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FCC To Make Move On Net Neutrality 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the why-don't-we-try-this-again dept.
GrApHiX42 writes "The FCC will announce on Thursday it plans to pursue a 'third way' forward in the fight for tough net neutrality rules, opening a new front in an ongoing legal battle that could come to define the commission under Chairman Julius Genachowski. A senior FCC official said Wednesday that the chairman 'will seek to restore the status quo as it existed' before a federal court ruled it lacked the authority to regulate broadband providers and set rules that mandate open Internet. The goal is to 'fulfill the previously stated agenda of extending broadband to all Americans, protecting consumers, ensuring fair competition, and preserving a free and open Internet,' the FCC official said."
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FCC To Make Move On Net Neutrality

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  • by onionman (975962) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:05PM (#32106792)

    Without net neutrality regulation, I fear that providers will have far too much power to censor content. In my area, there is only one choice for broadband: Comcast. My provider has already demonstrated a willingness to censor based on protocol and re-direct DNS lookup failures to their own search engine. I don't trust them at all to act in the best interest of the consumer when sites like Hulu and iTunes start directly competing against cable TV offerings for content.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But what about their right to free speech through censorship? It's just their own way of communicating with you!

    • by bhtooefr (649901)

      There's another provider in your area, that gives access to quite a few other providers.

      Downside is, 56 kbps downstream.

      • For a lot of people, that isn't an option.

        Boss: I need those reports back from the 20 MB spreadsheets I gave you.
        Employee: Sure thing, boss! You should have the first one a couple days from now!

        Even for standard "web surfing and email" type access, dialup is inadequate. For any type of real work, it's not an option at all.

        That's quite aside from the fact that fewer and fewer people need or want POTS anymore at all. To get POTS just to accommodate dialup, plus the dialup, you'll probably be paying more than basic broadband.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          You know, I remember my 128 kbit ISDN. I seem to recall having no issues uploading or downloading 20MB within a reasonable amount of time.

          And I remember that cost about $1,000 to install when I had it.

          Show me a $1,000 56kbit POTS line, please.

          • ISDN is barely broadband, much less "basic broadband" so what exactly was your point?

          • Maybe I should say "what basic broadband costs now". I strongly doubt ISDN costs that now, though I also haven't looked into it in quite some time.

            As to 20 MB being a reasonable amount of time, you've got a very tolerant boss, apparently. Even if we figure that the ISDN operated at absolute maximum capacity for the full transfer, 128 kbit = 16 kB per second. At that rate, transferring a 20 MB file would take (20000 KB/16 KB/s) = 1250 seconds = 20.8 minutes. And that's under the most optimal circumstances. A

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GrApHiX42 (543910)
      What stops the government from doing exactly the same thing?
    • by Ichijo (607641)

      In my area, there is only one choice for broadband: Comcast.

      Surely you have more choices than that. There's satellite broadband and cellular broadband available just about anywhere, or you could VPN past your ISP's traffic shaping (they can't shape what they can't inspect), or you could get a leased line, or set up a neighborhood Internet co-op.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:32PM (#32106956)
        They can shape everything that they cant inspect.
      • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:48PM (#32107064)

        they can't shape what they can't inspect

        Sure they can. They'll just throttle any encrypted traffic that isn't on standard ports.

        • by pclminion (145572) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @12:20AM (#32107968)

          And they will know it's encrypted how, exactly? Yes, your typical encrypted data stream looks like random bits, but so does well compressed data.

          So either you have to block all data that looks compressed or encrypted, which is a nice way to fuck yourself as a bandwidth provider since people will stop compressing shit to get past your filter, or you have to actually attempt to decompress and look inside any high-entropy data stream. How many reasonably well-deployed compression methods are there? Well, I'd guess about a hundred, if you include various audio and video codecs. So you need to run a number of decompression attempts just to distinguish compressed data from encrypted data. And you really have to DECOMPRESS IT, not just scan for magic numbers or certain headers, because hell, I'll just throw those on there for good measure to confuse you.

