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Bandwidth Fines Bad, But Not Net Neutrality Issue

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the give-me-streaming-hd-or-give-me-death dept.

Communications 159

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes with his take on the recent Time Warner Cable fiasco: "Net Neutrality crusaders at FreePress.net recently called attention to Time Warner's plan (later rescinded) to impose fines on users for going over bandwidth limits. I agree generally, but I think this is easily confused with the reasoning in favor of Net Neutrality, and it's important to keep the arguments separate." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

On April 13th I received an e-mail from FreePress.net, one of the organizations that led the fight in favor of Net Neutrality:

Just as we're suffering economically, Time Warner Cable is trying to squeeze us even further, forcing millions of customers to pay steep fees for exceeding an absurdly low monthly limit on Internet use. [...] The company's scheme would cost customers $15 per month for one gigabyte — the equivalent of one 30-minute HD television show — with a penalty fee of $2 for every additional gigabyte over the limit.

Later, FreePress.net triumphantly announced that Time Warner had reversed their position. Now, I would appear to have painted myself into a corner on this issue, because I wrote in an editorial two years ago arguing in favor of Net Neutrality:

[Net Neutrality is] not about how much a service costs, but about the ethics of double-billing for it. [...] If vastly more people start trying to stream CNN over the Internet 24/7, and fully using the services that ISPs have "only been pretending to sell," as Brad Templeton put it, then ISPs may have to charge more for users who consume too much bandwidth, encouraging people to stay at today's average levels by rationing themselves and perhaps watching 24 on their $5,000 TV sets sometimes instead of downloading it off of BitTorrent to their laptop every week because it makes them feel like a haX0r. Much as we all love our unmetered connections, it wouldn't be a violation of Net Neutrality for ISPs to charge users for bandwidth hogging, to keep everyone from going too far above today's levels.

And yet, even after writing those words, I still think there is an argument against letting ISPs impose bandwidth fines, at least under some conditions. However, I think the argument is completely separate from the argument in favor of Net Neutrality, so it's important to derive both of them independently of each other.

I would try to make both arguments by deriving the conclusions from first principles. This might seem pedantic at times, but I think it's helpful to have a precise mathematical-style "proof" of why a conclusion follows from its premises, because then you can see how changing one premise would change the conclusion.

To me the simplest argument in favor of Net Neutrality follows from three assumptions. You don't have to agree with the assumptions, but I think that all three of them are obvious because the opposite would be untenable.

  1. An ISP that blocks (or slows access to) certain websites is defrauding its users UNLESS either (a) the ISP has made its users aware of the filtering, or (b) it's overwhelmingly clear that the filtering protects the users or improves their experience (so more experienced users would assume it is taking place anyway). If your ISP has told you that they're selling "Internet access" but they're silently blocking some Web sites, then this is straightforward. You're paying for one thing, and the ISP is selling you something else that is inferior. In the incident that I wrote about, ISPs like Rogers.com that used AboveNet as their upstream provider, were actually blocking their subscribers from reaching certain websites, even though their customers thought they were getting unfiltered Internet access. Now if the ISP advertises that its Internet connections are filtered, as some "family friendly" providers do — so that virtually all users knew about the filtering — then this would not be a violation of Net Neutrality. And if the ISP is blocking mail from actual spam sources, then this is something that protects users and improves their experience, and so is usually not considered a violation of Net Neutrality either. But if the ISP is silently blocking access to Web sites, or blocking mail from servers that are not sending spam but simply because the ISP owner has a political disagreement with those server owners, then that would violate this principle.

  2. "Make its customers aware" means just that — make its customers aware — and not bury something in the Terms of Service. Imagine if the opposite principle were accepted — that websites and software vendors could do anything they wanted as long as they put the right disclaimer in the 23rd paragraph of their site's or program's "Terms of Service" that nobody reads. Scam artists' eyes everywhere would light up with dollar signs thinking of the possibilities: Create a popular program and get people to install it, while putting a clause deep in the TOS that permits them to remotely take over your computer after you've installed their software! Or for a real-world example, Yahoo! once tried to amend the GeoCities Terms of Service to give Yahoo! the copyright on any content uploaded by their users. Yahoo! reversed itself after a public backlash, but even if they hadn't, it would have been good public policy for a court to say that Yahoo!'s copyright claim on their users' content was invalid. You can, of course, strengthen your legal rights by putting the right language in your Terms of Service, but it would mean total chaos if companies could bury "gotchas" in your TOS that are wildly contrary to what users are reasonably likely to assume.

  3. If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well. Some of AboveNet's defenders argued that they mostly sold Internet connectivity to ISPs, not to the public, and the ISPs knew that the connections were filtered. Even assuming this were true, the ISPs still would not be able to re-sell the service to the public without representing it as "regular Internet access" — nobody would pay full price for a broken or degraded connection when a competitor could offer a regular connection for the same price.

So, an ISP that blocks or degrades access to certain Web sites, when users think they are getting full unfettered Internet access, is cheating customers (or, in the case of a backbone provider, complicit in the downstream ISPs cheating their customers) in violation of the principles of Net Neutrality. QED. I would tentatively call these assumptions airtight; at least, I cannot think of any corporate behavior that violates one or more of these principles and should be allowed under good public policy.

By contrast, the argument against Net Neutrality — that the free market will ensure that ISPs provide effective service without the need for government regulation — relies on assumptions that might sound reasonable, but have loopholes, and the loopholes are precisely where Net Neutrality violations can slip through. An anti-Net-Neutrality editorial by Sonia Arrison, for example, argued that "consumers would never stand for blocked Web sites." However, in the case of AboveNet's filtering, downstream users did of course "stand for it," because they didn't know about it, and the natural assumption, when the user sees a website not responding, is to think that the site is down, not that their provider blocked it.

But the argument against bandwidth fines is different. While "broken" Internet access could never be sold to the public without some sort of misrepresentation, it is conceivable that people would still pay for Internet access even if the price were $15 for the first 1 GB and $2 per GB after that. However, it would still be good public policy to prohibit two variants of this scheme: (a) ISPs silently racking up charges, scummy-cell-phone-company style, against users who may not realize what charges they're incurring, and then shocking them with overage bills at the end of the month; and (b) ISPs charging draconian bandwidth fines in cases where they have a monopoly, or near-monopoly, on users' Internet access options.

Prohibiting "shock" overage bills essentially follows from principles #1 and #2 above — users should know what they're getting, and sneaking something into the fine print doesn't count. If someone is approaching their bandwidth limit, and is on track to run over (and incur a lot of charges) before the end of the month, it wouldn't be too much trouble to send them an e-mail or an automated (or live) phone call to warn the user what's going on. If the ISP objects that this would cost them too much, I'd say I'll happily pay $1 for the trouble of them placing a call to my house if it saved me $20 in surprise overages.

