Net Neutrality

How to Break the Internet

The biggest threat to the Net isn't cable companies. It's government.


"Net neutrality" sounds like a good idea. It isn't.

As political slogans go, the phrase net neutrality has been enormously effective, riling up the chattering classes and forcing a sea change in the government's decades-old hands-off approach to regulating the Internet. But as an organizing principle for the Internet, the concept is dangerously misguided. That is especially true of the particular form of net neutrality regulation proposed in February by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Net neutrality backers traffic in fear. Pushing a suite of suggested interventions, they warn of rapacious cable operators who seek to control online media and other content by "picking winners and losers" on the Internet. They proclaim that regulation is the only way to stave off "fast lanes" that would render your favorite website "invisible" unless it's one of the corporate-favored. They declare that it will shelter startups, guarantee free expression, and preserve the great, egalitarian "openness" of the Internet.

No decent person, in other words, could be against net neutrality.

In truth, this latest campaign to regulate the Internet is an apt illustration of F.A. Hayek's famous observation that "the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." Egged on by a bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition of rent-seeking industry groups and corporation-hating progressives (and bolstered by a highly unusual proclamation from the White House), Chairman Wheeler and his staff are attempting to design something they know very little about-not just the sprawling Internet of today, but also the unknowable Internet of tomorrow.

Origins of a Regulatory Meme

"Network neutrality" was coined in a 2003 paper by the law professor Tim Wu. A "neutral" Internet, Wu postulated, "is an Internet that does not favor one application (say, the world wide web) over others (say, email)." For Wu, "email, the web, and streaming applications are in a battle for the attention and interest of end-users. It is therefore important that the platform be neutral to ensure the competition remains meritocratic."

Over time, Wu's notion has morphed from vague abstraction to regulatory imperative and even article of faith. Net neutrality has come to represent a set of edicts aimed at constraining Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to a specific, static vision of the Internet in which they treat all data equally-not charging differentially (or "discriminating," in activists' parlance) by user, content, site, platform, application, type of equipment used, or mode of communication.

Along the way, the movement acquired some radical political baggage: to "get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control," in the 2009 words of media activist Robert McChesney, founder of the anti-media-consolidation group Free Press. Not coincidentally, Free Press, which has been at the vanguard of net neutrality activism, was long chaired by Tim Wu.

But the net neutrality movement has had less to do with class struggle than with the familiar delusion of technocrats everywhere: that government can "design" a better future if only it pulls the right levers. The goal, in theory, is to "save the Internet" from big corporations, ensuring (in Free Press' words) that "it will remain a medium for free expression, economic opportunity and innovation." According to a group of pro-net-neutrality startup investors, this can be accomplished only by locking in yesterday's business model. They want new Internet applications, like their favorite Internet companies of the past, to "be able to afford to [make] their service freely available and then build a business over time as they better understand the value consumers find in their service." In the name of innovation, net neutrality proponents want the Internet to remain just as it is.

But even without government's guiding hand, neutrality has long been an organizing principle of the Net. The engineers who first started connecting computers to one another decades ago embraced as a first-cut rule for directing Internet traffic the "end-to-end principle"-a component of network architecture design holding that the network itself should interfere as little as possible with traffic flowing from one end-user to another. Yet the idea that this network "intelligence" should reside only at the ends of the network, has never been—and could never be—an absolute. Effective network management has always required prominent exceptions to the end-to-end principle.

Not all bits are created equal, as the designers of those first Internet software protocols recognized. Some bits are more time-sensitive than others. Some bits need to arrive at their destination in sequence, while others can turn up in any order. For instance, live streaming video, interactive gaming, and VoIP calls won't work if the data arrive out of order or with too much delay between data packets. But email, software updates, and even downloaded videos don't require such preferential treatment-they work as long as all the bits eventually end up where they're supposed to go.

Anticipating the needs of future real-time applications, early Internet engineers developed differentiated services ("DiffServ") and integrated services ("IntServ") protocols, which have discriminated among types of Internet traffic for decades. The effect on less time-sensitive applications has gone virtually unnoticed. Does anyone really care if their email shows up a few milliseconds "late"?

But these are engineering prioritizations, and they come without an associated price mechanism. As a result, there's little incentive for anyone to mark these packets accurately: In the face of network congestion, everyone wants the highest priority as long as it's free.

Here, as throughout the economy, prices would make everyone reveal the value they place on a transaction, thereby allocating scarce resources efficiently. An Internet characterized by business prioritization, offering fast and slow lanes for purchase by end-users or content providers, could make all applications work better, significantly increasing consumer satisfaction while also promoting broadband adoption and deployment.

Thus far the demand for these types of business models has been fairly limited for the simple reason that congestion (scarcity of bandwidth) is, for now, an infrequent problem. To be sure, ISPs offer consumers varying tiers of service, and mobile broadband providers (facing far more frequent congestion) are increasingly experimenting with prioritization schemes, such as AT&T's Sponsored Data program and T-Mobile's Music Freedom service. But the current lack of uptake doesn't mean that a market for prioritization wouldn't develop without rules preventing it. And it will be the unknown applications of tomorrow (say, holographic video streaming) that will most likely lead to-and benefit from-this type of prioritization.

Generally speaking, neutrality advocates don't spend much time in the weeds of boring traffic-flow engineering and network prioritization. What has animated everyone from HBO comedian/anchor John Oliver to millions of irate FCC commenters has been an angry suspicion that somewhere, some rich corporations are on the verge of hijacking the Internet's architecture to profit themselves while excluding others. In Oliver's pointed words, net neutrality rules are code for "preventing cable company fuckery."

But attempting to bureaucratically manage the technical and economic realities of building, operating, and constantly improving a flexible, modern communications network is a daunting challenge for even the most capable and fair-minded of administrators. Doing so at the behest of ideologically motivated partisans is a recipe not just for failure, but disaster.

On Whose Authority?

The Communications Act of 1934 (as amended) authorized the FCC to "make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges." When Congress finally got around to updating the Communications Act in 1996, it added that the government should "promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media" and "preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet…unfettered by Federal or State regulation."

The added language expressed a policy preference, but didn't grant the FCC any direct authority to regulate the Internet. And the most successful push in Congress to expand the commission's authority over the Internet—the Communications Decency Act of 1996—was mostly shot down by the Supreme Court in 1997 on First Amendment grounds.

Yet none of this stopped the George W. Bush–era FCC from trying to cobble together the legal authority to more robustly regulate the Net. In 2005, the agency released an "Internet Policy Statement" to "Preserve and Promote the Open and Interconnected Nature of Public Internet." A declaration of policy orientation rather than a set of new regulations, the statement outlined four principles: "(1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."

In 2007, Free Press and other media activists petitioned the FCC to enforce the policy statement against Comcast after the cable giant intermittently slowed or blocked certain peer-to-peer activities among its users-despite the fact that, according to a study by Princeton computer scientist Ed Felten, up to 99 percent of such content is illegal, and thus unprotected under any version of net neutrality. The agency agreed with the critics, issuing a cease-and-desist order. But in the 2010 decision Comcast v. FCC, the D.C. Circuit found that the commission had no authority to enforce the policy.

Despite the court's ruling, the Obama-era FCC regrouped and took another swing at enforcing net neutrality. Its 2010 "Open Internet Order" advocated stricter and more detailed rules, written in language designed to justify them before the courts. The Order—the first real net neutrality rule at the FCC—drew scathing and prescient dissents from the agency's two Republican commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker. McDowell's dissent, in particular, captured the essential defects of the FCC's effort, which he summarized as follows:

  • Nothing is broken in the Internet access market that needs fixing;
  • The FCC does not have the legal authority to issue these rules;
  • The proposed rules are likely to cause irreparable harm; and
  • Existing law and Internet governance structures provide ample consumer protection in the event a systemic market failure occurs.

