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Comcast-NBC Deal Accidentally Protects Internet?

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the now-wait-a-minute dept.

Government 99

jfruhlinger writes "Details of the conditions that the Department of Justice required to approve Comcast's purchase of NBC have emerged today. Blogger Kevin Fogarty looks at the details — Comcast is forbidden from blocking Netflix over its pipes, and must sell NBC shows via iTunes and other similar services — and concludes that Internet access for everybody, including business users, has been protected, more or less by accident."

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Accidental (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341246)

First post.

Re:Accidental (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341356)

You are protected.

Raw Doggin' It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341688)

You are protected.

Yo mama isn't. I fucked her without a condom.

Re:Raw Doggin' It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35342176)

Prepare to be extradited to Sweden.

Re:Raw Doggin' It (1)

Lundse (1036754) | more than 3 years ago | (#35348778)

Way to get the thread back on track :-)

Nice save!

One-page "print" link (5, Informative)

bwintx (813768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341300)

Re:One-page "print" link (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342040)

Whoa whoa whoa... don't be bringin' those complicated hyperlinks around here!

Not at all (5, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341306)

What this actually does is accept the fact that a corporate merger can specify what is blocked and what isn't. This is actually a dangerous trend for network neutrality, because we are seeing the Justice Department agree with the idea that what is blocked and what isn't is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

Re:Not at all (5, Insightful)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341440)

Well, I haven't RTFA yet but from the summary it doesn't sound like a matter of agreed contractual language between corporations but rather a demand from the DoJ to the merged corporations. While it doesn't go so far as to assert an inherent right to a free internet, it does seem to acknowledge that potential harm can come from an ISP also being a content provider.

Re:Not at all (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341966)

The point is that if the DOJ, or any group says "Comcast is not permitted to block Netflix" it implies that Comcast can block things. That is very important.

Re:Not at all (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342148)

The point is that if the DOJ, or any group says "Comcast is not permitted to block Netflix" it implies that Comcast can block things. That is very important.

Big whoop. Comcast is still allowed to slow...

  your...

  Netflix...

  stream.

Comcast doesn't have to block it to make it unwatchable.

Re:Not at all (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342686)

Depending on how you describe it, there is no way to slow something without blocking it, even if the block is only temporary.

Re:Not at all (2)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343242)

Depending on how you describe it, there is no way to slow something without blocking it, even if the block is only temporary.

ITWorld says "The DoJ did not require and Comcast did not promise to not throttle or slow traffic from Netflix -- or a business customer's videoconferencing provider -- if Comcast thought it needed to do so to keep its network running to its satisfaction."

But the AP says " Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network. That means that it cannot prevent its subscribers from accessing Netflix and other Web video services, or slow down traffic from these services to make them jerky, unreliable and hard to watch."

So which is it?

Re:Not at all (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342252)

The point is that if the DOJ, or any group says "Comcast is not permitted to block Netflix" it implies that Comcast can block things. That is very important.

s/things/anything else/

Re:Not at all (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343314)

The point is that if the DOJ, or any group says "Comcast is not permitted to block Netflix" it implies that Comcast can block things. That is very important.

Exactly, the real question is: How does the RIAA and the MPAA feel about this issue.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35342038)

Well, I haven't RTFA yet but from the summary it doesn't sound like a matter of agreed contractual language between corporations but rather a demand from the DoJ to the merged corporations. While it doesn't go so far as to assert an inherent right to a free internet, it does seem to acknowledge that potential harm can come from an ISP also being a content provider.

Good point. But it's still interesting that they're spelling it out in terms like a contract, rather than establishing broad principles.

We're going to regret allowing this to happen.

Re:Not at all (1)

snkiz (1786676) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342772)

Wasn't that already apparent? Look up north where the content providers are already also the ISP's. no good can come of it

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341472)

A sane Justice Department will keep preventing inherent rights being turned into contractual languages between corporations...

A sane

sane..

All hail our corporate overlords?

Re:Not at all (5, Interesting)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341482)

What this actually does is accept the fact that a corporate merger can specify what is blocked and what isn't. This is actually a dangerous trend for network neutrality, because we are seeing the Justice Department agree with the idea that what is blocked and what isn't is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

The article certainly doesn't paint it that way. FTFA:

Still, in approving the deal, federal officials attached dozens of conditions, including several big ones to protect Internet video: Comcast must sell its content to online video services. That gives them access to marquee NBC Universal programming. Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network. That means that it cannot prevent its subscribers from accessing Netflix and other Web video services, or slow down traffic from these services to make them jerky, unreliable and hard to watch. Comcast must sell stand-alone Internet access at a reasonable price, without tying it to a cable TV package, to enable cord-cutting. That includes offering a standard 6-megabit-per-second plan, which is fast enough to handle Internet video, for roughly $50 a month.

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network." Sounds pretty universal to me. I just hope the author wasn't paraphrasing a document that specified Internet video only from certain providers and not others, i.e. youtube, netflix, hulu, etc.