Prohibiting bandwidth fines in the case of monopoly situations simply follows from the principle that without competition, the bandwidth overage fees are likely to be much higher than they would be in a competitive market. It may not be the motivation of the ISP simply to make as much money as possible; perhaps they want to discourage high-bandwidth usage for other reasons. As FreePress.net theorized about the proposed Time Warner bandwidth surcharges: "This trick is designed to make customers think twice before switching off their cable TV and finding the shows they want online." But whether it's to squeeze subscribers for extra money or to stop them from streaming content from the Internet, either way, the plan could not be sustainable if users can find higher bandwidth at a lower cost from other providers. For most of its subscribers, Time Warner doesn't have a pure monopoly — in some areas, you can get only one cable Internet provider and only one DSL provider, but the two still compete with each other to provide "Internet access," and other areas have a choice between cable providers. However, in a situation with only a small number of competitors, companies can still keep prices higher than they would in a purely competitive market, because there are fewer chances for an upstart competitor to find ways to provide a more efficient service at a lower cost.

What if neither of these conditions were true? If an ISP actually did make sure that its subscribers knew about the bandwidth limits, and users got warnings if they were approaching those limits, and there were enough competing providers to ensure real competition, then in that situation it would be harder to make an argument against the bandwidth surcharges. (Admittedly, it may be something of an academic point, because there are so few situations where there are "enough competing providers" to guarantee healthy competition.)

But it's important to keep the arguments for Net Neutrality separate from the arguments against bandwidth surcharges. Bandwidth fines are bad mainly when there are few competing providers, because it will be hard for users to get a better deal somewhere else, and providers like Time Warner may have a vested interest in keeping users' bandwidth limits low to keep them glued to their TV. Violations of Net Neutrality are bad regardless of whether there are few or many competing providers, because users cannot avoid the harm if they're unlikely to discover what's happening in the first place.

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Please, please, please (5, Insightful)

Alistair Hutton (889794) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758555)

Yes, a thousand times yes Can we not conflate unrelated issues at all and keep Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content. Everything else can go and find it's own banner to campaign under, probably one that says "Free Cake" because it does seem to me a whole pile of freeloader causes are trying to get some of that sweet, sweet Network Neutrality moral certitude.

I hate Islam. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758719)

All you misogynistic, murderous, 12th Century theology-possessing pig fuckers can all rot in hell with your 72 virgins and all that load of crap. I hope your 72 virgins turn out to be 72 of those short, fat, hairy-lipped ever-pregnant mamasitas that we have running around all over the southwest.

Re:I hate Islam. (-1, Offtopic)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758921)

Um, unless there will soon be a massive number of new religions created in about 30 years in the Southwest, I don't think ever-pregnant and virgins can go together.

Re:I hate Islam. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758995)

That's the point: Islamofascist faggots discovering all-too-late that everything they were taught was a lie.

Re:Please, please, please (-1, Troll)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758815)

Can we not conflate unrelated issues at all and keep Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only

This wouldn't even be a problem if we didn't have Obama out there letting all the illegals in to steal our bandwidth.

Re:Please, please, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759801)

Oh come on. He's not letting in illegal aliens to steal our bandwidth. He's letting them in to steal our social services because he and pretty much every other politician feels guilty about not paying their nannies and gardeners a livable wage. The liberal mind functions entirely in guilt-mode, and so they're perpetually trying to make everything "fair" (for everyone except themselves, of course) in order to compensate for the fact that they are always trying to screw people. This allows them to sleep at night after a hard day's work of disenfranchising Mexicans, squashing individual liberties and personal accountability, and deliberately using Fannie and Freddie to crush the economy as cover for an unprecedented power grab. It's a quid-pro-quo: You wipe my kid's bottom and cut my lawn, and I don't make you pay for social services via taxes like everyone else.

Re:Please, please, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759969)

This is what I get for browsing at -1. Xenophobic, far right-wing talking points. There *are* articles about politics; go troll them, you self-centered imbeciles.

Re:Please, please, please (4, Insightful)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759395)

Even better would be dropping the whole "Net Neutrality" meme and returning to the time-honored concept of "common carriage." The FCC created this problem when it bowed to the wishes of the telcos and created an entirely new regime ("enhanced services") not governed by common carriage. Internet services fall into this category along with directory assistance and dial-a-porn. The consequences of not enforcing a clear divide between content and carriage are now apparent, particularly in the case of cable operators who have an obvious conflict-of-interest when it comes to the distribution of video programming over the Internet.

Re:Please, please, please (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759413)

Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content

Not just content, but source and destination too.

Re:Please, please, please (4, Informative)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759893)

Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content

Not just content, but source and destination too.

My impression was that Net Neutrality had absolutely nothing to do with content (which would more accurately be called Quality of Service, i.e. prioritizing HTTP or VOIP traffic over FTP or BitTorrent traffic), but solely with source and destination (e.g. prioritizing Google's HTTP traffic over Yahoo's HTTP traffic).

Re:Please, please, please (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759927)

I think content is part of it too. If my ISP inserts advertisements into pages, that's not being neutral. Let's apply the common carrier logic: Would it be fair for a common carrier to open a package, insert a coupon for a competing product, then reseal the package and deliver it?

Re:Please, please, please (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760059)

I think content is part of it too. If my ISP inserts advertisements into pages, that's not being neutral.

Modifying content as it comes across their wires is just plain wrong, regardless of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is exactly one thing: prioritizing traffic based on source and/or destination. The "neutrality" part is in reference to the content provider, not the type of traffic or anything else. Injecting advertisements should be illegal under wiretapping laws, with or without Net Neutrality.

Re:Please, please, please (1)

Alistair Hutton (889794) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760931)

Yeah, I used content in the wrong manner. I was using it to not just mean the content of the package but also the header information.

Re:Please, please, please (3, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759441)

No, no, a thousand times no! Disclosure is not neutrality. ISPs have monopolies. You can't choose a better deal. So disclosure makes no difference.

Furthermore, bandwidth caps, particularly when they are asymmetric, mean you are a consumer of content, not a producer. How neutral is that?

It's true that bandwidth sharing isn't *solely* a net neutrality issue--there are real problems with hogs. But when a desire to retain a cable franchise motivates an ISP to deliver a slow, capped connection, that _is_ very clearly a net neutrality issue.

Re:TW's play at being anti-competitive (5, Insightful)

kimgkimg (957949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759597)

So what do you call it when TW imposes caps which make say Netflix/Hulu/Youtube content more expensive to watch than TW provided content? Yes they don't explicitly single out those services, but by imposing expensive caps the end result is the same. So then people flock to the cheaper services like TW video-on-demand (which magically aren't encumbered by said bandwidth caps because it's a separate paid TW service --- which just happens to be cheaper when you compare it against busting through your download tier.)

Re:TW's play at being anti-competitive (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759775)

Exactly.
The voice and video services may be on a different band than the net service, but it's still the same pipe, and they're still competing for limited bandwidth.

Call it pipe neutrality if you want to be pedantic.
Fuck this article.

Re:Please, please, please (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759679)

The whole problem seems to be a "truth in advertising" problem for ISP's, relating to both Net Neutrality issues and Bandwith Caps. If ISP's were more straightforward, the two issues would not be getting conflated.