The inevitable legal challenge followed, and in early 2014 the FCC lost yet again at the D.C. Circuit for imposing rules that exceeded its statutory authority—although the court, for the first time, did accept the Commission's assertion that it had authority to issue some form of rules to regulate Internet access buried within Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act.

Undeterred, and bolstered by the court's acknowledgement of his agency's claimed authority, Chairman Wheeler introduced the latest iteration of net neutrality rules in February 2015. Tellingly, it took over 300 pages of notes and argument to explain and defend a grand total of eight pages worth of rules. It's significant, too, that Wheeler touted his plan as enacting the specific vision laid out by President Obama the previous November. (The White House's intervention in the decision making of the ostensibly independent FCC is currently being investigated by committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.)

Having already been run through the wood chipper of interest-group politics and years of litigation, the FCC's net neutrality push now turns entirely on the relative merits of two potential legal bases for its rules that are, at root, far more similar than they are different.

On the one hand, Section 706 would permit the FCC to regulate broadband under a purportedly "light touch" regime in which the FCC would have to justify the enforcement of its rules on a case-by-case basis. Title II (the section of the 1934 Act authorizing regulation of common-carrier services), on the other hand, would presumptively impose on ISPs a set of rules designed for 19th century railroads and the early telephone monopoly. Under Title II, ISPs would be saddled with rate regulation and a host of other antiquated burdens. Although Wheeler has proposed to forbear from enforcement of some of Title II's provisions, the remaining rules still impose on ISPs the fundamental attributes of traditional common-carrier regulation.

The courts are likely to strike down the assertion of authority to regulate broadband providers under Title II. Yet even then, Wheeler's rules could still bar ISPs from entering into most commercial arrangements with content providers for preferential treatment under Section 706.

For many activists, the substantive debate over such handcuffing of ISPs has been settled. But it's not.

A Better Vision

One would think that after 10 years of political teeth-gnashing, regulatory rule making, and relentless litigating, there would by now be a strong economic case for net neutrality—a clear record of harmful practices and agreements embodying the types of behavior that only regulation can pre-empt. But there isn't.

In fact, after poring over hundreds of thousands of pages of comments in the public record, the FCC in its 2010 Open Internet Order could identify just four actions in the history of the Internet that might have been prevented by such rules. Even these four are questionable, and all of them were resolved without the heavy hand of net neutrality.

To simplify, the Internet marketplace can be analytically split into three categories: content providers (Google, Netflix, porn sites, your friend's blog), ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, CenturyLink), and end-users (you and me). The end-users are consumers, whose consumption preferences ultimately determine the value of content. ISPs interact directly with consumers by selling the high-speed connections that allow their customers to access content.

ISPs interact with content providers by managing the networks over which information flows. Thus ISPs are resource owners, because they own the networks, but they are also entrepreneurs, insofar as they strive to maintain the profitability of their networks under rapidly evolving market conditions. To be successful, ISPs must serve consumer demand in a cost-effective manner.

FCC regulation of the Internet is rooted in the belief that a "virtuous circle" of broadband investment is ultimately driven by content providers. The more good content that providers make available, the more consumers will demand access to sites and apps, and the more ISPs will invest in the infrastructure to facilitate delivery. Minimize the financial and transaction costs imposed by ISPs on content providers, and content will flourish and drive the engine.

That's the theory, anyway. But in practice, there's no good evidence that myopically favoring content providers over infrastructure owners is beneficial even to content providers themselves, let alone to consumers.

Rather, the two markets are symbiotic; gains for one inevitably produce gains for the other. Without an assessment of actual competitive effects, it is impossible to say that consumers are best served by policies that systematically favor one over the other.

Somehow, even absent net neutrality regulation, ISPs have invested heavily in infrastructure and broadband. End-users have benefitted immensely, with 94 percent of U.S. households having access to at least two providers offering fixed broadband connections of at least 10 megabits per second, not to mention the near-ubiquitous coverage of wireless carriers offering 3G and LTE service at comparable speeds. Comcast may not be one of the nation's most well-loved companies, but it's misleading to describe an economy-of-scale marketplace with two or three major providers as one lacking competition. And while activists claim that the U.S. lags behind in broadband speed and deployment, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Controlling for size and population density, the U.S. compares very favorably with the rest of the world. In fact, if you look at slightly smaller geographical units, 5 of the top 10 (and 9 of the top 15) fastest places in the world would be U.S. states or Washington, D.C.

Broadband networks are expensive to build and, particularly for mobile networks, increasingly prone to congestion as snowballing consumer use outpaces construction and upgrades. In order to earn revenue, economize the scarce resource of network capacity, and provide benefits to consumers, ISPs may engage in various price-discrimination and cross-subsidization schemes—i.e., the much-maligned "paid prioritization" motivating net neutrality activists.

The non-Internet economy is replete with countless business models that use similar forms of discrimination or exclusion to consumers' benefit. From Priority Mail to highway toll lanes to variable airline-ticket pricing, discriminatory or exclusionary arrangements can improve service, finance investment, and expand consumer choices.

The real question is why we would view these practices any differently when they happen on the Internet. When T-Mobile began offering its subscribers free data use for Spotify, Rhapsody, and a few other streaming music services, but not some of their more obscure competitors, net neutrality activists decried the program for its presumed effect on the excluded services. But T-Mobile presumably benefits from this program—capitalizing on consumer demand for particularly popular content to attract users to its service—and consumers obviously benefit as well.

What about music services that aren't included in T-Mobile's package? Even they stand to benefit, since users now have more spare data capacity to experiment with new streaming content. Meanwhile, T-Mobile isn't the only (or remotely the most significant) source of marketing or distribution for these companies. There is, in other words, no evidence that the excluded music services are unable to compete.

The depredations that net neutrality seeks to eliminate—blocking, throttling, and discrimination of online content by ISPs—are species of exclusion, allegedly impeding valuable transactions between content providers and end-users. But a host of other Internet entities have the theoretical power to control users' access to content (and vice versa) as well. Content providers such as Netflix, Spotify, and iTunes mediate relationships between content and users, buyers and sellers, frequently in a non-"neutral" fashion. So do online platforms such as eBay, Etsy, and Kickstarter. Amazon finances and promotes its own content and offers it to its own subscribers exclusively. Google Maps offers users direct access to Uber (but not Lyft) from its app. Why do ISPs deserve special rules?

The usual answer is that ISP competition is limited or non-existent, while competition among content providers is plentiful. But if the underlying problem is an absence of competition, then antitrust laws—or even adjudication of alleged net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, assessing actual effects after the fact—would be sufficient. The logic of prophylactic regulation simply doesn't hold up. In fact, the real competitive constraints are usually imposed by local government franchise regulations, including the imposition of substantial build-out requirements and restrictions on broadband providers' access to government-owned utility poles.

Meanwhile, the existence of other Internet intermediaries undermines claims that ISPs are unfettered by competitive forces. Bob Loblaw's Law Blog may seem to be at the mercy of its Internet provider, the way your kitchen appliance is at the "mercy" of your local power company. But if Loblaw uses WordPress to publish and host his site, an ISP would have to take on WordPress itself—not just a single blog—to impede access to the site.

The same is true for independent artists plying their music or videos on the Web. It isn't Adele vs. Comcast; it's YouTube vs. Comcast. That's a very different situation, one in which YouTube is by no means at an obvious disadvantage.

The sources and dynamics of competition in the Internet ecosystem are complicated, evolving, and poorly understood. One of the central defects of net neutrality rules is that they simply ignore these complications and assert a fanciful, one-dimensional conception of market competition that has never really existed.

