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New Legislation Could Eventually Lead to ISP Throttling Ban

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the strange-new-world dept.

Government 191

An anonymous reader writes "Comcast's response to the FCC may have triggered a new avenue of discussion on the subject of Net Neutrality. Rep. Ed Markey (D — Mass.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, introduced a bill yesterday whose end result could be the penalization of bandwidth throttling to paying customers. 'The bill, tentatively entitled the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, would not actually declare throttling illegal specifically. Instead, it would call upon the Federal Communications Commission to hold a hearing to determine whether or not throttling is a bad thing, and whether it has the right to take action to stop it.'"

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191 comments

What about the other end? (4, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420434)

I wonder if this will have any effect on web/application hosting providers who are using traffic shaping to allocate only a certain amount of bandwidth (such as 3Mbit even though they advertise having larger backbones). Or could it be applied to modules like mod_bandwidth where hosting providers cut off your web hosting if you exceed a certain amount?

Re:What about the other end? (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420882)

Well hopefully, they'll say "if you come out and say that you throttle after X gb transferred or throttle throughput at Y mbps, or throttle protocol Z, then we'll allow it." It'll put an end to "unlimited" bandwidth, secret caps, and so on, and force the companies to actually participate in a market without fraud, which is probably the best we can realistically hope for.

Most likely they'll say "LOL sounds like a FTC issue to us, I don't think we have the right to do anything, take your complaint to..." and then give you directions to the wrong place in true bureaucratic style.

Re:What about the other end? (4, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421114)

Yeah, i have no issues paying for a 1mb connection or whatever, but i do object to paying for an "unlimited" 100mb connection, where the small print declares there is actually a "fair use" limit and doesnt even say what it is.
Any limit imposed should be clearly defined, and i would gladly pay extra for a true unlimited connection. It should also be mandatory to declare any contention up front too, like "you have an 8mb link to a 800mb backbone, which has up to 200 users so you're connection could drop to 4mb during busy periods". Customers should know exactly what service they're paying for.

Re:What about the other end? (-1, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421370)

What *I* object to is being on a cable loop where someone like *you* is hogging all the bandwidth for your torrents, while 90% of the other customers on that loop suffer. Mybe you should find a conection service that more fits your needs rather than FUCKING all your neighbors doing something the service you have is not designed for?

Re:What about the other end? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421878)

How about you drink a nice tall glass of yourself? It said "unlimited" when I signed up, and I am just testing that amount of bandwidth. If *you* aren't taking advantage of what you paid for, it is *you* that is screwing yourself, not others.

Re:What about the other end? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22422672)

It said "unlimited" when I signed up
Bullshit. You know very well you didn't read the Terms of Service, because *if you had* you would know that degrading the network will result in your service being "shaped". It's in the TOS, which you whould know if you had read it. Which you didn't.

Re:What about the other end? (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421534)

It should also be mandatory to declare any contention up front too, like "you have an 8mb link to a 800mb backbone, which has up to 200 users so you're connection could drop to 4mb during busy periods".

Ha ha. If only. How about "you have an 8 MB link to a 1 GB backbone, which has up to 20000 users so you're connection could drop to 50 K during busy periods".

Re:What about the other end? (4, Insightful)

GiMP (10923) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421034)

You have an interesting question. Although the situations you describe can have a negative impact on customers, some provider throttles make more sense. For instance, SMTP throttling. Some providers are throttling SMTP traffic to limit spam. For some, this is a much better option than the alternatives of blocking it altogether, transparently filtering it, or taking the risk of being unable to remove a spammer before they succeed in sending millions of messages.

Personally, as the operator of a hosting provider, and as a consumer, I see both sides of the argument. As a customer, I enjoy the opportunity to use VoD, VoIP, etc... but as a provider, I understand the occasional need to apply certain limitations in order to protect the customer and the network.

Re:What about the other end? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421178)

Well, users may also have a legitimate need to send out large numbers of mails. I would allow everything until we receive complaints, and then impose restrictions on the customer until it can be determined what happened. If someone is spamming, they are almost certainly violating the AUP. And most spam blacklists will try to inform an ISP when someone is spamming. If you're ISP is generally run responsibly, then it's not hard to get the addresses de-blacklisted once the spammer has been removed.

Re:What about the other end? (2, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421890)

Whatever happened to "quality of service"? I see no ethical problems with detecting torrents and running them at a lower priority, for example, so that they're still perfectly usable but don't overwhelm more interactive activities like web browsing. Everyone seems to be so into imposing quotas when there seem to be more customer-friendly and provider-friendly solutions.

Re:What about the other end? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422762)

except those friendlier solutions are also more versatile, so they can't torpedo competing services by using a shotgun throttling technique.

net neutrality (2, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420482)

looks like some senators might actually be listening to their constituents

Re:net neutrality (4, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420514)

also, isn't this a dangerous game that comcast is playing? if you're saying you're taking responsibility for throttling based on content, are you responsible if you know specifically illegal content is flowing through your pipes?