There is a fear that ISP's are giving their "own" packets (say TW doesn't count their own VOIP Packets in the monthy cap calculation) the same way that cell phone companies don't count the minutes for Inter-network phonecalls. This packet "cost" becomes intertwined in network neutrality, because it shouldn't matter if the packets are Vonage or TW VOIP, they both should be the same "cost". Because of ISP's deceptiveness in Torrent Monitoring, Traffic Shaping, and other Questionable practices of the past, why should we believe they are not doing such a thing already without admitting it.

If we had the FCC or some lawsuits bring the Hammer down on deceptive advertising practices, I think this debate would be more clear. The problem is, because the ISP's have been so unclear, the two issues are getting confused because Bandwith caps have no defined parameters from the ISP's.

I think for Anyone to claim "speeds up to xxx", this should mean that 90% of the time, the customer should be able to get that speed. The ISP's need to come up with a shared "speed test" (and if they won't do it, have an independant group/government do it) much like "MPG's" are all calculated the same way. We all know MPG's are not what you'll get for real world use, but at least all cars are measured in the same way. Also, for a company to implement bandwith caps, the FCC should mandate that all packets are incorporated into that cap equally. Then the two issues would not be confused.

Re:Please, please, please (1)

tomz16 (992375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760161)

I agree with you in spirit. Angosticism to packet contents is logically a separate issue from bandwidth caps. However, the practical ramifications of both to the consumer are pretty much identical.

Time Warner sells cable TV, digital voice, video-on-demand, and run their own web portal (with videos, music, etc.) Presumably none of these service would be affected by their bandwidth cap. In contrast, hulu, youtube, vonage, netflix, etc. would be billed at $1/GB (at cheapest based on the current plan).

So while they haven't prioritized packets based on content/destination, they have made certain packets ludicrously expensive to the end-user (the packets that don't correspond to other Time Warner services). This effectively prioritizes packets using user behavior and economic principles. At the end of the day, does it really matter whether they use a piece of hardware to inspect packets and set QOS flags, or just use their grip on your wallet to drop those packets to a trickle.

At the very least caps are an end-run around net neutrality that will equally stifle innovation and competition. More realistically it's the first wedge Time Warner is driving into the net-neutrality issue. Anyone want to take any wagers on how long it will be after the caps are entrenched that we start seeing "free-bandwidth partner websites?" (e.g. Proudly announcing, TWulu, now bandwidth-usage-free to Time Warner customers!)

Re:Please, please, please (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760251)

Can we not conflate unrelated issues

I agree, except these are certainly related issues. IE the ISP's are trying to use both tools to stop competition with their related businesses. IE some DSL providers are using both tools to stop VOIP/Video chat from taking away their phone revenue, and Cable companies to stop video streaming... So these are both good examples of why regulation may be needed, and why the free market needs some regulations. I think the point of the article is valid, both don't need addressed by the federal government, only net-neutrality. In true monopoly situations, the local governments certainly need to consider both of these issues at the same time (but certainly not as the same issue.) If the Federal government takes care of net-neutrality, then bandwidth fees/caps will need close watching.

Re:Please, please, please (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760285)

While I agree that getting what was advertised and paid for is not related to net neutrality, it sure as hell isn't trying to get free cake.

It's irresponsibility and profiteering on the ISP's part that is now being called into question.

If an ISP claims unlimited (you cannot redefine a word by throwing fine print at it) at a certain bps, then calculate what you can get downloaded in 365 days, divide by 12, plus a sludge factor for the good days when you get a little more than your *level*, and that should be what you can download without paying any more.

The ISPs have gotten used to *THEIR FREE MEAL*, and now it's being taken away. Awww - I'd feel bad for them if they hadn't asked for it. They should have invested that free meal (users who use less than their paid for bandwidth) to keep their capacity above a low-water mark for utilization so that when the damn breaks, they're ready for it.

Instead, they spent it on bonuses, widgets and gidgets unrelated to their business, and now they find themselves under the gun. Again I say, too damned bad. They put themselves in that position with bad business decisions and are now trying to re-write their end user agreements to enforce even more bad business decisions.

We need to band together, form a class action lawsuit against all ISPs and force them to remove any and all fine print when using the words "unlimited", remove any caps, filters, interference from the lines, and stay that way.

The free lunch/ride for the ISPs is over, now it's time they get to pay for the infrastructure to handle the bandwidth they've been selling and not providing for all these years.

The "unrelated issues" are related (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27760613)

keep Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content.

Fine, but as soon as you start talking about cable TV companies (e.g. Time Warner, Comcast), bandwidth caps are failures to be packet content agnostic.

Their own content streams into your house, over the same wire, 24x7 in a multi-channel torrent of gigabytes that totally dwarfs your cap. If those packets are all you want, no extra charge. But try to replace some of those packets with packets from hulu: you can't. Do the next best thing: add packets from hulu: you get charged extra.

I would agree with you, if we were really just talking about ISPs. But the submitter mentioned Time Warner, and they are not just an ISP. A bandwidth cap, which when implemented by "just an ISP" is not a violation of network neutrality, becomes a violation of network neutrality if that same company is selling you uncapped content.

Re:The "unrelated issues" are related (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27760769)

But there own tv content is sent through an equivalent method to multi-casting, as long as it is still broadcast not on demand. This makes it significantly cheaper.

However I do agree that this should be looked at carefully as they have local monopolies and therefore monopoly laws should apply, hence not letting them use there position as an ISP to force the use of their cable tv services on people over hulu etc...

Re:Please, please, please (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760627)

But they are related. It just requires you to look at the neutrality of the netwok as a whole rather than just the IP subset of it.

Cableco networks are far from neutral and always have been. The cablecos TV service gets gauranteed broadcast bandwidth. Everything else (including third party TV services) has to put up with "best effort" IP unicast. Now they are making things even less neutral by capping the ammount of traffic a user can receive over that "best effort" IP unicast without paying (often extortionate) overage rates.

Please summarize (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758573)

"I bought an 'unlimited' plan that turns out to actually have limits. Now I don't want to pay because I didn't understand the contract I was signing. I think I shouldn't have to pay because I'm not a lawyer."

Re:Please summarize (0, Troll)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758593)

We can't accuse you of having a misleading name, that's for sure.

Re:Please summarize (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758671)

Summary: "I'm illiterate and don't think I should be held responsible for actions that I undertook myself."

Summary of summary: "I'm American."

Re:Please summarize (0, Offtopic)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758717)

Not really, since European and Canadian do the same things, or fail to do it, actually.

Americans doesn't have the monopoly of stupidity, even if they are working hard for it sometimes.

Re:Please summarize (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758835)

Summary: "I'm illiterate and don't think I should be held responsible for actions that I undertook myself."

I suppose you read every piece of paper you signed your whole life.

Re:Please summarize (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758987)

I suppose you read every piece of paper you signed your whole life.

Not necessarily. But I also don't cry "FOUL" after I've signed something that I was given an opportunity to read. In short, I take responsibility for my actions (or inaction).

Re:Please summarize (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759471)

Irony is dead.

Re:Please summarize (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759807)

Summary: "I've got no other viable option, so even though I do not like the terms in the contract, I must accept them in order to obtain this increasingly-critical service. I will then bitch about it because they're jerks, and because I fucking can."