Net neutrality would also imperil another powerful source of consumer benefit on the Internet: cross-subsidization. Certain apps, for example, make money through subscriptions and purchaser fees, while others depend on advertiser-supported revenue but are otherwise "free" to users. Diverse business models frequently coexist where different consumers pay in different ways for the same or similar services.

Is there any good reason that AT&T customers should only be permitted to purchase data directly from AT&T but prohibited from having their data usage sponsored by advertisers that enter into deals with AT&T? Some mobile providers offer free Facebook and Wikipedia to encourage broadband adoption in the poorest parts of the world. Strident net neutrality supporters, such as the Harvard law professor Susan Crawford, are sharply critical of such arrangements, claiming that "no Internet" is better than "some Internet"—even, apparently, if "some" comprises nearly all of what a user wants. By presuming to know that only one business model is appropriate and to impose that model across the board, net neutrality activists risk obstructing access, impeding innovation, and stifling the very content providers they purport to protect.

It is also often claimed that continued non-neutrality would imperil Internet startups that don't have the resources of their incumbent competitors to purchase priority access, placing them at an unfair disadvantage. It is curious, then, that some of the loudest voices in favor of net neutrality are also some of the Internet's biggest incumbents, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Amazon.

Many a new entrant has foundered on the shoals of obscurity. In a functioning competitive market, there are mechanisms to help startups overcome such structural impediments, and they usually cost money. Which, if you follow the anti-corporate logic of net neutrality activists, is itself a kind of favoritism. But who stands to benefit more from, and be willing to pay for, promotion—the company that's already known or the one that no one's ever heard of?

In fact, ISP price discrimination is as likely to help new entrants as hurt them. Non-neutrality offers startups the potential to buy priority access, thus overcoming the inherent disadvantage of newness. With a neutral Internet, on the other hand, the advantages of incumbency can't be routed around by buying a leg-up in speed, access, or promotion.

That an incumbent content provider might enter into an agreement with an ISP to gain advantage over its smaller competitors in a non-neutral environment may be a reason to scrutinize such agreements under existing antitrust laws. For instance, if an ISP with dominant market share refused to give access to online content that competed with its own, antitrust law might look askance at such conduct. But it doesn't justify presumptively hamstringing an ISP's commercial arrangements when such conduct isn't remotely typical.

Recognizing the ubiquity of paid prioritization-like agreements throughout the economy, including in the most competitive sectors, antitrust regulators condemn such conduct only after careful analysis shows that it has resulted in real consumer harm. Net neutrality turns this evidence-based paradigm on its head, pre-emptively condemning all discriminatory arrangements between ISPs and content providers regardless of their effect, on the basis of an evidentiary record that demonstrates that such agreements have so far never been harmful.

The Specter of Net Neutrality

Google Fiber and other innovative companies are trying to build out new and faster broadband connections to compete with cable, but the regulatory costs and legal uncertainty of sweeping net neutrality rules will impede their plans. Meanwhile, incumbent Internet providers won't have an incentive to upgrade their existing networks if they're saddled with monopoly-era regulation, which is designed to thwart competition. That sort of anti-competitive regulation is for 19th century railroads, not 21st century broadband.

So you may not love your cable company. But imposing public-utility regulation under Title II means the qualities you don't like about your cable company will become more widespread. It will mean less competition, poorer customer service, reduced investment (especially in underserved communities), slower broadband for everyone, and new regulatory hurdles for startups. Title II won't even do what its adherents cite as its primary justification: banning "fast lanes." What it will do is saddle the Internet with archaic rules that will make broadband providers as inefficient and slow to innovate as your local utility company.

No decent person, in other words, should be for net neutrality.

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  1. Interesting piece. I agree that “Net Neutrality” is the government intervening to fix something that isn’t broken, which will almost certainly result in poorer service to consumers.

    But I’m more concerned about the potential for political abuse of the Internet post Title 2’ing –

    you begin to allude to this when you say, “But attempting to bureaucratically manage the technical and economic realities of building, operating, and constantly improving a flexible, modern communications network is a daunting challenge for even the most capable and fair-minded of administrators. Doing so at the behest of ideologically motivated partisans is a recipe not just for failure, but disaster.”

    The FCC board certainly seems like a ripe place for organizations like the MPAA and RIAA to target with lobbying dollars, to get the FCC to quash torrenting.

    Ignore for a moment that much of what is torrented is pirated, as I use torrenting only as an example of something that might be targeted: Are you at all worried about other politically-motivated censoring enabled by Net Neutrality? Surely some cynically enterprising senator or congressman will ask the FCC to “manage” Internet traffic deemed misogynistic, racist, or homophobic?

    (don’t know if the authors of this piece will read these comments, but I figured I’d ask. I have not been able to get a real answer out of anyone on the Internet – asking this question on Ars Technica gets you banned and downvoted on Reddit)

    1. Franjlin you are absolutely correct that NN will cause the problems it outlandishly claims to solve. Regulatory capture is real.

    2. Nobody has been able to answer!

      Now that the FCC is focusing on the Internet, rather than studiously ignoring it, why doesn’t anyone expect that the MPAA and RIAA will focus their lobbying on the FCC Board to request that they instruct ISPs to throttle torrents?

      Why doesn’t anyone expect that a congressman will ask the FCC Board to request that ISPs de-prioritize traffic to/from websites that contain content that that congressman’s constituents find objectionable?

      That seems like the next logical step, honestly. I don’t think the people in favor of “Net Neutrality” have the capacity to consider it.

    3. ——————-LAZY FUCKING INTERN ALERT————————–

      Old comments.

      1. lulz!

        Happy Saturday, Francisco!

    4. Well Franklin, we can’t tell you what will happen in the future with certainty. Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.

      But yes, I think you are correct. All of that and more is exactly what I expect to happen.

      Also, don’t piss your time away in places that censor you. Hang around here, if you dare, and speak your mind. You can learn a lot here. We have some really smart people that comment on H&R.

      1. Ok, I just replied to a week old comment.

        1. And in such fine style, I might add!

  2. A well researched and thorough debunking of NN hysteria. The only quibbles I have with the piece are small – for example, its not accurate to summarize tier 1 ISPs as the natural outcome of economies of scale. Even without NN the big dogs owe their entire existence to mountaims of regulation and govt favoritism.

    Internet related industries are the one place left in the US economy that produce real growth and innovation. The success of the industry has bolstered the overall economy, which remains anemic, for some time. Other success stories in the US are industries that have received massive govt largesse, like medical.

    The success of the internet has been the result of its ability to allow entrepreneurs to sidestep regulation. Destroying that may very well destroy the last avenue for unfettered market creativity

    1. I agree. Tier 1 ISP monopolies are a legacy of the 60’s regulations allowing one telephone company per market to limit cable in the ground and what not. There is a real issue with lack of choice for consumers at point of access. The answer is more degregulation though to allow competitors like Google Fiber in.

      1. It boggles the mind that the same people breathlessly lauding Google Fiber are for generally in favor of the regulatory regime that will do its best to protect incumbents like Comcast and Time Warner.

        No, wait, it doesn’t. Not really, anyway. They’re afflicted with a strong case of teh feelz about Net Neutrality.

  3. I guess it’s OK for, say, Comcast to charge me to connect to the Internet, then charge Netflix again to connect them to me, making it impossible for a new company to get into video streaming?

    It’s OK for an ISP to give priority to its own music streaming service, while throttling Spotify/Pandora down to the point where they don’t work at all, it’s just “network management”?

    It’s all right for ISPs to put a cap on bandwidth – but the ISP’s own music and video streaming services don’t count towards that?

