Internet

Save the Net

Abolish the FCC

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Because there exists no area of human activity that couldn't benefit from more paternalistic attention … Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Federal Communications Commission to your Web browser.

Congressional Democrats cannot find the votes to pass "network neutrality." No problem. Three unelected officials will impose rules on hundreds of millions of satisfied online consumers. A federal appeals court stops the FCC from employing authority over the Internet. Again, not a problem. Three out of five FCC commissioners can carve out some temporary wiggle room, because, as any crusading technocrat knows, the most important thing is getting in the door.

It's not that we don't need the FCC's meddling (or worse); it's that we don't need the FCC at all. Rather than expanding the powers—which always seem to grow—of this outdated bureaucracy, Congress should be finding ways to eliminate it.

Why would we want a prehistoric bureaucracy overseeing one of the past century's great improvements? As a bottom-up, unregulated, and "under-taxed" market in which technological innovation, free speech, and competition thrive—at affordable prices, no less—the Internet poses a crisis of ideology, not commerce, for the FCC.

It's about control and relevance. What else can explain the proactive rescue of the Web from capitalistic abuses that reside exclusively in the imaginations of a handful of progressive ideologues?

What is the FCC doing? It's complicated, and in some ways, it's irrelevant. It claims that regulatory power will ensure that consumers enjoy an "open Internet." (With more broadband providers than ever, is there anything more open than the Internet?) But the FCC can censor speech. And once the FCC can regulate Internet service providers, those providers will be more compliant and more interested in making censors happy.

The FCC also can hand out favors that hurt competition. And as Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, wrote in 2008, "economic growth requires innovation. Trouble is, Washington is practically designed to resist it. Built into the DNA of the most important agencies created to protect innovation, is an almost irresistible urge to protect the most powerful instead."

Even as Chairman Julius Genachowski claims that he will employ a "light touch," the FCC leaves open the possibility that it will use the Title II docket to classify broadband as a public utility—and, as you know, nothing says progress and modernization like "utility."

The same organization that forced all consumers to buy Ma Bell-made telephones for decades, the same FCC that enforced speech codes via radio "fairness doctrines," the same FCC that took two decades after its invention to OK cellular technology for the marketplace and acted similarly sluggishly with cable and satellite innovation has no business online. It has a history of hurting consumers, not protecting them. (Unless you need protection from fleeting expletives and the once-a-decade nipple controversy.)

It is likely that a new Congress—or perhaps the courts—will undo this regulatory power play. And though "net neutrality," or "open Internet" (no one needs to worry; doublespeak is still flourishing), may not survive, it reminds us that the FCC's institutional positions conflict with the vibrancy and freedom of the Internet.

Positions that are as archaic as they are detrimental.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 THE DENVER POST
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Bonus Reason.tv Video: "3 Reasons the FCC Shouldn't 'Touch' the Internets"

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  1. We ALWAYS trust the FCC over the private sector. You should, too.

  2. In Soviet Union, kommission abolishes YOU.

  3. But… but… if we got rid of the FCC, we’d be just like Somalia!

    Oh, and roads.

  4. The same organization that forced all consumers to buy Ma Bell-made telephones for decades, the same FCC that enforced speech codes via radio “fairness doctrines,” the same FCC that took two decades after its invention to OK cellular technology for the marketplace and acted similarly sluggishly with cable and satellite innovation[,] has no business online. It has a history of hurting consumers, not protecting them.

    It’s all part of the “best deal” that people obtain from the government for the money taken, as Tony said…

    “Taxes aren’t charity. They’re payment for services–and the best deal you’ll ever find.

    https://reason.com/blog/2010/12…..a#comments

    1. Tony is a certified moron.

      1. No, he’s simply a true believer. Has the mind of a martyr, or at least the will to place himself in similar harm, intellectually speaking.

        1. I suppose so. Like any religion Statism requires faith in a higher power, in this case the god is called Government.

          1. The God is actually “The Public”/”Society” or “The Nation”/”Race” in the case of Fascism. The Government is just its prophet and enforcer who delivers to individuals the directives of their collective will and makes them sacrifice their individual will to it.

            1. So is Nancy Pelosi the Holy Ghost here?

              1. Nope. Just another “Indulgance” salesman.

        2. Exactly, he’s a moron.

    2. Huh, that’s odd, I don’t recall ever asking for this service. No, now I remember, I stated in no uncertain terms that I do not want this service.

  5. It is likely that a new Congress?or perhaps the courts?will undo this regulatory power play.

    Very likely the next Congress. The current Statist fucks will not lift a single finger against their regulatory troll.

    1. I think they should do more than that. An examples needs to be made to future bureaucrats who decide to enact rules illegally. At the very least, the Chairman and the commissioners who voted “Yes” to regulation need to be removed. If congress doesn’t already have the authority to punish these fuckers, it better get it.

      At first I wondered why a federal agency can enact new regulations with out first getting congressional approval first. I’m referring to regulations for areas congress has already enacted legislation. I then realized that the agencies serve as a fall guy for congress. When a federal agency enacts a regulation that pisses off us commoners, members of congress can claim not to have supported them.