Re:Please summarize (3, Informative)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758979)

"I bought an 'unlimited' plan that turns out to actually have limits. Now I don't want to pay because I didn't understand the contract I was signing. I think I shouldn't have to pay because I'm not a lawyer."

You're presuming both that the limits were set into the original contract, that they haven't changed since the customer agreed to the contract, and that the Internet provider -- in the event that it changed these limits -- made a fair and reasonable effort to contact the customer. I don't think these are presumptions we can safely make in the age of click-through EULAs that often include phrases such as "We can change the conditions of the contract at any time with no notice to you."

Re:Please summarize (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759109)

Actually, in my country, a contract made up entirely of cryptic legalese is void. Contracts have to be made in a language that a common, educated person can understand and comprehend its implications (rough translation of the law).

Before we had that you had a quite good chance to have a piece of paper put under your nose with lots of paragraph icons and some arbitrary numbers sprinkled on the paper, where the only words you really understand are "sign here".

Re:Please summarize (1)

Harik (4023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759219)

UNLIMITED INTERNET ACCESS $49.99*

<font size=-99>*usage charges apply</font>

Re:Please summarize (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759685)

Does it, anywhere in the contract, specify "unlimited data transfer" ? I assume you have an upper limit on your bandwidth, so unlimited data transfer cannot physically be correct. Therefore unlimited only refers to your connection, ie. they do not limit when you connect and for how long. Maybe you aren't old enough to remember AOL selling you 15 hours per month, but these days I can stay connected for an unlimited time with no extra charges. Don't try to complain that that is not what the average person would understand by "unlimited" as the average person doesn't know the difference between bandwidth and transfer allowance anyway. You appear to be trying to get something for nothing and are hoping the ignorance of the general public will back you up.

Do you think an "unlimited mileage" warrantee would cover your car if you used it in a destruction derby ?

I have an unlimited service but looking at my downloads this month I only have just under 6 GB of usage. And I torrent TV shows twice a week, and am on the net 24/7/365. WTF are you expecting ?

Re:Please summarize (2, Insightful)

pigeon768 (589860) | more than 5 years ago | (#27761129)

My Time Warner contract does say "unlimited internet". Granted, my plan is not the $15 month plan outlined in TFA, but it still has a catchall (paraphrasing) 'Time Warner has the right to change the terms of this contract in any way they see fit for any reason' clause in there somewhere. Basically, it's no contract at all.

I wouldn't expect an "unlimited mileage" warranty would cover my car if I used it in a demolition derby, nor would I expect an "unlimited internet" contract to cover my computer if I launched it in a catapult. However, I would expect an "unlimited mileage" warranty to cover my car if I drove it over 1,000 miles, just as I would expect an "unlimited internet" contract to cover bandwidth over 1 GB/month.

EarthLink's dial-up. (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759957)

Before I got broadband service, I had a dedicated phone line to be on dial-up (only 3 KB/sec even on 56k modems -- crappy phone lines here) for long time. EarthLink (ELN) said unlimited for $19.95/$21.95, but its TOS/AUP never said anything about every 24 hours straight there is a disconnection. I asked in public on their newsgroups/forums, why the disconnections. People talked about this and were annoyed. Even one support guy, said I should get a life. Umm, I am not always at the keyboard. I have to download and upload big files too (remember, 3 KB/sec)! Then, other members and I noticed later on that ELN added this to mention it. Recently, I noticed they disconnect dialup users who are on 12 hours straight. Sheesh.

ToS that nobody reads (1, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758579)

Imagine if the opposite principle were accepted -- that websites and software vendors could do anything they wanted as long as they put the right disclaimer in the 23rd paragraph of their site's or program's "Terms of Service" that nobody reads.

Your whole argument for Net Neutrality hinges on this. Clearly there is a huge incentive for a company to read through these lengthy documents and bring this stuff to people's attention, so that people who don't have the time to read long contracts or ToS can know about it. If people choose not to read something before signing it, they are not being "defrauded" if and when the unexpected comes to pass. There is a free market solution to this. As VeriSign does for online security, and Underwriters Laboratories for product safety, and Consumer Reports for product quality, so goes for contracts. Companies would build up their name by providing the public with useful and accurate information at the lowest possible cost.

Re:ToS that nobody reads (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759181)

If you could even imagine the amount of liability that would involve you would never have suggested it. Such an organization can only exist if funded by consumers or by the government (heh) because it would exist only to say bad things about companies and it would have to defend itself in court continually. Absolutely the only way to resolve this problem is to pass a law saying that the contract must be written in plain and simple English. This would probably cause innumerable conflicts with the accepted legal meanings of laws. The solution is to actually throw it all away and start over, but that will never happen without cataclysm or coup.

Re:ToS that nobody reads (1)

mahsah (1340539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759901)

Consumers or the government? Why not have the companies just pay to have their contract certified...?

Re:ToS that nobody reads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759333)

Your model works until you add in structural monopolies. When there is a regional exclusivity that cannot be changed by either would-be competitors or local governments you don't get the free-market choice. Despite how much I dislike it, we NEED the operators to have an exclusivity because otherwise they wouldn't be financially sustainable. The trade off was supposed to be that consumer rights would be safeguarded from abuse of monopoly, but lobbyists saw to the end of that. As more people start doing more things online the lobbyists will lose and internet will be recognized as a utility (as it should be), but the next ~20 years while that slowly happens are going to be frustrating for people like me.

False Neutrality (4, Interesting)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758607)

I regularly check the ToS of the two providers in my area, because they both suck, but some times one sucks less than the other. Both have big, broad sweeping claims that they are both supporting and adhering to net neutrality principles, yet they both also flat out state they prioritize VOIP service and degrade bittorrent traffic.

To me these statements are completely contradictory. I don't recall my neighbors choice to use his internet as a phone making my choice to use mine as a TV any less valid, yet that is in effect exactly what they are stating.

Am I wrong?

Re:False Neutrality (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758723)

If they were degrading Hulu streams, you'd have more of a point. Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.

Re:False Neutrality (2, Funny)

rasjani (97395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759019)

Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.

I wouldnt want to be in the isp helpdesk on WoW patchday if my isp would even consider that 0)

Re:False Neutrality (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759835)

Simply host the patch on your servers so your customers can get it extra fast.

Call up Blizzard and they'll likely help you out.

Or you know, just tell your employees to leave the Blizzard Downloader running while they play, to help out.

Re:False Neutrality (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759047)

No, that's still irrelevant. If you're an ISP you provide an internet connection, and the internet doesn't give a fuck about the contents of your packet so long as you got the IP part right. The only kind of QoS an ISP can do without being a fucker is the kind where interactive traffic gets bumped to the front of YOUR queue, but every subscriber should still have a fair shot at their percentage of the currently available bandwidth. If there's not enough bandwidth to do VoIP without QoS putting my VoIP ahead of your torrents then there is a serious problem. But the only kind of QoS that need be applied to protect your neighbor's right to his share of the bandwidth is the round-robin-by-subscriber kind.

