

              think about it, in theory you could work 18 hours a day every day and make more, but you’re not going to do that

              Umm, yeah, sure. If you were only optimizing your income, maybe. But what you are optimizing is utility, by making a tradeoff between income and leisure. I have no idea by what you mean by “real world enterprises don’t maximize”. Please explain that further.

              1. When a person makes a profit they often don’t take all measures that could produce even more profit. This btw is why markets might not be sufficient to wipe out discrimination. People seem to be more satisificing than maximizing.

                As to monopoly profits I’m saying that when there are only a few players in the market there is much less push to satisfy consumers.

                Let me ask you something this time. Let’s for the sake of argument say that people generally don’t like so many commercials. Why does just about every movie theater show them? Do you really maintain that they cannot be profitable if they do not? That in order to be profitable they must either show the commercials or raise ticket prices? I’m afraid I don’t believe that…

                1. The truth is that they could and do opt for some combination of the two. People on the other end of the spectrum from you might say that they can’t stand the thought of being screwed out of 10 bucks for the ticket and would be willing to watch 45 minutes of commercials if only the government would mandate that all movie theaters must give free admission.

                  Your movie analogy is tedious bullshit.

                2. Ok, first of all, people maximise utility, not profits. Firms maximize shareholder utility (which may be the same as maximizing profits but not always).

                  Re Monopoly profits, if you are saying that theater chains are charging a high price based on the fact that there is not much competition, then you are saying that they are making monopoly profits.

                  Re your question, even assuming that people don’t like previews, most theaters might still show them because people are not willing to pay the price that makes it possible to show movies sans previews. I generally dislike previews, but I would not be willing to pay more that say 10% extra on a movie ticket to avoid them. Its just not that big of a deal for me.

                3. Incidentally MNG – and this *IS* my field, fundamentally – Theatre profits are a TINY margin and very little of it is obtained from ticket sales, of which the vast majority goes directly to the film studios who produced the films.

                  That said, you are still confused about one very important thing: Namely, that what people claim their preferences are on polls and such is completely meaningless. Value is only measurable at the point of economic transactions. I “say” that i’d like a lot of things, but the fact is that I’m not willing to pay the premium for most of them. I’m not a huge fan of the commercials pre-movie, but I’m even less a fan of paying $20.00 per movie-ticket.

                  Incidentally, IMAX at the Universal City theatre is now $18 per ticket and that pretty much prices me out of IMAX viewings there.

                  You know what that means? Even though I would *tell you* that I like IMAX, yet I’m unwilling to pay that price, so what that should tell you is that no matter what I say I prefer, I value $18 more than watching a movie in IMAX.

                  What people say and what they actually do aren’t the same thing. At all. One would think you’d realize that.

            3. The problem is that there are only a handful of big movie chains and they just realized that as long as all of them engaged in the same f-u to the consumer everyone who still wanted the product would be sol.

              this is complete bullshit. There are a lot of theaters that don’t show commercials. True, these tend to be in urban or suburban areas where there are lots of theaters to begin with, but the fact that these theaters don’t even dominate the urban markets shows that people prefer paying less rather than not seeing commercials.

              1. Again MUNG, your argument amounts to a pile of poo. First of all, not everyone hates commercials as much as you do. I happen to enjoy the previews at movie theaters. If you hate them so much, why wouldn’t you try to organize a boycott on movie theaters? Obviously because people don’t actually hate commercials as much as you say they do, and because boycotting movies is just much more of a pain in the ass. Just because the market didn’t meet up to your every want does not mean that it failed. The market always does its job. If it didn’t, you would see people actually giving a shit and doing something about it. That’s WHY it works.

            4. As far as I know they have always shown commercials.

              In fact before the internet it was probably the best way for people to know what movies were coming soon. I certainly used to try to get to the theatre early enough to see them. Now on the other hand I don’t really need that information so I know I can arrive a few minutes late. The commercials hence are certainly not mandatory viewing in the sense you know they will have them. I don’t see the problem.

