Does Net Neutrality Promote Competition?

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Should the FCC's Internet policy seek to level the playing field between the big web content providers and their smaller, start-up competitors? That was one of the questions that came up yesterday during my appearance on NPR's On Point opposite Harvard's Jonathan Zittrain.

Don't be a big bald weirdo in a funny gray suit?

The topic of discussion for the segment was the Internet policy framework proposed jointly by Google and Verizon last week, and at the end of the discussion, Zittrain—who, I think it's fair to say, holds a much more favorable view of Net neutrality than I do—raised the possibility that the enhanced services that would be allowed under the proposal could impede smaller competitors. So what if, say, Google can afford to pay for faster delivery for content served by YouTube (which Google owns)? Doesn't that make it more difficult for smaller entities to enter the market? It's a version of the case he made on his blog last week

Verizon could say to Google: regardless of what you pay your own ISP to get your bits launched on the Internet, pay us more and we'll make sure your YouTube videos get to our subscribers all the more quickly as they come in for a landing. Google might well be able to pay—and then leave poorer content providers behind.  The next two guys who want to start, say, ShmouTube won't be able to do it if they've got to negotiate business development deals with one ISP after another in order to reach those ISPs' subscribers.  And that's the real danger: when each ISP can, in effect, speak on behalf of its unwitting subscribers, serving as the troll under the bridge offering up different conditions for access to them, the economics of the Net will start to favor the consolidated, the well-connected, the well-heeled.  Verizon and Google each have reason to take the trouble to negotiate with one another to begin with—they've both big, and each can offer uniquely desirable benefits to the other.  The generative power of the Internet is that it has offered a perch for anyone who wants to plant a flag in the ground.  Set up www.mynewamazingwebsite.com, and people the world over can beat a path to it or not as they please.

At Google, you can have all the Legos you want.

The exact details of how the proposal would work are yet to be perfectly ironed out, but it's true that, if the Google-Verizon policy framework were to be adopted, Google would quite possibly be allowed to pay more to guarantee speedier service for the videos it hosts. And it's also likely that a smaller, leaner, start-up competitor without Google's sizable financial resources would not be able to afford the same tier of services.

But is this really so worrisome? If anything, it seems like consumers would benefit from larger web providers being able to offer nifty, advanced services that a smaller competitor might not be able to afford.

Nor am I convinced that our theoretical tiny competitor's inability to pay for speedier service is a concern serious enough to warrant regulatory meddling. Part of the fear here seems to be that ISPs will ignore smaller web operations in favor of bigger companies with better financial backing. But there's no reason to think that ISPs will not be able to handle customers purchasing multiple service tiers. Think of how FedEx and UPS operate: Some customers pay to have their packages delivered to their destinations faster, yet no one thinks of this as harmful to those who choose regular speed delivery. Why should it be any different with ISPs, which are essentially delivery networks for data rather than physical goods?

Turns out you can build just about anything out of Legos.

The fact is, larger companies will always have more resources, financial and otherwise. As it stands, Google can buy bigger server farms in more locations, offer higher salaries to top talent, and attract innovators and creative thinkers by building elaborate toy-and-game filled office spaces on incredibly expensive real estate in Manhattan. Yet I don't see anyone at the FCC debating a no-slides-in-offices rule.

Start-ups always face long odds against entrenched competitors, which is why the majority of new businesses fail relatively quickly. But the best start-ups compete through genuine innovation, not by taking advantage of government-enforced business-model barriers. Who's to say that the next YouTube won't succeed because its creators figure out how to deliver high quality video content with less bandwidth, or less server power, or over choppier delivery networks? (Or, for that matter, by figuring out how to be profitable quickly and on low overhead? After years of massive capital investment, YouTube is only expected to become barely profitable this year.) Zittrain is correct to think of Internet policy in terms of how it promotes competition and innovation. But FCC-imposed limitations on how the web's most successful players can operate don't strike me as all that likely to be successful in doing either. 

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  1. I see that they used the Evil Turkish g. Good. Good.