Re:net neutrality (2, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420660)

I think you are, but I'm sure the telcos will have the laws changed to suit them. In my mind, once you start paying attention to the content going over the line in ANY way, you lose your common carrier status and all of the immunities that go with it. Of course, I'm not a billion dollar corporation with lots of powerful lobbyists in Washington, so my opinion on the matter doesn't mean anything.

Re:net neutrality (2, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420708)

but I'm sure the telcos will have the laws changed to suit them

I wasn't aware that Comcast was a telco.

Re:net neutrality (1)

Mr.Ned (79679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420868)

They sell packages for cable, internet, and landline/voice; if selling telephone service doesn't make them a telephone company, what does?

Re:net neutrality (1)

dq5 studios (682179) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421494)

They don't sell voice, Comcast Voice Services* sells voice, Comcast Television Services sells television and Comcast Internet Services sells internet access. They break it up like that so regulations effecting one don't apply to the others.

* I don't know what the actual names are and they all are DBA Comcast.

Re:net neutrality (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420716)

once you start paying attention to the content going over the line in ANY way, you lose your common carrier status
I made the same mistake. Comcast is a cable provider and therefore not a common carrier. Someone here corrected me on that.

Re:net neutrality (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420870)

Doh, you're right. For some reason I made the erroneous connection in my mind that ISP == common carrier, which of course is not right. Guess I should stop sniffing all that glue.

Guess I should stop sniffing all that glue. (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420924)

It's okay. I know a lot of people who are high on life... and glue...

Re:net neutrality (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421532)

I get that ISPs are not common carriers, but could someone explain why they are not and how they avoid being liable for illegal content send over their wires?

Re:net neutrality (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422200)

I'm kind of fuzzy on that myself, but it's all in what they're transporting as a private carrier. An ISP list this as a private carrier just transmits bits of data. A bit for porn is identical for a bit for this message. It's when you start to filter to see the difference in the bit that a private carrier can then say "I do not want to carry this!" Like how hazardous containers must be labeled to be shipped legally. But, are the boats shipping people in crates liable for trafficking if they didn't know the crate labeled bananas was people? They move crates and all the crates are the same.

But, again, I'm kinda of fuzzy about all that but that's what it sound like to me. So, since they are blocking all p2p traffic. If it was for pirating only and they KNEW then they may be accountable, but since is seems to be across the board probably not...

Re:net neutrality (2, Informative)

bagboy (630125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420808)

Most telcos run an ISP with a non-regulated sub-division which are not subject to "common-carrier" rules.

Re: Acronyms (3, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421222)

I am not a billion dollar corporation with lots of powerful lobbyists in Washington
IANABDCWLOPLIW?

Re:net neutrality (1)

Saurian_Overlord (983144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422588)

Actually, I was under the impression that they would monitor protocols used, *maybe* file types. Then they would only report, say, that you were downloading video files via FTP, not what those files were, necessarily. If they don't report that those files were copyrighted movies, no one would know they had that information. It's kind of a moot point, since your ISP can theoretically know what, when, and possibly even why you download very easily (legal or not).

Re:net neutrality (3, Funny)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420594)

Or "We're doing something. Really we are. There's a blue-ribbon commission to sit on their hands... i mean investigate the situation. We expect results when you've forgotten the issue... i mean soon."

Re:net neutrality (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420834)

The bill, tentatively entitled the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, would not actually declare throttling illegal specifically. Instead, it would call upon the Federal Communications Commission to hold a hearing to determine whether or not throttling is a bad thing, and whether it has the right to take action to stop it.

Hardly. Draw up a bill with a fancy new name (suggesting to me there's something irrelevant that we don't want passed stuck in there as well) that will only accomplish forcing the FCC to decide if it has the power to stop something that it has to determine is bad.

Yeah, that'll help. It's almost as useful to me as the letters back from my congresscritters about why they disregarded the Constitution and voted FOR telecom immunity.

Nah (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420908)

It's a vote on a chance to vote to do something about this problem... not a vote to actually do anything useful. This law is just one more notch on the senator's legislative re-election portfolio. As in: "look, I am for net neutrality, I even co-authored a law!". In the meantime, the law gets stuck in committee, or even if it comes to a vote, and even if it passes, and even if it gets signed by the president, the matter of fact is that all that has happened is that it the question got kicked to the FCC, which will promptly support the telecoms.

Everyone wins... except the customers/voters.

Re:net neutrality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421158)

looks like some senators might actually be listening to their constituents
Hardly. First off, he's from Massachusetts, so his constituents can't tell the difference between an LED and a bomb. (And, yes, his district is right next to Boston.)

But secondly and more importantly, no one cares about throttling. Throttling is not only fine, it's necessary.

What people care about is non-neutral throttling, where protocols are throttled based on destination. People care about out-right blocking, where certain protocols aren't throttled they're actively blocked. People care about Comcast actively interfering with connections.

If Comcast were merely throttling BitTorrent during periods of high demand, no one would care. But they're not. They're actively attempting to block it at all times regardless of demand.

So Rep. Markey (he's a representative, not a senator) is going after the wrong thing. Throttling is important. It's necessary. Bandwidth is a limited resource and at some point some things should have higher priority.