        4. Except that’s never what happens. The monopoly has to pay the government to maintain itself. And the monopoly no longer has any interest in pleasing you, the customer. Look at public utilities the world over.

          I’m not a disbeliever in Santa Claus because I don’t like the idea of Santa Claus. I’m a disbeliever because your plan never works.

          You are a true religionist. You keep trying something endlessly and expecting a different result.

    3. Re: MNG,

      Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to have the freedom to have my internet as f*cked up as my cable!

      I don’t use cable, so I have no idea of what you’re talking about. I only watch those “free television” shows – you know, to help my insomnia…

    4. Absolutely. I personally look forward to the day when, by merely paying a modest premium per byte, I can have my e-mail to the doctor about the 105 fever my toddler is running delivered stat while your downloading of another 60 megabyte bestiality porn clip gets put temporarily on hold.

      Only in America could a commenter on a libertarian blog complain about the free market sorting out priorities for use of scarce resources. Elsewhere the lower atmospheric pressure of Rabelaisian phantasy fluff would allow his head to explode.

    5. While the technology for what you suggest does exists (deep packet inspection and dynamic QoS) it is difficult to implement, unwieldy to manage, and (at this time) only used when a clear and sever network goal is to be achieved (VoIP, E911, SigTran. The BItTorrent example has already been adderssed). SO even IF we were to decide to screw with per packet priority absed on independant billing standards or our own mustache twirling whims it would become the most disastrous PR faux pas in Com history. Our competitors (who already took some cheap shots at us over some financial restructuring and poor customer service which was fixed years ago…*crosses fingers) would impale us on the spike of Ad campaigns. Realistically, the only way to HARM the neutral and fair access to the “internet” (do keep in mind that jsut cause flat fee payment reigns here does not mean that you own the whole dame internet) is to have “teh gubmint” get even MORE INVOLVED!!!!

      Crikey I fight this kind of bias every day…and I don’t even work in Regulatory (yes kiddies that is right. We have, as do all the others, a sole department staffed with expensive lawyers called “Regulatory” and they make sure we don’t get shat upon by “Teh Gubmint”).

      Like BUTTAH

      1. Opps. Looks like my warning was a little late. You have all been sufficiently tech-jargoned to death.

  8. “What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?”

    1. “Sooo beautiful, yet so neutral.”

  9. An argument against net neutrality is VoIP. I personally would not mind if voice calls over the Internet were given some fixed bandwidth by my ISP, as long as it doesn’t slow down my usage.

    1. VoIP actually doesn’t use that much bandwidth, so it can easily be downgraded in priority.

      1. You got it half right. VoIP does not require much bandwidth but has very tight delay requirements. If the dealy between speaking on one side and hearing on the other goes over ~0.5 seconds, it is nearly impossible to hold a normal conversation. So VoIP requires higher priority.

        As you noted, the actual bandwidth is very low, so giving the VoIP higher priority has little effect on non-VoIP transfer rates.

      2. NTBAD is correct. VoIP requires the highest QoS due to the nature of the traffic, and since not everyone can be first, Straming vid/audio goes next and data last (e-mail, ftp, etc). This is how a well engineered network will operate.

        I really do try

        1. I prefer regulations that require disclosure of that ISPs limits on internet access and cost vs. government mandated net neutrality. I would argue that all ISPs need to do some traffic shaping on their networks in spite of what proponents of net nutrality may think. Without traffic shaping, low priority data like peer-to-peer file transfers and spam will take enough network capacity to make internet access slow for live users. Problem probably goes away with usage based pricing, but with all you can eat internet access, the ISP has to put other limits on usage.

          For mobile internet, VoIP is relatively inefficient compared to the aggressive voice compression standards used for mobile phones. Makes spectral efficiency sense for a cellular provider to block VoIP on a mobile network. A better policy would require international long-distance voice service have neutral access to the cellular voice network.

          1. The difference between traffic shaping or QoS and Network Neutrality, is that in the former you’re treating *types* of packets different (VoIP, video, data, etc) while with a non-neutral network, you’re treating packets differently depending on who they belong to (Google, Joe Average, your competitor).