    1. As long as they don’t use it within two blocks of Ground Zero.

      1. Because that would be insensitive.

  2. The local free liberal weekly (“The Independent” in the Raleigh area of NC) did a headline a few years back called “The cyber barons of the 21st century”. The cover was complete with an illustration of a fat, evil looking monocled man squeezing fiber optic cables. The article was the usual one-sided rhetoric about competition, etc. It’s so funny how liberals are all about “competition” when it means government regulation.

    I think this stems from the bazaar obsession with “fairness”, which is a loaded term to begin with.

    1. I think this stems from the bazaar obsession with “fairness”, which is a loaded term to begin with.

      John, is that you?

      1. In this instance, I agree – where does it say that anything in life or the real world is “fair”? From where does government derive its supposed power to ensure that everything is “fair”?

    2. Oh God. Sometimes I read The Independent just to make myself rage a little bit.

  3. The cover was complete with an illustration of a fat, evil looking monocled man

    I never gave them permission to use my likeness. They will be hearing from my lawyers soon.

  4. Does Net Neutrality state control of the terms and conditions of service Promote Competition?

    Sort of answers itself, doesn’t it?

    1. I don’t get why this is so hard to understand. Think of your cable company. Now think of your electrical company. Which provides better service at a better value?

      1. My electrical company is city-run and has rates about 15% lower than the state’s main publicly traded utility, with better service. Meanwhile, my cable company is Comcast, Font Of All Evil. So….outlier?

        1. Has your electric company provided you between 4-10 times more product, plus a whole new service in the past 10 years? Cable has.

          1. I probably have more electronic devices and appliances in my house than 10 years ago.

            So the answer is YES.

            Your analogy is REALLY BAD. Try something like public transit.

            1. My analogy is between what the electric company provides you – electricity, NOT APPLIANCES – and what your cable company provides you – video and broadband. So unless you buy all your appliances from your electric company, the number of appliances you have is irrelevant.

              1. Comcast provides me with LESS product than I got ten years ago. Before I moved to their territory I could afford actual cable television. Now, for the same real-dollar price (well, marginally less, but far less of a drop than the next-higher tier is an increase), I get local channels and nothing else, along with terrible customer service. Broadband? Hah. The electric company wins that comparison simply because it’s willing to deliver its products to me.

                Fuck. Comcast.

                1. Well, I don’t know where you live, but where I live (suburban Virginia) Comcast gives me 200+ channels, HD, DVR, literally tens of thousands of movies on demand, plus very decent internet for ~$120.00. Pretty much the only reason I need electricity is to get Comcast services.

                  Of course, your experience may differ, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere. But in that case, you get the benefits of peace and quiet, less traffic, and cheaper rent.

                2. Where the hell do you live? In the early part of the 90’s, just having cable was considered a luxury. I personally don’t know anybody today who doesn’t have cable and broadband internet. Even the poorest people I know have both.

                  1. I’m talking about Texas, Virginia, and Washington state.

          2. If I want basic service, with none of the extra product that’s come to market over the last decade, my cable company wants to charge me nearly half what I pay each month to heat/cool my home, light my way, cook my food and power the electronics I use to make my living, for their basic level of service. If I want to watch baseball, it’s more like 120% of my power bill. Fuck Comcast.

            1. So, you’re saying that the supermarket and farmers should be charging you a fee when you cook your food, like the content providers do to media providers when they carry their programming?

              Fuck Comcast.

              Oh, I agree. That’s why I have FIOS. BTW, pssst…satellite service, if you can’t get FIOS.

              1. I’m not sure I follow. I’m just saying that I get far more utility per dollar (har har) out of my electric bill than my cable bill.

          3. Pretty soon your electric company will be providing your broadband.

            http://tinyurl.com/27tbrzs

            Hmmmmm!

        2. Just because it is a “publicly traded utility” that doesn’t mean that it is a free enterprise without regulation or government support. It’s like when people tell me that Texas’s energy is “deregulated.” Yeah, it’s deregulated, except you have to buy from a select group of companies.

          1. Also, just because an industry is denationalized, that doesn’t mean lower prices. Sometimes, prices of some goods are supposed to be higher. When the government keeps prices artificially low, you end up with power outages. Artificially cheap public roads leads to traffic jams. There is no free lunch. You always give up something when an industry is nationalized, even if the price appears lower.