That's not the real issue. The real issue is non-neutral throttling, where connections to non-Comcast partners are slowed, and outright blocking, where Comcast actively prevents certain protocols from working.

So, yet again, Massachusetts goes after the wrong problem and in the end is likely to make things worse off for everyone as a result.

Re: LEDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421502)

I'm in Massachussetts.

The constituents were amused the the Aqua Teen response too.
The officers who over-reacted are not constituents - they're lackeys.

Re: LEDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421798)

So who called in the device as a bomb originally? Oh, right, constituents!

The people who then overreacted and refused to admit that it was anything but a bomb where the Massachusetts state government and Senator Kennedy, who proposed a bill to make causing a scare like that punishable by 14 years in a federal prison, no intent required.

The officers were just following orders from the state government, elected by the people. Has your governor admitted he overreacted? Has the state apologized to the people who placed the devices yet?

After the fact and after they were ridiculed by everyone with at least two brain cells the people of Massachusetts claim that they found the thing amusing. But at the time it was happening, when it was originally reported on Slashdot, the people of Massachusetts were rallying around the police in support of evacuating parts of Boston.

Even now, you still get people who defend the reactions of the police with some bullshit about an unrelated bomb threat at a hospital.

yes, listening... or bribing (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421732)

looks like some senators might actually be listening to their constituents


Possibly. The question for me is... why did this come up in the middle of a wider net neutrality debate? Granted, the two are (vaguely) related -- in the way that bike theft statistics are related to the number of bikes you can fit on a road, perhaps.

However, it sounds to me like they're trying to bribe netizens into giving up long-term goals like net neutrality in exchange for getting a relatively small gripe-of-the-moment issue resolved. I say small and gripe of the moment, because this is bound to get solved anyway -- there's no way ISPs will be able to lie to customers about what they're getting forever. Net neutrality is a much larger issue though.

Note to young readers/logicians: I'm NOT saying this is happening. I'm NOT being paranoid. I'm raising a legitimate concern, and warning people not to automatically assume this is a good thing to get behind. It could be a great thing to get behind. Getting behind it could also screw you in ways you don't yet realise. Research, THEN support.

Personally, (0, Flamebait)

dippitydoo (1134915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420494)

I think they should be maimed and their head put on a post in the village for the public to see. In a nice way of Course :)

The end reult will be... (1)

bagboy (630125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420496)

either no changes and an ISP will continue to do business as normal, forced equality (no shaping) and your Internet access pricing will double or triple, forced equality (no shaping) and ISPs will move to a base-rate plus metered billing solution, based an $/meg/gig (although some already do this) where the cost goes up exponentially.

Re:The end reult will be... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420724)

The cost doesn't have to go up exponentially. In fact, it could drop as a sort of "bulk pricing".

Either way, I'd much rather have the option to pay for it.

Re:The end reult will be... (1, Insightful)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421430)

Internet bandwidth is not a scarce resource, the price will not double or tripple. Just like everything else these days companies are trying to come up with ways to justify price increases while decreasing what they deliver. They want to sell you "unlimited" bandwidth even though they want to either block what you can send or put a cap in the name of "fair use". Conservation pushes are a crock whether they be for electricity or internet bandwidth, they are about maximizing profit with no new input on the part of the supplier.

If they can reduce useage by 10 percent and raise prices by 10% and then sell the extra they've saved to new customers they've just double billed the customer by 20% but given the customer nothing in return. If they doubled their bandwidth prices would fall by 20-50% and they'd have to sell more at the lower price or give you more for the same price, great for the customer, but not for their bottom line. This same Mikey Mouse game is being played by the power companies in the States. Their goal is to force useage as close to 100% of capacity as possible by limiting new plants (Do you really think a bunch of tree huggers or government red tape would stop companies when there was money to be made?) the amount of new generation being brought online, or by taking plants offline for "maintenance" to keep everything in a constant state of scarcity and of course ever increasing premium prices.

The government should tie the companies hands to keep them from doing traffic shaping and hold them to the things they advertise and then don't deliver.

ISP FRAUD

Unlimited service....but with fair use

Up to 8Mb connection!....but only if you live within 1/4 mile of the exchange on brand new wire, be happy that you get a 1.3Mb connection on the stuff we strung with a government grant in the 60's

DSL connections....but you have to get our phone line service too even though the only thing it has in common with DSL is the wire running to your house.

Unlimited long distance service in the US for only $20 a month....even though we use the technology that most chat programs do voice for FREE worldwide. We forgot to mention that the technology that we send your paid long distance service over, yeah it's the same internet we are billing you for, thanks by the way for paying 3 (phone, long distance, ISP) times for the same service, and if you don't mind we want to restrict you from using the internet the way you want so we can continue to take money out of your pocket.