  10. Given that every proposed business action by the major networks that would go against network neutrality would actively hurt consumers, I don’t consider it particularly hard to suggest that net neutrality would be in the best interest of most users. There is a direct conflict of interest for almost all ISP’s when it comes to either voice or video offerings online. Moreover, the vast majority of Americans do not have any alternative choices in ISPs. Their local monopolies give them almost no consumer pressure to avoid these kinds of policies. It was only under government pressure that Comcast backed down.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that the consumer protection provided by net neutrality is worth ceding more authority over the internet to the FCC, or that Google is doing anything but acting in its own interest. But even if only Comcast has had to go to court over it, several other major ISPs have been implicated in filtering P2P content (Atlantic Broadband, iProvo, Qwest) or throttling people who dare to use the bandwidth they purchase (Digis, Cox, Comcast). There is a clear benefit to the consumer to some kind of regulation here – the question is not whether this benefit exists, but whether it is worth ceding this power to the FCC/congress.

    1. Problem: Legislatively protected local internet monopolies hurt consumers.

      Solution A: Dismantle legislative protection of local internet monopolies.

      Solution B: Continue to protect local internet monopolies and enforce regulation that aims to protect the consumer from the ill-effects of such monopolies (along with several other unforseen consequences).

      Gee, I wonder which solution they’ll pick.

      1. So here’s the problem : A is never, ever, *ever* going to happen.

        There’s nothing wrong with, once you’re stuck with regulations of something, trying to make those regulations intelligent.

        In my fantasy world, there are no regs either, but that hasn’t been the world we live in since telephony was invented.

        1. The problems caused by intrusive government are never *ever* solved by more intrusive government.

          Look at health care. Look at credit markets. Look at energy. Look at agriculture. Look at education. Everywhere you look it’s clear you are dead wrong.

    2. Net Neutrality simply ensures that higher fees that cannot be charged to google will now be passed on to consumers.

      Want to pay more money per month for the same shitty internet? Pass Net Neutrality.

  11. The ISPs became what they are due to monopolies and favorable government regulation. They are all also providing every click you make to the government spy agencies without a peep (and making profit by doing so). You really want to give these folks ability to decide what you should be able to see? Just go to another ISP? Most people in most areas cannot switch ISPs to nonspying ones. I don’t want these folks to be able to edit the internet for me, news sites will eventually become as useless as TV news. ISPs are basically for profit government managed/married companies.

    1. ISPs are basically for profit government managed/married companies.

      So the solution is to increase government intervention?

      1. You prefer that your ISP select your content for you?

        “Neutral” is not government intervention in a packet-switched shared-backbone world.

        1. It is in this world. Maybe on Pandora it isn’t.

  12. “The ISPs became what they are due to monopolies and favorable government regulation.”

    For the life of me I cannot understand why the anti-neutrality people haven’t come up with a counter-argument to this, and it annoys me that they don’t even bother to acknowledge it. It is because they don’t really know what the hell they are talking about? Somehow I have to believe they just choose to hope we won’t notice.

    1. Do you mean pro-neutrality people?

      1. I’m wondering about a solution to the problem that the ISPs should be able to do whatever they want with their infrastructure, but the fact that they developed and constructed the infrastructure under a regulated monopoly means that the infrastructure was constructed for the public good or some such nonsense. If it was constructed via monopoly for the public good, there has to be a way to separate that public good stuff from the good private ownership stuff.

        Perhaps increased availability of wireless broadband and satellite will cure the problem in the next few years.

        1. If they wanted, they could separate wire management from content providing. Have a monopoloy on maintaining the wire and allow open competition amongst content providers over that wire. Which is basically what has happened in the DSL world. All the DSL providers in my town use Bell South infrastructure for delivery to the house.

        2. Well the pro-neutrality people don’t answer this because it’s intended by progressives.

          It’s a general case of all utilities. Utilities by definition are particularly susceptible to government market predation, ‘for the good of the people’. They are markets with handy excuses for setting up a government monopoly, who is in turn beholden to the government who empowers it and not the customers. Efficiencies in the enterprise are not forced and such as they occur tend to be milked off by the political class, or kept by the monopolists. Passing savings on to consumers is a rare happenstance.

