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Congress to Debate Net Neutrality

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the future-of-freedom dept.

The Internet 227

evw writes "The NYTimes is reporting that legislation was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday in support of Net Neutrality. It is bipartisan legislation introduced by Olympia Snowe, R-Maine and Byron Dorgan, D-N. Dakota, however the article notes that Senator Snowe is one of the few Republicans that supports it. "Senior lawmakers, emboldened by the recent restrictions on AT&T and the change in control of Congress, have begun drafting legislation that would prevent high-speed Internet companies from charging content providers for priority access." This isn't the first attempt. Last year a similar amendment was blocked. However, conditions placed on AT&T in its merger with SBC have emboldened supporters of the legislation."

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I find this funny (1, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539718)

Congress spends almost a century enacting policies that have restricted the growth of communications that the market desires -- the FCC and a variety of laws and regulations that have mandated micro and macro-level monopolies. Instead of working to promote free enterprise, they want to enact MORE laws that restrict where the market will head based on consumer demand.

Net neutrality is fraudulent, because no one knows what the market will want tomorrow. When selection is mandated to a certain level, nothing rises above it, and little falls below that bar. Instead, you end up with an attempted "one-size fits all" scenario, which never works. It restricts long term development, new technology, and also restricts those who want to spend more for more, or spend less for less.

Net neutrality is bad idea -- just like most regulation of industry. How about revoking some of the pro-monopoly laws that exist, and allowing the market to go where the consumer wants it to? Voting with your dollars gives us cheaper goods in greater quantity. Setting regulations does the opposite.

Idiot. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539980)

Why don't you stop being a knee-jerk libertarian for a minute and think about things. It sounds like you would like to repeal all laws. I'm sure you'd scream bloody hell if some Govt. backed Corporation walked up and took all your land for a casino for the "Betterment of the Community". Anyone that thinks that large corporations will look out for any interests other than the large stockholders needs their head examined. Look what happened to Enron. That's the poster child for your deregulated market.

Re:Idiot. (2, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540150)

Don't mod this guy troll, mod him funny.

Enron was the poster child of over-regulation -- everything Enron did was because it was allowed monopoly status in a market that was never deregulated. They tried to free wholesale prices from regulation but capped retail prices. That's like saying oil should be a free market for wholesalers, but don't sell it for more than $1 to consumers. The same thing would happen. Bad accounting practices doesn't come from corporations, it comes from impossible-to-understand tax and accounting rules -- loopholes don't exist in a free market.

Re:Idiot. (2, Insightful)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540286)

I don't think anyone's going to believe you that bad accounting practices don't come from corporations, the tax code contribute but the bad accounting comes straight from the business itself. The problem with deregulation is that you are forced to assume that a free market is actually free. The reality is that corporations are only mandated to create a profit for their CEO's and their shareholders and they will do so however they can. Thus it is in a corporation's interest to try to remove competition and ensure a steady stream of profit for the forseeable future, i.e., not make the market free. Why is it that libertarians ask for more of the same after they've been bent over a barrel?

Re:Idiot. (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540794)

The problem with modern version of Corporations is that nobody is willing to revoke a corporate charter for malfeasance by the corporation. I guarantee that if stock holders entire value was at risk for the ENRON type accounting fraud, they would enact much stricter guidelines for accounting than even the government requires. But since nobody is willing to revoke corporate charters and let the chips fall, we have an artificial barrier to self policing within the corporation.

Throwing Ken Lay and a few others in jail for what happened at ENRON, isn't going to prevent others from trying similar tactics. And the share holders didn't care a lick when the profits were rolling in. The employees were rewarded for their lack of oversight. Enron only collapsed when it couldn't maintain the pyramid scheme. Up until that point, not enough people cared about Enron, nor its profits enough to stop it before it happened.

I guarantee you that if the corporate charter could have been revoked, that threat would have had an entirely different effect. When profits are the only care, rather than proper stewardship of all the corporate assets, these things are bound to happen.

BTW, The government grants corporate charters, as they are legal entities ordained by the government under the rules of incorporation. The government has lost sight that they can also revoke said charters.

So, while your slam against "libertarians" was funny, it wasn't accurate towards true libertarians, who believe that ALL stockholders and stakeholders are responsible and should be held accountable for the actions of the corporation, at least to the degree of how much stock or stake holdings they have.

I don't feel a bit sorry for Enron employees, shareholders or anyone associated with Enron. They got what they deserved for not looking deeper into those put in position of stewardship.

I feel sorry for the stupid grandmas and grandpas who were suckered, but only to a degree. Rarely does "get rich quick" actually work. Most of the time it takes hard work or true innovation and often both.

Re:Idiot. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540956)

The problem with modern version of Corporations is that nobody is willing to revoke a corporate charter for malfeasance by the corporation. I guarantee that if stock holders entire value was at risk for the ENRON type accounting fraud, they would enact much stricter guidelines for accounting than even the government requires. But since nobody is willing to revoke corporate charters and let the chips fall, we have an artificial barrier to self policing within the corporation.

I'm not sure I follow.

While the stock holder's "entire value" may, superficially, have not been at risk, in practice a large number of investors, particularly employees (who, one might argue, were those who could hold the corporation accountable the most), did, in practice, lose everything, or a close enough approximation that the difference doesn't matter.

The second part has little to do with the first. ENRON's corporate charter, in effect, was revoked, by bankruptsy. Yes, some kind of shell still exists, but it's a set of legal fictions that have nothing to do with reality. The company known as ENRON in 2001 no longer exists. No entity exists that resembles that organization in any sense, and only a handful of people, largely unrelated to the scandal, have benefited from its demise.

I agree corporations should be held more accountable, but ENRON is a poor poster child for that cause. The general culture of the corporation that lead it to creating artificial energy shortages in California were the same as the culture that lead to the explicitly illegal actions that lead to its downfull. It was caught in the net within a year or two of its bad faith becoming evident, the real problems are the companies that aren't.

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541036)

Regulations aren't the problem, it's fiat currency, remember?

Re:Idiot. (1, Insightful)

shaneh0 (624603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541038)

The success of the freemarket can be measured by look at the whole of human history prior to the 20th century.

There were thousands of years when all you needed to be, say, a shop keeper was a shop to keep. No business license or sales tax or liability insurance or health codes.

Socialism and a regulated market economy are inventions of the past 100 years. Maybe it's just a total coincidence that during this time a middle class emerged, but I really doubt that.

We did it your way for 10,000 years. Now it's time to try it our way.

Re:Idiot. (5, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541840)

This is patently untrue. For thousands of years, if you wanted to be a shopkeeper, all you needed was your dad to keep shop. If you wanted to be a blacksmith, all you needed was your father to be blacksmith. That's why we have family names like Smith, Miller, and Farmer. Occupations were something that belonged within a family.

For most of human history, there was an upper class of elites, about 10% of the population, who ruled over the other 90% who grew food and served the elites. There are variations throughout the world, but this is the basic pattern. There was no free market or middle class or political freedom. Wikipedia says this [] about free markets: "The consensus among economic historians is that the free market economy is a specific historic phenomenon, and that it emerged in late medieval and early-modern Europe". It gets a little convoluted in places like Europe and India, where what emerges is a system of classes or casts: the religious/priest group, the warrior/nobility, and the mercantile class. But don't think that there was a free market. Kings had absolute power; they could levy fines, confiscate assets, fix prices, etc. etc. What emerged out of the class struggles of Europe was the idea of liberty -- freedom -- where nobody, not a King, not a priest, could tell you want to do. Applied to economics, the conclusion is the free market. You don't need the church fixing the price of apples, claiming that changing prices was a challenge to Go'ds natural order. Applied to politics, we get the idea of political freedom and the rights of man.