Re:The end reult will be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421444)

bagboy is mostly correct. When electricity was first introduced, the usage was extremely low and the cost to build out the infrastructure high, so people were charged a flat rate for service. Eventually usage increased to where the cost of producing electricity was the main factor, so usage based service became the norm, despite whining by people who had gotten used to flat rate service. We would now never think of flat fee based electricity regardless of consumption. Internet has developed the same way, starting with dialup at a flat rate where the cost of bandwidth was a small part of the equation for the supplier, so simple flat rates were the norm. With the huge increase in bandwidth usage, bandwidth cost is now the largest factor in providing ISP service, so metered service will soon be the norm by necessity, regardless of the whining by people who are used to a different model and want a free lunch. Oh, and regardless of what legislation comes along to try to make people think the government is listening to their whining. Reality is reality folks. Comcast is just trying to delay the inevitably change as long as possible.

I AM NEGRO (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420500)

hear me roar!! meow, yo. meow, yo. don't pull your leg, it might make your knee grow.

Which is worse? (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420518)

While I hate Comcast's man in the middle "throttling" of internet packets (Bittorrent), I'm very concerned with the government getting involved. It almost feels like Alien vs Predator, "Who ever wins, we lose" scenario. Because the government will screw it up worse than it is now.

Re:Which is worse? (1)

smurphmeister (1132881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420628)

I feel the same way. As a Comcast customer, the first thing I think will happen if the Government passes this is that Comcast will turn around and say that they need to raise my rates to expand their network to the capacity they need to support everyone running peer-to-peer apps. So it wouldn't really be much of win to me...

Re:Which is worse? (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420880)

If the government was smart, they'd turn right around and say "OK, you're now a regulated monopoly. This is the maximum you can charge. We know you don't need more to expand your network because we already gave you money to expand your network!"

Re:Which is worse? (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420894)

As a Comcast customer, the first thing I think will happen if the Government passes this is that Comcast will turn around and say that they need to raise my rates to expand their network to the capacity they need to support everyone running peer-to-peer apps

Yeah, cuz they are really hurting [marketwatch.com] right now and clearly have no cash available for network upgrades.

Re:Which is worse? (5, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420896)

As a former customer of Comcast, let me tell you something: THEY'RE GOING TO RAISE YOUR RATES NO MATTER WHAT!!

Re:Which is worse? (2)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420850)

Well, totally free markets aren't always good either. Breaking up Bell was one of the best things, as was the other trust busting decades before.

I think the solution here is for each community to own and run the lines, then let companies lease access to them.

Re:Which is worse? (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421046)

Well, I think the outcome is predictable (not that i think this bill has a chance of passing)

1. Comcast will just move to a tiered plan. Expect chronic users to pay 100-200 dollars and month and people metering their usage to they dont hit the limit. Casual downloaders will pay the current price.

2. Any shaping will lead to potential lawsuits. Suddenly your VOIP wont work as well because bitorrent has the same priority as VoIP. Whoops!

3. Lots of lawsuits. Did your webhost or email provider "shape" your packets in any way?

4. QoS dies because everyone legal department decides its too much of a risk to continue to use.

Re:Which is worse? (1)

jimmy_dean (463322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421528)

I completely agree with you as well. I'd much rather be free to choose an ISP that doesn't throttle their bandwidth, and if it ends up that there aren't any left, well then that's a business opportunity for me. But if the government outlaws it, they taken away a choice and forced something on someone (like they're always very good at doing).

Re:Which is worse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421562)

I'm not.

After personally experiencing the services in Europe like Medical and others I welcome it.

Hell let hem completely take it over. something has to be done because everything is getting royally fucked up over here.

Hmm... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420558)

'The bill, tentatively entitled the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, would not actually declare throttling illegal specifically. Instead, it would call upon the Federal Communications Commission to hold a hearing to determine whether or not throttling is a bad thing, and whether it has the right to take action to stop it.'"

So they're asking a government agency whether or not it has authority over something (how said authority will be used is a separate matter, of course). Gee, I wonder what the answer will be?

This is wrong. (3, Insightful)

halivar (535827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420582)

I believe ISP's throttling bandwidth is wrong, but the answer is for consumers to punish them in the marketplace, not for government to regulate the internet. It will set a horrible precedent (IMHO).

Re:This is wrong. (5, Insightful)

slapyslapslap (995769) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420634)

But how much choice do consumers really have? Most can only chose from one or two providers. Hard to punish them in the marketplace with those realities.

Re:This is wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420788)

The market is (sort of) working. Bellsouth has decent DSL in Valdosta because they can compete with Mediacom, which has horrible cable modem service. It's limited, but the competition means that we've got DSL without a phone number, which actually works, for a decent price. That just wouldn't have happened except that BellSouth took a chance to get some customers from mediacom.

Re:This is wrong. - mod parent up (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420662)

Mod parent up.

The answer for every little squabble is NOT to introduce new legislation. If Comcast continues to punish customers, it is the opportunity for other ISPs to step in. Let the free market punish them back.

Unless it is a case of a monopoly that has spun out of control, the free market is a better solution than government intervention.

You said it. (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420824)

Unless it is a case of a monopoly that has spun out of control, the free market is a better solution than government intervention.

And yes, it is a monopoly which has spun out of control. Or rather, an oligopoly.