Re:Not at all (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341540)

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network." Sounds pretty universal to me.

Really? To me it sounds like it applies only to Comcast.

Re:Not at all (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341580)

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network." Sounds pretty universal to me.

Really? To me it sounds like it applies only to Comcast.

I assumed this was known. Why would they care about anyone but Comcast for the merger? I am taking the term "universal" to apply to their content and the rival companies who want to stream it.

Re:Not at all (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341906)

No ISP should interfere with video traffic on its network. By singling out these prohibitions against Comcast, there is implicit permission for other companies to block video traffic. That is bad. If there were sufficient protections for network neutrality, there would be no need for these prohibitions in the Comcast merger at all.

Re:Not at all (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342724)

They aren't singling out Comcast. They are adding explicit enumeration of some prohibited acts as part of another act. Comcast said "can we do this" and the government responded "as long as you agree to these terms in writing." That you take that to mean everyone else don't have to is unrelated to the truth.

Others could just as easily take that to mean that the government desires all such companies to act in that exact same manner, and Comcast is just the first they had a conversation with about it. It's glass-half-full/empty issue. And you are asserting your personal opinion as fact, when it is not so.

Re:Not at all (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341996)

Let's fuck this duck shall we?

Quantity in logic and semantics [wikipedia.org] .

The proposition would have been construed as singular by Aristotle. Kant would accept this, but would also go along with the traditional logicians and treat it here as universal, because this here is not a matter of application of transcendental logic, nor of aesthetic judgement, but rather of general logic, because for such a case as this the singular is saliently just like the universal, for the singular has no domain and so no part of any such domain is excluded from the judgement (which is the salient feature).

I put that last sentence in Kant-fashion just for you.

I Kant understand it. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343730)

I put that last sentence in Kant-fashion just for you.

But can I understand it now? No, I Kant [j-archive.com] .

Re:Not at all (1)

cez (539085) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341694)

While it appears to only apply to Comcast, that could be a good start. Now, with those restrictions perhaps their lobbying mechanics will change... as long as what another poster mentioned: that this applies for all inet video (and?) services, not just a select few.

Specially with Comcast as one of the most egregious of players for throttling etc. Now we need a large player to pony up legit torrents for dispersal and prevent any throttling there as well.

Re:Not at all (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342092)

Well, it could go one of two ways...

1- Comcast could decide, "Well, if we can't do selective throttling, nobody else should be able to either!" and throw their considerable resources behind getting broad laws put in place and enforced against their rivals whom they feel aren't following the rules that they themselves are subject to.

2- Comcast could spin off an independent company whose sole purpose in existing would be to provide Internet connectivity to Comcast. That new third party vendor could charge Comcast for connectivity on an at-cost basis, and they could instead do all of the selective throttling, protecting Comcast from having to do so.

Either way, I'm sure Comcast will make sure that either they don't need to really pay attention to the rules, or that everyone else feels the "pain".

Re:Not at all (2)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343904)

Universal and Comcast are going to be the same. That's the point of the merger.

Re:Not at all (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341700)

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network." Sounds pretty universal to me.

Sounds more like Comcast (and only Comcast) can't interfere with internet video traffic. But whats the exact definition of 'internet video traffic'? Just streaming? What about boxes that download the video for future usage? Those might not fall in the definition of internet video traffic since they aren't 'internet video', they are video's downloaded from the internet. And thats just for streaming video. What if they decide to try their hand at other online business like digital downloads in the future? There is nothing there to stop them from doing that. The wording is too limited there.

Re:Not at all (2)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341978)

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network."

The summary is wrong. TFA doesn't say that. The stipulation prevents Comcast from totally disconnecting Netflix from its customers, but Comcast can still throttle Netflix traffic as much as it likes, "if Comcast thought it needed to do so to keep its network running to its satisfaction.". In other words, Comcast can throttle Netflix to the point that it is unusable.

Re:Not at all (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342412)

The phrase "Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network." Sounds pretty universal to me. I just hope the author wasn't paraphrasing a document that specified Internet video only from certain providers and not others, i.e. youtube, netflix, hulu, etc.

I don't think we'll be so lucky.

Re:Not at all (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343108)

That includes offering a standard 6-megabit-per-second plan, which is fast enough to handle Internet video, for roughly $50 a month.

Uh... they already offer 12Mbps plans for $43/month... I hope that doesn't get interpreted as an encouragement to increase prices.

Re:Not at all (3, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343300)

It seems you, the blogger and the Justice Department missed the entirely more insidious, but far more realistic way that Comcast is going to control what content is being accessed: user-based billing. Start with a plan for - oh, $20. Everything is accessible at full speed. Make it something juicy like 20 mbit per second. Then add user-based billing, and a soft cap at 50 GB. And finally, the coup-de-grace: the cap limit does not apply to Comcast owned and operated sites, but applies to Netflix, Youtube, etc.