Hunter gathers do/did live in a society with greater political and economic freedom, but technically, that's before history, since history is the recorded word. Furthermore, those societies are ruled by complex system of obligations to kin, so you can't really say that they have absolute freedom. As far as taxes, they have been part of business for as long as we have recorded history. The very first writings were receipts for business transactions. You needed these so that the King's tax collector wouldn't demand more than you owed, and the tax collector wanted to see that you weren't cheating him.

So basically you're taking this libertarian fantasy of a free market and applying it backwards into history where it never really existed.

Re:Idiot. (2, Interesting)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542232)

Hunter gathers do/did live in a society with greater political and economic freedom, but technically, that's before history, since history is the recorded word.
It's easy to live in a society with greater economic freedom when you're society doesn't have an economy. For a society to have an economy there has to be some form of trade, which in turn implies some form of division of labor. In a hunter gatherer society nearly everyone performs the same function to support themselves. Once agriculture enters the picture you begin to see these things, however you also begin to see the beginnings of governments that restrict and control trade.

Re:Idiot. (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541898)

Whoops! I read about half your post before I when off on my anti-libertarian rant. Sorry!

Perhaps you,ve heard of these things called facts (2, Informative)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542024)

Actually, the middle class emerged during the middle ages as the bourgeoisie, which consisted primarily of merchants. The rise of the middle class over the last century or so has been primarily due to industrialization and mechanization, which has shifted more workers from away from production type labor and into mercantile and technical fields.

You're assertion that the whole of human history, up to recent times, has been the history of the free market is entirely false. For example, in feudal Europe and Japan you needed a lot more than a shop to be a shop keeper. You needed to be a member of a certain land-owning class, something a great deal more difficult to obtain than a business license. And where exactly would you say that slaves fit into the free market?

You also claim that Socialism and regulated economy are inventions of the past 100 years. However, Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848.

Your entire statement is nothing more than supposition and conjecture, interlaced with flat out falsehoods. The free market is far from perfect. There are plenty of areas where regulation is needed to ensure things operate smoothly (economists refer to these as externalities). However, you completely fail to understand the respective benefits and shortcomings of the free market and socialism, not to mention basic history.

Re:Perhaps you,ve heard of these things called fac (1)

shaneh0 (624603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542482)

I feel dirty making this joke but wth.

"And where exactly would you say that slaves fit into the free market?"

In the produce section?

Insightful? WTF! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541308)

Corporate fraud, on the other hand, comes from corporations.

Baka (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17542328)

> loopholes don't exist in a free market

Sure they do. Collusion, form monopoly, remove 'free' from 'free market' and because you're a private company with apparently no accountability to the public ("how dare you pass laws restricting us!"), no one can stop you thanks to your monopoly power restricting the market.

Now, you may say that that's a cheat because they work by removing the free market, but it's why you can't avoid having ANY regulation of the market--the companies will find it in their best interests to set up their own de facto regulation and won't be accountable to anyone.

Re:I find this funny (3, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540088)

Voting with your dollars gives us cheaper goods in greater quantity
I think there is more to life than cheap goods and cheap goods is certainly not the sole and overiding goal of any society I'd like to be a part of.

Re:I find this funny (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540194)

Voting with your dollars gives us cheaper goods in greater quantity
I think there is more to life than cheap goods and cheap goods is certainly not the sole and overiding goal of any society I'd like to be a part of.
Sure (and, to tell the truth, I agree with you) but you're outvoted by all the morons who think that cheap goods give their life more meaning.

It isn't just about cheaper, it's about better. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540822)

A couple of points.

1: If you spend less on cheaper goods, you have more to spend on other things, like family, friends, education, charities, whatever.

2: Things tend to get better, not just cheaper. I can call my girlfriend pretty much any time, anywhere in the world and instantly get hold of her on a mobile phone, I can see my niece on a video phone because I choose to pay for the things which matter to me, not to you.

Re:I find this funny (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540402)

I think there is more to life than cheap goods and cheap goods is certainly not the sole and overiding goal of any society I'd like to be a part of.

And as they say: you get what you pay for. Cheap goods are only desirable in a culture that views resources as disposable. Cheap labor only serves to create pseudo-slavery. I personally don't mind paying more for something if I know I'm getting quality for my money. That, however, is becoming rarer by the day.

Re:I find this funny (5, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540134)

Net neutrality is fraudulent, because no one knows what the market will want tomorrow.

Let's go easy on the rhetoric; net neutrality might lack merit, and it's proponents might on occasion make fraudulent claims* but "net neutrality" is not fraudulent. And while I agree that people too often use static thinking when talking about markets, I strongly suspect people will ALWAYS want to know when their access to something is being throttled because the provider has been bribed to make your access more difficult by someone who can't compete on a level field.

*though more often it happens the other way around. Ted Stevens and Professor Woo, I'm looking in your general direction. Except about the internet not being a truck. That part you got right.

Re:I find this funny (2, Insightful)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541696)

I strongly suspect people will ALWAYS want to know when their access to something is being throttled because the provider has been bribed to make your access more difficult by someone who can't compete on a level field.

Prioritization only matters when the network connection is congested. When it's congested, packets must necessarily be dropped. You can either drop all packets equally (your data transfer slows and your HBO starts cutting out), such as with a "neutral" Internet like today's, or you can prioritize (your data transfer slows more, but HBO stays on the air), in a "non-neutral" fashion.

Customers won't just know what's being throttled, they will actively want it to be that way.

Re:I find this funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540224)

The goal of a tiered internet is to control distribution, plain and simple. All other arguments simply try to hide that fact.

Your energy provider agrees. (5, Insightful)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540260)

Tell this to your local utilities company,they'll agree wholeheartedly because it's incredibly expensive to lay down the infrastructure to compete. Your electricity bill and water bill will go through the roof without the government smacking them on the hand. These sorts of things are natural monopolies where the cost of competing in the industry outweighs potential benefits to the consumer. There are very few cities in the US that i know of which have multiple cable companies servicing them, do you really want your only option for high speed internet access to have the freedom to determine what services (that they're not providing to you, they're just delivering) you have to pay extra to see?

Re:Your energy provider agrees. (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540886)

Tell this to your local utilities company,they'll agree wholeheartedly because it's incredibly expensive to lay down the infrastructure to compete. Your electricity bill and water bill will go through the roof without the government smacking them on the hand. These sorts of things are natural monopolies where the cost of competing in the industry outweighs potential benefits to the consumer. There are very few cities in the US that i know of which have multiple cable companies servicing them, do you really want your only option for high speed internet access to have the freedom to determine what services (that they're not providing to you, they're just delivering) you have to pay extra to see?
The reason there isn't multiple cable companies in most areas is because the government doesn't allow it. Natural monopolies generally don't exist in a free market. And if they do, they damn well better provide excellent service or their market share will suffer. There will always be others waiting for the perfect opportunity to steal customers and take their place.

Re:Your energy provider agrees. (5, Insightful)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541346)

Here is how I see this scenario working out, please show me where you disagree.
  1. Company A is the only utilities provider for the Towns, and is charging exorbitant prices.
  2. Company B sees the opportunity to compete in the market with Company A, and invests billions of dollars in infrastructure necessary to compete as a utilities company, laying lines to the entire town and creating their power plant.
  3. Company A recognizes what company B is doing and lowers its rates in each area that Company B services to sell utilities at a loss, relying on their dominant market position and the capital that they have accrued while being the only shop in town.
  4. Company B tries to compete for customers with Company A, but with the new low rates company A is charging, Company B finds itself short of customers and with angry investors who would like to see a return on their investment this decade breathing down its neck.
  5. Company B files for bankruptcy after it is unable to recoup its massive intitial investment in laying down infrastructure to the town. Unfortunatley, as their assets are liquidated, they find that there are very few people willing to buy a backup power plant and backup power grid for an entire town, and their investors really take it in the shorts.
  6. Company A resumes charging its exorbitant rates.
  7. Repeat as often as there are investors dumb enough to try to get into the market.
The problem is the massive up front investment in assets that are worth very little outside the market.