How many ISPs do you have to choose from? Unless I go dialup, I've got exactly three. Fortunately, one of them claims to believe in net neutrality, and they're the one offering fiber, but that's extremely unusual. Unless you're prepared to move to where I live (a small town in Iowa), chances are, your only real option to "let the market decide" or to "vote with your dollars" is to decide that you don't really need this Internet thing anyway.

Re:This is wrong. (4, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420668)

The problem is lack of competition thanks to the deregulation of the last decade or so that was supposed to enable more FIOS and DSL service paid for by our tax dollars.

Instead the telecoms said thank you and blocked competitors. Remember the amount of ISP's you could chose from back in the 90's compared to today? My point exactly.

You have 2 ISP's. DSL or cable and both throttle your traffic.

So what are you supposed to do?

Re:This is wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22422658)

..deregulation of the last decade or so that was supposed to enable more FIOS..

I'm not trying to nitpick, but just curious what others think.. isn't the correct term FTTH or FTTP? I always thought that FIOS was just a marketing term for Verizon's fiber optic services.

Re:This is wrong. (4, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420696)

I can't wait until my options are cable monopoly throttling, or phone monopoly throttling.

There are some problems the Government actually is capable of solving better then the market. The market in this case dictates that throttling is good for the bottom line, and ending net neutrality is even better for the bottom line.

The market didn't create my cable monopoly (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420904)

My local government created the comcast monopoly. They allow them to tax us through a "municipal cable fee" and my government gets 24 hours a day of commercials with no dissenting viewpoints that tell us how well the incumbents are doing.

Market forces didn't create this monopoly, government did.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421164)

I read the WSJ version of the article, and it was actually much more supportive of some regulation than I would have expected. Unfortunately, they still don't catch on to the fact that all these sanctioned monopolies are stifling the market and preventing true competition.

I'm not necessarily for government controlled (last-mile) infrastructure, but the government needs to at least mandate competition-- maybe force unbundling of competitive services for cable and DSL/FTTH and just give us the pipe, er... tube.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

aesirmd (1172127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422140)

I want to throttle both the cable and the phone companies... with a nice leather belt, or maybe a bamboo cane...

Re:This is wrong. (1)

onepoint (301486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420742)

I currently disagree and agree with you. After careful reading, I agree with you on the basis of bandwidth throttling is currently wrong due to lack of disclosure.

in the future, people will have to start choosing ISP's that provide the proper level of service, that will lead to ISP's that have chosen to be open to no throttling. or different levels of throttling

Re:This is wrong. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420934)

Except Comcast is a monopoly, in many cases the ONLY choice, so the market can't decide. The solution is either they accept regulate and continue being a monopoly, or they are broken up so that a neutral party controls the lines to allow fair competition.

Re:This is wrong. (3, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420976)

Yeah. I'll show them by switching to... shit, they're the only option.

If there was competition in the marketplace, I'd agree with you. But alas, I don't even have the option between DSL and cable, let alone FTTH. I get a choice between Charter Communications cable and dial-up (most likely long-distance), which isn't exactly a competing service.

Granted I live in a pretty small town, but that doesn't change the fact that my options are cable and no connectivity. I don't even get enough cell signal at home to have EDGE be my only source of web access, as painful as that option would be were it an option.

Bandwidth throttling (1)

sd.fhasldff (833645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421636)

The problem, in my opinion anyway, isn't bandwidth throttling per say. It's *selective* throttling of certain protocols. That's tantamount to censorship.

What they should do, providing they don't actually have enough capacity to guarantee the bandwidths they sell, is clearly specify a minimum guaranteed bandwidth (in absence of equipment failure) and a percentage of time that the rated bandwidth is typically available. E.g. "10 Mbps connection (min 2Mbps, full 10Mbps available 90% of the time)". It would be preferable that these items were shown up front and not buried deep in the TOS. This would probably require government intervention of some kind, however. (And, IMNSHO, that's EXACTLY what a government should be doing - regulations that protect consumers and increase competition through transparency of offers.)

Regardless of how often throttling is done, it should always be protocol-neutral and user-specific basis. I.e. no throttling Bittorrent traffic on your backbone just because that's the easiest thing to do. No, you need to throttle each consumer individually (neutrally), basically giving them a slower connection for a (hopefully short) while.

Oh, and throttling ISN'T done by faking packets! That's fraud and should result in heads rolling, even though sending people to prison for wire fraud over it is *probably* overkill.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

tppublic (899574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422574)

I also believe throttling is wrong, but that doesn't mean your answer works. I have no non-satellite, non-dialup alternative. (in other words, no high speed alternative)

If you don't want the government to become involved, then you need to get federal laws changed so individuals (not just an attorney general) have the legal standing to bring anti-trust cases against companies.

Depend on how much you pay (3, Informative)

marzipanic (1147531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420602)

... and even then depends on the company.

We have had the same ISP for years and never had any trouble, we pay for the fastest broadband available which is £40 per month. It changed hands (I will not repeat the name) and now we are throttled, but it is called an AUP. We do not download that much and many "name not mentioned" ISP customers have had exactly the same problem!

They even got found out!