What do you get? Everyone's surfing along happily for the first week, and then bam! - the download cap hits. Suddenly, that cap free site for Comcast shows looks mighty good. And Netflix might as well serve video at 320x240 resolution in a 56 kbit/sec stream, because that's all they'll ever be able to show anymore to Comcast users.

It's beautiful, isn't it? Comcast doesn't do a single thing to its traffic. The entire Internet is accessible. It's not even throttled. But the users will, en masse, flock to its sites and desert anything that's not on the basic, cap-free plan. And thanks to the monopolies and duopolies that Comcast enjoys, many end-users won't even have the option to switch to something better.

We're fucked. We've left the best times of the Internet behind us.

Re:Not at all (2)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 3 years ago | (#35346844)

I used to be a cynic, but after 12 years I've never seen an ISP cripple their customers like that.

Consider this. There's some duration of time a customer can use technical support for each month before they are no longer profitable. This includes customers calling in to complain.

ISPs factor these details in.

Re:Not at all (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341492)

Err, "the inherent right to a free internet"... means that I can do whatever I want with my little chunk of it.

Just sayin.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341664)

It also means that when I buy a chunk of your chunk, I get to do whatever I want with it.

Re:Not at all (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341818)

But you aren't buying someone else's internet, you're renting it.

Re:Not at all (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342928)

Real individuals would run their own internet and to hell with anyone else.

Re:Not at all (2, Insightful)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341582)

we are seeing the Justice Department agree with the idea that what is blocked and what isn't is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

And back in reality, I'm happy about this. Adding specific regulations and requirements to a merger of this sort is exactly how the DoJ is supposed to do its job. Just saying "the internet should be free and open" doesn't do crap - you need specific regulations on specific companies to make that happen.

Specifically with regards to this merger: without the merger there would be no need for requirements like this, because there is no conflict of interest between the content producer (NBC) and any one distributor. NBC would like to license its content to all distributors so as to maximize its own profit. Once a distributor (Comcast) buys the content producer, there's the conflict of interest (for example, the distributor wants to make NBC content available only on its distribution network so as to make subscribers who want to watch NBC shows have to come over to Comcast's distribution system), and there's the need for DoJ or FCC to intervene.

I see this as good news. Vague language about openness and neutrality is ripe for loopholes and other asshattery by the distributors and content producers. Specific regulations on them like this should have more teeth.

Re:Not at all (1)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341588)

It's not contractual language between corporations, it's a demand from the DOJ that those corporations have to meet in order to conduct a merger.

Inherent right to free internet? I don't see that in the constitution, which is the only place a phrase like that could belong. "Freedom of Speech" isn't a law. It's a principle that gets translated into statutes and case law. The DOJ has to abide by statutes and case law, so they have to outline specific provisions for the merger. They can't just say "The internet must be FREE!!!" and then deny or approve the merger. That would do a whole lot of nothing.

Re:Not at all (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341874)

>>>"Freedom of Speech" isn't a law.

Care to rephrase that? The US Constitution is a law. Ditto the State-level constitutions.

>>>They can't just say "The internet must be FREE!!!" and then deny or approve the merger.

They can under antitrust laws. They held the same power to deny the Sirius and XM merger. It's one of the side effects of anti-monopoly legislation passed by the Congress in the late 1800s.

Someone else wrote:
>>>wants to make NBC content available only on its distribution network so as to make subscribers who want to watch NBC shows have to come over to Comcast's distribution system

And nothing of value will be lost.

But seriously: I don't see why this is a big deal. NBC already withholds its content from cable companies if they fail to pay the monthly fees. Ditto Disney Channel, FOX News, Discovery Networks, and so on. They don't "have" to sell their content.

Aside-
I watch NBC for free - screw cable and its ~$1000/year billing.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35342558)

I watch NBC for free - screw cable and its ~$1000/year billing.

never can pass up a chance to announce how much money you dont spend

Re:Not at all (2)

Logarhythmic (1082321) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342974)

GP was correct. The first amendment, which gives us the right to free speech in the USofA, says (emphasis mine):

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The Constitution gives Congress the power to write certain laws and not others. It is not law in and of itself.

Re:Not at all (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343762)

The Constitution gives Congress the power to write certain laws and not others. It is not law in and of itself.

It's the supreme law:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

For example, Congress can't make a law that has the primary effect of allowing a private citizen to abridge freedom of speech. That's how, for example, the fair use of a copyrighted work got into case law before Congress codified it in the 1970s, because a judge recognized that an exception for fair use is the one thing keeping copyright from breaking the guarantee of free speech.

Re:Not at all (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35345822)

>>>"Freedom of Speech" isn't a law.

> Care to rephrase that? The US Constitution is a law. Ditto the State-level constitutions.

Bullshit. The Constitution lays out the rights of the people, puts limits to federal power, and sets up the Federal legislative structure to MAKE laws, the Federal executive structure to enforce them, and the Federal judiciary structure to judge them. It is NOT itself a law.