      1. Also, the regulatory agency provides a fig leaf for the industry it supposedly regulates. Usually, when a regulatory regime is imposed, players get some form of immunity from lawsuits or other court action, as long as they make a “good faith” effort to operate within the rules and according to the standards set up by the regulatory agency. This is a very valuable consideration. If something goes wrong, the player can say, “we were doing everything above board and within the law.” The agency, on the other hand, can tighten its standards, hire more inspectors, and say, “we’ve addressed the problem, the system works, move along, nothing to see here.” Win-win, and the taxpayer pays.

  6. I don’t see our current government ever abolishing the FCC, but let’s add this to the list of things to do once the revolution happens and America is renamed Libertopia.

    1. Re pmains,

      Ok, no problem… Uh, under the “People to place against the wall once Revolution comes” list, right?

      1. I’ve done the math, and my list has more people than there are walls.

        1. So, we need more walls. JOBS! Two birds with one stone.

          1. I was thinking of just outsourcing to the Chinese. I hear they have a bigass wall and lots of practice putting people up against it.

            1. THREE birds with one stone, C’mon people!

              1. meh, let me know when you can get a baker’s dozen.

            2. If we send these douche bags to China they will probably be given jobs regulating the internet in China, which at this point can only mean that they are going to just shut it off.

      2. Right alongside the executives from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

  7. That’s a nice Lessig quote. Too bad for you when he spoke of “open”, he was speaking *for* Net Neutrality.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/…..1064UL.DTL

    But hey, nice quote mining.

  8. What is the FCC doing? […] It claims that regulatory power will ensure that consumers enjoy an “open Internet.” (With more broadband providers than ever, is there anything more open than the Internet?) But the FCC can [also] censor speech. And once the FCC can regulate Internet service providers, those providers will be more compliant and more interested in making censors happy.

    The excuse for Net Neutrality is something in the lines of raping the girl in order to save her virtue.

    1. Sharia for all!!

    2. They’re trying to get away with a free speech version of this little George W. Bush gem:

      “I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system”

    3. Most pedophiles rape because they believe their victims will enjoy it. I suspect the desire to regulate is driven by the same twisted impulse.

  9. That quote by Lessig was speaking *for* Net Neutrality. He’s a very strong supporter of it, and it’s completely dishonest to pass his words of as anti-NN. When he said open, he was talking about an internet *with* Net Neutrality. I tried to post a link, but it was flagged as spam. Instead, I urge you to Google “lessig net neutrality” and stop being dishonest about who you quote,

    1. Here is the entire Lessing Newsweek piece regarding the FCC’s inhibiting of innovation.

      http://www.newsweek.com/2008/12/22/reboot-the-fcc.html

      “The solution here is not tinkering. You can’t fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: “minimal intervention to maximize innovation.” The iEPA’s core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies?excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.”

  10. Yes, the FCC is one of many federal make work projects that needs to severely have their wings clipped, because they have begun to play way outside what ought to be their legitimate boundaries.

    The only reason I can think of having an agency similar to the FCC is as a repository for technical standards, and as the agent for auctioning and tracking (in the sense of non-partisan referee) the use of the physically limited electromagnetic spectrum. ANY of their activities that even consider content should be WAY out of bounds, period.

    As John Fund points out in his WSJ op-ed, the FCC’s actions in this were courtesy of the careful crafting and framing of a non-existent problem. My additional take is that they’ve hyperinflated some free market squabbling over short term growth issues that will be overcome by events as bandwidth capacity continues to increase overall, using it as a cheap excuse for a power grab.

    Defunding these bozos isn’t enough. The entire premise of the FCC, established in the nascent days of the telecommunications revolution, needs to be seriously revisited, and ruthlessly constrained into a narrow, bean counting core function, with no need for a politically appointed management layer.

    1. A friend on mine works on spectrum issues for the FCC. But they also saw fit to send him to Hawaii for 3 months to hand on literature at wal-mart about the DTV conversion.

      1. And I bet the literature pointed out that Walmart shoppers could get a coupon paid with my tax dollars to buy a converter set. When Eleanor Holmes Norton was on my local news complaining that more of her constituants needed those vouchers, I almost threw a brick through my TV. If her constituents could not buy a converter box, they needed to get their sorry asses off the couch and produce something. That being said, auctioning off spectrum and setting standards to prevent interference are the only two legitimate purposes of the FCC, and Congress needs to expreslly limit its authority to those items.

    2. Why is the FCC even needed to establish standards or regulate the EM spectrum? Are private entities incapable of establishing standards or partitioning scarce resources (e.g. EM frequencies) amongst themselves?

      I’m looking around my lab right now. I see things like CF, ISO, and KF flanges for high vacuum work; NPT connections for piping; BNC and SMA cables for RF transmissions, a huge number of resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, and ICs. I have no idea who made these components – they were almost certainly bought from many different manufacturers. Yet they all interoperate perfectly because they conform to standards established by the industry which builds them.

      I also have 304/316 stainless steel, OFHC and OFE copper, at least a dozen different varieties of aluminum alloys, and many other metals. All scarce resources manufactured by who-knows-what company conforming to some set of standards instituted by the industry.