          In turn efficiencies and beneficial innovation take finite time, and the longer the duration of the monopoly the more that is lost. ‘Deregulation’ in turn, even in markets that are free in proximal geographies will not instantly bring the industry to par, and even can backslide temporarily due to costs of markets adjusting to the new context.

  13. To their credit, the decision-makers at Google know this, and that’s why they invest so much time and effort in maintaining the quality of their search results.

    What? Must not be using the same Google as I am. Their search engine results are the best of a bad lot, maybe, but nothing more.

  14. Google is enough to make you root for Microsoft.

    Amazing that the Google-lords see no dissonance between “Don’t be evil” and “Put the Total State in charge”.

    1. Pisses you off that Google is filled with rich capitalist Obama supporters, doesn’t it?

      1. They aren’t capitalist. Very few rich people are capitalist. Capitalism mandates free markets and the last thing the people with entrenched resources want is free competition.

        There’s a reason the entrenched wealthy are mostly statists. They don’t want you to have a chance against them.

    2. Actually, isn’t it more like “Put Nobody in Charge (and keep it that way)”?

  15. Net Neutrality is about underlying protocols and endpoints. What kind of traffic is flowing into your networks. It’s about whether TimeWarner can slow down non-TimeWarner content from say, Sony so that their pipes remain open for dreck from their servers.

    The “search neutrality” Peter speaks of is about the content of sites and searches. That is about free speech.

    By trying to mix in protocol neutrality with content neutrality is a pretty unfair comparison.

  16. Great pic of Suderman (who when writing, refers to himself in first-person just like Bob in in the show Becker).

  17. Re: MNG,

    Somehow movie theaters were able to make money back in the days before they showed a half an hour of commercials while charging a profitable ticket price.

    How far back is “back in the day” for you, MNG? Because I cannot remember going to the movies and NOT see a commercial or two.

    Now “in theory” they would realize they could gain more customers by eliminating the ads or some other big company would try to get these folks by creating a new chain.

    Maybe you haven’t figured it out, but moviegoers are already being lured by competing delivery systems such as Netflix and Blockbuster. Most of the commercials are shown during the big blockbuster, I-have-to-see-it-now showings, not so much during the chick-flicks and other lesser showings.

    But in the real world enterprises don’t necessarily maximize.

    Really? Wow, you must be privvy to everybody’s balance sheets.

    [T]hink about it, in theory you could work 18 hours a day every day and make more, but you’re not going to do that

    Economics is about choices when facing scarce resources, which include time, AND LEISURE, MNG. You can maximize your income working 18 hours a day but people still value things AT THE MARGIN, and one more hour of work has to compete in the person’s mind with one LESS our of forgone leisure.

    [A]nd new ones don’t make the capital investment into something like building a multiplex unless they are going to make a killing.

    Well, wouldn’t you?

  18. Re: MNG,

    When a person makes a profit they often don’t take all measures that could produce even more profit.

    How do you know this?

    This btw is why markets might not be sufficient to wipe out discrimination.

    You cannot wipe out discrimination – everybody discriminates, it is called making choices – I discriminated from a bunch of broads when I chose my bride. I discriminated against a bunch of flavors when deciding for Rocky Road.

    People seem to be more satisificing than maximizing.

    It can seem to you, yes. Doesn’t mean that it should seem to THEM, but it is possible that it seems to you.

    As to monopoly profits I’m saying that when there are only a few players in the market there is much less push to satisfy consumers.

    That’s a crock, MNG. Even with less players there is even MORE competition, since the market shares become bigger. Besides this, customer satisfaction is in the eye of the beholder – you cannot please everyone.

    Let me ask you something this time. Let’s for the sake of argument say that people generally don’t like so many commercials. Why does just about every movie theater show them?

    For the sake of argument, lets say people are masochists that prefer to see the movie RIGHT NOW, TODAY, or they will die, and find morbid pleasure on being subjected to commercials rather than having to WAIT until the damned movie is available on DVD.