Re:False Neutrality (3, Informative)

Harik (4023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759337)

I've got to disagree here - it's a bad network design that treats bulk downloads the same as as time-critical packets. Your VoIP call should absolutely be prioritized above my bittorrent download - and it's easy to show why. In a congestion situation, proper QoS means that downloads may take a little longer - but VOIP STILL WORKS AT ALL.

Now, throttling torrents to modem speeds is wrong, but traffic shaping isn't the same thing as queuing priority. And honestly, unless your neighbor is running a call center, your bittorrent client is only competing with other big downloaders.

Streaming video (not video conferencing) is interesting as well - unlike VoIP it's not as time sensitive, you can have a 10 second buffer without significantly degrading the call. As long as you can sustain an average bandwidth within a given buffer-size window, your streaming video still works. It's a tough call, because it is time sensitive, but not AS time sensitive as VoIP is, and you have to distinguish between them.

Of course, you also shouldn't oversell your bandwidth 100:1 or worse...

Re:False Neutrality (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759887)

Yup.
If you don't have the capacity, don't advertise like you do.
Fucking around with choking people is a dead end, all it does is put off the "Maybe we'll upgrade ..." date further and further.

Re:False Neutrality (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759883)

If they were degrading Hulu streams, you'd have more of a point. Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.

I mean no offense but I think you yourself may be missing the point. I can't speak for everyone but I'll explain to you what I want and I hope that will elucidate the viewpoint. I want a completely neutral, disinterested carrier. This carrier merely delivers my IP packets on a best-effort basis with absolutely no regard for the content of those packets. They don't decide that one type of transmission needs higher priority and they don't decide that another type of transmission needs lower priority. They don't analyze my data for the purpose of serving advertisements, nor do they do this for any other reason. In short, they are merely the pipe. If I need VoIP traffic to have priority over BitTorrent traffic, then I will perform my own prioritization and traffic shaping. If that's not quite as effective as what an ISP can do, I will accept that as a fair trade-off.

It bothers me that so many things are heading down the path of "we know what's good for you." That's not specific to ISPs at all. The idea of "we (the centralized entity of some sort) know what's good for you" has been put to the test throughout history, in many different forms, again and again. It has failed each time it has tried, unless your definition of success includes conditioned helplessness and a rejection of free will. Each new form of this idea is presented as though it were truly new and it isn't. How many iterations do we need to experience before we realize that there are only a few important principles that govern many thousands of things, and that this path is the wrong way to go?

Re:False Neutrality (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760075)

What if I want to pay less for a lower demand service? I bring this up because a regulator probably needs to have some sort of answer to that question.

I think the best long term solution is to require ISPs to completely separate themselves from media companies, and then separate the physical plant off from any operations that provide bits (VOIP, VoD, Cable, etc.). The company in each of those segments is then going to be more interested in serving customer interests than in serving the interests of the conglomerate.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758759)

No your correct.

That ISP is NOT network neutral, they are either dumb or flat out fraudulent.

I suspect those two statements might have been written by two different people, at least one of whom has their facts wrong. There's still no excuse though.

Re:False Neutrality (2, Informative)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758897)

That ISP is NOT network neutral, they are either dumb or flat out fraudulent.

There's a world of difference between QoS and network neutrality. The examples he cites are QoS related, and have nothing to do with network neutrality.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759003)

The prioritized voice services are something they sell to you at additional cost, competing with services such as vonage. I fail to see how that is related to QoS.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759123)

In your original post, you didn't specify that the VOIP they were prioritizing was their own.

Re:False Neutrality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759209)

There's a world of difference between QoS and network neutrality.

No, there isn't. QoS should never be applied by the ISP, other than by limiting your total bandwidth usage (in whatever form it may be) during high traffic times if they can't handle it, in order to make sure others still have their bandwidth. Prioritizing services is something they certainly should not be allowed to do, and that type of QoS should happen at YOUR router so you can prioritize what YOU think is important.

After all, once you let Time Warner decide they can prioritize voip traffic over other traffic, what's to stop them from prioritizing their voip service over something like vonage? On their end, all packets should be equal.

Re:False Neutrality (2, Informative)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759311)

After all, once you let Time Warner decide they can prioritize voip traffic over other traffic, what's to stop them from prioritizing their voip service over something like vonage?

When they prioritize traffic based on its type (VOIP, FTP, HTTP, etc.), that's QoS shaping. When they prioritize traffic of the same type, based on its destination or origin, that violates network neutrality.

If they give higher priority to VOIP traffic, regardless of the provider, that's just QoS shaping. When they prioritize their own VOIP offering over a competitor's, that violates network neutrality.

They are very different concepts.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

wile_e8 (958263) | more than 5 years ago | (#27761063)

Here's an article I found a while back that helps explain the differences between QoS and net neutrality: Link [livejournal.com]

Essentially, giving priority to services that need instant data transfer to be effective, like VOIP, is a good thing. That's QoS. Giving priority to packets based on who is sending/receiving is a bad thing, which is the point of net neutrality.

Re:False Neutrality (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758829)

Yes, you are mostly wrong.

Prioritizing one service over another is QoS shaping, and is not the issue we're talking about with Net Neutrality. In fact, it's generally good network management.

Now, if they're actively degrading Bittorrent transfers, instead of just putting them on the bottom of the QoS stack when there is other, higher-priority traffic on the line, then you have an argument about them providing poor quality service, but it's the same as blocking port 80 outbound so you don't run a local web server: that should be disclosed as part of the services they offer on their network, so you can pick and choose your provider.

Net Neutrality, however, is explicitly the case where an ISP prioritizes or degrades traffic based on whether or not the external site has paid them money. In other words, until Google pays your ISP some sort of fee ("provider subscription", "service fee", "protection money", etc), then your connections to YouTube get thrown at the bottom of the stack, or even bandwidth throttled if your ISP is completely evil. This means that your ISP is getting money for BOTH ends of the connection.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

Imagix (695350) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759967)

As you have presented it, yes you are "wrong" under the definition of net neutraility that I prefer. (It seems you prefer the definition of pass all bits equally, which is probably an equally reasonable definition of net neutrality.) They're being source and destination agnostic, and doing traffic prioritization based on protocol. What you haven't said they're doing is prioritizing their own VoIP over general VoIP. That would be non-neutral.

Re:False Neutrality (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760143)

To me these statements are completely contradictory.

They aren't. Network neutrality relates to degrading packets based on where they come from (and extracting payments from those external sources to restore priority). QoS relates to prioritizing packets based on what service they represent.

Some services need better connections than others. Voip, First-Person-Shooters, etc need good connections. email & bittorrent don't. If the pipe is congested it makes perfect sense to drop email / bit torrent packets to keep the voip and games running smoothly.

I don't recall my neighbors choice to use his internet as a phone making my choice to use mine as a TV any less valid, yet that is in effect exactly what they are stating.

Get over yourself. Your torrents take a couple extra minutes at worst. Do you recall your choice to use bittorrent making his choice to use voip COMPLETELY invalid, as in, it doesn't work because of packet loss.

Or maybe you are of the school that says the ISP should buy more capacity so they don't this problem?

If so, get over yourself.
1) You don't want to pay more. And they would have to raise rates to add bandwidth.
2) There isn't a realistic amount they could add that would ever be enough anyway.