      Is the EM spectrum so different that companies (who, incidentally, know much more about the technical details of the problem than the FCC) are unable to partition its use amongst themselves? Somehow I doubt it.

      1. Are you just the janitor where you work? Your surroundings imply that you should know how all you need is more broadcasting power to “steal” someone else’s piece of the spectrum.

        The FCC is the Force of Law that prevents 98.7ROCK from spraying America with 15terawatts of radio, thereby “stealing” 98.7 from anyone else trying to use that part of the spectrum.

        1. The difference being, there is no scarcity involved in all your parts fitting/working together. But If I have enough money for electricity and transmission hardware, I can make the EM spectrum pretty scarce for anyone else.

        2. There are physical limits to wave propagation in the FM band. All that cranking up the power does for an FM station is to saturate the local coverage area with EMR. It is possible for people living and working near such a monster transmitter to get a little bit “cooked,” which would definitely provide a reason for government to step in. Frequencies in the AM band can give you long-range coverage, primarily through their ability to be bounced back to the earth from the ionosphere, and to be impeded less by obstacles such as buildings and mountains.

          Government may have a role to play in registering and enforcing spectrum claims, and in safeguarding citizens from the downside of excessive Electro-Magnetic Radiation. But beyond that, we don’t need its “help,” and we certainly don’t need the FCC to serve as national gatekeeper/censor — two things that are anathema to the First Amendment.

          1. Also, to answer the upthread question, even those things that I admit MAY provide excuse for government intervention do not absolutely REQUIRE it. Private firms can register and enforce spectrum claims; Private entities such as UL and similar testing organizations can confirm compliance with safety and technical standards; Private insurance — through claims settlement and variation in premiums charged — can compensate those who are damaged by the players and “punish” the players as necessary.

            1. Private firms can register and enforce spectrum claims; Private entities such as UL and similar testing organizations can confirm compliance with safety and technical standards; Private insurance — through claims settlement and variation in premiums charged — can compensate those who are damaged by the players and “punish” the players as necessary.

              Your argument doesn’t actually involve abolishing the FCC, it just implies that a quasi-private bureaucracy be placed between the FCC/courts and the people directly involved.

              Sure, we should remove the unconstitutional censorship role it has given itself, but its technical role is necessary and can only work when done with the force of law.

              1. Private agreements can have the force of law. We call them “contracts.”

                1. So I draw up a contract with my friend that says I own the whole RF spectrum. Then someone else starts broadcasting on it. How do I get money from them?

                  You haven’t really thought this through.

                  1. Oh, you got me!

                    Well, I’m not an expert, but I’ve heard of some homesteading protections enforced by claims organizations.

                    1. Well, I’m not an expert, but I’ve heard of some homesteading protections enforced by claims organizations.

                      So your point is? That settlers in the 19th century set up small local government entities (I would call it a massive stretch of terminology to refer to them as private) to register land claims and this proves that ad-hoc local management of the RF spectrum could work?

                      Some things are simply no practical at a local level. This is one of them.

                    2. You can’t homestead a broadcast spectrum? What if you are the first person to broadcast in that spectrum?

                    3. You can’t homestead a broadcast spectrum?

                      No. Not in any remotely rational sense of the word.

                      What if you are the first person to broadcast in that spectrum?

                      How do you prove it, and how do you enforce it? If your answer involved courts, then do they just take your word for it, or that of some random private company you registered with? What if my random private registration company says otherwise? If you think there should be some central registry and a technically literate arbiter of conflicts, then you just advocated for the FCC under a different name.

    3. “Yes, the FCC is one of many federal make work projects that needs to severely have their wings clipped, because they have begun to play way outside what ought to be their legitimate boundaries.”
      Wing clipping will not work the wings must be completely removed and the agency killed!

  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P…..ume_(film)

    During my pro-State years, I used to hate that movie. Now, I see it as a good libertarian-leaning movie that shows the exercise of freedom in the face of tyrannical efforts by FCC thugs.

      1. Oh, right, sorry: Pump Up The Volume.

        1. The only Christian Slater movie I liked was Heathers because he dies.

            1. Does he die? ‘Cause if not I’m not interested.

              1. Yes, he does… Horribly. Maybe. I don’t remember, as the movie is so dull…

              2. See Very Bad Things.

            2. He Was a Quite Man was good.

              He dies.

            3. True Romance was a good one. I believe he dies in the alternate ending, if I remember correctly. But even in the one where he lives, he gets shot in the head.

              1. I spell an opportunity to create a “Movies Where Christian Slader Is Killed Or Dies” database… Could be called MWCSIKODd.com

  12. What? We’ll have AM radio stations broadcasting on top of each other!

    1. RADIO WAVES PILING UP IN THE STREEEEEEEETS111!!!!!111OENONEONEONEONE!

      1. “This is 98.7, your 500 petawatt TSUNAMI of nationwide rock ‘n’ roll!!!!11!1!…”

        1. Let the strongest survive.

  13. I’ve been wondering for the last few days what the feasibility of setting up a global private network would be. Setting up an open DNS system would be step one.