Re:Your energy provider agrees. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541562)

Natural monopolies generally don't exist in a free market.

I agree! I have my choice of 8 driveways, three sinks, 12 phone numbers, and 4 sets of outlets so that I can take advantage of all the wonders that competition and capitalism can offer.

Natural Monopolies do exist (1)

alexhmit01 (104757) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542408)

Okay, economic theory...

Producing products (or services) by a firm have two basic costs, the fixed cost, and the variable costs. The fixed costs are costs that are generally fixed over the "short term" (i.e. you can sell the factory in the long term, but in the short-term, you have to pay your property taxes). Variable costs are the costs of producing the units, and we generally look at "average variable costs," i.e. if we spend 1000 on making the units, and produced 100 units, the AVC is 10. Marginal costs are the cost of producing the last unit.

We assume that marginal costs are increasing at the interesting point of the market. i.e. when I start a farm, the first plot of land that I farm is the most productive, then I start farming less valuable land. Similarly, the early oil fields produced a lot of cheap oil, modern oil exploration is expensively looking for smaller and smaller amounts of oil. While their are increasing returns to scale initially (spreading out the fixed costs over more and more units, so average fixed costs come down), we assume that as you start pushing harder and harder to produce more (paying a premium to buy parts on the spot market, paying overtime to run a second and third shift, etc.), costs come up, and eventually we get decreasing returns to scale.

Now, we can graph the "average cost per unit" as a declining curve (increasing returns to scale) until a minimum point, then an increasing curve as the increase in marginal costs over time. For non-physical products, remember the dot-com boom, less and less qualified employees were getting hired, and salaries were going up, meaning the cost/output of these people was going up...

Now, we can plot that cost curve as the "supply curve of the firm," and collectively with its competitors as the "supply curve of the market". If we plot that against the demand curve, we can see where the intersection lies. If the firm's decreasing costs area intersects the demand curve, then one single firm will have lower costs than two firms competing will. This is called a natural monopoly. If one firm can produce at 10, but two firms producing at that level makes costs 15, then in the "free market" costs should drop to 14, and one of the firms exits the market.

Now the problem is, introducing competition to this marketplace increases costs and therefore dead weight loss, but leaving the company with the monopoly will cause them to seek monopoly rents. These are markets that tend to be regulated.

The problem is, most markets that we are interested in today are not static. AT&T had a natural monopoly, but technology changes (satellites, microwaves, etc.) created the cellular phone, alternative means of long distance than stringing wires between cities, etc., making it no longer a natural monopoly.

With cable companies, there is room for competition in limited areas. The franchise agreements normally require universal wiring. If you notice cities letting competition in, they aren't wiring areas for the poor, they are poaching customers from the wealthy areas that buy premium packages and data services. This works because the incumbent monopolist has to maintain universal services, and the competitor is able to compete in isolated submarkets. If the monopolist competed with the competitor, they would lose their excess profits in the rest of the region, so they lose some market instead.

There are natural monopolies, but it is questionable that in terms of technology monopolies, should you accept them and regulate them (the generally accepted approach to older industries), or leave the monopolies, expecting monopoly profits to bring in competition. Given the pace of technology change, it may be more reasonable to accept premium pricing in the short-term to get competition in the long term.

The Telecom Act of 1996 promised to bring in a bold new era of competition by deregulating the companies, but from 1997 - 1999 people just howled at the exploding costs of cable television. However, a few years later, and DSL and Cable were slugging it out, causing prices to drop (unlikely to have happened in the regulated monopoly days pre-Telecom Act, I'd imaging the states would have regulated Internet Access to be $50/month, and that would be that, and either the Telco or the Cable company would have bribed officials to be granted the franchise), Satellite companies grabbed over 10% of the market, and cable companies scrambled to offer digital cable before the Telco's completed their fiber roll-out and got into the market.

It is very likely that by 2009, most cities will have the ability to get television programming from the incumbent cable company, the telephone company, satellite, and possibly the power company. It is also very possible that local "wireless IP television" options will come onto the market, plus players like Apple challenging the whole premise.

Roll forward to 2009, and AppleTV 3.0 has a built in ATSC tuner, and perhaps we get our sports and other live programming OTA, and subscribe to our "programming" via iTunes, at least for some people.

Technology moves faster than regulators, so it is questionable if we should really regulate technology. More innovation has happened in the 10 years since the telecom deregulation than in the 20-30 years before. Some of the changes are technology related, but some are no doubt the regulations existing and cable prices exploding.

DirecTV and Dish didn't have much draw when cable companies were forced to offer "basic tier" for $20-$25/month, they couldn't compete. But when the cable companies started charging $40-$50, the satellite companies were able to come in with cheap programming that warranted the boxes.


Re:Your energy provider agrees. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541332)

I have multiple cable providers coming into my apartment. I don't know where you live, but cable is definitely not a natural monopoly. Neither is electricity and power. Just because it's expensive to compete doesn't mean it's impossible to compete.

Essentially you're saying that the free market won't work because a regulated market doesn't work. That doesn't make any sense.

Indeed... unintended consequences (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540272)

You never know. Enforcing net neutrality may prevent the development of a ubiquitous high bandwidth wireless Internet which can compete with the land lines for performance and cost. When you institute a law like this you are essentially trying to hold development static at the current state of affairs.

Take for example the massive subsidies that rail gets in the UK, this certainly holds the cost down to about half of the real cost for the small minority who use it, but it also makes it extremely difficult for alternative transportation systems which are potentially superior to compete, even to get venture capital.

In short, just because you (or a politician) don't know the solution to a problem doesn't mean that someone else hasn't already found a solution and is just dying to put it into practice for you.

Re:I find this funny (5, Insightful)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540276)

Selection? Selection of what? In what way does mandatory equality of QOS negatively impact the internet? I posit that the internet owes its success to carrier's whose motivation presently is to provide the best possible service. Breaking nuetrality means it will be the carrier's fudiciary duty to degrade all traffic and underinvest in their networks in order to force all users to pay unavoidable tolls. Users who refuse will see their traffic neglected and actively sabotaged.

"Net neutrality is bad idea -- just like most regulation of industry. How about revoking some of the pro-monopoly laws that exist, and allowing the market to go where the consumer wants it to? Voting with your dollars gives us cheaper goods in greater quantity. Setting regulations does the opposite."

You are working from an unsupported proposition - that all regulation is bad - and saying that since net nuetrality is regulation, it must also be bad. Your conclusion presupposes your conclusion. That's called begging the question.

Re:I find this funny (1)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540356)

Your premise presupposes your conclusion, that should be.

Re:I find this funny (0, Flamebait)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540532)

Regulation is bad. NN is regulation, therefore NN is bad.
Looks like a syllogism to me.
Your conclusion presupposes that you can think for yourself, but apparently you like to be spoonfed.

Re:I find this funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541954)

Wow, smacked down in an argument so the child, instead of coming up with a better argument, lashes out against the better debater. Maybe when you hit high school, you'll get into some debating in english class and will be better armed for it. Until then, I suggest you refrain.

Re:I find this funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17542014)

Your conclusion presupposes that you can think for yourself, but apparently you like to be spoonfed.

Excellent ad hominem there sir, you totally blew his argument out of the water with that.

Next time, try explaining why "regulation is bad" instead of simply stamping your feet and insisting it's so.

Re:I find this funny (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541560)

In what way does mandatory equality of QOS negatively impact the internet?