Bottom line, learn the difference between net neutrality and QoS. And even if you disagree with QoS, that's fine, but don't confuse yourself into thinking it has anything to do with net neutrality.

as long as all bytes are equal (4, Insightful)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758629)

As long as they don't factor in where the bytes are coming from when it comes to calculating usage then it shouldn't be a Neutrality issue. If some provider like Time Warner had an agreement that overages from Hulu were OK but overages from Youtube weren't then we'd be looking at a Neutrality issue.

Re:as long as all bytes are equal (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758963)

I see what your saying and agree to an extent.

My disagreement is within after the consumer gets what they paid for. What I mean is that if your ISP advertises Speeds up to 10M always on and Hulu strikes a deal to deliver at 15M, then as long as your ISP does nothing to restrict the delivery of YouTube to below their advertised speeds or limits in usage, then everything is fine and the consumer gets more then they paid for.

Net neutrality is about purposely robbing the users and paying customers by taking acts restricting them to below their expected and advertised speeds or usage because of a payment of third parties. As long as the customer gets what they paid for and the ISP nor anyone working on their behalf, does anything to restrict that, we are fine with giving more. I also understand that network speeds can be effected by a number of things and advertised speeds aren't always possible. The point of it is that when the ISP takes steps or directs another entity to take steps to deliver less.

Re:as long as all bytes are equal (5, Insightful)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759365)

And that's exactly the problem.

Time Warner already offer streaming ESPN. You can bet they won't be including those GB in your 5GB a month. So effectively, punitive per-GB data transfer fees are a way to violate net neutrality for video services.

Linux users are fucking bastards (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758641)

This is why [discharges.org] linux Will never be used on the desktop except for morbidly obese aspies.

Huh? (2, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758653)

If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well. Some of AboveNet's defenders argued that they mostly sold Internet connectivity to ISPs, not to the public, and the ISPs knew that the connections were filtered. Even assuming this were true, the ISPs still would not be able to re-sell the service to the public without representing it as "regular Internet access" â" nobody would pay full price for a broken or degraded connection when a competitor could offer a regular connection for the same price.

Surely thats simply a case of 'if people aren't going to buy your product, why aren't you sourcing a replacement supplier?'

If you are willingly buying the degraded product from your supplier, and the supplier is not hiding the fact that it is degraded in some way, then I don't see why the supplier should be complicit in the fraud that you willingly went on to conduct.

The argument as presented in the summary just seems absurd in that regard.

Time Warner!? (0)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758679)

Who the hell in his/her right mind pays for an internet service even remotely related to Time Warner!? This is the internets Satan we're talking about, and not the cool guitar playing kind, but the lawyer without conscience kind.

Re:Time Warner!? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758787)

I don't have a choice if I want more than 384KB down/25KB up.

In many places yes, there are at least 2 internet providers. (Time warner Cable modem, and DSL).

Unfortunately, It seems that DSL infrastructure is not being maintained at the same rate/frequency, and DSL technology is also not progressing at the same rate (i.e Docsis 3 etc)).

This means that either you live next to the DSLAM, and can get OK (but not truly competitive speeds), or you can pay twice as much and get 12mB/1mB through TimeWarner.

That's it. Those are your two choices.

I hate TimeWarner with a passion, but I either cut the cord, eliminating internet, or go back to what is a tiny bit better than shotgun dialup.

Re:Time Warner!? (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758985)

Then start your own ISP.

I've heard IPoAC [wikipedia.org] was relatively cheap to setup.

It should be WAAAAY better than dialup, unless it's the mating/hunting season, then you'll lost packet like hell.

Re:Time Warner!? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759985)

Who the hell in his/her right mind pays for an internet service even remotely related to Time Warner!? This is the internets Satan we're talking about, and not the cool guitar playing kind, but the lawyer without conscience kind.

You clearly never had to deal with Adelphia. And from what I've heard, Comcast is no better (I've never had any real problems with either Time Warner or Comcast). Verizon's DSL was pretty bad the last time I had it, too; multiple tech support people told me that Verizon doesn't block any incoming ports, which was certainly not true.

Why we need net neut (3, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758737)

The whole point of Net Neutrality is that an ISP can not treat packets differently based on their type or destination. Here are some examples of why Neutrality is a good idea:

What is to stop TW from blocking or slowing packets related to Vonage's service in order to push their own? What would stop TW from creating their own search engine and blocking Google, Yahoo, and MSN?

The whole point is that TW can create its own version of any service currently provided by the web and choke off their competition or charge extra for access to their competition. When there is only one game in town, that's monopoly abuse. That would be like your power company selling toasters with a special plug and charging extra or blocking users from buying a competing toaster.

As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one. Unfortunately, Internet service is like a utility, or should be, and every utility is based on usage. This is why competition is good. Once a utility has competition, they are forced to compete and lose their monopoly status.

Re:Why we need net neut (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759053)

The whole point of Net Neutrality is that an ISP can not treat packets differently based on their type or destination unless it is in excess of what the consumer is paying for.

There, Fixed that for you.

The problem is generally with what the consumer pays for. if they get extra, all is still fine. If another service is degraded or restricted in order to do that, then there is a problem. As long as the customer gets what they paid for, then anything extra is fine.

Re:Why we need net neut (1)

Silentknyght (1042778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760609)

As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one. Unfortunately, Internet service is like a utility, or should be, and every utility is based on usage. This is why competition is good. Once a utility has competition, they are forced to compete and lose their monopoly status.

The conversation shouldn't be going "From Unlimited to Caps!" but "From Unlimited to Per Unit!". With caps, if you use less than your cap, you're not getting the cheapest $/unit you could, (you "lose"); if you use more than your cap, you pay punitatively-high overages (you "lose").

Either way, you lose. Either way, the supplier wins. The solution in the best interest of the consumer is a per-unit rate. Like the power company, you pay for what you use.

Re:Why we need net neut (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760645)

As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one.

That's easy. Bandwith is not limited like a natural resource. We can make all the bandwidth we need. If the customers want too much bandwidth, make more and sell it to them at a fair price. Restricting supply just so you can charge exorbitant prices is cartel-like behavior. Charging excessive fees for overages only encourages the ISPs *NOT* to invest in more bandwidth.

Re:Why we need net neut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27761097)

Internet service is like a utility, or should be, and every utility is based on usage.

Are you charged per local telephone call, or by how many hours you spent last month watching television? We can't compare Internet service to essential utilities like water or electricity -- it falls into the "luxury utility" or "service" category, like telephone or cable -- both of which have models that are on an unlimited usage plan. Cell phone carriers can have their wacky "nights-weekends-solstice-blue moon" plans because that's how their model has worked from the beginning. If they were all flat rate plans and then decided to charge per minute, people would have a hissy fit...

Car Analogy Missing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758751)

Could someone please boil this down to a non-sensical car analogy?

Thanks.

Re:Car Analogy Missing (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759855)

The Time Warner issue is like a gas company having given you an "unlimited gas" plan usable only at a fixed rate of consumption. Then planning to change their plan to charge you for a certain amount (say, 50 dollars for 25 gallons) and then an extra 20 dollars per gallon after you go over.