Re:Not at all (0)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35346642)

>>>The Constitution... is NOT itself a law.

Wow.

Just wow.

Have none of ye ever bother to READ the constitution? Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick. I see the Liberal/progressive-run government school has very effectively brainwashed everyone to believe "the constitution is just a piece of paper" rather than law.

(handclaps) Bravo. Well played.

Now let's see what the Constitution actually says dumbasses - This Constitution... shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby..... "A constitution binds the gov't by supreme laws which, when they transgress, their acts shall be nullities." - Jefferson 1780s

Re:Not at all (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341958)

It's not contractual language between corporations, it's a demand from the DOJ that those corporations have to meet in order to conduct a merger.

But once the merger has been conducted... what then? The idea that Comcast can be held to any of these conditions in perpetuity is laughable.. at the simplest level, Comcast can then spin off (a demerger) a wholly-owned subsidiary that conducts half of the business the DOJ would otherwise find objectionable... in fact, I think that its fairly certain that Comcast would be spinning off several subsidiaries even if the DOJ wasnt in the picture.

Mergers followed by demergers are actually quite common.

Re:Not at all (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341684)

Additionally, the summary suggests they are enumerated exceptions, not "internet" as a whole/general - i.e., all other third parties not specifically listed in the agreement.

Re:Not at all (5, Insightful)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341696)

What this actually does is accept the fact that a corporate merger can specify what is blocked and what isn't. This is actually a dangerous trend for network neutrality, because we are seeing the Justice Department agree with the idea that what is blocked and what isn't is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

I can see your point, but I'm not at all sure that this is a negative development in the interim. Because what it does is drive a wedge between the different ISPs.

Before this deal if you tried to propose network neutrality rules, all the ISPs were against it with a united front. Now, if Comcast already has to follow the rules, why shouldn't they take the position that their competitors should have to as well? They certainly don't want a situation where AT&T can block or delay NBC content in favor of AT&T's "preferred" partners or whatever, or charge NBC for access to AT&T customers.

The real problem is if the settlement rules aren't really effective. If Comcast can still pull the sort of thing they are with Level 3 and Netflix and that isn't considered a violation of the settlement then the settlement is meaningless, because it isn't a barrier to bad behavior -- it's a fence post they can just walk around. In which case they retain a shared interest with the other ISPs to be able to keep doing things like that.

Re:Not at all (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341952)

>>>Level 3 and Netflix

What did Comcast do to these companies, and why is it a "bad thing" in your opinion?

What about ESPN360 and Disneyconnection.com charging ISPs extra fees to access their websites (or else blocking them). Is that also a bad thing? Personally I think it's worse, because customers should be charged individually to access websites, not in one collective fee (I don't want either of these websites & yet I'm paying for them).

Re:Not at all (2)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342324)

What did Comcast do to these companies, and why is it a "bad thing" in your opinion?

It's simple. Comcast should not be charging another network any money for traffic which is destined for Comcast customers. Comcast has a complete monopoly over access to those customers from the perspective of other networks, and being allowed to charge peers, rather than the customers themselves who have the option to cancel their Comcast service, would unacceptably allow them to charge monopoly prices. It also greatly distorts the content market, because it significantly increases costs for content providers like Netflix who compete with Comcast owned and affiliated content providers like NBC.

What about ESPN360 and Disneyconnection.com charging ISPs extra fees to access their websites (or else blocking them). Is that also a bad thing?

It is, and I really wish all the ISPs had just told them to piss up a rope, because that would have solved it. But since that didn't happen, now we have to argue about whether requiring an ISP to pay for all their customers rather than just the customers who actually want the service is anti-competitive etc. But that has everything to do with regular old antitrust and competition law and nothing to do with network neutrality.

Re:Not at all (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342696)

>>>Comcast should not be charging another network any money for traffic which is destined for Comcast customers.

So businesses like netflix.com or google.com should just be able to connect to the internet without paying a fee? Hmmm.

Maybe I should start a business (of one) so I too can get free internet access.

Re:Not at all (1)

SilentChasm (998689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343340)

So businesses like netflix.com or google.com should just be able to connect to the internet without paying a fee?

No. Netflix and Google both pay for their ISPs and bandwidth. The customer pays Comcast for their internet access. Comcast shouldn't be able to charge both ends of the equation to provide service when they are already getting their money from the customer.

Re:Not at all (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35343572)

So businesses like netflix.com or google.com should just be able to connect to the internet without paying a fee? Hmmm.

Maybe I should start a business (of one) so I too can get free internet access.

It's not free internet access. It's free access to Comcast customers. But first you have to get a permit and dig up the street to put a strand of fiber between where you are and the Comcast peering point. Then you have to do the same thing for every other ISP whose customers you want "free" access to. Did you still want to do that?