It means you cannot reasonably deliver IPTV services over the Internet. Most consumers do not want their HBO to start cutting out when their kids start playing a game online or starting a large data transfer. To prevent this, you need prioritization of data, and you can't do that over the public Internet. This means your ISP needs the ability to contract with content providers for dedicated network connections and someone needs to pay for that. (Ultimately, of course, that person is you, the consumer.)

Re:I find this funny (5, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540304)

You viewpoint is naive. Read some American history about the period 100 years ago. Standard Oil wasn't created by government 'interference'.

The intense competition of the marketplace creates great incentive to cheat and deal with people unfairly in order to get ahead. A truly free market will be taken over by powerful monopolies who will work to *remove* competition. Corporations have no incentive to tell us the truth or to use less hazardous manufacturing methods if it makes them more money. They have no incentive to pay people decent wages if they could have child laborers working 80 hour weeks, or even serfs or slaves. The slaves were freed through government 'interference' in the marketplace. Children were taken out of factories and mines by government 'interference'. Workers were given 40-hour work weeks with overtime thereafter, lunch breaks, bathroom/coffee breaks, and retirement accounts by unionization and government 'interference' which allowed unions. Read some history about how labor organizers were beaten up and killed by private 'security' services employed by corporations.

The role of government is to keep the marketplace fair by creating the rules through law, and punishing cheaters. Otherwise a free market will simply reward cheaters and strongmen. Part of keeping the marketplace fair is ensuring competition. This involves breaking up monopolies. We are a democratic republic, and we have the rule of law. In order for the government to legitimately regulate the marketplace, law must be passed.

Re:I find this funny (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541582)

We are a democratic republic, and we have the rule of law. In order for the government to legitimately regulate the marketplace, law must be passed.

We are more like a "Corpocracy" these days. We have a rule of law, but who's deep pockets have the greatest influence over the success or defeat of those laws? While my letter writing and phone calls may help influence my congressman, I just don't have the resources to send a lobbyist. ;-)

Re:I find this funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540942)

Regulations involving guarantees of freedom can also be translated as limiting those freedoms or as not defending those not mentioned. Alexander Hamilton and others worried over this when the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution of the US.

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.
Alexander Hamilton []

Alexander Hamilton has been repeatedly proven correct in this by all three branches of the government. Not going to give examples in order to avoid breeding offtopic arguements over the examples, merely citing this because our internet freedom is at stake. One of the things we too often forget is that laws and regulations don't guarantee rights, they limit or remove them. Which was Hamilton's major objection to the Bill of Rights, that by enumerating them and stating their guarantees that it could be translated as restrictions to them in either stated or unstated fashion.

The FCC got ATT to agree to a temporary net neutrality stance in order for their merger with BELL South to go through. This brings up at least two concerns. First, those items not listed as protected could be translated as fully open for ATT to mess with. Second, when the time expires on this agreement ATT will be able to translate that as now having FCC permission to do everything it restricted them from doing.

It would probably be better to fight this out in the courts over existing laws, regulations and agreements ( peering for example ) and in the court of public opinion. We could use more providers and a more diverse backbone for letting the people vote their dollars and letting the internet route packets better in case of damage.

Re:I find this funny (2, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541012)

How about revoking some of the pro-monopoly laws that exist

I can see it now: instead of a series of telephone poles along my street with maybe ten cables and wires running along them, it'll be a solid wall of copper and fiber, one for each company providing a service.

Oh, wait - if everyone had to run their own cable on the poles, the expense would be so high that nobody would make any money (except whoever owns the poles). That must be why some companies pay other companies to use their cables. This sounds vaguely familiar [] .

Even with deregulation, you're still going to have oligopoly status in the broadband market (as opposed to the duopoly status we have today), and that oligopoly status will still lead last-mile ISPs to try to double dip by charging content providers who aren't their direct customers and to try to block services that they wish to provide by themselves like VoD and VoIP.

By the way, you make a lot of generalistic claims without providing any justification for those claims. Instead of saying things like "regulation is bad" or "regulation restricts technology", you need to provide some specifics on why you think network neutrality won't work if you plan on convincing people, because those generalistic claims aren't always true.

Re:I find this funny (4, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541178)

>Net neutrality is fraudulent, because no one knows what the market will want tomorrow.

Net neutrality is _vital_ because no one knows what the market will want tomorrow.

If huge and stupid companies get to decide what internets go over their tubes(*), we won't get innovative new services coming out of nowhere. If the huge and stupid companies simply sell bandwidth for us and the innovators to use as we please, then tomorrow's applications can thrive.

(*) Poor Ted Stevens

oh boy (2, Funny)

syrinx (106469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539750)

because Elbereth knows, when I think about things that are helpful, efficient, and beneficial to everyone, the first thing that comes to mind is "US government regulations".

Way off topic (2, Funny)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539760)

Yeah I know, nothing to do with the article, but I'd prefer that congress draft legislation to ban the use of the word embolden. I also nominate incentivize and impactful.

Feel free to mod me down.

Oh and to you it's a living language people, I know, but these bastardizations can in no way improve our ability to communicate.

Re:Way off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539896)

Embolden: Origin: 1495-1505 []
Incentivize: Origin: 1965-1970 []
Not exactly new, eh?
As for "impactful", I agree, it needs to go. Maybe doubleplusimpact?

Re:Way off topic (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539928)

If I could I wouldn't just mod you down, I'd provide impactful incentives that would embolden other mods to bastardizate your karma. But I can't, so I guess I'll just have to say that I agree with you.

I don't know why (3, Funny)

SNR monkey (1021747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539958)

They're perfectly cromulent words that embiggen the language.

Re:Way off topic (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540168)

Embolden is a perfectly cromulent word.

Re:Way off topic (1)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540344)

Stop it! You're de-moralifying the living language community!

Re:Way off topic (1)

JKConsult (598845) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541516)

Well, it is a living language, but I do agree with you in general.

However, the OED would tell you that embolden has a very long and rich history as a word, dating back to Milton and before. Incentivize only dates back to 1968, so it's somewhat close. Impactful comes nowhere near the OED.

1900s:telephones::2000s:internets (2, Interesting)

shirizaki (994008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539842)

C'mon congress, learn from history. The second internet companies are allowed to make tiered internet is the day internet and porn dies. Do you want to be on the receiving end of THAT backlash?

This is a step to limit the internet companies from rippnig the money from my wallet, but letting AT&T regain itself from a century of being split was a mistake. The evil has respawned, and threatens my porn.

Re:1900s:telephones::2000s:internets (3, Insightful)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539916)

C'mon congress, learn from history.

If they truely learned from history, the Justice Department wouldn't allow AT&T to buy up its old subsidiaries that it took years of court battles to cleave apart.

and I'm SURE it wouldn't have anything to do with letting the intelligence agencies have unfettered access to the data flowing through the pipes in exhange for resurrecting Ma Bell with little fanfare.

Re:1900s:telephones::2000s:internets (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540608)

the Justice Department wouldn't allow AT&T to buy up its old subsidiaries

Isn't it more a case of

In Capitalist America, your former subsidiaries buy you!

Re:1900s:telephones::2000s:internets (1)

xantho (14741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540030)

Yeah, it's strange that the government these days has basically told the world that divestiture was just a joke and that we were only kidding. I wonder what the endgame of all the old RBOCs is going to look like. We're down to the new AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest from the original 8 (7 RBOCs and one long distance provider).

Re:1900s:telephones::2000s:internets (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540064)

C'mon congress, learn from history. The second internet companies are allowed to make tiered internet is the day internet and porn dies. Do you want to be on the receiving end of THAT backlash?

Congress, counting its kickback and PAC money: "Huh... did someone say something? I thought I heard something... 1 million, 5 hundred, 30 thousand and 1... 1 million, 5 hundred, 30 thousand and 2...