The net neutrality issue would be like your car being designed such that gas from BP only pumps into your car at a rate of 1 gallon per 3 minutes, whereas Shell pumps into your car at 1 gallon per second.

(Of course, these analogies are useless because Time Warner doesn't have to pay per bit trafficked. They maintain a fixed cost system with a maximum throughput. The only extra cost would be increasing the throughput. Ass holes.)

Re:Car Analogy Missing (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760025)

You are mixing QoS and net neutrality.

Net neutrality, in a car analogy implies that the car is made for one type of pump only. You have to pay, or the pump owner have to pay, to put gas from another pump inside your car. Thus making you dependent of a company.

Or they sell you a radio in your car, but you can just listen to a specific frequency only, blocking the other one around (Unless they pay, too)

Point 3 is just wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758793)

It is not company A's fault if company B re-sells their filtered service without telling their customers. Company A cannot be held liable for omissions of Company B. The phrase "almost certainly" is subjective bollocks. Company B is perfectly able to advertise the service as it is and still sell it, if we assuming the filtering is in the user's interest. Company A no doubt believes the filtering is in the user's interest. Therefore, Company A cannot predict that Company B would lie about it.

Implemented in Canada (0)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758807)

Hooray for us! Once again ahead of the curve!

Seriously Cogeco Cable (Rogers Communication) just started doing this.

They were kind enough to send out a notification of buggery this time. They didn't do that when they implemented caps, only posted to an obscure website.

However note that the going rate for bandwidth is about 6 times market value. Teksavvy on their limited account has a cap of 200mb, and 0.25$ above that, and you can also pre-buy 100GB for 10$ if you like so 0.10 a GB. Cogeco is currently charging 1.25$ per GB.

Also note the only way to check your bandwidth is to log on your Cogeco account, which most people probably do not use or have set up. However to their credit, it used to be a separate even more obscure website before that, and before that you had to call tech support and wait an hour for a person to actually tell you. So they are getting better... sort of. They are only kinda evil in a non-competitive incompetent sort of way. Well sort of reverse competitive with Bell anyway to keep prices high and services low anyway. I hear Bell is set to implement the same policy soon. Same GB prices as well, go figure.

Like Bell they are always quiet about the whole shaping/throttling issue, through granted most users wouldn't know the difference anyway.

Bandwidth limits are ok, provided ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758813)

Bandwidth limits are ok, provided the ISP provides
a) historical bandwidth usage - say the last 12 months
b) hourly updated usage
c) tiered usage pricing

An ISP shouldn't be allowed to say "you've used 50GB of bandwidth this month" out of the blue, then cancel my connection. I need an opportunity to
1) be notified of my usage patterns
2) be provided with a personalized web site providing hourly household bandwidth tracking
3) 3 months notice of "eviction", just like water, electric, gas, and housing mandates

So the ISP should provide at least 4 monthly tiered plans:
10GB ($15), 20GB ($30), 50GB($60), unlimited($100)

A weekly "bandwidth allowance" capability would be nice too.

Confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27758895)

If a cable carrier imposes incredibly low caps and high overage fees, and that deters customers from embracing competing options like Netflix streaming or DirecTV VOD over broadband lines, I don't know on which planet that's not a network neutrality issue....

The market ain't perfect (2, Insightful)

GrifterCC (673360) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758907)

Biggest problem with "market-based" solutions to the issue: Most people don't care about most of the Internet.

I doubt there is much "demand" for having access to the entirety of the Internet. So most people won't care if 95% of it isn't blocked, so long as they can still get to foxnews.com or npr.org.

So suddenly that 95% of the Internet is useless as a vessel for meaningful communication. The number of outlets for people to get their information becomes minute and controlled by large corporations.

Given the demonstrably strong connections between governments and these large corporate entities, I would like to retain the ability to access the other 95%. And I want to preserve that right for the people that don't yet know they need it.

Think about it: the Constitution is a big ol' Nanny State document. After all, nothing says, "We don't trust you not to screw with this" like "We made it really hard for you to change this."

Re:The market ain't perfect (1)

Dansteeleuk (967617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759701)

I think you might be surprised. They don't think they care right until the linky linkys stop working. Then they'll really hate that they're missing out. Anyway, the ISPs would have to implement this as a whitelist unless they want to play whack-a-proxy, which leaves you with the choice of sanitised playground or the big old dirty internet. And that playground thing failed like a dozen times already, right?

Truth In Advertising (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27758925)

This is a good contribution to the debate.

The "Internet" should be neutral - no filtering, port blocking, prioritizing, etc. In other words, net neutral.

If an ISP is not providing this, it is not providing true internet access and should call its offerings something else, say "AOL".

Bandwidth and volume limits are reasonable, but should be clearly stated. Customer usage against these limits should be easily visible and customer controllable.

Re:Truth In Advertising (1)

Harik (4023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759407)

you're right on everything but prioritizing. Without prioritizing VoIP sucks, so you've effectively killed off all internet telephony startups. I have no problem with my "evil" monopoly cable provider prioritizing my voip calls above my bulk downloads - 10 seconds longer on a 4gb download vs not being able to make a phone call boy is that a difficult choice to make.

What about when they treat their offerings diff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759111)

If Time Warner offers its own IP-VOD services or Pay Per View, and doesnt count that traffic against your bandwidth quota, does that change your answer?

Re:What about when they treat their offerings diff (3, Insightful)

metamatic (202216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759433)

Note that Time Warner already offers streaming ESPN. I'm betting that won't be counting against your 5GB.

So I still think it's effectively a net neutrality issue. The caps and overage charges are just the framework being put in place to allow them to violate net neutrality later.

And crippling my Internet connection so Time Warner's digital movies on demand are cheaper than Netflix streaming isn't a net neutrality problem? I guess if you view "net" as just TCP/IP that's true, but if you view "net" as the cable and the signals down it, then it's nonsense.

Problem Blending (1)

gerglion (1264634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759217)

So net neutrality and bandwidth caps/metering are both bad, but separate problems. I can buy that.

However, could the argument be made that Time Warner is attempting to meter/cap bandwidth in order to encourage customers to use TW cable vs. Hulu/Youtube/BT/etc... By enacting a price barrier, isn't TW indirectly prioritizing data? Wouldn't this now sort of be considered a Net Neutrality issue?

Please, correct me if I'm wrong, there is still more blood than Steaz in my system at this point.

Censorship by any other name (2, Insightful)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759309)

What we're ultimately talking about is censorship, either by content or volume. I'm having a hard time imagining neutral censorship.

Re:Censorship by any other name (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759453)

you're over-analyzing this. It's about money plain and simple.

They don't care what you watch or download, they just want to get paid for it (again).

This is about their networks being saturated, and not wanting to invest the capital to increase capacity.

This is about monopolism. This is actually about neutrality for some.

Comcast, et al, provide their own portals to content. They do not count downloads from these portals towards your cap. They are effectively preventing people from making their own choices as consumers with these restrictions. Interestingly enough, your cable TV uses far more bandwidth than your cable modem. Anyone who watches those free VoD movies that comcast has is effectively getting free bandwidth. They are unlimited after all. Yet, if you convert that bandwidth into TCP/IP all of a sudden, you have limits? Why? Because the content isn't coming from Comcast. You're not watching their advertisers. You're not consuming their services. You're not spending money on them.