My point is, they are making a public show when they are (or will) do it anyway... just with a nicer name than "throttling", Acceptable Use Policy is much nicer sounding, it really fools us Brits!

Re:Depend on how much you pay (2, Interesting)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420726)

Why wouldn't you name the company? Are you afraid they will sue you for telling us that they have an AUP? Or do you think that it would be good for us to have to google to find out which company changed hands recently and charges £40?

Re:Depend on how much you pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420930)

It's Virgin Media at a guess, an unholy amalgamation of Blueyonder and NTL broadband. I had them whilst I was at university on the promise of fast connection (had blueyonder in my second year at a house literally 100-200m away from that residence and had no problems at all). Virgin Media are a horrible ISP however. They jammed far too many people onto the local network, causing massive contention issues. They then also had the balls to tell me I never reported issues to them when I had records showing I'd called them in that December regarding the problems, and when I came to cancel the best they could offer me was a £60 refund for all the problems, that is if I remained a customer with their godawful service.

Needless to say I declined. Ended up losing a reasonable amount of money for a student but came away a bit wiser. The really sad thing is that ALL UK ISPs are like this.

Re:Depend on how much you pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421028)

not all UK ISPs. im having a wonderful time with 'be'. 24mbit for £18 a month (granted, i only get ~11mbit), and a contract i can cancel with 3 months notice.

£40 a month with traffic shaping? pah.

Re:Depend on how much you pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420912)

I'll hazard a guess that the original company you were with was NTL who (relatively) recently were bought out by Virgin. Since I'm in that exact situation, I can confirm that yes, Virgin does throttle bandwidth if you're using p2p - it's pretty obvious that it's happening!

Re:Depend on how much you pay (1)

master811 (874700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421138)

I can only assume it is Virgin Media as well.

£37/mth for a 20Mb connection that barely reaches 10Mb and throttled after ridiculously low limits.

No thanks!

I'll stick with BE, granted its ADSL and so speed is affected by distance from exchange, but even being 1km away, I still get 13-14Mb (with the max theoretical being 22Mb) and all for only £18/mth with NO throttling and NO limits, and its been far more consistent than VM who I have also experienced.

FCC ? (4, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420636)

First, giving the FCC more discretionary authority is not a good thing to do. They are very receptive to lobbying (broadcast flag, mandatory DRM ...) and industry corruption (employees that leave directly to cushy jobs in the industry they were supposedly regulating just recently). Secondly, I'm not sure where the Federal interest is in regulating businesses -- that the internet as a whole is international?

This is really a contract issue. If their TOS promise "unlimited bandwidth" then they should provide that. If the TOS say "we connect you to the internet" they should not be able to block random ports. And sending fake packets is already a computer crime (at least, if I sent fake packets to Comcast servers I would probably be charged with attempted DOS or something). So I would support a "contact terms mean what they mean" law -- not giving the FCC more discretion to help the industry to screw the customers.

Re:FCC ? (4, Insightful)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420940)

Secondly, I'm not sure where the Federal interest is in regulating businesses -- that the internet as a whole is international?
Internet access is a facility of interstate commerce comparable to your telephone line. It is possible to have a single-state communication over the internet, but it's very unlikely. Even if you send an email to your neighbor, it will probably end up going through servers in other states.

This is really a contract issue. If their TOS promise "unlimited bandwidth" then they should provide that. If the TOS say "we connect you to the internet" they should not be able to block random ports. And sending fake packets is already a computer crime (at least, if I sent fake packets to Comcast servers I would probably be charged with attempted DOS or something). So I would support a "contact terms mean what they mean" law -- not giving the FCC more discretion to help the industry to screw the customers.
In most places, broadband providers have either a monopoly or a duopoly. The nature of the service is that they use easements over public and private property (telephone and cable lines) to provide a service where there is little if any competition. And don't forget, the internet is an interstate/international system that relies on standards. If the Federal government can't enforce standards, who will? The states? The UN? No. As much as we rightfully fear Congress-critters writing legislation to govern the internet, the fact is that it affects all of us now (even them), to the point that things like sending false connection reset signals is something that Congress (or with its authorization, the FCC) should be allowed to regulate.

If you just say that it has to be in the contract, then Comcast will change the contract in the next billing cycle. Because they have a monopoly/duopoly, the market cannot correct it.

If the FCC does the wrong thing, Congress can overrule them. But if you leave it to Comcast to change its contract, that's exactly what it will do, and we will be screwed.

not sure where the Federal interest is (2, Informative)

wiredog (43288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421000)

Interstate commerce clause. It's in the Constitution of the United States.

Re:FCC ? (2, Funny)

c (8461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421400)

> So I would support a "contact terms mean what they mean" law

I think it's pretty well established that when you're dealing with abusive monopolies, contracts mean "bend over, spread cheeks" for the average consumer. I don't think you want that made into a law.

c.

Related Stories (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420648)

Not even the firehose listed. Well, here's [slashdot.org] a related story and it's still on the front page.

Re:Related Stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421044)

If Comcast throttled Slashdot's connection, we wouldn't get so many dupes, and definitely not on the front page AT THE SAME TIME...