  5. There is no issue like the Orwellianesquely named “Net Neutrality” when it comes to making normally freedom-loving geeks completely lose their fucking minds.

    Yeah, let’s let the FCC regulate providers of the internet, what could possibligh go wrong?

    1. They’re not all that freedom-loving. Read a random Slashdot thread.

  6. I’d like to stake a wooden stake and metaphorically drive it into the FCC’s heart.

    1. I’d like to take a metaphorical wooden stake and drive it into the FCC’s heart.

      1. Oh, didn’t catch my error. Thanks.

      2. I’d like to stake a wooden take and literally eat the FCC’s heart.

        1. I like to eat a wooden steak…. wait a minute…

          1. I’d steak my reputation on that stake.

  7. I would pretty much have to agree with everything this article had to say. Leave the internet alone. I can’t think of one instance of FCC action that was beneficial to anyone. Keep their hands off the internet.

  8. Net Neutrality is possibly the dumbest issue the left have ever got excited over. Essentially, they want the government to ration a man-made and virtually limitless resource. Bottlenecks? Add a couple more channels to your fiber and stick a few more routers on a shelf. The costs for bandwidth are continuing to drop, and as long as the increased traffic means increased revenue, any ISP or web-based business should be able to keep up.

    The bizarre ‘what-ifs’ the supporters dream up to back their position make no sense, especially when compared to other industries. What if grocery stores decide to stop selling tomatoes? What if airlines decide to to stop flying to Cleveland? Without regulation, it could happen…

    1. “costs for bandwidth are continuing to drop, and as long as the increased traffic means increased revenue, any ISP or web-based business should be able to keep up.”

      Same with the costs for memory unless moore’s law eventually kicks in and no further advances in chip technology are possible…but as Friedman said “Put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert and you will have a sand shortage in five years…”

      1. Moore’s Law is already done. They started trading bigger memory for more “cores” a couple years ago.

        1. It’s still getting cheaper as time goes on, which was the main benefit of Moore’s law.

  9. Suderman, if you keep using logic like this you’re gonna lose your label as a ‘tool’, you tool.

    Fuck the FCC.

  10. Like every other supplier of anything doesn’t have to negotiate with every individual producer that may use their goods and the companies that ship the goods. It amazes me the lack of understanding of how the real world operates.

  11. After years of spending massive capitol on the service, YouTube is only expected to become barely profitable this year.

    Freudian typo?

    1. RC’z Law approves this typo.

  12. Quit it with the strawman arguments. The majority of the arguments for net neutrality don’t include some kind of wholesale government take over of the internet. That’s part of the reason this debate is so interesting – its about keeping the internet as a legitimate meritocratic marketplace.

    Of course proponents of net neutrality have few legitimate arguments. Where’s the fire? Has anyone acutally done this? I think there’s acutally disincentive for ISPs to do this kind of thing. I don’t think anyone dislikes the idea of net neutrality, but no one wants to government involved in the internet either (well, except for the people who have serious penis envy over Estonia’s broadband infrastructure).

    1. “Quit it with the strawman arguments. The majority of the arguments for net neutrality don’t include some kind of wholesale government take over of the internet. ”

      Few people are arguing this. Your statment is kind of a straw man argument.

      “its about keeping the internet as a legitimate meritocratic marketplace.”

      legitimate and meritocratic are not necessarily the same thing. I own my land, and I can do with it what I want, regardless of some greater goal of “meritocracy.” That’s how it is supposed to work. Government propped up meritocracy is a lie. Whose concept of merit are we focused on here?

    2. “Quit it with the strawman arguments. The majority of the arguments for net neutrality don’t include some kind of wholesale government take over of the internet. ”

      Few people are arguing this. Your statment is kind of a straw man argument.

      “its about keeping the internet as a legitimate meritocratic marketplace.”

      legitimate and meritocratic are not necessarily the same thing. I own my land, and I can do with it what I want, regardless of some greater goal of “meritocracy.” That’s how it is supposed to work. Government propped up meritocracy is a lie. Whose concept of merit are we focused on here?