This is exactly why it is an issue of network neutrality.

Any network provider who is also a content provider has an extreme conflict of interest to provide un-biased Internet access. They want that money spent on their services in their portals. So they begin to limit you through volume. Yet they don't limit the volume of their content services through volume at all. Think about that.

Re:Censorship by any other name (1)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759747)

Are you somehow of the impression that censorship is not undertaken for the gain of the censor?

How is this not part of the argument? (1)

mothlos (832302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759439)

Although I am in strong support of net neutrality, the debate around it is not completely without merit. Having worked for a small local ISP I know first hand the difficulties of managing available bandwidth in an age of ever escalating average use load. Your ISP made promises of a certain amount of bandwidth at a certain price based on how much they expected the average user to use during peak times. There are costs associated with changes in these usage patterns and the issue of net neutrality is how to reduce load, increase revenue, or accept lower earnings. Net neutrality legislation would not allow ISPs to a: shift costs onto content providers who are changing average usage rates or b: target internet traffic only used by a small portion of very high usage customers to be deprioritized. At this point there aren't many options aside from increasing the cost of bandwidth, taking less revenue, charging for data transmitted instead of just bandwith, or (my preference) charging for quality of service based on amount of data transmitted. If we get net neutrality, our ISPs are going to have increased pressure to change their business strategies and may move to strategies like the one here, so in this sense, it is intimately linked to the discussion.

Re:How is this not part of the argument? (1)

Imagix (695350) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760125)

Your ISP made promises of a certain amount of bandwidth at a certain price based on how much they expected the average user to use during peak times.

And instead of putting those usage levels into some sort of wording in the contract, they took the levels, multiplied by some value, built the network to that level (we hope), and then advertised "unlimited"...

Net neutrality legislation would not allow ISPs to a: shift costs onto content providers who are changing average usage rates

No way. The ISP doesn't get to charge the guy 6 hops away. I pay my bill (to an ISP), Google pays their bill to their ISP. All of the ISPs in the middle have their own peering arrangements. The ISP next to Google's would have a cause to charge Google's ISP more based on the volume of traffic coming from Google's ISP. Not because Google specifically is handling more traffic, but simply because of Google's ISP handling more traffic.

Surcharges and Internet Video (3, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759443)

My take on the bandwidth surcharge situation was that the insanely low caps and bandwidth surcharges were designed to fend off online video [techydad.com] . Think about it: If your favorite shows were available online legally (let's leave less-than-100%-legal sources out of the equation for the purposes of this argument), why would you need to buy cable TV service? So Time Warner sets the bandwidth limit low and charges for overages. If subscribers don't use online video out of fear of going over their limit, cable wins. If people continue to use online video and go over their limit (thus paying overage fees), cable wins.

Network Neutrality could still come into the equation. Apparently, Joost is shopping itself to cable companies [dslreports.com] . One of the interested companies is Time Warner. If Time Warner buys Joost and reinstates their cap/overage plan (which they've already indicated they want to do), would Joost use count towards your bandwidth limit? Or would using Time Warner's own online video service be exempt from the same limits that YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc are subject too?

Re:Surcharges and Internet Video (1)

eiMichael (1526385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760369)

It's very likely that they would allow you to "bundle" Joost with your Internet connection. So that extra fee is why Joost is exempt.

This really walks the line with regard to the arguments of Net Neutrality, since you're paying for a service that is "outside" your internet connection.

anonymous coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27759545)

If an ISP limit the amount that we can download to not impact his tv business then yes it is related to net neutrality.

I don't want my ISP contract to be influence by my ISP other business like music production, tv production, phone.

Anti-competitive if nothing else (2, Interesting)

Sheik Yerbouti (96423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759809)

The real issue as I see it is that Time Warner is a cable company. And it is very likely that these caps have everything to do with stopping the growth of a competitor IPTV or video on demand.

If you download a lot of content from hulu and netflix and amazon VOD you are going to run smack dab in to punitive caps with this type of service.

For years the cable companies have been doing well by selling packages of channels and most people watch a very small percentage of those channels and thus it's not really a good value. And of course with video on demand you get to watch exactly what you want when you want and pay just for what you watch.

This is very much a problem for them. Bit torrent and filesharing in general have been around for some time now this is not about those. Those actually gave broadband a purpose for a lot of people and for the most part just sold a lot of broadband accounts. This is about killing a competitor that would really save people money and generally make things better. So they are in a meta sense discriminating against IPTV and VOD packets. That does not sound very neutral to me.

The other other side of net neutrality (4, Insightful)

Sophacles (24240) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760073)

These discussions always seem to ignore one part of the equation. Specifically net neutrality stops GOOD QoS too. I worked at a small ISP. Over-selling capacity is strictly necessary in most cases where staying in business is a priority*. Most of the time no one notices. During certain peak hours however, everyone noticed. We received many complaints about voip and game quality.

Our solution was to implement packet inspection and QoS. What we did was identify VOIP packets, and give them a very high priority. Same with game packets. A few others too, like syns and acks are very cheap, so we gave them high priority too (because it does matter and will enhance the end user experience)**. We also identified video from youtube, cnn, etc (all places where there are BUFFERING players). With those video sites we lowered priority after the first .5MB since buffering is intended to make jitter irrelevant. We did NOT slow video down, we just made introduced latency sometimes so gamers and voipers got a better experience.

After doing that, our customers complained much less frequently, and many thanked us for getting more bandwidth.

Essentially, bandwidth should be measured on 2 axis, Throughput and Latency. Some apps dont need much bandwidth when they have low latency (voip), others don't suffer from latency as long as throughput is good (torrents). Most cries I see for net-neutrality ignore this. I find it sad because I would not mind my isp guaranteeing low latency for voip and games and high throughput for downloads (if i would be a pal and let them add a 100ms delay here and there).

I know that a lot of the issue hinges around the above being used to double charge, and other evil tactics, however legislating away the good because of potential for evil seems plain silly. Perhaps some sort of middle ground could one day be reached, in which destination filtering/prioritizing is strictly off limits, but content type filtering can be allowed as long as overall throughput remains at the rate sold. (not necessarily a good solution, just a talking point).

*This refers to places where the infrastructure is not well built up, and metro-e is not available.

** DNS at highest priority is surprisingly important. The day we did this speed related call dropped a large percent, and stayed dropped.

Free Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27760477)

There is no going back; corporations and governments have hijacked our ability to adequately use our networks and our computers as we wish to.

We must now create a new internet; one that surpasses and excludes the abilities of demagogues to penetrate. A freenet of free people and ideals where the dreams of humanity can flourish. Internet users the world over now call upon all able-bodied coders to start the great work.

Bad premise. (2, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760821)

If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well.

A: Company A sells to Company B
B: Company B screws its customers.

While ~A implies ~B, A does not imply B. Company A could sell to Company B and Company B could consume the product itself.

A is not complicit. Bad premise.

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