    Step 2 would seem to be establishing a network of WiMax transceivers. The price for one of these is in the thousands. So, no need to buy up massive amounts of real estate. Put this baby in your attic, and you’re now a node on the private grid. Unlike trying to build private roads without gov’t permission/cooperation, I think this is feasible.

    1. The geeks who would want such a service can do so already.

      But the average non-geek doesn’t actually care about connecting to thousands of other private users on an open protocol. They want to watch multimedia on NetFlix, Hulu, and YouTube, buy music from iTunes, shop for books and stuff on Amazon & eBay, and keep up with their friends & family via Facebook.

      Oh, and porn, obviously.

      Whatever network those commercial services are on, that’s the network most people will want to be on, regardless of what sort of regulatory hassles might be in place.

      1. You would still be able to access Netflix and Hulu. The point is that you have a DNS system which can not be taken down by the FCC because it is distributed. And the tubes can’t be shut down because they’re not in the hands of corporations that have been cowed by the feds.

        Also, there are a fair number of people in Iran and China who would like the service of being able to freely speak out against their government.

        1. Also, there are a fair number of people in Iran and China who would like the service of being able to freely speak out against their government.

          Coming Soon, to an America near you!

          1. No joke, wylie. This is why internet freedom is ultimately not just for the nerds.

            Government is like a clumsy child. We need to keep internet on the top shelf, lest they break it.

  14. Reason is hitting the drumbeat pretty hard about ISP misbehavior being entirely hypothetical, but liberals are pointing just as hard at the recent Comcast extortion of extra dollars over a complicated and confusing NetFlix dustup as the smoking gun which proves the FCC needs to step in or big evil corporations will ruin our Internets.

    Being a DSL subscriber, I couldn’t give two shits about what Comcast does, but a lot of nanny-state hand wringers are trying their damndest to tell me I should.

    1. the recent Comcast extortion of extra dollars over a complicated and confusing NetFlix dustup

      Explanation For Dummies:

      Netflix had paid for X amount of bandwidth. Netflix was using 125% of X. Comcast wanted 125% of the previous fee.

      Not Extortion. Not Complicated. Not Confusing.

      (Please excuse me while I go beat this drum.)

    2. Yeah, but I usually respond to such people that that is only a problem if you live in an area where Comcast is your only option. Besides, I still don’t see the problem with ISP’s charging customers extra for certain services. In the Comcast example, I believe that they are justified in wanting heavier users to pay more for a service that will cost Comcast more to provide without netting them any extra money. Why should Comcast have to charge a heavy downloader the exact same rate as somebody who only checks their emails and facebook?

      Sure, similar actions could be taken simply to phase out the competition, but it seems to me that Netflix is already has such a large market share (I’m not sure that they have any direct competition for the kind of service that they provide) in the national market, where no ISP has anything close to a monopoly. If Comcast wants to provide a similar free service to their subscribers while forcing subscribers to pay extra for Netflix, won’t that increase competition in the national market, even if it decreases competition in some local markets? The whole economic argument for Net Neutrality is supposed to be that it will encourage competition, but with Net Neutrality in place, it seems like it would be really hard for anybody to compete with the likes of youtube or facebook. If Comcast was able to charge for such services while launching a free service to their subscribers to replace them (Youcast and Combook), that might give them a local monopoly privilege, but it would also give them a base to launch a competitor and alternative to the traditional juggernauts in the national market. Basically, local monopolies could give certain start up services the time that they need to grow into national competitors. The potential to earn more money could actually bring in investment into sectors that are being neglected, because “who wants to compete with youtube or facebook?”

      Also, Net Neutrality is stupid for one basic reason: you probably want some packets of information to have priority over others. IF a surgeon was working on my heart via an internet connected device, I would want those packets of information to have priority over somebody downloading Shrek the Third. Also, why shouldn’t businesses that would benefit from faster connections have the option to pay extra for faster service? It seems to me that such an option would create a network arms race between corporations leading to faster and more effective networks overall.

      1. Also, why shouldn’t businesses that would benefit from faster connections have the option to pay extra for faster service? It seems to me that such an option would create a network arms race between corporations leading to faster and more effective networks overall.

        Whoa, it’s almost like choice, and a market where people are free to make those choices, leads to better outcomes for everyone. Go figure.

        1. CHOICE CONFUSING! MAKE HULK HEAD PAIN. HULK WANT FCC TO CHOOSE FOR HULK, MAKE PAIN STOP!

        2. I think a good compromise is that if you have any type of legal monopoly status, you are bound by net neutrality.

          So it will be a disincentive to bribe a city council into keeping the competition out of a given area.

          1. Why bound by net neutrality, something that doesn’t exist in any of the countries with the best internet service. Why not simply require that any protected service provider sell a third of their network to competitors? This is exactly what they do in the countries with fast service, why not here? True, it is not a free market solution, but it is better than the status quo and better than net neutrality, which actually sucks quite a bit.

  15. The next Congress won’t do a damn thing about this unless the Tea Parties take this up as a cause, in which case they should be able to whip their Congressional bitches into line.

    But I don’t see that happening, actually.

    I do expect the courts to tell the FCC that they meant it the first time they told the FCC to fuck off.