    Title II has put rules in place that won’t favor services they own or partner (read; get paid) with. They’re too large as it is; make the ISPs divest their TV networks, streaming services, etc. and be just in the ISP business, seeing as they’re already abusing their power as much as they can.

    Comcast made it clear they don’t compete with TWC in any market; instead of letting them merge (so that the company with the most hated customer service in the country now owns the company with the SECOND most hated customer service), why not force them to compete? Make them build out into areas that no one serves, until the only buildouts possible are slowly creeping into competed areas, so that rates will drop, and people have a CHOICE.

    It’s clear that only where Google Fiber or another local ISP (who have been shackled by laws deemed illegal by the FCC!) is where costs have dropped…a sure sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG.

    1. The Comcast/NetFlix deal is not ‘Comcast charging Netflix to connect Netflix to you.
      Its Comcast charging Netflix to carry the traffic directly instead of going through the ISP that Netflix previously used to connect Netflix customers with Comcast.

      The deal cut out the middle man.

      Comcast wins because Netflix is paying them instead of the other ISP.
      Netflix wins because their customers on Comcast are happier for more consistent speeds.
      Netflix customers on Comcast win because they see less buffering.
      The only loser is the ISP who used to be the man in the middle.

      Not counting their own streaming video services towards any bandwidth caps is because the traffic doesn’t leave their network. Traffic originating outside their network has a higher cost than traffic that stays entirely within their network.

      1. Comcast deliberately restricted the links to the third party backbone carrier to force Netflix to cut them out. They were able to do that because their customers were unable to give them the finger and go somewhere else. That is not a free market. That is a monopoly forcing using its clout

        1. The problem there is the rules that allow Comcast to become a monopoly. It’s not because of a free market that you generally only have one choice for cable.

        2. No they didn’t. That third party carrier wanted free access to Comcast’s network and Comcast didn’t agree.

          Why do end users have to pay to access Comcast’s network, but Cogent and/or Verio do not?

        3. Why could their customers not give them the finger? Would they be arrested if they cancelled Comcast? I know the government can arrest me for not paying taxes, even though I never agreed to do so, but I don’t think Comcast can even arrest you for refusing to pay a bill you agreed to pay.

          Clearly Comcast has tons of power, we should instead have the Internet controlled by the government who has no power. Yes, dealing with government bureaucrats with the power of law will solve all our problems. And the government is so innovative. I remember when the government invented cell phones, and TVs, and Henry Government invented the car. Fuck, I can’t wait to see all the innovation coming from the Internet now.

          1. Henry Government.


    2. They’re too large as it is; make the ISPs divest their TV networks, streaming services, etc. and be just in the ISP business, seeing as they’re already abusing their power as much as they can.

      It’s clear that only where Google Fiber or another local ISP (who have been shackled by laws deemed illegal by the FCC!) is where costs have dropped…

      So, should Google be forced to divest Chrome, Chromecast, Search, +, (hee hee) Wave, Google Health (Hee…), etc.?

      Maybe force Google Fiber, with fewer subscribers and less total coverage than Verizon’s FiOS to compete head-to-head? Would Verizon be forced to divest their 3/4G (LTE) network or is that kosher because it’s arbitrarily innovative enough and/or ISP related?

      Considering I get 4G wireless bandwidth literally all over the country in places where even 5 yrs. ago it couldn’t be bought at any price, I’d say innovation is still happening and prices are dropping.

      1. Well, where I live, you can sometimes get 3G on ATT, although often enough it is good old GSM. Forget 4G. Oh, an you’re using Verizon? Sorry, no service at all. Yes, this is in the north eastern US.

        Check out for actual coverage maps instead of the maps put together by wireless carrier marketing departments. Make sure you zoom in a bit to see the gaps.

      2. In any market Google Fiber has launched, local cable and internet provider speeds have increased as much as six fold and prices have dropped significantly. Austin, TX is a prime example where suddenly AT&T can offer gigabit internet for $70 a month with Google fiber in the market where the same service int he Bay area costs $125

  4. Let’s get to the crux of the issue. Broadband providers have access to new internet inspection and filtering technologies used in repressive countries such as China and Iran. The carriers want to rip open the Internet Packet envelope, inspect the contents, and see how they can maximize their profits by routing and delaying traffic accordingly. That is their fiscal responsibility to their shareholders. Now there are many cable cutters that are using content services from Sony, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, HBO, etc to get their content and are cutting into revenue. The obvious solution is to charge more for consumption. However the more profitable approach is to filter traffic and turn those services back into premium services instead of commodities.

    Perhaps Manne & Sperry along with the offspring from the bell system monopolies believe they know which internet traffic is more important, more so than the content producers and consumers paying full price for their Internet service. However without Network Neutrality the Internet network will be optimized for premium services and any new service that comes along will not benefit from a neutral routing system.

    Net Neutrality is the current convention that needs to be codified after it’s proven success. I want my rights written down in law just like the carriers do in their endless end user agreements.

    1. What exactly do you think the customer reaction to screwing with access to Netflix, Hulu, etc would be?

      Shit storm might be too mild a description.

      1. And, if you ask me whether I want Sony, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, AT&T, etc. tearing into my packets for info; as opposed to China, Iran, or even the US… I’m going to go with the corporations who don’t have conscripted armies, active nuclear programs, and the ability to print money at will.

      2. I’m not sure what you mean… What is the customers option? Quit using the internet? For many people the options are the local cable monopoly or dialup.

        1. Well, lets see.
          Call centers will be jammed. Reps on the phone with complaining customers aren’t selling upgrades, they are making retention offers, if they aren’t getting bawled out.

          There’s a few tangible revenue impacting things that can be done besides bitching.

          Anyone who has cable internet service has access to 4G
          If you can’t watch Netflix on your cable based ISP drop it and do all your browsing from 4G.

          Most people who have cable internet service can use DSL as well. And a lot of DSL providers aren’t also TV services so congestion would be their only reason to restrict Netflix.

          WISPs are apparently all over places they aren’t really needed, and rarely in rural areas where they are needed. Some better than others. Allegedly I have 3 or 4 that service my suburban area. Some are suitable for video, some not.

          Keep using your cable internet service, don’t buy the premium video services, and go back to Netflix DVDs. They’ve got a better selection anyway. Some cable companies do have unadvertised slower speed service than the standard they tend to hook everyone up with. If you aren’t doing video you may as well drop your speed.

          And of course, actually screwing with the internet in such a manner would undoubtedly cause Congress to do something stupid and drastic. They might even go so far as to give the FCC permission to use an iron fist, not just on internet, but video service as well to punish them.

          1. That is what created this hysteria in the first place. Companies were restricting connections to the backbone carriers, effectively throttling Netflix and forcing them into paid deals with the ISP’s. Where was this outcry you speak of?

            1. It was the man in the middle, Cogent in this case that was the bottleneck and slowing things down.


      3. And what will they do? Go to a competitor?

  5. I can remember when AOL was the “internet” for 50% of the households in the USA. Thank god the feds got involved and fixed the internet back then by using massive regulatory powers against AOL.
    Oh wait, nope, that was fixed by the free market and competition….. never mind.

  6. “It is curious, then, that some of the loudest voices in favor of net neutrality are also some of the Internet’s biggest incumbents, such as Google”

    “Google Fiber and other innovative companies are trying to build out new and faster broadband connections to compete with cable, but the regulatory costs and legal uncertainty of sweeping net neutrality rules will impede their plans.”

    I guess Google must really want their own ISP project to fail.

    “What it will do is saddle the Internet with archaic rules that will make broadband providers as inefficient and slow to innovate as your local utility company.”

    Yeah! It’s awful that my electric company can’t vary their prices depending on what company’s devices I plug into an outlet!