The internets (0, Offtopic)

DJHewi1025 (892912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539850)

It's a series of tubes, ya know? It's not just some truck you dump on.

Re:The internets (1, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540060)

Why do people focus on this bit of what Ted Stevens said? It's just a metaphor, and as such, about the only part of his whole statement that made sense.

Re:The internets (1)

xantho (14741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540488)

And actually, the internet is a series of tubes, in the sense that a tube is a conduit through which things travel. It's just that the tubes are really huge right now. So you could make a case that the internet is a series of huge tubes that you use by putting your data in big trucks and sending them down the gigantic tubes.

Think, Die Hard: With a Vengeange.

IPTV (1)

xantho (14741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539872)

How does the idea of net neutrality affect possible quality of service efforts needed to make IPTV and VOIP solid and usable? I mean, what if an ISP actually wanted to make it easy for you to use VOIP providers for phone service. Bell South already has test IPTV service for really really special people in Atlanta, so obviously, they're looking into how to roll that out en masse. It'll be important to be able to ensure that enough bandwidth is available on the pipe for an uninterrupted IPTV signal to be feasible.

So, as long as net neutrality doesn't preclude those QoS efforts, it can work. But besides that, why is it the government's place to dictate that kind of stuff? I mean, ideally, competition in the marketplace would be the determining factor of whether a non-neutral policy of charging for priority is a workable model for data access, right? I guess there isn't a whole lot of competition among high speed internet access providers, but I'd think that between cable modems, ILEC DSL, Earthlink DSL, and satellite connections, we'd be able to see this thing shake out in the marketplace.

Re:IPTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539966)

Net neutrality has bugger all to do with QoS or anything like that on a protocol level. It is on a content provider level. Most ISPs already use QoS (packet shaping) to stop BitTorrent traffic from crippling their networks.

e.g. runs a lot faster than because paid your ISP so that their HTTP traffic has higher priority than other HTTP traffic.

QoS differentiates between protocols. Removing net neutrality allows ISPs to charge (blackmail) providers (sites) for priority.

Re:IPTV (1)

xantho (14741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540140)

So you're saying that if an ISP gave priority to their own VOIP or IPTV packets, which necessarily means that all the other packets are at a detriment, then the senders of the other packets wouldn't have a legitimate gripe with the ISP?

Fine, your idea of quality of service is different than mine. Let's not debate semantics. (At least, not until I say so... :))

Re:IPTV (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541464)

Removing net neutrality allows ISPs to charge (blackmail) providers (sites) for priority.

QoS is only usable within a certain administrative domain. Within your ISP, they might use QoS, but any traffic to/from the public Internet is not QoS-managed. It can't be. If any Internet Joe had the capability of setting QoS flags on his packets, think of the abuse that would cause.

Further, ISPs can't simply set QoS flags on inbound traffic from certain providers and not others. Ignoring the legal/business issues, these flags only take effect once the packet enters the ISP's network. Since QoS doesn't occur on the public Internet, all of that data has already been in competition with all of the other data out there and will arrive missing packets and with delays.

It's not about blackmail. Traffic on the public Internet will (necessarily) remain undifferentiated and unprioritized. The problem is that unprioritized traffic (like that on the public Internet) is inappropriate for high-bandwidth, low-latency services such as IPTV. Today, we have a "neutral" Internet. This means that when you try to stream video from a content provider, you get occasional hiccups, and if you attempt to download some data while watching your video, your Internet connection becomes congested and it suffers even further; the two data transfers are undifferentiated and impacted equally.

There is a finite amount of data you can shove down a pipe, and with no QoS and no prioritization of packets, nothing has precedence and everything is degraded equally. Now imagine IPTV services running over this type of network:

You're watching your favorite TV show, and your son starts playing a game, or your spouse starts uploading some data to the office. Your TV show starts getting pixelated and cuts out. No consumer would want this. In an era where your TV signal is transmitted over your Internet connection, you're likely to want your TV signal to have a certain guaranteed quality of service, right?

So how do you do that? You can't do QoS over the Internet, but you need QoS between your content provider and your TV. Your ISP can do QoS, but they can't do it over the Internet. They have to set up a private, dedicated network connection between themselves and the content provider. That's the only way you're going to be guaranteed bandwidth all the way from the content provider to your TV, and at that point your Internet connection can look at the QoS flags and slow packets destined for your children's online game or your spouse's data transfer to keep the TV channel going without interruption.

Network Neutrality simply means that the ISP is either not allowed to set up that dedicated network connection to the content provider, or if they decide to do it, they have to eat the cost (and by "eat the cost", we mean, "pass the cost onto the consumer").

Forget about the "Net Neutrality" label for a moment and ask yourself which of these scenarios is more appealing:

  • Unprioritized traffic, your file download competes with HBO (neutral Internet)
  • Prioritized traffic, but either your ISP or content provider bill goes up to pay for it (non-neutral Internet)

So do you want reliable TV service, or do you want your channels to cut out whenever you download something over the Internet? You can't have "neutral" prioritization, and if you tell your ISP that they have to eat the cost and set up dedicated networks for prioritized traffic to everyone who wants one, then everyone's going to want one and now you have to worry about premium content A competing with premium content B (not to mention the hike in your ISP's bill).

When you realize that you really do have to have prioritized, non-neutral network traffic, the next question becomes: Who pays for it? What do you think the fair thing to do is?

Re:IPTV (5, Insightful)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540112)

The concern isn't that the telcos will use QoS to make their IPTV service faster. Its that they'll choke any IPTV packets that don't come from their own IPTV service, effectively shutting the competitors out of the market and leaving you with yet another local monopoly to deal with. Or try to extort money out of big content providers like google for instance. Hell, one of those fat fucks actually said he was planning on doing just that.

Re:IPTV (1)

xantho (14741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540312)

Yeah, I absolutely believe that your scenario is much more likely than the one that I posed. I just worry that enforcing net neutrality from the get go will necessarily preclude IPTV efforts from being started in the first place, simply because an ISP won't be able to guarantee enough bandwidth for that signal when it's mixed in with the other traffic in your connection. I'm not trying to rehash the tubes vs. trucks argument for the general internet, but when you look at nodes on the edge of the network, e.g., me in my house with my cable modem, you really are looking at one connection with limited bandwidth and applications and protocols that are greedy and don't necessarily play fair with each other with regard to the capacity of the connection. So it's going to take some kind of effort to make sure that constant bandwidth applications are ensured a certain amount of bandwidth. A reasonable person could make the argument that if an ISP is giving a benefit to some packets originating at their premesis, then there's an inequity that makes their data arrive more slowly, and makes their service appear slower to the user. And they'd be right.

Re:IPTV (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540796)

Its by no means a totally black and white issue. They never are. However, I believe the bill has some level of allowances for QoS, but I could be wrong. And even that is kind of debatable about whether should be any sactioned management at all. But given how telephone and cable companies have operated in the past, and what have actually said they have planned for the future...I'm envisioning a choice between potentially clunky operation of some protocols and large amounts of internet scisms and the general loss of what made the internet so powerful in the first place.

If they're allowed to choke off whatever they please, its no longer an open internet with an equal burden of entry. If I start up some company that competes with say, ebay, I'll have to pay my bandwidth bills and some kind of extortion fees to every ISP I want to service (completely). They talk about going after the big guy to get money out of them, but those big guys have enough clout that they can throw a little weight around themselves. It won't be long until they start trying to hit guys further down the ladder up as well. Only guys with a lot of money will be able to get their stuff out their effectively, and I just don't want things to end up that way.

The whole thing got me thinking if it would be feasible and practical to run a web server with a bittorrent style peer to peer network. Thats a market workaround.