Re:Not at all (2)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35344058)

Forgive me if I am being redundant, but I as a comcast customer, am paying for the right to connect to the internet. Netflix is paying some other provider for the right to connect to the internet. So, if we're both connected to the same network, and we have both paid, then what is unpaid fee that comcast is going on about? Why are they blaming netflix for providing a service that makes me want to use the bandwidth I already paid for?

It seems to me that comcast is basically a mail man who wants to take credit for everything good that happens. If you get a paycheck, "ooh, the mailman gave you money. You should at least buy him a nice dinner". If the letter is to inform you that your grandmother won the lottery, then "the mailman made it happen. He demands half". But comcast is really nothing more than a mailman with delusions of grandeur, and a monopoly that allows him to get away with it.

Re:Not at all (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35345150)

>>>Comcast should not be charging another network any money for traffic which is destined for Comcast customers.

So businesses like netflix.com or google.com should just be able to connect to the internet without paying a fee? Hmmm.

Maybe I should start a business (of one) so I too can get free internet access.

Hmm... Not sure if Troll...
Of course Google, Netfix, and other web content producers have to pay for access to the Internet. They pay THEIR ISP, not your ISP so that you can access their content that you already pay to access via your Internet connection.

The double dipping is what we're pissed off about. That's what net-neutrality seeks to prevent. Let's say I make a website. It gets popular. All of a sudden, people are complaining that connections to my website are slow. I'm pissed because I'm allready paying my ISP for a huge pipe that should be more than adequate to serve my visitor traffic...

I investigate, and find that my traffic is mysteriously slower to customers using Comcast than other ISPs. I contact Comcast and after troubleshooting the problem I end up talking to a sales Rep that says I can "pay" to make it go faster by co-locating some of my servers on their properties...

The reality of the situation is that Comcast is running their links at near maximum. They're not "throttling" my traffic per-se, but during peak times the hardware is so saturated that my streaming website video lags all to hell.

My Co-Location servers may alleviate the symptoms MY visitors are having, but any other site like mine (that isn't co-locating with Comcast) will have the same shitty peak time problems. Should my traffic mysteriously get slow again, Comcast can say that I need to pay for additional co-location space. Distributed designs are good, but at some point you need to control your own content... Giving a 3rd party too much control over my website (esp. when I already pay my ISP for a huge pipe) is not a good idea.

Having discovered the root of the cause (Oversaturated links) in my initial troubleshooting session I propose a much better solution that will help not just MY visitors, but all other websites' visitors too. I offer to help fix the issue by giving Comcast a buch of free hardware (so they can actually handle their peak loads instead of dropping packets via QoS rules). The new hardware means that the links won't run as near full capacity.

Comcast outright refuses this offer (as they refused the same offer from Level3)... for if they accepted, they wouldn't be able to force people to charge exorbitant co-location fees because the shitty connection issue will go away!

Can you now see why transparency, and regulations need to be in place? It's Comcast's right to have a shitty service, but the tiered Internet with forced co-located servers gives Comcast (and other residential ISPs) power over what content gets to whom, and gives them incentive to give their customers shitty service! No Network Neutrality is a no-win for everyone (except Comcast).

Even without a non-tiering net neutrality regulation: If Comcast outright refuses to co-locate because they have a competing video on demand product, then Comcast can make the competitors' (Netflix, Google, etc.) services seem a lot worse to Comcast customers. They don't have to "block" Netflix or Google, they can just refuse to let their traffic go fast enough to be usable.

Another huge problem is that there is not much competition on the residential ISP front. If Comcast is the only game in town, and they say "Suck it: Netfix is going to be shitty over our connections", then as a consumer, you have no choice to switch providers -- The much praised "free market" doesn't exist in ISP land anymore...

Net neutrality is needed. This bullshit DOJ statement is just that. It doesn't address the issue I've pointed out above (which is what Level3 is dealing with RE: Comcast, FYI).

Re:Not at all (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35346612)

Ahhh in other words you don't want to see Netflix.com or Google.com being double-billed - first by their own ISP and then a second time by Comcast or Cox or the other Local ISP.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360746)

I ask the following as someone who is weary of the idea of net-neutrality, but open to being convinced. I think this post explains the problem better than most anything I've read thus far. Thank you.

But my question is --- do websites pay their ISP's to open up a specific amount of bandwidth to their site? Or do they just pay to "open the gates", per say, and it is up to the customer's ISP to provide the bandwidth to access it? In other words, is the hold-up that Netflix does not have the hardware to handle the capacity, or that Comcast can't send the packets in/out fast enough?

If it is an issue of the ISP (Comcast) providing the bandwidth to their customers, then my thought is that checking your e-mail and watching a streaming-movie have significantly different costs to an ISP. If we establish this blanket rule that all packets are equal, then ISP's are going to have a hard time trying to keep up with the highest common denominator without increasing the cost to the consumer. Would it be that unreasonable to offer customers the opportunity to pay for the kinds of internet usage they want to use? This is going with the assumption that all traffic of the same type (streaming, etc) is treated equal.