  16. liberals are pointing just as hard at the recent Comcast extortion of extra dollars over a complicated and confusing NetFlix dustup

    I thought ComCast was exercising its contractual rights on an upstream content provider, not putting widows and orphans up against the wall.

    1. It’s the closest thing the liberal echo chamber has to ISP abuse that they can bounce around as evidence that “Net Neutrality” actually has a reason to exist, so they are rolling with it.

    2. I’ll try to summarize the issue:

      If you’re a single person, you pay an ISP for access to their network. If you’re a slightly bigger organization and run your own network, you might still pay a bigger network in order to carry your traffic and pass it on to others. This will require dedicated lines and ports on both sides to carry traffic from one network to the other.

      However, frequently two similar sized networks that might want to send a roughly similar sized amount of data both ways will sign free peering agreements, where they agree to let each other send data across without having to meter or pay for it. This is useful for a lot of reasons, but requires some level of mutual benefits for networks to agree to do this. The bigger you are, the more favorable terms you can get from other people, having your own traffic carried for free, and possibly charging smaller networks for carrying their traffic. The “Tier 1” networks are the ones that can basically send data anywhere without having to pay for it.

      Level 3 is a Tier 1 Internet backbone that has a free peering agreement with Comcast. Since Comcast acts as an ISP to lots of users and Level 3 doesn’t, and individual users use more downstream than upstream traffic, Level 3 sends more traffic to Comcast than vice versa, about twice as much. But Comcast has been happy to have a free peering agreement with Level 3– Comcast is actually a Tier 2 network, they have to pay transit costs to several Tier 1 networks in order to send data everywhere. That used to include Level 3, BTW.

      Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) provide lots of servers to host various files in different places so that when someone requests a file from e.g. Netflix, they can actually download it from somewhere close by instead of the main central Netflix server. Netflix and others outsource the problem of caching their files in many places. Akamai is one example. Many of them are not actually Tier 1 or even Tier 2 networks, and have to pay for host networks to carry their traffic.

      Level 3 has recently decided to get into the CDN game with its large network. It was able to undercut the previous contract holder for Netflix by saying that it would use its free peering agreements (as a Tier 1) instead of the paid transit that the previous contract holder used, and “pass the savings on” to Netflix.

      Level 3 then sent a letter to Comcast informing them that the amount of traffic from Level 3 to Comcast was about to double or triple in size, and that Comcast needed to pay to upgrade its network infrastructure for the direct links to Level 3 in order to handle it. Comcast balked at the idea of all this paid transit traffic from the previous contract holder suddenly turning into free peering traffic– actually worse than “free” because Comcast has to pay for the network upgrades.

      The end result will be about a 5:1 traffic ratio. However, Comcast users do want that traffic, and Level 3 is a bigger network than Comcast. I can’t really see how Comcast wins this battle.

      Still, if anyone is the behemoth pushing someone around, it’s Level 3, not Comcast. It’s Level 3 that’s using it’s much larger network, market share, and market power to use “predatory pricing” to win contracts in the CDN market.

      Ordinarily liberals would have a problem with that, I believe.

      1. Thanks for that explanation. I have yet to find one this detailed. So this is really just a pissing match between Comcast and Level 3 over who’s dick is bigger.

        Comcast must have some leverage over Level 3 even though they are smaller, otherwise they could just cancel the sharing agreement if they thought the cost of the network upgrades would be more than the cost of paying to use a Tier 1 network. On the other hand, Comcast would probably have to make these types of upgrades in the near future anyways. Are they simply posturing to get Level 3 to pick up some of the tab?

        I’m assuming Level 3 can’t just tell Comcast to go fuck itself either because they probably accounted for the sharing agreement with Comcast when they made their proposal to Netflix.

        I can’t imagine that this only affects Comcast. Have any other ISP’s joined into the fray?

        1. Are they simply posturing to get Level 3 to pick up some of the tab?

          Pretty much.

          I’m assuming Level 3 can’t just tell Comcast to go fuck itself either because they probably accounted for the sharing agreement with Comcast when they made their proposal to Netflix.

          Yep, pretty much. Though Level 3 thinks that Comcast needs the peering agreement more than Level 3 needs it, so they’re fighting about it more.

          Previously each side recognized that the free peering agreement was mutually beneficial. Level 3 changed the circumstances and wanted to alter the deal somewhat, and now Comcast is wondering if the deal is appropriate and wants to renegotiate.

          I suspect that Level 3 still wins in the end, but it’s not like this is the end of the Internet. Free peering agreements have always been voluntary, and they’ve worked because they’ve made sense for both sides. Big networks that have felt like they could do so have always made efforts to charge smaller ones for transit. It’s not an a bad thing, as it encourages networks to build more infrastructure.

          Reminds me of eminent domain really– two sides have problem coming to an agreement, which might affect third parties that are customers of one of the sides, so the government steps in to set what it thinks is a fair contract price.

      2. If Level 3 wins does that mean ultimately that it’s the lil’ ole Comcast customer who is going to take it up the rear? If Comcast can’t charge Level 3 and it can’t block the content, when it’s all said and done it’s the customer who is going to get hit with the bill.