    “From Priority Mail to highway toll lanes to variable airline-ticket pricing”

    Disingenuous. Those are entities creating tiers within *their own* services; you pay more for a better service with *that* organization. The Post Office doesn’t charge you more to send letters on unaffiliated letterhead, toll lanes don’t charge you more depending on whether you drive a Toyota or a Chevrolet, and airlines don’t charge you more depending on your brand of luggage ? all those are much better analogies for what net neutrality is about.

    1. An airline can charge you for the size/weight of your luggage, and large vehicles like trucks do pay more in tolls. Which is a rather apt analogy for people who use more data paying more…or, rather, content providers who use more paying more.

    2. The USPS does charge less for media mail than non-media mail.

      If you use a per-pound measurement, the USPS plays favorites with larger packages.

      Priority and Express mail create “fast lanes” – unless I pay the $5.26 or $19.50 extra fee, the USPS will “throttle” my mail to the point that it could take 5-7 days for a letter to go across the country. Shouldn’t all mail move at the same speeds without unnecessary throttling or having to pay extra for toll roads?

  7. An excellent essay, thank you!

  8. Net Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. Leave it to the government to end the search.

  9. Dear authors,

    I often see this mistake in articles critiquing net neutrality. You’ve conflated two different things:

    Discrimination based on source (a no-go with net neutrality).
    Prioritization based on type (allowable under net neutrality).

    Prioritizing voice over IP (a protocol infamously sensitive to jitter and latency) over file transfer protocol is perfectly fine.

    Prioritizing Comcast’s VOIP service over Vonages is a non-starter.

    Alternately, artificially limiting throughput for a protocol to levels below what I’ve paid for is a non-starter. These are things the ISP’s (which are also content providers) were caught doing red-handed and is why the tech community generally favors title-2 over other possible outcomes.

    Please do not be fooled by, and further spread, the FUD of ISP/Content creators under the guise of “reason”.

    Try reading this for some futher information:

    1. Alternately, artificially limiting throughput for a protocol to levels below what I’ve paid for is a non-starter. These are things the ISP’s (which are also content providers) were caught doing red-handed and is why the tech community generally favors title-2 over other possible outcomes.

      If Comcast was violating the terms of their user agreements, that’s fraud and there are ways to deal with that besides sweeping government regulations.

      All of the technical jargon being passed around is bullshit. You people don’t have ethics or intellectual consistency in your arguments. You want the government to provide the muscle so you can force a private company to operate the way you wish it to.

      That you trust the government to do what you ask of it and not go off the rails or become beholden to other interests only shows how naive you all are. How many times has the government tried to find new ways to tax internet service? Well, you myopic assholes just gave them the power to do it.

      The good news is the courts likely strike this bullshit down again because it’s a power grab by the FCC.

    2. “Prioritizing Comcast’s VOIP service over Vonages is a non-starter.”

      Why? I am assuming Comcast will be paying more for more bandwidth or faster service. What in the world is wrong with that? Do you want to ban first class airline tickets as opposed to coach? How about first class mail as opposed to media mail?

    3. What level did you pay for?

  10. Full disclosure, I’m a technician for Comcast. Everything below is my opinion, not my employers. I do not speak for Comcast. I have no inside information and I only have access to information that has been made public by Comcast.

    One minor nit: The Internet consists of content providers, service providers and end users. The end users are also content creators, in the sense that Facebook, Google/Youtube, and Twitter would have nothing to present if it weren’t for end users. Granted, many end users are more popular than the majority, but there’s still a little symmetry to the transaction. Peer to peer is the obvious end game of the Internet as it was a few years ago, and indeed during the Napster era the majority of traffic on the network was peer to peer. It’s only after Apple and Pandora (and the other subscription services) got us used to paying for music again did the traffic shift back to more of a client-server mode. But for the most part, up until recently large files were transferred to local storage. Real time communication (like voice over IP telephone calls) had limited bandwidth and again were purely peer to peer.

    1. Part 2:
      Streaming video is a completely different animal. Because of Hollywood’s (somewhat justified) paranoia about file sharing, the idea is that the client never gets the entire file. This also makes it easy to buy super-cheap viewers that have only enough computing power to display the content. The “file” is sent to the client a few hundred KB at a time, only enough to overcome delays and latency in the network. The server expects to have consistent bandwidth for the entire time the show is being streamed. If the network gets congested (during prime time, for example), the server has to adjust on the fly, sometimes dramatically. This leads to the dreaded “buffering” and lower resolution playback. Netflix is particularly bad because their streaming protocol will try to use all of the available bandwidth. Anyone can recognize this as a circuit switched model, modified for a packet switched network. And as anyone over 40 can remember, when everyone tried to call mom on Mother’s day back in the old days, there were fast busy signals and calls that couldn’t be completed.

      1. part 3:
        this wasn’t much more than a network engineering problem until the Netflix-Comcast private peering deal. Comcast knows a little bit about streaming video. Netflix offered “at no charge” their local caching servers. Comcast has their own caching servers, and they’re pretty good at figuring out the power and HVAC requirements for running them. So it wasn’t a big surprise when Comcast counteroffered with a peering arrangement. Instead of paying Covad, a tier 1 ISP, to move packets to Comcast’s network, Netflix is now paying Comcast to move packets to Comcast’s network. It’s no different that you or I paying Comcast to move our packets to Google or Facebook, just on a much larger scale. Netflix could build out their own delivery network, which is what Google, Facebook and Apple have done, but they chose to let Comcast build to them. AFAIK, Comcast never throttled Netflix traffic, there’s been no “paid prioritization” for Netflix traffic, and Comcast has been scrambling to catch up to the massive increase in bandwidth use after the peering agreement was implemented.

        1. Part 4:
          What’s this got to do with Net Neutrality? Not much, as it turns out. But Netflix did a fantastic job of making the paid peering agreement a political issue, and a tech press was eager to latch on. This is the same tech press who decried all past attempts at government intervention on the Internet. My guess why is because this time Hollywood is putting some money behind the effort. As long the streaming model is going to be the norm for video distribution they need to make sure they can dictate terms to the ISPs on how to deliver those streams. If a saturated router starts tossing video streams into the bit bucket, for example, they want to be able to have recourse.

          1. Everything done by net neutrality was completely worthless. It was nothing more than a disagreement between two corporations and a bunch of hipster tech doofuses buying into the hype.

            Nearly everything leveled against Comcast was a hypothetical scenario about what they could technically do to drum up support. Preemptive regulations, or regs to a problem that doesn’t/didn’t exist. The regulations will outlive whatever initial purpose they were supposed to have served, and mission creep will do the rest. The FCC knows this shit full well.

            The FCC and Dems have their own motivations for supporting NN. It’s not because they care if a select group of internet users can get the costs of their porn and torrents spread out to other customers.

          2. Unfortunately what you say is beyond the capacity for most so-called ‘tech savvy’ Millennials and other NN supporters to understand.

            When those of us versed in network design start talking network design, eyes glaze over and the tourettes-suffering NN supporters just start shouting “bb..but Comcast”

            They don’t understand the complex nuances of why broadband might come out faster in limited tests in a third world country vs. a US market. A market where pretty much everyone everywhere has high speed internet- as opposed to a place where only a small percentage of the population can even afford a computer.

            I’m glad you posted, but unfortunately, your post will go mostly unread, and even less understood.

  11. The “web” of “online” has ALWAYS been common carrier wire communications as defined in 1934 in the Communications Act.
    Those who are under 31 have had the “web” of interconnected wires using the digital time-displaced modulation delivering communications since age 13.
    The fact that these were ever outside the regulation of broadcasting was a simple mistake of law.
    I may lose but will seek review by SCOTUS and demanded that the wholly unique new medium be declared only the merger of wire and radio for interstate and worldwide communications.
    See 47 U.S.C. Section 153 (59).
    Radios carry signals only in a straight line and the Earth is still not flat!