I don't currently subscribe to netflix. It would piss me off if my Fios bill went up $10 a month because a bunch of my friends do.

Re:Not at all (1)

tirefire (724526) | more than 3 years ago | (#35344346)

Before this deal if you tried to propose network neutrality rules, all the ISPs were against it with a united front. Now, if Comcast already has to follow the rules, why shouldn't they take the position that their competitors should have to as well? They certainly don't want a situation where AT&T can block or delay NBC content in favor of AT&T's "preferred" partners or whatever, or charge NBC for access to AT&T customers.

(emphasis mine)

I think the problem is that it's very common for a broadband provider to hold a legal local monopoly - an ISP will get right-of-way and monopoly status, provided it doesn't piss off the city council bad enough to give the special deal to another telco/cableco. I remember I once found a map of the continental United States separated into broadband ISP coverage zones. There was *very* little overlap between competing providers; like children selling lemonade on the street, they know it's in their best interest to avoid competition by staying far apart.

When there's no real possibility of competition between hybrid television companies and ISPs, I think two things will inevitably result. One, the ISP will never give up the fight for its ability to filter/block/throttle/take kickbacks/etc, because the ISP knows that if it is in the legal right to do so, there is no financial reason for them *not to*. Two, the ISP will not be concerned either way with the restrictions imposed on their competition - the competition operates in a separate market.

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341928)

As is, *RIGHT* now, that is very true. There is no law on the books that says anyone has to transmit your bytes. Right now it is contractual.

Up until now it has been fairly much tit for tat byte counting. The new twist is the double/triple/quad counting of bytes. With us the customers caught in the middle. The corps who are running the game have even managed to make it a 'we' vs 'they' political football. Anyone who lets their congress critter get away with that shouldnt bother to vote.

Not at all-Free to yell fire in a crowded theater. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341976)

instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

For some user-specified, can't agree upon, no two alike, definition of "free internet".

Re:Not at all (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342110)

is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

And I say we give them incentive: usage fees. If I use more internet than my elderly next door neighbors, I do not mind paying for such. Treat it like a bill and then you'll see Comcast a bit more happy when customers start forking them money for Netflix subscriptions...

I think if it was usage based many companies would be more reluctant to see an open internet - as long as they get their compensation for bandwidth heavy users...

They pay by usage why shouldn't we?!?!

Re:Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35342372)

If I use more internet than my elderly next door neighbors, I do not mind paying for such

Here's the problem: Comcast does not have "more internet" to sell you. They spent a lot of their R&D money on throttling and billing tricks, and too little on actually expanding their network capacity.

They'll be happy to make you pay more for the same "internet" you're getting now, though. Granny can pay $40 for her dial-up connection if she wants to.

Re:Not at all (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342378)

What this actually does is accept the fact that a corporate merger can specify what is blocked and what isn't. This is actually a dangerous trend for network neutrality, because we are seeing the Justice Department agree with the idea that what is blocked and what isn't is a matter of contractual language between corporations, instead of the inherent right to a free internet.

I fully agree, this construction of regulations via piecemeal contracts is a bad way to go.

This is not all that unusual as anyone who has ever signed a government contract will know, they almost always come with boilerplate committing you (the contractor) to follow laws that were never intended to apply to you specifically. Even County or City contracts can end up encumbering you with all sorts of regulations passed down from the federal level.

The bad part is that these restrictions can be waived at any time with no public notice by subsequent DOJ actions or by simply sneaking it into some other application or routine paperwork on the part of Comcast. You will never know when this happens.

Its nice to see the DOJ taking a proactive approach but this can be reversed at the whim of some mid-level bureaucrat at any time.

Re:Not at all (1)

djp928 (516044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342532)

So where did that inherent right to a free internet come from, anyway? Who made that up?

Yeah, but - (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341372)

Comcast is forbidden from blocking Netflix over its pipes, and must sell NBC shows via iTunes and other similar services

Are they forbidden to charge more, or deliver at lower priority than their own content?

We've got to get back to forbidding mergers of infrastructure providers with content providers. Look at what happened when the "approve anything" frenzy let the banks spread into areas that created conflicts of interest.

Re:Yeah, but - (3, Informative)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341410)

Summary is somewhat lacking. Quote from TFA:

Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network. That means that it cannot prevent its subscribers from accessing Netflix and other Web video services, or slow down traffic from these services to make them jerky, unreliable and hard to watch.

No direct mention of charging more from what I can see, but I think that would fall pretty clearly under "preventing its subscribers from accessing".

Re:Yeah, but - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35345974)

Summary is somewhat lacking. Quote from TFA:

Comcast can't interfere with Internet video traffic flowing over its broadband network.

Later, comcast said they were sorry and none of this shit will ever happen again and they'll fire whoever thinks like that.

Re:Yeah, but - (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341416)

The attached article is pretty poor, but cites a few other articles that give a lot more information (I really hate stories that cite bloggers' regurgitation of stories rather than original writing with actual research and all that journalistic nonsense!)