    Do you really maintain that they cannot be profitable if they do not? That in order to be profitable they must either show the commercials or raise ticket prices?

    Yes.

    I’m afraid I don’t believe that…

    That’s your choice.

    1. My town has two theaters both owned by the same guy, next town over, one theater, same owner, guesss how much compeition we have?

      Could another pereson open a theater, maybe, but there are signifcant barrierse to entry.

      Does that justify regulation of theaters to prevent commerercials, in this case probably not. The ends wouldn’t justify the means.

      That doesn’t mean that regulation is NEVER justified though.

      1. Re: Kroneborge,

        My town has two theaters both owned by the same guy, next town over, one theater, same owner, guesss how much compeition we have?

        Well, let me guess:

        * Television
        * Video Games
        * Netflix
        * Blockbuster
        * Amazon.com
        * Youtube
        * Books
        * Cable
        * Internet
        * Going to the park
        * Having sex with your girl instead of going to the FUCKING MOVIES.

        I mean, the poor guy has to compete with ALL THAT. And it didn’t take me long to figure it out…

        1. Note that I said I didn’t think regulation wouldn’t be justified in that case.

          But in something more vital, or with fewer alternatives it could be.

          IE, internet, water etc.

          1. Did I just here you say that the ends can justify the means?

            I’m going to pretend I didn’t just hear that. LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA

            1. Must be nice in that fantasy land you live in, where people don’t have to make hard decisions, or apply cost benefit analysis.

          2. You’re again neglecting the fact your examples are almost always government monopolies and also almost always perform poorly and are complained about as being too costly and inefficient.

            When food delivery is a government monopoly people complain about it too.

            What you need to do is find examples of free markets that suffer from the problems you suggest, not unfree markets, that have problems, that you suppose would be worse if they were free.

  19. internet service providers by and large (and especially in rural areas) tend to have a natural monopoly, or dupoly etc.

    Companies in that position tend to behave badley in either overt, or covert ways usually to the determent of the consumer.

    In those cases, there usually isn’t much chocie to a bit of regulation.

    1. Re: Kroneborge,

      There’s ALWAYS choices besides naked aggression by the State. Always.

      1. OM, while there almost always are, there are occasions in time where there may be no practical choices. You are right in the sense that making a real and permanent monopoly to supplant a ‘natural’ monopoly (imo not really a monopoly because competition is possible) which only becomes more vulnerable to competition the more it misbehaves.. is a poor idea.

        IE a non monopoly utility (a rare critter granted) with an entrenched delivery network may have cause to misbehave. However at some point if it charges too much an an entrepreneur may do the math and see he can make money even if he has to build an entirely new delivery network.

        With a real monopoly, government will never allow an alternate delivery network (because it’s paid not to) and thus there is no natural limit to inefficiency and corruption.

        (ps how do you get the quote sections?)

    2. Also, too bad. Sometimes in order to be free we have to put up with minor inconveniences, like allowing other people to be free.

      1. Freedom was never promised to be convenient, or even safe. The only thing it can be promised to be is far better than any other possible option.


    3. tend to have a natural monopoly, or dupoly etc.

      Actually they almost always tend to have overt or covert government abetted monopolies.

      ‘Natural’ monopolies are inherently unstable. Even the threat of alternative delivery networks controls price. The real fun begins when the entrenched utility gets the government to prevent new networks in the ‘public interest’.

      ‘Natural’ monopolies eventually either become non monopolies due to competition, or real monopolies if they have a handy government amenable to corruption, which is usually the case.

  20. Market fundamentalism. Just have faith brother, the Market will never let anything bad happen!

    What’s “Market Fundamentalism”? That’s as absurd as saying such a thing as “Natural Selection Fundamentalism” exists. The market is just you, me and all humans interacting in mutually beneficial exchanges of each other’s private property. That’s all.

    1. I always find it interesting that statists believe in evolution.. except in markets, which somehow need the guiding hand of their god, the state.