    1. Yes. Because in 1934, the assholes writing New Deal regulations totally foresaw the internet.

    2. CN_Foundation|4.9.15 @ 6:20PM|#
      “The fact that these were ever outside the regulation of broadcasting was a simple mistake of law.”

      Premise masquerading as an argument.
      Care to tell us how you “know” that?

  12. For the sake of worthwhile debate, please post your complete Bibliography for this piece.

  13. ok nice post thank you

  14. “But the net neutrality movement has had less to do with class struggle than with the familiar delusion of technocrats everywhere: that government can “design” a better future if only it pulls the right levers.”

    Not technocrats, MOTUs!

  15. This piece is so one-sided someone obviously payed for it. One should strive not to appear as a corporate puppet.

    Excerpts from Ookla’s broadband speed by country top list:
    4th position – Romania – 73.77 Mbps
    10th position – Lithuania – 48.23 Mbps
    18th position – Moldova – 42.68 Mbps
    26th position – United States 34.88 Mbps

    Clearly US ISPs have been doing a great job providing affordable (Romanians pay 70 cents per Mbps while people in the USA pay 3.51$ – 5 times more) and fast broadband connections and now they’re being bullied : ( Clearly Lithuanian ISPs are much better equipped at providing quality Internet service compared to the ones in birthplace of the Internet, one of the richest countries on Earth. Maybe everyone else is managing fine because they don’t that all but 2 telcos that still want more.

    What’s this crap about evil “Internet incumbents”? Google is providing 30 times the speed at a fraction of the price Comcasts are asking now for their sub-par speeds and lousy fuck-you-that’s-why customer service.

    When you’re paying for broadband Internet, you’re paying for the road from and to your house to be open. Not open to most people, “but no not Jimmy because Jimmy just came from the store with those oranges you wanted and you wouldn’t want anything happening to those oranges so pony up.”

    Maybe these much-moaned-about ancient monopoly laws are appropriate, especially since, you know, they’re trying to tame a monopoly.

    1. DERP

    2. I suppose that you aren’t aware that Netflix isn’t even available in Romania? And you want us to be more like Romania?

      You do understand that like access to healthcare, a high speed internet that locks out… most of the internet isn’t of much use. You do get that, right?

      Did you know that as of the last time I was in Canada– I want to say early 2014, that Pandora wasn’t available?

      Do you know what the effect of locking out many streaming services that put stresses on a country’s internet has?

    3. MidnightRaver|4.13.15 @ 6:08PM|#
      “This piece is so one-sided someone obviously payed for it.”

      I’m gonna presume you’re stupid enough that you post this drivel for nothing, right?
      Yes, it’s one-sided, since the web site is dedicated to liberty and responsibility; what in hell are you doing here?

    4. Oh, and:
      MidnightRaver|4.13.15 @ 6:08PM|#
      “Maybe these much-moaned-about ancient monopoly laws are appropriate, especially since, you know, they’re trying to tame a monopoly.”

      There is no monopoly; you’re full of it.

    5. How widespread are those speeds? Do people living outside the major cities get anywhere near those speeds?

      1. Do people living outside the major cities get anywhere near those speeds?

        No, they don’t.

        This is blatant fabrications used by both Eurotrash worshipers and NN supporters to criticize the US and American ISPs. They compare an average across the 4th largest nation on Earth with far lower rates of urbanization and a more spread out population to some tiny bumfuck country with a highly urbanized population and little or no internet availability outside of major urban centers.

        Of course, the internet speed of zero doesn’t figure into the calculation.

        1. “Of course, the internet speed of zero doesn’t figure into the calculation.”

          Wrecks the curve. And the narrative.

    6. Maybe these much-moaned-about ancient monopoly laws are appropriate, especially since, you know, they’re trying to tame a monopoly.

      A monopoly created by government.

      Like nearly every NN supporter, you are both, A. dishonest; and B. fucking stupid.

    7. If you think most Romanians have access to modern level internet speeds you are either a mendacious twat or an idiot….my guess is both.

  16. The engineers who first started connecting computers to one another decades ago embraced as a first-cut rule for directing Internet traffic the “end-to-end principle”-a component of network architecture design holding that the network itself should interfere as little as possible with traffic flowing from one end-user to another.

    Yes, the Before Twitter age (BT) the design of the SMTP system (Simplified Mail Transfer Protocol) was originally designed to be entirely open. Anyone could connect to any SMTP server and send mail. They were supposed to be like mail boxes on the street. Drop your letter in it, it gets delivered. A good “net citizen” always made their SMTP server open.

    Then spam became a thing and leaving your SMTP server open made you a “bad net citizen” and now you get blacklisted if you run open.

    Keeping the internet healthy is to have security and traffic management throughout. Otherwise, everyone gets shitty service.

  17. Let’s break it down to the simplest terms possible, an internet service provider does nothing but move packets of information, telecommunications companies and cell phone companies do the exact same thing. voice, video, text messages, access to social media, they are all exactly the same thing, just the routing of information. in this age of digital information, they have become nothing more then the equivalent of the water company or the electric company.

    1. And if the electric company wasn’t regulated, I’d have a dilithium crystal generator sitting in my backyard providing me power for a tenth the price I pay now.

    2. Hephaesus42|4.18.15 @ 12:43PM|#
      “Let’s break it down to the simplest terms possible, an internet service provider does nothing but move packets of information, telecommunications companies and cell phone companies do the exact same thing. voice,”

      Therefore, something, something, am I right?
      What might that something be? You never quite got around to that?

    3. ” they have become nothing more then the equivalent of the water company or the electric company”

      They are fully aware of that fact

  18. I love Bstc 2015 when announced my Reet exam notification

  19. This entire stupid “issue” sounds to me like progressives flipping their shit over some imagined threat from CORPORATIONS.

    It’s like if they said that we need some sweeping regulation of the auto industry because if we don’t, the CORPORATIONS are going to make selective-driving cars that will only drive you to Wal-Mart or McDonalds or other big CORPORATE businesses, and pretty soon you won’t be able to drive to your favorite coffee shop or bookstore.

    1. Yeah, and it’s not a hard sell to the general public to fuck comcast or tiime warner.

    2. Yep. But only form cable company corporations – video streaming corporations are OK. Eventually Netflix will fail to carry some leftie show/movie and/or drop some show/movie and they will be hated as much as Comcast with calls for the FCC to demand that Netflix stop playing favorites.

      1. Given all the buffering problems my wife has watching stuff on Netflix I’m surprised they’re not already hated. I suppose people blame the ISPs though.

        1. Those problems seem localized and intermittent, though. I’ve had some periods where for a day or two Netflix has been buffering constantly (especially the “25% hang”), and then it just goes back to working pretty much flawlessly. When I check my internet connectivity speeds during those times, it’s almost always “normal”, so it doesn’t seem to be the ISP. But when I’m getting those problems, no one else I know is. So I’m not really sure where they’re coming from; it might be an overloaded server farm of Netflix’s or something at the time.

          1. Some nights are worse than others. We actually had an issue watching a movie on Amazon Prime a week a ago. My wife got an email from them a few days latter saying they noticed the problem and credited us. Gotta love Amazon.

            1. they noticed the problem and credited us

              Jesus. Can you imagine Time Warner doing that?

              1. Not in a million years

          2. I’ve got less than 1 Mb/s connection and Netflix almost always works fine. At pretty low resolution.

    3. … the CORPORATIONS are going to make selective-driving cars that will only drive you to Wal-Mart or McDonalds or other big CORPORATE businesses, and pretty soon you won’t be able to drive to your favorite coffee shop or bookstore.