Supposedly, and I'm going to take this with about 4 tons of grains of salt, the deal requires that Comcast not throttle other providers "to the point where the video quality is reduced", but I'm sure Comcast will find an easy loophole (caps dropped to from 250GB to 1GB a month, but access to Comcast "and partner" content doesn't count, for example)...

Re:Yeah, but - (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341432)

Don't know about charging more, but yes on the 'deliver at lower priority' part: FTFA: "The DoJ did not require and Comcast did not promise to not throttle or slow traffic from Netflix -- or a business customer's videoconferencing provider -- if Comcast thought it needed to do so to keep its network running to its satisfaction."

But then TFA goes into how too much traffic will overwhelm the network and harm small businesses, in some unspecified way.

Re:Yeah, but - (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341506)

TFA is not separating what the DoJ did before with what they are requiring of the merger. I made the same mistake, then read some of the references that the blogger cites that worded things far more clearly and provided more detail.

Still, I don't think attaching net neutrality concessions to a merger between a content provider and a content deliverer is a good thing. Network neutrality should be the rule, not the exception you sign up for in return for another fundamental violation of another important antitrust consideration.

Damnit, my tax dollars subsidized Comcast putting in those lines, and my government maintains a monopoly for them in my area. For good reason, but what's this with Senatorial balls receding into their body cavities and caving in to the businesses that the government ensures profit to by the shitload?

If Comcast wants to run unregulated, let 'em. Just have them cede all the wiring and rights-of-way on their way out, and let someone else who appreciates a government-sponsored monopoly and might show a little respect for their side of the bargain have a shot.

Re:Yeah, but - (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341822)

The Yahoo article and the ITWorld article conflict. Yahoo/AP says Comcast can't throttle traffic, but ITWorld says Comcast can throttle traffic but not block sites entirely. Another poster found the DoJ press release (from Jan 18!) at http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2011/266149.htm [justice.gov] which says:

In accordance with recently established Open Internet requirements, Comcast is prohibited from unreasonably discriminating in the transmission of an [online video destributor]'s lawful network traffic to a Comcast broadband customer. Comcast must also maintain the high-speed Internet service it offers to its customers by continuing to offer download speeds of at least 12 megabits per second in markets where it has upgraded its broadband network. Additionally, Comcast is required to give other firms' content equal treatment under any of its broadband offerings that involve caps, tiers, metering for consumption or other usage-based pricing;

What is 'reasonable' will, of course, be up for interpretation, but the prohibition is better than nothing.

Oh this is new... (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341436)

Here comes a trend where corporations begin controlling the standards and means of access for the internet through contractual agreements sanctioned by ignorant government entities.

How new and unique.

no trouble communicating after evile is banished (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341466)

prior to that, almost everything is presented in some kind of one 'choice' only whirling dervish manner, that excludes reasonable inquiry/accountability, or is just plain too secret/dangerous for us to know about. how's that working for us now?

of course almost nothing of any lasting relevance can occur until all of the inhumanely discomforted, of the creators' innocents, feel hope/see help. see you there?

"Accidentally?" (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341470)

I don't get it - you list specific protections in the agreement and conclude they are there by accident? What, like someone forgot to remove them,so they are there by "accident"?

Re:"Accidentally?" (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341660)

It's the fault of the article itself. "Accidentally" is in the title, but the word isn't even used in the article until the last paragraph - and it's dropped in there randomly, just like it is with the title. The idea that it was accidental is not implied in the text, and a reasonable person, reading the text, would not draw the conclusion that the protective langauge was "accidentally" included.

Basically the flawed premise appears to be since the FCC hasn't made any statements or rules specifically supporting the overall concept of network neutrality, the inclusion of any language in the DOJ's merger requirements that ends up supporting network neutrality must have been included by accident. However the author doesn't even make a modicum of an attempt to support this supposition.

So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341518)

And they are "saved"? wow. whoopee.

Re:So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341570)

Re:So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341912)

Whoosh.

Re:So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342058)

No. You do not get to whoosh that.

Re:So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35345840)

Anybody can whoosh anything, but they get to look like stupid asses if it's not clear to anybody what they're whooshing.

Re:So Netflix and NBC shows are the Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35342060)

Comcast just accidentally the internet. NBC just accidentally their last shows having a loyal fan base. There is a symmetry there.