Colleges as ISPs? (2, Interesting)

_bug_ (112702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420650)

So given the broad definition of ISP that's been used in other areas of law it would seem colleges and universities would fall under this throttling ban as well.

That's going to really suck.

File sharing eats a very large majority of bandwidth for many colleges and without some form of throttling access to resources for other purposes (e.g. college business, student research, and incoming traffic to college resources like websites and distributed computing services) would be seriously hindered.

If Comcast is having similar issues then I can see why they do throttling and would support them. If you don't like it switch providers. That'll hurt Comcast where it really counts for them: their wallets.

Re:Colleges as ISPs? (1)

s!lat (975103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420830)

Unfortunately even in a relatively large city of almost 500,000 THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS. It's either Comcast or dial-up. If we could fix that issue then I think this might go away.

Re:Colleges as ISPs? (1)

trigpoint (1230530) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421170)

I doubt it. Here, in the UK, providing you have a BT phoneline you have a choice of more or less any ADSL provider. There is a choice of close to 100 providers. Some traffic shape other don't. People do move to avoid this, so from a personal point of view we seem to be better off. But not enough move to make them change their policy.

Re:Colleges as ISPs? (1)

mouko (1187491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420956)

I'm not sure how the network is set up at other colleges, but my university is not technically an ISP. They buy it from somewhere else, then just serve it to us. So would the university fall into this ban?

Re:Colleges as ISPs? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420986)

File sharing eats a very large majority of bandwidth for many colleges and without some form of throttling access to resources for other purposes (e.g. college business, student research, and incoming traffic to college resources like websites and distributed computing services) would be seriously hindered.

I'm not against making it metered, and as I understand it, neither is this bill. The bill is mostly just asking the FCC to take a look at the situation...

So tell the students: "You have x gigs of bandwidth per month, use it as you like. It costs money if you go over." Then adjust the amount of money such that if the filesharers really want to pay for it, you can expand your bandwidth to compensate.

If you don't like it switch providers.

To what, dialup?

In most areas, you're lucky to get two competing ISPs, and there's a fair chance that both of them will be messing with your bandwidth in some way. The reason we want to regulate this is that Internet now has the properties of a utility -- many people depend on it, and there are tons of geographical monopolies, and on top of that, the government has helped pay to build it out. So now it should be regulated.

ISP throttling ban (0, Offtopic)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420750)

Who would try and throttle an ISP? I mean the service I get is pretty patch, but I don't see how strangling someone is going to help.

Video on Demand competition (2, Insightful)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420852)

Comcast wants to kill off P2P because it is competition for VoD. Follow the money.

hmm (2, Informative)

vtscott (1089271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420916)

I was particularly interested in this comcast comment from the article:

Importantly, in managing its network, Comcast does not block any content, application, or service; discriminate among providers; or otherwise violate any aspect of the principles set forth in the [FCC's] Internet Policy Statement.


So, they don't block any content? That doesn't seem consistent with their terms of service [comcast.net] (interesting parts bolded by me):

Comcast reserves the right to refuse to transmit or post, and to remove or block, any information or materials, in whole or in part, that it, in its sole discretion, deems to be in violation of the "Content and information restrictions" section above in this Policy, harmful to its network or customers using the Service, negatively affecting its network or customers using the Service, or otherwise inappropriate, regardless of whether this material or its dissemination is unlawful. Neither Comcast nor any of its affiliates, suppliers, or agents have any obligation to monitor transmissions or postings (including, but not limited to, e-mail, file transfer, newsgroup, and instant message transmissions as well as materials available on the Personal Web Pages and Online Storage features) made on the Service. However, Comcast and its affiliates, suppliers, and agents have the right to monitor these transmissions and postings from time to time for violations of this Policy and to disclose, block, or remove them in accordance with this Policy and the Subscriber Agreement.


So what is it comcast? Do you block content or don't you? Either they are lying to the government or they are lying to their customers. And don't get me started on the internet policy statement (pdf warning)... [fcc.gov] I'm sure comcast is all about this one:

To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers,application and service providers, and content providers.

more competition (1)

youngdev (1238812) | more than 6 years ago | (#22420936)

the answer here it More competition. Although, I think that competition has been prevented by government. Cable companies are awarded Monopolies, just like phone companies. Really the only solution here is new competitors from new technology. I am anxiously awaiting Wimax and FIOS as possible solutions. With only 2 choices (cable Vs DSL), there is no room to expect competitive pressure.

good and bad ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22420950)

Throttling based on usage == good. There is only so much bandwidth to use, and we have to share it. If you're using 100GB/month on torrents, streaming video, porn, whatever, you're probably using more than you're paying for in the grand scheme of things. Why should I, a person who maybe uses 2-3GB/month, pay for your excess?

Throttling based on protocol == bad. If I use bit torrent to fetch an ISO [say a Ubuntu CD] once every 6 months, that's my own damn business.

Re:good and bad ... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421340)

Well said. What's more I'm sure if the practice becomes widespread people will find ways round it (e.g. disguising/transforming the data), which may well be less efficient and lead to more clogging of the intartubes.