  13. A lot of people seem to see everything as zero-sum. If someone is getting richer, then someone else must be getting poorer. If someone is getting faster internet service, someone else must be getting slower service.

    1. I think the fear is that ISPs will make it zero-sum deliberately, as a way to punish nonsubscribers while rewarding the higher tier. A “give us money or we’ll send you back to dialup” system.

      1. That’s a legitimate economic concern.

        Also, what if the toilet paper companies said “Give us money, or we’ll send you back to wiping your ass with leaves”? There ought to be a law.

  14. I would like to hear Peter’s view on common carrier protections that providers like Verizon and AT&T get and how those jibe with being able to to filter and prioritize data. In exchange for being common carriers they are exempt from liability for transmission of copyrighted works or of defamatory messages. This is because they claim that they are not discriminating on content or monitoring it and should not be liable for accepting all comers. However, if they are discriminating on content, these arguments no longer hold up. If telcos lost common carrier protections by discriminating on content, the net neutrality debate would end quickly because there’s no way in hell AT&T, Comcast or Verizon would open themselves up to that much potential liability for the relative peanuts that Google would pay them.

    So Peter, should they maintain their common carrier protections when they don’t act like common carriers?

    1. Note this situation does not involve any additional laws governing the internet. It is merely working within the current legal framework around the internet.

    2. Didn’t Comcast come under fire for suppressing Bit Torrent data recently? If so Comcast has already quit acting like a common carrier – but what do you expect them to do? 99.9% (literally, there was a study done a few weeks ago) of Bit Torrent traffic is illegal and in order to prosecute those downloading copyright protected media ISPs need to hand over the information of their customers, so what do you expect Comcast to do? If you don’t think that costs time and money, you’re mistaken.

    3. The current state of telecom law is that common carrier regulation (what is called “Title II”) doesn’t apply to broadband. The reason broadband providers are “safe” from certain accusations regarding what people do using their services are certain legal safe harbors in, for example, the DMCA. These safe harbors, I believe, are not linked in any way to their status as common carriers. Therefore, as broadband providers they are not common carriers, and thus need not act like common carriers.

  15. If you offer better bandwidth you’re undercutting, if you offer the same you’re colluding, if you offer less you’re gouging.

    No matter what it’s going to court and some lawyers are going to get rich.

    Laws are written by lawyers for the purpose of providing work for lawyers.
    Talk about conflict of interest!

    1. Kind of like union workers getting government bailouts then unions skimming their dues off and sending them back to the pols who gave them bailouts.

  16. The fact is, larger companies will always have more resources, financial and otherwise…..Yet I don’t see anyone at the FCC debating a no-slides-in-offices rule.

    So we should make that disparity larger by allowing the haves to keep the have nots out of the market?

    This isn’t an issue about resources or making companies egalitarian. It’s about promoting competition and allowing innovators to innovate without allowing competitors to squeeze those who can’t afford to partner up out of the market space.

    It’s about lowering barriers to entry into the market place. All things that libertarians supposedly are in favor of. But once again the corporatist whores come out and pretend up is down. Like good little shills the “libertarians” are arguing against a more competitve landscape and pushing for situations where oligarchy reigns supreme and startups have to pay to play.

    As a consumer there is no benefit to allowing a tiered internet. All it does is consolidate power in the biggest players. And time and again it’s been shown that the biggest players stifle innovation and use their market share to control the market and profit by doing things like raising prices while degrading services. And the reason they can do that is because of a lack of competition.

    Someone please explain to me why it would be a great situation to give Verizon or any other entity the ability to refuse data traffic (or to slow it down considerably) from Vonage or any other VoIP service.

    And what about exclusivity agreements? If Google decides to pay verizon to be the only video content site allowed — is that acceptable? And if Google does this with the handful of mobile providers out there that’s A-OK too.

    This whole post is basically missing the point while downplaying real threats.

    The internet should stay the way it is. Open and available and non-discriminatory. And that’s what net neutrality will do — keep it the way it is. Verizon shouldn’t be able to social engineer my browsing habits by dictating which sites I can access, or even degrading my access to sites/services that aren’t paying extortion money. As a consumer it’s my choice. Verizon’s job is to be a data pipe. And they shouldn’t get to use their pipes to give preference to their their data to the detriment of other data providers.