      I’m stealing this analogy. Well put.

  20. Netflix behavior during all of this has guaranteed that I will never be a customer of theirs.

  21. One of the more consistent whines I’m seeing (both here and elsewhere) from NN morons–I mean supporters–is a constant sniveling that basically boils down to: “I deserve cheap broadband internet no matter how much bandwith I consume!” For all their pissing their pants about Comcast (who I also despise, but I don’t let that make me fucking retarded like them), it seems to be more about the modern idiotic fallacies about entitlement and FREE SHIT.

    So many fucking mongoloids think shit like the internet is now basically a human right that they deserve, if not for free, then at least cheap as balls with no variable pricing. It’s truly unbelievable. And the really, really insanely retarded part is…they think somehow the government is going to give it to them. Oh, it will. Good and hard. But they’re vastly too stupid to see past their FREE SHIT mentality.

    1. The ironic thing about that is that if isp’s have to give everyone the same rate and can’t throttle they may lose their unlimited data. Wireless already started doing this in anticipation of NN. Broadband is limited so if you can’t find some way to deal with the broadband hogs then one way or another we all pay the price.

      1. That’s just common sense.

  22. Hopefully Lefty is proud of itself for getting the government’s big fascist foot into the door of the Internet.

    The Internet was the greatest thing in the defense of Liberty to have happened in my lifetime. It was even arguably the greatest thing of at least the past two centuries. And they just couldn’t leave it alone.

    Politically the pendulum is always bound to eventually swing the other way. And when it does, predictably, those who have cut their hands off to spite their noses will be doing the loudest bawling. Let them bawl. It’s just sad they had to take all of down along with themselves.

    1. all of us*

    2. I suppose it was inevitable. The Internet is power that us plebs can’t be trusted with and that the left covets.

      1. It was the most innovative element of society. Think of the positives changes brought to our lives by the internet.

        Now, all that has come to an end. In several years, the internet WILL be EXACTLY like the electric company or the water company. Heavily regulated and therefore stagnant.

        And all the little state worshipers will think back to the heady days and wonder why the innovation has ground to a halt (or worse, they won’t even realize it has) and will come to the conclusion that all the good ideas have been used up.

        Regulation is more evil than Hitler.

        1. The little state worshippers will never think back to the heady days and wonder what went wrong. That would require an ability to analyze the as-is heavily regulated environment vis-a-vis the less regulated environment and project what is missing. That is an intellectual skill sorely lacking in those that look to government to solve all problems. They cannot fathom the unseen. That’s why they fall for so many fallacies, such as “minimum wages will help the economy because workers will have more money to spend.”

  23. Mostly a good article, but I’m going to call bullshit on this part “…with 94 percent of U.S. households having access to at least two providers offering fixed broadband connections of at least 10 megabits per second..” I live within the city limits of San Francisco, and the only reasonable high-speed option is Comcast. Ditto for my brother in Reston, VA. I’m sure you know or can find many people in similar situations if you ask around.

    I know, anecdotes and all that, but if options were as overwhelmingly available as this arcticle claims (94%!) it should not be so easy to find examples of limited choice in broadband service providers.

    Sure, if you punch in my address into one of the many broadband finder sites, you’ll find lots of options. Problem is, none of them really works. Yes, I’ve tried them, and the problem is invariably “you’re too far away from your central office.” The copper pair that comes to my house, likely installed 100 years ago, is simply too old and corroded to handle broadband internet service reliably.

    The reason why this pair is so old and crappy is a previous ill-conceived attempt at fostering competition among ISPs: the Telecommunications Act of 1996. One of the provisions of this act
    mandated that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) share their networks with competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs).


  24. Continuing…

    Many free-market minded people at the time worried that this would provide a powerful disincentive for ILECs to update and upgrade their networks since any such investment would directly subsidize their competitors. Lo and behold it has come to pass as it was foretold. Most people like myslef, who live in older cities are saddled with crappy or unavailable DSL.

    Not surprisingly, the wise technocrats of 1996 also failed to predict the rise of cable internet access. Mind you, it was not hard to predict for anyone who was even somewhat technically savvy. Cable TV providers had the best media to the curb at the time if for no other reason than they built their networks much later than the ILECs. This head start, plus the Congressionally-mandated crippling of the ILECs created the anticompetitive reality of today where ponderous cable dinosaurs like Comcast are the dominant broadband providers for most people.

    Most places in the U.S. are blessed with two build-outs of wired communications to the curb. Let’s use them fully by removing the shackles that bind DSL providers. Let’s repeal Section 251(3)(2)(B) of the Telecommunications Act.

    1. That amazes me that of all places San Francisco would only have one option. Seems to me like that is the tech HQ of the universe. I live in Columbus, OH and we have Time Warner, Wow, and Direct TV as options where I live. No DSL options though.

      1. AlmightyJB|4.18.15 @ 3:37PM|#
        “That amazes me that of all places San Francisco would only have one option.”

        It shouldn’t.
        SF’s city government is among the most corrupt in the country, and under the claims of ‘helping the people’, the politicos have managed to grab control of nearly all major economic functions, and, strangely, the providers of those functions somehow make sure those self-same politicos get re-elected.
        A supervisor recently mentioned that in San Francisco, housing should not be driven by supply-side economics, which should give you a reason that SF’s housing is screwed in the extreme.

        1. I agree with everything Sevo says, but I don’t think this problem is unique to San Francisco. I was in a similar situation in 2009 when the small tech company I was working for moved from San Mateo to Palo Alto and we had no reasonable high speed wired options. We chose a fixed wireless provider that was truly terrible.

          Then again, maybe this is just my karma. Broadband provider where I currently work at a tech start-up on Mission Street in SOMA? Fixed wireless. Fortunately Webpass so far has been much better than the provider we had in PA. Then again, rain was our biggest problem with the wireless back then. Maybe the current drought is making our wireless seem more reliable than it really is.

          In any case, it’s crazy that even in the Bay Area you’re screwed if there’s no cable TV where you live or work. I stand by my analysis that the Telecom Act is responsible for this insanity. With the current popularity of cord cutting, the ILECs are in dire straits anyway. It’s unlikely that repealing the network-sharing provision would bring back the bad old days of the telephone monopoly. The ILECs should be hungry for business. Let’s give them a chance to get some.

  25. Lovely comment from Cracked’s slobbering article in favor of net neutrality:

    “A private company has a vested interest in taking as much money from you and providing as little in return as possible.

    A government (caveat:first world, democratic) wants to stay in power, the best way to do that is to provide useful things for as many people as possible. their primary interest is making people vote for them. So if the government is screwing large numbers of people, it is likely incompetence.

    Saying the two are equal is like saying a psychopathic killer who is currently chanting about blood and darkness is exactly the same as a somewhat bumbling doctor who might occasionally remove the wrong toe. Sure the doctor could do better, but I’d trust him over Mr. Blood and Darkness.”…..ality.html

    Net Neutrality advocates make my teeth ache.

    1. Yea, that made my head hurt

    2. Holy shit. It amazes me to see the ideas some people have about how businesses operate.

      1. Yes, the NN supporters honestly think that the government has less perverse incentives than the private sector. They don’t seem to grasp regulatory capture at all, and they think political labels don’t lie.

        The comments on that article are completely depressing for what it means for politics.

        1. It’s more than perverse incentives. Even with the right incentives – and I believe a small minority of politicians and bureaucrats have the public’s interests at heart – it is impossible for any one person, or small group of people, to adroitly manage an economy or industry. And I don’t mean difficult. It’s impossible. They are too far away from the market. And no amount of market failures caused by central planning will convince government advocates otherwise.