Re:IPTV (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541942)

If they're allowed to choke off whatever they please, its no longer an open internet with an equal burden of entry.

An important thing to remember here is that there aren't any more chokes than existed previously. If you stream video today and start a large data transfer, your data connection becomes congested and both transfers are "choked" equally. QoS and prioritization simply set up rules that allow some traffic to avoid being choked while other traffic is disproportionately affected, but if your data connection is never congested, you will never see these effects. You can avoid congestion the same way you've always done it: don't do too many things at once over the same connection. Turn off your IPTV stream if you want to maximize the bandwidth available to some unprioritized traffic.

Re:IPTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541870)

As far as I know, nobody is against providers giving priority to VOIP traffic or IPTV traffic over, say, text traffic. But it should be NEUTRALLY prioritized in that the originating company should not have anything to do with it.

As long as any VOIP/IPTV traffic has the same priority as any other, then no problem. But if the signal of XYZ company's IPTV traffic gets a higher priority than the traffic from ABC company because XYZ could afford to pay a higher fee, THEN we have problems and a sort of capitalistic censorship that net neutrality seeks to prevent.

Re:IPTV (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540310)

Hopefully any net neutrality legislation will do exactly that, but it is doubtful. QoS will never work on the Internet itself; allowing it will only further discrimination of traffic, and promote abuse of it. Traffic on the internet should be treated fairly, and QoS does not do that.

There is only one way to ensure quality VOIP and IPTV, and that is to run these services on private networks. On networks where multicast can be supported. On networks where QoS can be properly implemented. These networks should to be funded by the services that run on them, and the rest of us shouldn't have to pay for them.

This does not mean that Vonage and the like can not be run over the Internet. As long as there is no discrimination, and there is adequate capacity, it should still run fine. This goes for everything on the Internet. By trying to support QoS at that level, it only provides an excuse to degrade service of non-blessed traffic instead of increasing capacity.

On the Internet, no traffic should have priority, period. If that isn't good enough, then you need to pay for access to private networks where service can be guaranteed.

Tell me how to do my job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17539938)

I don't understand Net Neutrality all that well but I'm sure I'm more knowledgeable than than any Congress Person.

Who can blame them for listening to a AT&T/Mega Ma Bell loybbyist-friend-wife?

I do have faith in the "market" and the community. Our (US) POTS have sucked for a long time but they market responded. Many people have abandoned the "government solution" because it is slow/wrong/evil/expensive/wasteful.

We must always rely... (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539974)

on those in the center to make the rational choices to help lead our country forward. Olympia Snowe is one such example, and has continually been in her years of public office.

Supporters of Net Neutrality (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540022)

Are socialists and tools. Do not support this garbage unless you want the FCC regulating the net (doesnt that sound like the BEST idea EVER?). I canm't believe the support it has garnered....

can you edit comments after it has been rated? (0, Offtopic)

waxmop (195319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540206)

I'm just curious

outside of the US of A... (1)

unfunk (804468) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540240) does "non-net-neutrality" affect us non-Americans? Does it affect us at all? If so, then any bid to degrade the quality of service of the intertron in return for more money should be definitely shot down.
Any 'internal' US policy that could drastically affect the lives and businesses of people outside of the USA should not be passed, or even allowed to be considered, because not all of the people it affects can have a say.

Re:outside of the US of A... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540780)

Net neutrality would restrict ISP from charging websites for bandwidth to reach consumers. Basically sites like slashdot would have to pay ISPs on both ends in order to work effectively. It would not directly effect Europe, in that your own ISP might still charge in this way even if we pass net neutrality laws. However, making having a popular site twice as expensive or have it load slowly might well stifle creativity or even shut down existing sites as they take unbelievable times to load.

Many ISPs today (at least where I am) want to provide "live streaming video" over the internet in insane qualities. There just isn't enough bandwidth, so they would charge money to sites or if they didn't pay put a limit on how much bandwidth they'd provide.

Or at least this is my understanding of it.

Libertarian stance? (4, Interesting)

august sun (799030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540380)

Dear /.

I have a confession to make, I haven't been following the net neutrality issue closely at all. The extent of my understanding is that its proponents are calling for federal legislation ensuring that the private companies who do some infrastrutural magic to make the net possible, aren't allowed to discriminate or otherwise let business decisions apply to how they treat network traffic.

As I see it, this should give rise to a philosophical point of contention:

Namely, how do you reconcile libertarian free-market capitalism with legislation that at the end of the day will still be restricting the free-market actions of private companies.

To distill the point, let's put it this way:

/.ers tend to have strong libertarian leanings. /.ers are also vehemently and overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, which anyway you slice it still amounts to federal regulation of a free market.

Any good answers to this? I promise there will be many +informatives/+insightfuls in it for you...

Re:Libertarian stance? (0, Troll)

yesthatmcgurk (1011297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540650)

Simple. Most of the supposed libertarians here are actually stinky hippies with unix beards [] and Che t-shirts.

Re:Libertarian stance? (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540762)

For the msot part you are right. /.ers tend to lean in favor of libertarian views. However, we (like every one else) are hypocrits, and when something will come along and specificly bite us, we want some protection from it.

Now, there is an actual argument for legislation that is pro-net nutraity, and does not clash (that much with our libertarian ways).

Most (if not all) of the infrastructre that supports the internet (all those miles of copper and fiber), was heavily subsidized (if not outright payed for) by the govn't (and thus us), and then handed over to the Telecos, to do with as they see fit.

So no, it does not fit into the libertarian view point, however it is the most probable soloution (realy just a patch) to a bad situation.

Re:Libertarian stance? (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540982)

Listen, the USA is not an entirely libertarian free-market, nor should it be. A completely free market is not a good idea in theory, nor would it be in practice.

The cable companies/phone companies/etc. are not currently existing in a free market. All corporate utility providers are subject to lots of government rules, and for good reasons. Many of those reasons are purely practical. Running utility lines requires a lot of wires and pipes and whatnot to be strung through our cities, or under the ground, through many different pieces of public and private property. Not setting some regulations for how all of that work would create huge logistic, safety, and performance problems. I wouldn't want six different power companies all stringing lines through my neighborhood, even if it did bring prices down some.

So why would any businessman want to get involved in this? Because when a company agreed to provide utility services under those restrictions, they were usually given a monopoly in that market, without all the work of crushing their competitors.

Technology, forever moving forwards, has led to some interesting circumstances, where digital technology is allowing some of those formally separate utilities to start to dabble in each others' markets. It's all turning to 1's and 0's, and our computers don't really care how that information gets into our house. Even the power companies are exploring bringing data to us over their lines. Add in the development of wireless, and all of a sudden these long-time monopolies are experiencing competition.

There are plenty of examples of how monopolies tend to act in response to competition. They often involve using their current power to exert influence on other companies, and force unfair deals. These deals are seldom beneficial for the consumer. The Net Neutrality movement is an attempt to head off one kind of these dealings before they become a problem.

To distill the point, let's put it this way:

The government gave many of these companies their monopoly position. And now the government is trying to keep them from using that monopoly position to unfairly limit competition and new technologies.

I guess a 100% free market argument would be that their never should've been any regulations on these utilities in the past. I don't think the argument for that is particularly strong, but even if you could, it doesn't change what has already happened, and getting rid of all regulation and pretending like it never happened is not a good solution.

Re:Libertarian stance? (2, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541082)

Libertarian theory is that government is bad because it's violent and because you can't take your business to another government.

Telecom companies haven't been out there committing genocide, but they are often monopolies and duopolies. They have power that the market doesn't control. They're in a position to limit other people's freedom and have announced plans to do so. Minarchist libertarians, as opposed to anarcho-capitalists, see a role for government in fighting other enemies of freedom.