    It’s one thing to do QoS tuning on your network. But it should be source/destination independent. VoIP should get the same priority whehter it’s from Vonage or Verizon or Comcast. Anyone who believes otherwise is just a corporate whore.

    Fuck Google Verizon and anyone else who opposes net neutrality. There is absolutely no reason to allow these companies to discriminate that will actually help consumers. It’s just a way to limit choices to consumers and prevent startups from challenging the dominance of the entrenched entities

    1. That’s a lot of words to say that you don’t understand how regulation tends to hurt the little guys the most.

    2. It appears you haven’t read the Verizon/Google framework, which would forbid discrimination on wireline broadband connections.

    3. Verizon shouldn’t be able to social engineer my browsing habits by dictating which sites I can access, or even degrading my access to sites/services that aren’t paying extortion money.

      Shorter ChiTom: I have a vivid imagination! And anyone who says differently is a poopy head!

    4. So you, and all of their other subscribers, are going to stick with Verizon if you have to pay the same for mobile Internet as subscribers to other carriers, but only get a fraction of he selection? Way to think that one through.

    5. A funny thing about the market is that when a business does something that customer doesn’t like, for example Verizon screwing with your Vonage, the customer has the power to take their business somewhere else.

      Let’s say some ISP wants to specialize in gaming. They want to build a customer base by giving priority to game related web traffic because that is what the customer wants. Under Net Neutrality this business model would be considered discriminatory because it discriminates against non-game related web traffic. In the name of “fairness” this business is taken to court, some lawyers make a bunch of money, and the gamers end up moving to Verizon.

      Sounds like a case of Baptists and Bootleggers to me.

  17. The next two guys who want to start, say, ShmouTube won’t be able to do it if they’ve got to negotiate business development delivery fee deals with one ISP overnight delivery company after another in order to reach those ISPs’ subscribers. And that’s the real danger: when each ISP overnight delivery company can, in effect, speak on behalf of its unwitting subscribers, serving as the troll under the bridge offering up different conditions for access to them faster delivery, the economics of the Net rapid package delivery will start to favor the consolidated, the well-connected, the well-heeled. Verizon Amazon and Google FedEx each have reason to take the trouble to negotiate with one another to begin with?they’ve both big, and each can offer uniquely desirable benefits to the other.

    Fixed.

    Oh noes! Greater customer satisfaction! We cants have that!

    1. And then I RTF the whole thing….d’oh.

      The hive mind loves me more than you, Suderman!

    2. That’s an excellent edit.

      You can actually go further back, to the very first federal regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887…

      The next two guys who want to start, say, ShmouTube Shmandard Oil won’t be able to do it if they’ve got to negotiate business development shipping rate deals with one ISP railroad after another in order to reach those ISPs’ consumers. And that’s the real danger: when each ISP railroad can, in effect, speak on behalf of its unwitting subscribers customers, serving as the troll under the bridge offering up different conditions for access to them faster shipping, the economics of the Net transport industry will start to favor the consolidated, the well-connected, the well-heeled. Verizon The New York Central Railroad and Google Standard Oil each have reason to take the trouble to negotiate with one another to begin with?they’ve both big, and each can offer uniquely desirable benefits to the other.

      Oh, yeah. The ICC. That’s something we want to replicate.

  18. The internet should stay the way it is. Open and available and non-discriminatory. And that’s what net neutrality will do — keep it the way it is.

    Yet, oddly, the internet has been, and still is, open and available and non-discriminatory without an oversight agency.

    So why do we need to create a government overseer? As far as I can see, it has zero benefits (we already have all the benefits) and plenty of risks. I’ll pass, thanks.

    1. Indeed. Get the FCC in there and the next thing you know, THEY will be throttling bittorrent.

      They’ll be obligated to enforce copyrights.

      1. Makes me RAGE to think of any torrents being throttled! They’d do it too! and first the partyvan came for the 4channers but I said nothing.