      1. I should note I am an atheist and disdain belief in anything, but especially the state god.

  21. How is “market fundamentalism” any worse than having blind faith that government regulation is going to provide an optimal solution to whatever the perceived problem is?

    1. Because Market Fundamentalists are the useful idiots of the Big Business community. All any rent-seeking corporation needs to do is repeat the words “Freedom”, “Innovation” and “Markets” and they stop thinking, shut up and obey.

      Or it’s due to the fact that they’d rather believe that they’re such losers in life because of evil Government regulations – without them they would all be millionaires.

      1. You put “market fundamentalists” and “rent-seeking corporation” into the same sentence. Methinks you are seriously confused about one or the other.

        1. He covered the intersection of the two – i.e. “useful idiots”.

          1. Good to know you still don’t know shit about anything. Constancy is a fine quality in morons.

      2. It is common for people who have no idea what they are talking about to conflate the free market with big business, even in responding to an article where a large company is calling for regulation to “increase freedom” and the “market fundamentalists” are up in arms against it. Do you see what I’m trying to spell out for you here?

        1. I see you beat me to it.

          It gives me hope there are so many economically literate people.

      3. Right because free marketeers so love big corporate monopolies?

        There are people that are as confused as you, but in the other direction, but they don’t tend to post here.

        Go play with your peers, the dittoheads. They may in fact not have the wherewithal to trounce you.

  22. Look, even if ISPs do slow down content from hosts that don’t pay a premium, so what? It’s their network to run as they please.

    Really, that’s the only thing that matters: that it’s theirs.

    1. This is correct, it is theirs.

      We don’t have a right to tell ISPs how to run their private businesses just because we use them as a portal.

      And I have great confidence left alone ISPs will in most cases strive to please their customers, those without good enough business instincts to do so will fall on their own when their customers go elsewhere.

      For myself I live in a remote area, yet a little searching around revealed I have a number of ISP options, I chose one, and a throttled bandwidth that best served my needs according the amount I was willing to pay and how I use my connection.

      People have got to learn to take care of themselves, those of us who can certainly can’t help everyone just to keep those who can’t, or won’t, from running to the government for help out of laziness or stupidity and ruining it for every one else.

      On the other end Google and the rest of these large businesses should be ashamed of themselves on this one. They may be big, but they did not build this internet, fact is they are late comers. They need to respect the much larger group, the rest of us, and forget about levering any advantage for themselves through inviting regulation. They need to respect the rights of others as much as individuals do, they are not exempt from that.

  23. In my post A Libertarian Take on Net Neutrality I’ve given what I think is the proper approach to take on this issue.

    1. Leo Laporte is, in my opinion, correct. The enormous risk here is “the danger of empowering the state itself to regulate at all.”

      1. I just re-read that passage, and I’m not sure if that was Laporte’s view, or that of his panelists. It is my opinion regardless of which.

        1. The EFF’s Corynne McSherry asks if Net Neutrality could be a trojan horse, that would seem likely unless someone actually believes the government is a benevolent entity who really is there to watch out for our best interests. Many of the points she makes in her article are those I’ve made, inviting the government in now might seem like a great idea, but people better stop and realize those in power now will not be tomorrow, no one knows who will be and they may suck beyond imagination, if that’s the case better they have less tools ready to misuse at their disposal.

          Regulatory privileges surrendered which benefit us today can easily be used to abuse, or to expand regulation day after tomorrow.

          A trojan horse is a perfect description of net neutrality, good call Corynne.

  24. If Google is so eager to invite the FCC or any other governmental agency into our internet then Google should grab Hillary and the rest of the Net Neutrality gang and go start their own internet.

  25. The EFF’s Corynne McSherry asks if Net Neutrality could be a trojan horse, that would seem likely unless someone actually believes the government is a benevolent entity who really is there to watch out for our best interests. Many of the points she makes in her article are those I’ve made, inviting the government in now might seem like a great idea, but people better stop and realize those in power now will not be tomorrow, no one replica omega replica IWC knows who will be and they may suck beyond imagination, if that’s the case better they have less tools ready to misuse at their disposal.

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