Does there need to be another law? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421128)

It would seem truth in advertising should take care of this, if enforced correctly. I would rather like to see Congress set in motion what it needs to, to get high speed internet nationally and available in most areas. We are lagging far behind Japan - even Verizon Fios is much slower.

...when a politician('s kid) is affected... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421154)

Recall how one or both of the houses influenced against the injunction against RIM because so many of them were Blackberry users? This really shows one of their weaknesses... that they are pretty much just like us in that they care most about the things that affect them most and that they aren't TRULY interested in the greater good or any legally recognized form of justice or the processes of justice.

So when a politician or the child of a politician can't get his warez, mp3z or moviez due to something Comcast or some other ISP (who would rather restrict users and usage than improve their networks to handle the load which is what they should be doing) does to block it, that's when you'll see action actually take place. This is a lesson in how to actually get things done.

When you write your government representative, you need to write in a way that it makes it clear how something potentially affects THEM and not the "poor people of 'whereever' county." They don't care about poor and unfortunate people. Poor and unfortunate is a disease and they are rather immune to it and so they don't care. And the attitude of most immune people is that somehow the diseased deserve what they get anyway. (Take the general attitude regarding AIDS today... people STILL think that whoever gets it deserves it somehow.) So don't write them telling sad stories of the plight of the "average person." They are the privileged few after all and generally don't understand or care to understand. Tell them how it affects them potentially or directly and you will see better results.

Right idea, wrong regulatory agency. (1)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421228)

From the FCC's website:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency, directly responsible to Congress. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.

From the FTC's website:

The FTC deals with issues that touch the economic life of every American. It is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy. The FTC pursues vigorous and effective law enforcement; advances consumers' interests by sharing its expertise with federal and state legislatures and U.S. and international government agencies; develops policy and research tools through hearings, workshops, and conferences; and creates practical and plain-language educational programs for consumers and businesses in a global marketplace with constantly changing technologies.

The FCC is clearly responsible for regulating how communications companies deploy their technologies, but clearly defining how those technologies are sold, and ensuring the customer gets what he/she paid for seems to be the responsibilty of the FTC.

My cable company told me that I purchased a 30mbps/10mbps internet connection. They also told me that I purchased the right to run a server on that connection. A couple of times, they have throttled my connection. I can't imagine why - I can't exceed the 30/10 limit, and I was connected to hosts on the internet. The cable company never defined who I could connect to, and they never told me if there was a limit other than the 30/10 hard limit that was sold to me.

If I am not getting what I paid for, shouldn't the FTC be involved?

-ted

We need a new law for this? (3, Insightful)

BigRedFish (676427) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421268)

When I buy a quart of milk, the jug contains a quart of milk. If I try to pour out this quart of milk all at once, it does not slow to a trickle after the first half-pint and then announce that I've reached my daily pouring limit because the dairy doesn't have the cows, feed, and trucks required to actually produce the whole quart it sold me. Not if everyone who bought milk wants to drink it at the same time.

Whatever law covers that situation with my quart of milk not being a whole quart, can also quite well handle the situation where I buy 1.5Mb/second bandwidth, and then the second doesn't actually contain all 1.5Mbits, because the company doesn't actually have the infrastructure it's selling access to. ISPs already throttle, that's why they have different speed tiers for us to buy, same as milk is offered by the pint, quart, half-gallon, or gallon.

What we're really talking about here, is that the ISPs are lying about how much milk is in the jug. If our 1.5Mb pipes have to drop to 384K when everyone downloads at the same time, then we have 384K pipes, and they should be labeled and priced as such. Throttling based on content is just a way to legitimize weights-and-measures fraud.

How unexpected! (1)

obstalesgone (1231810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22421512)

Who would have expected this kind of behavior from the industry that redefined "Unlimited"?

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission", Amazing Grace [wikipedia.org]

Stop whining (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22421592)

When electricity was first introduced, the usage was extremely low and the cost to build out the infrastructure high, so people were charged a flat rate for service. Eventually usage increased to where the cost of producing electricity was the main factor, so usage based service became the norm, despite whining by people who had gotten used to flat rate service. We would now never think of flat fee based electricity regardless of consumption. Internet has developed the same way, starting with dialup at a flat rate where the cost of bandwidth was a small part of the equation for the supplier, so simple flat rates were the norm. With the huge increase in bandwidth usage, bandwidth cost is now the largest factor in providing ISP service, so metered service will soon be the norm by necessity, regardless of the whining by people who are used to a different model and want a free lunch. Oh, and regardless of what legislation comes along to try to make people think the government is listening to their whining. Reality is reality folks. Comcast is just trying to delay the inevitably change as long as possible.

YOU3 FAIL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22422236)

to predict *BSD's and sling or tabLe itself. You can't are tied up in you nned to succeed

What a waste of time (1)

strikeleader (937501) | more than 6 years ago | (#22422408)

Because Rep. Ed Markey (D -- Mass.) doesn't have the backbone to come out with legislation to make throttling illegal he is going to leave it open for interpretation and allow special interest decide what is right and wrong.
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