The more detailed DoJ press release (5, Informative)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341552)

here [justice.gov] is a more detailed press release from the DoJ itself. It has more specific language such as:

The settlement also includes other relief aimed at ensuring that Comcast cannot evade the provisions designed to protect competition. For example:

  • Comcast may not retaliate against any broadcast network (or affiliate), cable programmer, production studio or content licensee for licensing content to a competing cable, satellite or telephone company or OVD, or for raising concerns to the department or the FCC;
  • Comcast must relinquish its management rights in Hulu, an OVD. Without such a remedy, Comcast could, through its seats on Hulu's board of directors, interfere with the management of Hulu, and, in particular, the development of products that compete with Comcast's video service. Comcast also must continue to make NBCU content available to Hulu that is comparable to the programming Hulu obtains from Disney and News Corp;
  • In accordance with recently established Open Internet requirements, Comcast is prohibited from unreasonably discriminating in the transmission of an OVD's lawful network traffic to a Comcast broadband customer. Comcast must also maintain the high-speed Internet service it offers to its customers by continuing to offer download speeds of at least 12 megabits per second in markets where it has upgraded its broadband network. Additionally, Comcast is required to give other firms' content equal treatment under any of its broadband offerings that involve caps, tiers, metering for consumption or other usage-based pricing; and
  • Comcast may not, with certain narrow exceptions, require programmers or video distributors to agree to licensing terms that seek to limit online distributors' access to content.

Re:The more detailed DoJ press release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35344980)

Comcast may not, with certain narrow exceptions, require programmers or video distributors to agree to licensing terms that seek to limit online distributors' access to content.

Hello back door.

This could be an onion headline (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341600)

This could be an onion headline....
"Giant Corporation Accidentally Treats People Fairly"

Re:This could be an onion headline (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341698)

Next weeks new CEO vows: "We won't let this happen again. Ever."

What about comcast channels that are cable only (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341760)

What about the comcast channels that are cable only and not on Directv?

like CSN Philly / TCN Philly / CSN Philly +
CSN NW
CSS
Comcast network Chicago
Comcast network Chicago over flow

and others.

Too Big to Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35341806)

We hereby grant you the right to own a substantial portion of the distribution of all media.
We would like to inform you that you should not abuse your corporate authority.
We trust you will do the right thing.

Signed,
The People who never seem to learn from their mistakes

Nothing accidental about it. (1)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35341812)

This is exactly what the FCC intended.

Re:Nothing accidental about it. (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342266)

This is exactly what the FCC intended.

Yeah, really dumb title.

With a title like that I expected the cause to be some Byzantine handshake by the invisible hand of the free market, but it's just old-fashioned gov't regulation.

must sell NBC shows via iTunes (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342194)

must sell NBC shows via iTunes and other similar services

Suddenly NBC stops producing original shows and just licenses shows from other sources. As a bonus, maybe Comcast will use the extra timeslots to try to undersell Netflix by showing the 20th-30th most popular/recent movies on NBC over the air for free? Kill the competition by bleeding all over them? If people regularly get free slightly older movies over the air, why bother with netflix?

Re:must sell NBC shows via iTunes (1)

Pandrake (1513617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342384)

"If people regularly get free slightly older movies over the air, why bother with netflix?"

Because it's neat. I prefer movie surfing over channel surfing, anyway.

Re:must sell NBC shows via iTunes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35343132)

must sell NBC shows via iTunes and other similar services

Suddenly NBC stops producing original shows and just licenses shows from other sources. As a bonus, maybe Comcast will use the extra timeslots to try to undersell Netflix by showing the 20th-30th most popular/recent movies on NBC over the air for free? Kill the competition by bleeding all over them? If people regularly get free slightly older movies over the air, why bother with netflix?

Simple: People use Netflix streaming even over DVR'd content because a) lack of commercials and b) instant-start timing (recently watched a VOD offering from DishTV and despite it being a horrible movie, we had to wait like 20m to start viewing... compared to Netflix, Amazon rental or Apple, the dish experience sucked).

VOD and OTA lose to sufficient bandwidth + instant streaming.

Re:must sell NBC shows via iTunes (1)

His Irateness (2003264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35347422)

If people regularly get free slightly older movies over the air, why bother with netflix?

Because perhaps I want to get the movies when I actually want them? Also, being that there's a lot more than just movies on NetFlix...

Enforcement is the key (2)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35342668)

Laws and contracts are worthless unless enforced.

"Man has only those rights he can defend"
- Jack McCoy

Re:Enforcement is the key (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35344180)

This will be enforced rigorously until about two years before the end of Obama's current term.

Re:Enforcement is the key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35346018)

Laws and contracts are worthless unless enforced.

"Man has only those rights he can defend"
- Jack McCoy

Paging Mr. Godwin (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35345050)

Comcast-NBC Deal Accidentally Protects Internet?

I couldn't help but reword this in my head as:

"Sudetanland-Germany deal accidentally protects Poland?"

That didn't really work out that well for Poland...

Good for consumers? (1)

i41 (804842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35391828)

The conditions required by the DoJ may be good for Internet video companies, and the government undoubtedly is very proud of itself now for balancing everyone's interests, but is the merger good for consumers? In the 70s for instance Sony fought for their right to sell video recorders, and incidentally people's right to buy and own such devices. Today Sony is a content producer themselves, and instead of fighting digital restrictions they cripple their own devices above and beyond legal limits such as the expiration of copyrights, fair use, or the first sale doctrine. What can we expect from Comcast becoming a member of the MPAA?
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