        1. Correct, if Level 3 wins, then Comcast will presumably charge its customers more to make up for it.

          Some of the pro-Level 3 techies recognize this, and say that “well, Comcast should just charge its customers more, maybe charging for total throughput in a month or something like that if all that Netflix traffic is really killing them.”

  17. I have at least two techie friends who support FCC intervention. Is there something seriously wrong with them, or are they the norm?

    1. Many have this notion that no government imposed rules means no rules at all.

    2. This techie says there is something seriously wrong with them.

    3. There is something seriously wrong with them. All technology must work within strict protocols and tolerances, and they probably figure society must work the same way. Tell them to get out more.

    4. I think the vast majority of techies support some form of net neutrality (including many libertarian-leaning ones).

      The question is whether the FCC’s fiat ruling are anywhere close to the best way to go about that.

      As long as last-mile internet service remains an effective monopoly or duopoly in most of the country, this is going to be a recurring problem. The incentives just aren’t there for Comcast to treat its customer’s well. US customers are happy with their broadband service because they know no better alternatives – our net speeds lag the rest of the world, *even when* you count only heavily developed municipal areas (removing the “broad expanses” issue).

      1. Have you tried actually using the internet in “the rest of the world”? My experience with the internet in Europe is that it absolutely is not faster.

      2. Once again, the speed advantage in the rest of the world derives from a combination of subsidy and network sharing agreements, not net neutrality. There are no countries that have implemented full net neutrality guidelines. Japan has the fastest internet in the world, but they don’t have net neutrality.

        Too many ISP’s in the US have been granted a monopoly by the local government (Of course, even in the middle of Texas, you still have 3 different satellite providers, a cable company, and the phone company. Saying that there is a monopoly or duopoly on internet in this country is somewhat of a misrepresentation. Even where it does exist, it is more of a local problem.) In Europe and much of the rest of the world, ISP’s have to sell a part of their network (something like a quarter of it) to other ISP’s. This allows competition in a lot of areas where it might not exist. Personally, I’d rather that they just dispense with the monopoly protections, but this is an effective fix to the problem as long as monopoly protections are the rule and not the exception.

        Government subsidy also encourages faster speeds in some countries, but should that really be a government priority? I mean, yes, the growth of the internet did spur fast economic growth at one point, but we’ve kind of reached the limit of what can be done online. Sure, we’ll still see more innovation, but it won’t cause the same positive ripples through the economy as it used to. Does being able to download porn in .3 seconds instead of .8 seconds constitute a major achievement for mankind? I know, the differences are bigger than that, but still, it seems as if the future of the internet is simply downloading high def movies. E commerce has already reached its peaks. We already have all of the technology we need for commercial telecommuting. Anything else will simply be razzle-dazzle.

        IF you compare nations with fast internet connections on their economic performance, there is no clear evidence that faster connection speeds have led to faster growth. Of the countries with the fastest internet connections in the world, only South Korea has a faster rate of growth, but that is simply because South Korea is still a developing country at the peak of its post war Japan-like growth period. Modern Japan, Sweden, and Denmark are not growing any faster economically than the USA.

        1. Whoops, South Korea actually has the fastest internet in the world now.

          1. South Korea *definitely* doesn’t have net neutrality. They have a ton of cases of ISPs privileging their own content. That’s part of what subsidizes those faster speeds, natch.

        2. Does being able to download porn in .3 seconds instead of .8 seconds constitute a major achievement for mankind?

          If it means getting my pr0n 2.67 times faster, hell yes!!!

        3. Online video is a massive area for growth in the economy.

          I will *completely* grant you that telecom monopolies exist largely because of local government granted monopolies (although there organizing new cable roll-outs is tough enough even *with* the government regs) *and* that it would likely be better if they were not granted government monopolies.

          However, I fail to see how that justifies giving a company a monopoly with no pro-consumer strings attached.

          Also, the situation you described is exactly the duopoly I meant. Almost everyone in the US has two legitimate options: one DSL company and one Cable company. Satellite competes with those companies in the same way that Schwinn competes with GM – as in, not at all.

          1. “However, I fail to see how that justifies giving a company a monopoly with no pro-consumer strings attached.”

            This was why I advocated attaching strings:

            “Europe and much of the rest of the world, ISP’s have to sell a part of their network (something like a quarter of it) to other ISP’s.”

            Oh, I guess this doesn’t sound like I was advocating such a policy, but I meant to.

            I completely agree, if cable companies are going to be given local protections, they should have to share their network with potential competitors.

            But you essentially agree with me that net neutrality is a red herring, right? I’ve even read articles in the economist from Europeans essentially arguing the same point that I made. The US’s failures are not due to teh corporashuns raping us all via capitalism or a lack of net neutrality, but poor regulations that entrench monopolies.

    5. They make the same mistake many people do: that the enemy of your enemy is a friend, rather than an even worse enemy maneuvering into position to stab you in the back. They’re right that the telecoms are shitty, they just forget that the FCC is shittier.

      1. Seems to me that most liberals just have absolutely no concept of the slippery slope. “All this law does is regulate ISP behavior! It doesn’t allow the FCC to censor content!” They just can’t, in their idiotic naivete, even imagine that the FCC might go any farther.