    2. To paraphrase Mayor Daley, the FCC isn’t here to create market failure, it’s here to preserve it.

    3. The government is like the mafia and once you let them into your business they shake you down, steal your shit, demand partnership then burn it to the ground and collect the insurance.

  19. If anything, it seems like consumers would benefit from larger web providers being able to offer nifty, advanced services that a smaller competitor might not be able to afford.

    Shouldn’t we benefit from larger governments being able to provide nifty, advanced services that a smaller government might not be able to afford?

  20. I think the paradigm in which content providers pay for speedier service only works in bandwidth limited conditions.

    But doesn’t the tiered service already offerered to consumers stimulate bandwidth buildout ?

    Why would consumers stop demanding faster everything?

  21. I’m a pro-freedom computer geek, and an internet entrepreneur. I’ve seen the pro-net-neutrality side shift over the past couple years, from worrying about ISPs blocking peer-to-peer apps to something dealing with fairness in wholesale bandwidth pricing. It’s tough to argue against net-neutrality when it encompasses several related-but-distinct concepts. NN proponents will simply change the topic.

    Net-neutrality advocates haven’t come up with a convincing argument yet about why we need the government stepping in to protect the Internet. Mostly it’s about how Comcast MIGHT block traffic or what Verizon MAY charge. There’s very little evidence that people have been inconvenienced by actual transgressions on the part of the ISPs. You see, all else being equal, they WANT you to think your Internet connection is fast so that you’re a satisfied customer, and don’t jump ship and recommend them to your friends.

    Finally, I’ll note that differential pricing allows some arbitrage and allows the little guy to piggyback on the big guys’ infrastructure. Here’s one example: Amazon Cloudfront. For a very modest price, Amazon will host your static content and deliver it over their worldwide, ultra-fast servers. You get much better delivery speeds than you’d ever get doing your own hosting, and for much lower prices. Even sneakier startups are using Google Sites to host their content on Google’s content delivery network, and that, so far, is completely free.

  22. I strongly favor Net Neutrality on the grounds that it is necessary for freedom of speech (Has anyone taken a look at Iran and China?). I do understand the arguments that in a competitive marketplace some other ISP would come about that does not discriminate between content. However, the USA is still not there, with large regions still not being covered by more than a couple broadband ISPs. The USA is much larger in surface than South Korea or Finland, so I am not sure it is yet ready to start differentiating its market. Though in principle I agree it shouldn’t be prevented, as long as customers were informed of the non-neutral policies.

    1. “Now who can argue with that? I think we’re all indebt to Gabby Johnson for stating what needed to be said. I am particulary glad that these lovely children are here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed the courage little seen in this day and age.”

    2. I strongly favor Net Neutrality on the grounds that it is necessary for freedom of speech

      You apparently don’t understand that the First Amendment puts limits on the federal government, not private businesses.

      1. And you apparently don’t understand that if the internet is “controlled” by the government through the FCC under the principle of Net Neutrality, then the government will have to protect 1st Amendment on the ‘net by ensuring that nobody’s content gets arbitrarily shut out.

        Kind of like the Fairness Doctrine, but applicable for every individual instead of the big parties.

        1. the government will have to protect 1st Amendment on the ‘net by ensuring that nobody’s content gets arbitrarily shut out.

          You don’t have any First Amendment right to force private parties to do anything. Try again.

      2. If no existing broadband ISP will carry your perfectly legal content to interested viewers, or will penalize its speed, then government didn’t need to censor you at any point – you are still effectively banned from the internet. (And not that I trust the government not to twist private arms regarding some people’s speech, either). I know that the First doesn’t apply to private businesses, which is why don’t think it should be mandated. I simply don’t think the USA is ready to deal with this, as our broadband market is only competitive enough to correct the problem itself in some regions. If there were 10 or more broadband ISPs everywhere, I wouldn’t mind. If ISPs committed not to apply preference rules in uncompetitive places, I wouldn’t mind. I mind because I don’t think the market is strong enough yet. Though of course, I might be wrong, and of course, even if I am right, it might become strong enough within a year or two.