    3. THIS, boys and girls, is the ignorance we are up against. And, sadly, his vote is equal to yours and mine.

  26. like Ashley responded I am blown away that a person can get paid $5520 in 1 month on the internet . Read More Here

    Don’t miss goden chance check freely,…. http://WWW.MONEYKIN.COM

  27. While reason reflexively services corporate cock, ask yourself, do you hate the Internet right now? Then ask whether it has anything to do with government, or if it might be the fact that the way to make money on the Internet these days, evidently, is to annoy the shit out of everyone.

    1. To be fair “annoying the shit out of everybody” is your area of expertise.

      1. “”the fact that the way to make money on the Internet these days, evidently, is to annoy the shit out of everyone..”

        Tony don’t care what haters say
        he too busy getting paid*

        (could not link Niky Minaj. will not do it. will not)

    2. I do like the Internet right now, but I was around for dial-up so perhaps you’re looking for someone with a little less experience to buy into the “Oh noes, it’s so terrible” bullshit.

      I don’t however like many things. I don’t like Domino’s pizza, or those tire pressure sensors from Toyota, or the taco joint down the street. It’s just that I don’t think that I should be able to tell my Uncle Sam to take those places over and tell them how to do business. Part of me thinks since I can just go elsewhere I don’t see need the government to tell them how to run their place. Another part thinks it’s incredibly immoral and authoritarian to take someone’s shit just cuz “fuck them, I want stuff.” And yet another part thinks that handing the government the power to take people’s shit for no reason other than its popular could even lead to possible tyranny such as it has all over the world.

      1. But it’s for teh childrenz

    3. Tony|4.18.15 @ 4:19PM|#
      “[…]or if it might be the fact that the way to make money on the Internet these days, evidently, is to annoy the shit out of everyone.”

      Yeah, Amazon really pisses me off, what with offering very good prices, an amazing selection of goods and prompt service, along with weather services supported by ads, this site right here and many others.
      What really does piss me off, you slimy piece of shit, is being denied competition for the service by assholes like you.

  28. Newsflash: Socialists Still Hate Capitalism

    “(Reuters) – Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards.

    “I think this deal will open the door to genetically-modified foods here,” said Jennifer Ruffatto, 28, who works with handicapped people…”Companies will gain from this at the expense of people.”

    Helmut Edelhauesser, a 52-year-old…, said he would prefer a free trade deal with Russia.

    “The U.S. push for world domination is unacceptable,” he told Reuters. “Obama sends out drones to kill people and wins the Nobel peace prize. This has to stop.”

    I went looking for more informative, less-fuzzy-and-hysterical reasoning behind the trade-deal opposition… and the best i could find was this, whose main gripe (between the lines about ISDS and CETA) seems to be “uh, competition would reduce the control that trade unions have over agriculture, utilities, healthcare, etc”

    the fact that ‘free trade’ would create 100bn+ in new business for both parties is waved away as “only for Big Corporations”. Because apparently big companies dont hire people or pay them or anything.

    1. How in the world with the information out there can these fucktards be this stupid…it’s mindboggling.

    2. Leftists and populists seem to live with an inchoate fear of no one identifiable being in charge of economics. Socialist structures soothe their minds but not of any rational concern.

  29. Serious question: Why do you hate your ISP?

    If your answer is ‘customer service sucks’ be a bit more specific. What sucks about it?

    I’ve been a customer of the same company the last 13 years. While I could wish the cost were a bit lower (don’t we wish everything cost less?), I really don’t have much else to complain about. The service basically works 364 out of 365 days a year.

    In 13 years I’ve probably talked to a rep no more than half a dozen times.

    The video service used to have some pixelation on a couple digital channels but since they’ve gone full digital, video problems seem to have disappeared entirely. I suspect the increase in video reliability is because illegal hookups are basically gone since digital needs an authorized device.

    Been well over a year since my internet was out that I know of, except for a couple times the modem needed a reboot (I own it, so can’t blame that on them)

    My biggest complaint would have to be the time that a drunk took out a distribution box on my street. Took a couple days for that to get fixed because they had to send a regular tech out first, who then escalated to someone with a higher pay grade to fix.

    1. I have Hughesnet. It’s literally the only thing I can get where I live, because the cable company won’t put a line down my street to where I live, nor will the phone company (though they did put in a phone line ages ago)

      It’s great that I have something that could vaguely be called high speed internet, but at the same time, because I have a 500 megabyte a day cap (for which I pay $80 a month), I can’t actually use the speed for much.

      The worse thing is that they’ve basically eliminated the plan I have, where I can at least download unlimited from 2 am to 7 am. I am grandfathered in, but they constantly try to get me to change to the current “Gen4” plan they call it, which offers supposedly faster speeds and a higher daily cap (well, 30 gigs a month), but no free download period.

      And why did they do this? Because they are now pushing a Vonage type phone plan and they need the bandwidth.

      1. We get 5 MB/s on our DSL. I’ve considered HN, but 30 gig/mo ain’t getting it done. I’ve considered getting two satellite dishes (60 probably would).

        It will get better. FO is coming in the next few years and I’m guessing Verizon will eventually offer unlimited LTE plans. There’s competition, it just hasn’t forced an unlimited high speed option yet, out here in the boonies.

      2. Ya I never really cared for satellite. My dad has it as he lives way outside town.

        For years the service was slow and unreliable. Couple years ago he either switched providers or cancelled with who he had and then reconnected as a new customer. Whatever he did, the new connection is pretty fast. He still has the lag time, but pages actually load in seconds instead of minutes like before. No idea what company he uses, or what kind of caps or anything he has to deal with though.

    2. I get 60 in North Alabama, in a small city with a metro population of only about 400K. My costs have been basically constant for the last 8 years.

      I really don’t see the problem.

  30. I had this problem with my car company. Their product kept going up in price, and the reliability was dubious. That’s why I believe cars are a utility, they serve a public good. Did you know in my area there is only one option for buying and servicing my Ferrari? I have no choice, I have to buy a Ferrari from those capitalist pigs.

    1. Shoulda bought a Porsche


  31. Speaking of Comcast. Seems like Brian Williams is just the tip of the iceburg with the news dept.

  32. I love the Cat5den Flag, BTW.

  33. I have been “on” the internet since 1989. While I may not agree with everything the net neutrality gang says, I do agree with this – the internet has worked very well and innovation has flourished because communications companies practiced the principles of net neutrality by default. That is, your data was treated the same as Joe’s data. Peering was mutually agreed upon (not without a few spats along the way but always worked out).

    If you want to break the internet, go ahead and let ATT, Verizon and a handful of others have their way. Afterall, the US already pays about the highest cost for “high speed” (misnomer) internet in the world. I’m sure an oligopoly has your best interests at heart. Of course, those same innovators you are so concerned about (Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, and Yahoo, etc) disagree with you but certainly they don’t know anything about the internet.

    1. The DERP is Strong with This One.

      1. -5pts for going with a star wars reference rather than a dune reference.

      2. “The DERP is Strong with This One.”

        So DERP = misdirection, innuendo and lies?

  34. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,
    Go to tech tab for work detail ?????????????

  35. my best friend’s mom makes $63 hourly on the internet . She has been fired for nine months but last month her income was $16725 just working on the internet for a few hours. look at here……………….

  36. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week………….

  37. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing,


  38. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  39. nice information is shared here know about seo training institute in Jaipur

  40. One of my friends said that The only quibbles I have with the piece are small – for example, its not accurate to summarize tier 1 ISPs as the natural outcome of economies of scale and I completely agree with that.

  41. One of my friends said that The only quibbles I have with the piece are small – for example, its not accurate to summarize tier 1 ISPs as the natural outcome of economies of scale and I completely agree with that.

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