        And when you point out that the FCC did exactly that with TV and radio, they either have no response or just start whining about corporations.

        1. The real issue is why anyone would expect the FCC to be the people’s representative in this and not that of the companies they are complaining about in the first place.

  18. I was recently watching this brilliant interview with Milton Friedman on Donahue, and it’s amazing the way he so effortlessly defends the free market principles of Capitalism and why government regulation and intervention in the markets is a huge contribution to economic suffering as well as how badly it stifles innovation.

    There are five parts, all well worth the time. But what’s fascinating to me (well, all of it is really) in the context of this discussion is his point about the costs that are added to trucking fees due to the Interstate Commerce Commission – (go to 6:30 of this clip for the details)

    This is the same argument I have against the current FCC operations in regards to the internet. All they have done is restrict economic freedom and stifle innovation.

    Also, as an added bonus Friedman argues against the bailout of Chrysler, IN 1979, starting around 2:00 of this clip.

    Good thing we didn’t repeat that mistake!

    1. I thought it was really interesting to hear Donahue arguing that Sears(or something) was this titanic invincible villian who would buy all its competetors and all that junk. Just the way they talk about WalMart now. Freidman’s response was no doubt viewed as loony or corporate shilling but he was exactly right. Sears got outcompeted and someday so will Walmart.

      1. What’s sad is that this is from 1979, and clearly we haven’t learned anything since we continue to repeat the same mistakes Friedman warned us about back then.

        1. You really bought that “if we don’t learn history we’re doomed to repeat it” bullshit?

          No amount of “alcohol prohibition benefited organized crime” has managed to sink in, so why would any other important lessons from the past have an effect either?

          1. Nah, I never bought in to that and you’re right the fight to defend liberty is never ending.

            It’s just that Friedman was so eloquent and easily understandable it frightens me how little we as a counrty actually learned from him.

            I’m trying to remain optimistic wylie, let me have my fanatasies.

            1. Americans are disturbingly willing to destroy their own understanding of the way things are to pay off the first emotional blackmailer who comes along.

            2. And look at the number of Friedman’s ideas that became part of the GOP platform, yet they still consider Libertarian’s nut jobs.

              1. Although, most of Friedman’s proposals did not reflect his true positions. Because he lived in reality, his proposals were a compromise between his ideals and what was politically possible.

      2. I saw a Sears the other night; the E on their lighted sign had gone out, so it looked like it said SARS. That was pretty funny.

    2. As much as I like Milton Friedman, people forget how little he knew about monetary policy and business cycle theory. There’s an interview with F.A. Hayek (which I’m sure is floating around on YouTube somewhere) where Hayek basically says the two reasons Friedman was never really embraced by the Austrians was his support for the Federal Reserve as a tool for price stability (an incredibly disastrous economic policy) and the inability of his “plucking model” to explain business cycles.

      But on pretty much everything else, from foreign trade to regulation, he was a godsend. I’d take him over Krugman or Keynes any day of the week.

      1. “his support for the Federal Reserve as a tool for price stability”

        I’m not sure this is an adequate description of his views on dealing with price instability. In fact, in the Donahue interview linked above Friedman explains why printing more money is making things more expensive in terms of inflation. He said he actually would “like to abolish the Fed”, and points out that when he has written about the Fed it is simply his recommendations of how it should be run given that it exists.

        1. (This is in response to Tman, in case comment threading starts to act up again)

          If Friedman really did change his tune from loving the Federal Reserve system to hating it, then that seems like it would discredit monetarism entirely, then. While Friedman was against rampant inflation (and what economist isn’t), he wanted the Fed to manipulate the currency supply to try and keep it around 3%-4% every year. I recall him suggesting that the Board of Governors be replaced with a computer that would just do this automatically. He supported, again, price stability via central banks.

          What few people realize is that when it comes to monetary policy, monetarism is incredibly popular today. Alan Greenspan and I believe even Ben Bernanke are both monetarists, and the European Central Bank is run by monetarists. So while his best pieces of advice were completely ignored except by Singapore and Hong Kong, his worst theories have been adopted almost universally by the Western world.

          1. He theorized that the only cause of inflation was the excessive expansion of the money supply. He felt that the quantity of money needed to grow with the quantity of goods and services created in the economy. When the supply of money grows to fast, you get inflation. The reason for the 3% increase per year was because over the history of the US, output has increased at an average of 3% per year

      2. Friedman was never an advocate for the Federal Reserve, just mistaken for one. Friedman was very critical of the Federal Reserve and how it has never been able to fulfill it’s mandate under the Federal Reserve Act.
        In his book “Free to Choose”, Friedman writes a chapter titled “Anatomy of a Crisis” outlining how the failure of the Fed created the Great Depression by not reacting properly during bank runs. He opens the chapter outlining how the banking system handled a bank run prior to the Federal Reserve system through restriction of payments. He goes on to state that had the Fed never been created, the series of bank failures that occurred in 1931,1932 and 1933 would have never happened, which in his view was what allowed the Depression to continue.
        Any arguments Friedman made regarding the Federal reserve were based on the fact that it exists. His commentary on the role of the Fed came from, as all of his ideas, the reality at the time. Friedman thought the role was the Fed was to maintain the money supply. Because the money held in a banks only represents a small portion of the deposits on their books, during the depression Friedman thought the fed should print money as a way to allow banks to convert their assets into currency so that banks could meet customer demand for cash. However, for each dollar transferred from the Fed to a bank, the bank transferred a dollar worth of assets to the Fed.
        My personal favorite is “Capitalism and Freedom”, but if you haven’t read “Free to Choose”, you should. If you read the chapters “Anatomy of a Crisis” and “The Cure for Inflation”, you may find that some of your concerns over Friedman’s ideas go away. You will also come to realize that many of his suggestions weren’t based on how he thought the world should be, but on the the way it could be based on the reality of the present.