    3. I strongly favor Net Neutrality on the grounds that it is necessary for freedom of speech (Has anyone taken a look at Iran and China?).

      I really don’t know whether you’re suggesting that similar legislation would liberalize online speech in the countries you mentioned or that said countries should be upheld as ideals against which we should structure our own regulations. Whichever it may be, what is clear is how much of a complete idiot you are.

      1. You begin by favoring YouTube because Google pays premium fees. How long before you begin slowing down a rival site, or even, for a high enough fee, completely blocking access?

        Now, YouTube, as such, would probably be simply an issue of competition, but not of outright censorship of speech. But it shouldn’t take an additional neuron to see that it can easily be used to censor controversial speech. As long as the USA doesn’t have nearly the competition that some European and East Asian countries have in broadband, I am not sure I am comfortable with this. Even though there must be a way to prevent it other than calling the FCC to regulate it.

  23. No one would care about net neutrality if the FCC didn’t exist. You’d have so many providers to choose from, you’d probably use 2 or 3 instead of only one because the competition would be so great the prices would afford you the opportunity to use more than one.

    But the FCC does exist. And we have fewer providers because of it.

    So we’re doomed.

    1. So we’re doomed.

      Doooooomed.

    2. So we’re doomed.

      Dooomed!

      1. So we’re doomed.

        Dooomed!

        [Breath]

        DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO …

    3. Doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom doom

      1. Wasn’t there a children’s show on PBS called Doom?

    4. That too!!! Thank you!!

  24. I find it odd that for all this debate about regulating broadband for the benefit and livelihood of small start-ups, I don’t believe I’ve yet heard anyone that actually represents a small start-up chime in on the subject.

  25. I think net neutrality is a bad idea. I was recently able to purchase an iPhone because ATT offered “evil” tiered data. Well, it turns out that by offering this “evil”, “capped”, plan, the entry costs data-wise were cut in half and I can enjoy a premium smartphone, an iPhone no less, for less than the other “unlimited” service providers. This is evident innovation to me, from the people/businesses creating a wireless internet market, which unless I’m mistaken is what the Google/Verizon thing was talking about.

    1. Capped vs Unlimited is not the issue.

      The issue is whether traffic from site A is given a higher priority and thus a higher download speed than traffic from site B.

      I do agree that capped plans reduce entry costs and are probably a good idea for nearly all non-heavy users and for phone access. What my complaint is about is that no site should be treated differently from another site, or at least the ISP should tell me beforehand that they will do it, and then I decide if it’s worth signing.

      1. So then perhaps you can support a much more limited version of Net Neutrality… one that simply requires disclosure about what traffic is being prioritized?

  26. Zittrain is a very sharp guy, but he’s completely wrong about this.

    Let’s stipulate at the outset that the last-mile telcos are contemptible bastards. Their last-mile monopoly is entirely a creature of regulation, and they’ve been squatting on it since the early part of the 20th century like they have some sort of natural property right to it. They’ve repeatedly bargained to keep competitors off their networks, pledging to use those monopoly rents to build out more bandwidth, only to promptly break those promises and either pocket the rents or use them to cross-subsidize their business. The idea that the last-mile telcos are pro-free market is a sick joke: what they want is not a free market, but a politically-sheltered market favoring the incumbents (them).

    The mistake that Zittrain and other net neutrality folks make is thinking that it’s possible to devise a regulatory solution to the problem. I hate to describe Zittrain as a well-meaning fool, but in this context it’s impossible to characterize his naivete otherwise: he doesn’t seem to get that complex regulation favors the incumbent, nor the concept of regulatory capture. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that there’s no bright line between legitimate QoS and traffic-shaping on the one hand, and “bad” service teiring on the other, and that as such there’s absolutely no chance that an entity as institutuionally incompetent as the FCC will successfully manage to split the baby — but that there’s a far greater likelihood that any regulatory regime will simply cement the telcos’ unnatural monopoly.

    What we need is to break the scarcity assumptions about bandwidth on which the telcos’ position is based. Enough mesh networking, especially wireless mesh, and the whole rotten last-mile monopoly will come tumbling down under its own weight.