Libertarians, by and large, also see a role for government in policing fraud. Verizon has said that Google is getting a "free lunch" on bandwidth. Lies poison a free market.

Re:Libertarian stance? (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541124)

There is a difference, even if subtle one, between adding value (higher speed) for a cost, and restricting access unless a toll is paid.

In California, we have a couple of toll roads, and a bunch of free ones. Most people choose the free ones and most of the time it works well enough that most people choose the freeways. However during periods of high congestion some people, who have extra cash, can route around the traffic and go through the toll roads.

I don't have a problem with this.

However, if the fictional freeway company were to suddenly change the way the freeways work, so that only one lane was available UNLESS people paid the toll, or worse, only those with BMWs could use that free of charge, and everyone else had to pay the toll, well then that is a big problem, since we all paid for the roads (through taxes).

In otherwords, I pay ATT for my DSL, I expect full speed access on their network. I Pay for the highway with my monthly fee. Using the highway metaphor (yes, metaphors are broken) it is like the city of San Diego charging extra for people to use their off ramps, for "content providers" charging extra for their content.

I say, let them charge for their content, and put up toll booths on the offramps (Yahoo, etc). Don't expect me or the Highway company (ATT) to want to get off in your city. I don't want to pay extra for getting off in San Diego every month, because I happen to live in Nor Cal, and hardly ever go there.

Net Neutrality is like this fictional/metaphorical highway. I really don't see a need for the government to get involved, one way or another. Let Yahoo try to extort from me, and see if I use Yahoo ever again. However if Yahoo and ATT can assure great content as part of the package (dedicated road for ATT customers), then fine. If they charge too much, I'll just move. I do have other alternatives.

Re:Libertarian stance? (2, Insightful)

BadMrMojo (767184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541148)

/.ers tend to have strong libertarian leanings. /.ers are also vehemently and overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, which anyway you slice it still amounts to federal regulation of a free market.

Ok, I'll bite. You are correct in that this is pretty blatantly hypocritical.

I can't speak for anyone other than myself (obviously) but on this particular issue, I've weighed the possibilities as I understand them and I feel that governmental regulation is - for better or worse - more likely to produce a desirable outcome than corporate interest. For the sake of results, I'm willing to swallow my pride and endorse an option which is very clearly against my general leanings.

Similarly, I won't vote for candidates purely along party lines but on individual merits instead. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether that constitutes hypocrisy or wisdom.

Personally, I'd rather deal with the consequences of compromise than those of zealotry.

Re:Libertarian stance? (2, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541186)

There is one concept that you are missing in your analysis, and that is "natural monopoly". Unless we want fifteen different wires coming into people's homes, the telcos, power companies, and cable companies will have a natural monopoly on service to your home. Somebody owns those wires running across the sidewalks. We can't just quadruple the amount of phone poles overnight. If you are unhappy with your phone company, you can't just have another company drive their van to your house trailing copper wire behind them. There is just one phone wire coming into your house.

Re:Libertarian stance? (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541476)

Namely, how do you reconcile libertarian free-market capitalism with legislation that at the end of the day will still be restricting the free-market actions of private companies.

If the market allowed for a real free market in Internet service, it wouldn't matter. People would prefer the ISP that gives them fast access to all of the content they want, rather than just the content providers who pay up. Or perhaps we'd end up with a choice between slightly cheaper Internet service that is partially content provider-supported, or more expensive service that is neutral. Letting the consumer choose between the options would be very much in harmony with Libertarian principles, and would also allow me to have the kind of connection I want. But the reality is that both natural and government-granted monopolies restrict the set if broadband providers that are available to me.

Given the restriction of the free market choices of consumers, it makes sense to apply government restrictions on the ISP to ensure that all of the consumer's (limited) options are reasonably good ones.

Personally, I think the whole net neutrality thing is very simple: Carriers who discriminate between one kind of traffic and another should lose their status as "common carriers", making them liable for any damages caused by the data they transmit.

Re:Libertarian stance? (1)

rkhalloran (136467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541566)

The problem is that the bandwidth providers have effective monopoly status within their respective service areas, at the same time they are marketing their own content to their customer base. They are looking for additional revenue from other content providers for access to those customers, and all but threatening to choke access if they don't play along. The analogy would be SBC-Prime aka AT&T going to Verizon, Quest, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. and telling them there will be additional fees to call into the areas they service.

This simply escalates into a tariff war among the carriers and results in pass-along costs to we the consumers. Our bills go up, access is restricted, and because of the effective monopoly status, no realistic alternative providers.

Free market capitalism (3, Insightful)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541728)

I'm not sure why but everyone on /. seems to think libertarian must be 100% free market. The libertarian view is that government should get only get involved when the free market cannot regulate itself. Last I checked, the telecoms aren't interested in playing fair [] . This means we need the government to get involved.

The public highway system is most definitely better than not.
The USPS is fine for most peoples' needs.
Corporations can't fund an army.

The above government controlled systems are working pretty well. There's nothing wrong with the government legislating fair play. We need net neutrality.

Re:Libertarian stance? (1)

aarku (151823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542056)

Looking past your political generalization... Telecommunications are public utilities that tend to be natural monopolies and therefore fall into a regulated sector.

Re:Libertarian stance? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542290)

I had to struggle with that myself. I've found several ways:

1) Telephone service and Internet service are not free markets, so the free market rules do not apply.
In the Libertarian philosphy, you would not need this regulation because, if the consumer prefers Network Neutrality, then they would pick an ISP who offers it. The problem is that consumers don't have that choice. #1: Most areas only allow for 1 or 2 ISPs. #2: A given packet may travel throug a dozen different networks. I can choose who I subscribe to, but not what all the other hops on the internet are. So in the end, consumer's don't have a choice.

2) Even free markets require rules.
Capitalism only works if all competitors play fairly. That's why we have truth in advertising laws, labeling requirements on food, antitrust laws to stop cartels, etc. The consumer cannot make a fair choice if they are given misinformation. A non-neutral internet would allow ISPs to engage in a sort of cartel where they could delay or modify data that they didn't like. The free market won't work without network neutrality.

Imagine if Comcast partnered with Barnes And Noble so that packets were delayed and Barnes and Noble packets were routed first. Consumers might switch to the "faster" site and thus make a decision that didn't reflect their true free market decision.

3) Freedom of speech
Since ISPs are corporations, it could cause a "chilling effect" if they were permitted to censor (or at least delay) information they didn't like. Maybe would be slower than in some areas of the country. That's very dangerous.

Where is the problem? (0)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540706)

Why should anyone be entitled to all you can consume bandwidth for a miniscule amount each month? We aren't getting that with electricity, and I think most people here would go ballistic if there were a serious effort to allow anyone to buy unlimited electricity for $40/month. The abuse alone would make the electrical grid unstable to say the least.

You're asking Congress to start directly regulating technical policy with how the Internet works. Once they act, they very rarely do anything to fix their mistakes. You get it wrong now, it'll permanently fuck the American section of the Internet. Stick a fork in it, it'll be done because Congress will at best make another vague, ham-handed attempt to address a technical problem most of them couldn't ever understand.

This is why I can't stand the pre-emptive regulatory arguments. There are other alternatives, such as putting pressure on ISPs that arbitrarily block access. Get a bunch of popular websites to block all of their customers. Get Google and MSN to display blacked out pages to their users. Shut off MySpace, block all outgoing email and IM protocol ports from them. Basically go two steps away from being a brownshirt on them in the private sphere until they knock it off.

This is the same Congress that puts people on anti-terror committees who think that Shiite is probably a misspelling of shit. Do you really trust them to care enough to get it right?

Re:Where is the problem? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541390)

"Why should anyone be entitled to all you can consume bandwidth for a miniscule amount each month?"