        1. I hope you’re not mistaking my criticisms of Friedman as attacks against you, him, or Tman, because I’m not trying to come off that way. But again, his views on monetary policy especially when it comes to banking and his views on the causes of depressions are very wrong.

          As you mentioned and as I’ve stated, Friedman supported price stability through control of the money supply. He was right when he said that changes in the price level could only be caused by changes in the supply of or demand for money, or changes in output; he was wrong when he said that the supply aspect should be manipulated by the Federal Reserve to prevent gradual deflation. I can direct you to some articles that explain the dangers of pursuing price stability as a monetary policy, but I’d rather not make a wall of text and waste your time by trying to explain it here.

          Again, his views on the cause of depressions are also false. Friedman rejected wholesale the entire idea of business cycles, and instead postulated that depressions and recessions where caused by individual failures in monetary policy on the part of central banks. I’d refer you this article (mises.org/journals/scholar/cochran.pdf) which does a good job at explaining the problems with Friedman’s model. His anti-liquidationist view of depressions is also another major flaw in his theories.

          Friedman’s achievements in other areas of economics are vast and uncountable. His books were so influential that they even saw underground circulation in the Soviet Union. His video series “Free to Choose” is just as good today (aside from “The Anatomy of a Crisis” episode) as it was when it was first made decades ago. But monetarism today has rightly been labeled by many as “right-wing Keynesianism”, government intervention in the economy through monetary policy rather than fiscal policy. It’s this reason more than anything else why you’ll hear groans and see hand-wringing when the Chicago School is brought up around Austrians.

  19. Meanwhile the FCC refuses to do the one thing that would truly expand the broadband market, allow high power Ultra Wide Band broadcasting. With UWB we could all have unlimited gigabit internet on all of our devices.

  20. I have at least two techie friends who support FCC intervention. Is there something seriously wrong with them, or are they the norm?

    Yes, and (I fear) yes.

  21. I understand getting rid of the FCC for 99% of what it does. But doesn’t it provide a required service in keeping radio stations and over-the-air tv channels from broadcasting over each other? I’m sure that this could be handled locally, but doesn’t some governmental entity need to enforce the “property rights” of the broadcast owners?

    1. Why so many people find it to be morally repulsive when the market decides winners and losers, but enthusiastically support, without even a wit of reflection on the ethics of the matter, the government picking winners and losers I will never be able to fathom.

    2. At some easily defined point it becomes far cheaper to transmit on separate frequencies than try to drown out your competition.

      1. It quickly becomes more profitable to build a career than to steal car stereos but that doesn’t replace the government’s role in protecting property.

        1. What gave the government the right to sell the property in the first place. What is 98.7 on the FM dial? Its nothing. Its a specific set of wave emissions that cannot be felt or heard without a receiver. What gave the government ownership of it? Nothing. What gives anyone else ownership of it? Nothing. It isn’t property any more than software is a patentable device.

          1. “What gave the government ownership of it?”

            Force. By right, it doesn’t own anything. It can’t, by right, grant ownership either. It can only recognize and protect property.

            “What gives anyone else ownership of it?”

            Building or buying the transmission equipment on privately owned land and beginning to transmit on an unowned(untapped) frequency or buying one which is already in use establishes ownership by right. You register it so that the govt can do its real job-protecting property rights. But if you don’t recognize the existence of intellectual property, I don’t expect you to be convinced.

      2. At some easily defined point it becomes far cheaper to transmit on separate frequencies than try to drown out your competition.

        Hey! Stop with the crazy talk. It is just impossible to have a huge selection of radio stations on various wavelengths that don’t interfere with one another.

        Next you’ll come up with some cockamamie idea that millions of people could live and work in a city and use full duplex communication that doesn’t interfere with each other and is also portable.

        That’s just science fiction! We don’t have the bandwidth, and how would you power these mystical ‘portable’ devices?

    3. I agree.

  22. Abolish the FCC
    And most other Federal programs!

  23. I agree, keep the FCC’s hands off the net. And don’t give any powers over the net to the FTC, the IRS, and the president either!

  24. Perhaps David Harsanyi, should actually READ Lawrence Lessig’s position on net neutrality before quoting him in an article attacking it.

    FCC plan for open internet ‘perfect,’ Lessig says; industry critical.

    (http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/media/fcc-plan-for-open-internet-perfect-lessig-says-atandt-verizon/19168513/)

    Of course, 30 seconds of internet research is more work than I’d expect from a bunch of corporate shills like the crew at Reason.

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