    1. Exactly. I favor neutrality for a freer internet, but I am under no delusion that the FCC will do a great job in creating or enforcing such.

  27. Nothing wrong with service tiering, so long as the same tiers are open for anyone to purchase. As shitty as telecoms are, the worst they do is overcharge you; letting the government, via the FCC, start laying the foundation for strong control of the internet and potentially the censorship of internet content is much more of a threat. At any rate, the telecoms can be put in their place if enough state and local governments had the political will to take the steps necessary to promote competition, even at the expense of short-term efficiency.

  28. Maybe this a “duh” thing to say, but Verizon is not the same as Verizon Wireless. Wireless communications are catching up to and sometimes surpassing the performance of hard-connected infrastructure. I’m not certain about this, but Verizon is not stepping up to plate at the top of the batting order.

  29. The playing field is already level. Leave the government out of it.

  30. No one would care about net neutrality if the FCC didn’t exist. You’d have so many providers to choose from, you’d probably use 2 or 3 instead of only one because the competition would be so great the prices would afford you the opportunity to use more than one.

    But the FCC does exist. And we have fewer providers because of it.

  31. Wireless communications are catching up to and sometimes surpassing the performance of hard-connected infrastructure. I’m not certain about this, but Verizon is not stepping up to plate at the top of the batting order.

  32. Richard Bennett had a good post in hightechforum today on traffic prioritization.

    http://www.hightechforum.org/a-question-of-priorities/

    Quote:

    “A lot of people have the idea that the Internet is some sort of warm and fuzzy cloud of altruism in which people carry packets as a public service; Jonathan Zittrain promotes the idea that it’s like passing hot dogs down the line at a baseball game. According to this notion, when a Verizon customer in Boston sends a packet to an AT&T customer in California, a completely unrelated group of organizations carry the packet without any economic interest in it. So the prioritization scheme would need to be endorsed by all of them or it wouldn’t work.

    “This is wrong, actually. When the VZ customer is sending to ATT, all VZ (his origin network) has to do is get the packet to the nearest edge of the ATT network, and ATT will take it from there. These two large networks peer with each other, so in most cases no other network is involved. In some instances, VZ may have to use a transit network to reach ATT, or ATT may have to use a transit network to reach VZ, but even in that case, the transit network would be doing work-for-hire for a paying customer and would therefore be bound to carry out the job as they’re told (and paid) to do.”

    There’s more, for the technical minded…

  33. I have two pipes into my house. Verizon FiOS and Cox. In my opinion both of them overcharge for the services provided. Two suppliers does not an efficient market make. They have little incentive to compete against one another and they don’t. At least not in any really meaningful way.

    What to do? I have no choice but to use one of them. In which case I really, really don’t want them deciding which traffic gets prioritized to my house, because if I don’t like the decisions they make, I have nowhere else to go.

  34. Not surprised to find commenters here against government regulation. But are we really going to believe in the fairy land that there is competition among ISPs? Real competition would be welcome and would obviate the need for any Net Neutrality legal intervention. But there isn’t any real competition among ISPs. If you’re lucky, you have a choice between one cable co and one DSL network. A few areas have FIOS thrown into the mix. That’s not real competition.

    So why is net neutrality an issue now when it wasn’t ten years ago? Hasn’t the internet done just fine without it? Sure — but it’s a reaction to a changing landscape where deals like Google/Verizon are starting to emerge. As long as ISPs exist in a quasi-monopoly state, then I’d say Net Neutrality is the lesser of two evils. Because Time Warner has every incentive to throttle my Amazon or Netflix downloads in favor of their own On Demand service. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already happening (some of those Amazon.com downloads mysteriously take forever on an otherwise speedy network). Don’t I need some recourse against that? What’s my recourse? Moving to an area served by Cox, so that they can do the same thing?

    1. Your recourse is to stop being stuch a statist asswipe and to demand that the government stop protecting the telco’s last-mile monopoly. That is the problem, and imagining that there is some magic regulatory formula that will make the telcos play nice is utter stupidity.

  35. this is a competitive society, which is fulling with competition every where

  36. Start-ups always face long odds against entrenched competitors, which is why the majority of new businesses fail relatively quickly.

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