Because that is what I am being sold, and what I am paying for.

The old days of restricted bandwidth didn't work. 5MB downloads per month or whatever proved to be worthless for most people. You obviously weren't around during the dark early days, when dialup was 28.8kbs, T1s were expensive, and the internet was a few web pages and email, and one could surf the most interesting parts of the internet in a few hours.

Then came the DOT.COM boom and everything exploded, dialup went to 56k, and it wasn't enough. People started bonding ISDN lines to get 128 and partial T1s to get faster links.

Now, T1s aren't enough for most places, and DS3s and other HighSpeed connections are common. My DSL at home is faster than the T1s I had as an early ISP.

There is a saying you should learn. "It is better to be thought of as a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt".

Re:Where is the problem? (1)

rkhalloran (136467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541766)

>>Why should anyone be entitled to all you can consume bandwidth for a miniscule amount each month?

Because that's what I'm *paying* for? The telcos are already offering all-you-can-call plans for a modest amount.

The issue is less the bandwidth I'm paying for, but the bandwidth providers trying to squeeze the content providers (many of whom they're competing with anyway) for fees to access their customers. It's like the cell companies of those people you call trying to charge you for that right vs. the current model of the carriers passing the traffic among themselves and basically assuming it all balances out.

Re:Where is the problem? (2, Insightful)

spectro (80839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541992)

Your electricity bill analogy actually doesn't work. In this case it is power GENERATORS that CHARGE YOU for electricity usage, they are like the content providers that charge a subscription to give you access. ISPs would be like the power TRANSMISION companies, and we pay a flat montly fee for that service (at least here in deregulated Texas)

Re:Where is the problem? (2, Informative)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542208)

You're asking Congress to start directly regulating technical policy with how the Internet works.

Ummm..... Technically they have since it started.

Does DARPA ring a bell?

And all Telco's and Cable Co's have been FCC regulated since day one. And if you have ever worked an ISP you'll know there is plenty of regulation on how DSL, Central Offices (the phone company ones), and DSLAMs work.

The only reason you can get Speak Easy and Earthlink DSL is because of current government regulation that forces telco's to let 3rd party ISPs use their CO's for their rack equipment.

In this instance government regulation prevents over powerful already government sponsored monopolies. You remember the telco's got all that tax money in the 90's to build infrastructure?

Well if we let the telco's go hogwild then the ISPs might as well be owned directly by the government... one that wants to charge whatever they want without.

Normally I am a libertarian, but we are far too into this to let these companies run crazy without over sight.

I really don't understand (1)

WhatHeSiad (1049310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540744)

If I pay for my 8Mb/256k ADSL line and connect to a sever thats pays for its xxx/xxx connection, wouldn't any interference be a Denial Of Service attack?? I really don't understand it. One of my customers uses AOL for it's ISP, yet they have to pay a surcharge to email receipts to AOL customers, most others ISP's don't add surcharge business emails. They also have problems receiving emails from some other business (excluding spam that still floods thier inbox). If you pay per GB at each change of service provider, why can't you use it?

Re:I really don't understand (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541222)

Right. You don't understand.

What the ISPs are selling you is not 100% dedicated 8Mb/256k ADSL. They are selling you perhaps 5% usage of that bandwidth, maybe less. It's called "bursting" and it enables them to sell a great number of customers something and most of them will never even reach the 5% utilization mark. At least is was that way in 2002.

Along comes content. Downloadable (legal) movies. Music. Streaming video. YouTube. And so on and so forth. This pretty much has pushed the utilization for some users way past the 5% mark, or whatever they were actually selling.

So, there are relatively few choices. They can have angry customers that aren't getting the service they think they should have - like you. Or, they can upgrade the entire physical plant to accomodate 20x the level of service they were capable of providing. Only that costs money. They can charge their customers 10x their current bill, which will put the home user on the same billing level as they charge business customers today, or they can find some other way to pay for it.

Government subsidy is probably out of the question. It isn't a priority and nobody understands.

So, they can charge the folks with billions of dollars to spend. This sounds a lot better to the consumer because they aren't seeing the bill. But the ad-supported businesses aren't in favor of that idea. They want the relatively free ride they have now to continue. And they want millions of ad-readers to continue reading the ads they are showing.

Yes, we can have laws that keep the ISPs from charging for access to consumers and ad-readers. But the result will be in the end we are all paying lots more directly to the ISP. Of course, we're going to end up paying more for goods and services because the ads cost more anyway, so it may not matter in the end. But it is going to feel a lot nicer to people to have a $25 ISP bill rather than a $100-150 ISP bill.

Re:I really don't understand (1)

WhatHeSiad (1049310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542326)

Ok I think I get it, the ISP dosn't want to put up the price of its service and appear unpopular so what it wants is money from say Youtube (who has already paid for the bandwidth at thier end) to subsidise their customers usage. Its a bit like when you buy a car with a 6 litre engine, the car dealership gets a fuel subsidy from the car manufacture and passes it to me so it cost no more than a 3 litre engine.

embolden (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540952)

How the hell did 'plutoed' beat out 'embolden' for word of the year?

The real problem: ISP blocking of ports (4, Insightful)

volkris (694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541022)

I think this Network Neutrality debate is a bit misfocused. If we want to ensure the ability of people to speak their minds on the Internet we would do better to attack the near-universal practice of ISPs blocking ports and restricting the use of home servers.

THAT is where the free speech comes from: the people. The NN debate seems to be rather focused on the ability to choose between large companies that want to profit through our expression. Even though there may be more options it still represents a consolidation of content. If we want information we must get it from these providers; the only way for individuals to express themselves is to partner with some provider.

It doesn't have to be this way. If ISPs would let us use even our measly aDSL uplinks (that we pay for) to legally serve our own content people would be able to self publish. Software would be created to deal with the technical challenges that would arise, perhaps with legitimate P2P providing interesting solutions to some of these problems. In any case, that small change in policy has the potential to really change the way people view and use the Internet.

Network Neutrality proponents love to talk about a level playing field... lets level the playing field between the consumers and the providers as a whole.

As I see it.. (1)

LongTimeReader (1005649) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541026)

The Telcos are supposed to be a transport service. They are not supposed to care what is being transported (as such federal law forgives any illegal use by users). Now because they see all this money flowing and only a portion entering their coffers they are trying to put a dam to redirect the flow. Both content providers and surfers PAY for access to the internet already. What telecoms are trying to do is hold providers hostage for ransom. Thier claim is they need to have someone else pay for the imporvements they should have been performing the last 20 years. Most Internet services I have used DO NOT provide the stated bandwidth I pay for all the time, I can reach it now and then but not very often. We all are overpaying for substandard service. If ebay (or what ever sites you use) has to pay more for internet access then so do the rest of use because it's a service we use and they get all thier money from us. I don't like the idea of government regulation getting in the mix either but they already are when dealing with the telcos so there you have it.

In a related story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541368)

Toddlers to debate particle physics.

Surely this will end well...


It's Really Simple (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541838)

You don't have to make anyone into a boogieman and you don't have to prevent providers from offering premium services. You just need to make sure that people get the bandwidth they pay for.

If a content provider pays for the bandwidth to serve 10,000 people downloading at 500kb each, then 10,000 people should be able to download at that rate (assuming they have paid for a 500kb connection).

It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure that they have fat enough pipes to meet their obligations. If they want to create and sell fatter pipes on top of that, then they should be free to do so, as long as they can meet thir current obligations.

Congress Solves the Problem! (3, Insightful)

Snowgen (586732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541856)

Wow, first Congress solved the spam problem, and now they're going to address net neutrality!

Why don't I feel comforted?

Doesn't Congress understand? (1)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 7 years ago | (#17542038)

This is madness! The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Congress, don't clog the Intertubes!

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