          Okay, so now that you've established that the data is a compressed stream, you need to look inside the decompressed data to see if that itself looks like its encrypted. Sure, it's boneheaded to compress encrypted data, since it's already such high entropy, but how can you know? Especially when there are people like me trying to get around your filter? You can't, unless you try the whole process again recursively. Obviously, at some point you'll give up. Say you set the bar at two levels of nesting -- at that point it's just too expensive to keep analyzing. Well, that's going to have a shitload of false positives, because people do stupid shit like zip up a video file, which doesn't really gain you that much but is certainly widely done, and would trigger your "give up" signal -- at that point, do you fail open or fail closed? Do you reject a huge amount of traffic that's not encrypted, pissing everyone off and rendering your own service unusable and therefore worthless -- or do you throw your hands up and let the data stream through?

          Yeah, sure. They'll just "throttle any encrypted traffic." Good luck with that.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by fnj (64210)

            It pleases me to imagine a new data protocol, one with an encrypted data channel riding on a "plain text" channel. Imagine a stream of HTML with images and attachments, the encrypted data being impressed like steganography on the images and attachments. Sure, it's very low efficiency, but it would be highly difficult and unprofitable to try to discriminate the encrypted data channel. The scheme even carries a pleasing level of schadenfreude in that you are screwing The Man with lots of frivolous plain te

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by adolf (21054)

              Your scheme, while brilliant, is inefficient to such excess that it is self-defeating.

              To perform steganography effectively (read: "undetectably"), one must bury the data within normal-looking noise. The amount of adjustable noise required increases proportionately with the amount of desired steganogaphically-encoded data. So, to encode a Big Thing (a movie, say), you need Lots Of Noise, or rather, a substantially larger amount of adjustable normal-looking data than that which you intend to send.

              This makes

    • Wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "We need [to give the government the power to censor] to prevent [private] censorship."
      .
      There I fixed your comment for you.
      .
      Don't be too quick to bring the Trojan Horse into the city walls.
      .
      I don't like private or public censorship but I can tell you that private censorship is a lot easier to get away from and likely to be a lot shorter lived.

      • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dontbgay (682790) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:00AM (#32108156)

        I don't think you're looking at this the right way. It's not viewed as the government censoring Comcast or ANYONE for that matter. There is no removing the freedom of speech by the FCC anywhere in this. The only perpetrators of that in this particular instance is the content provider.

        It's funny how these days people view it as "I gotta be in the corporations camp" or "I gotta support the government" when there's a hidden option: "I support my own views." Google tries to kick China in the balls for freedom of speech? Great! Uncle Sam trying to give the ISPs a slap for being mean to their customers? Great! Now, the converse is not supporting things you don't like. Don't jump on a bandwagon here, unless it's going in the direction that's best for all.

  • by DirkBalognapantz (609779) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:11PM (#32106822)
    I think this is a much more admirable endeavor than being the nipple and potty mouth police. I always considered the FCC toothless moralists. I welcome our new internet overloads.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:34PM (#32106968)

    Just make ISPs common carriers like the phone companies. Then the FCC can enforce the rules it wants.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @11:35PM (#32107720)

      Just make ISPs common carriers like the phone companies. Then the FCC can enforce the rules it wants.

      Not "common carriers" but rather just "telecommunications services" rather than "information services."

      Ironically, it was the FCC itself that recategorized ISPs as "information services" [wikipedia.org] and thus opened the door for all of this bullshit in the first place. You would think that since the trouble started with the FCC, they could just change their minds and put things back the way they were so that IP was treated the same as Voice and all the neutrality rules would then apply again.

  • Common carrier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @09:35PM (#32106976)

    Why don't they just make ISPs common carriers. A common carrier has to take anyone's traffic without favor or discrimination (as long as the customer can pay). The concept has served us very well for things like telephones and railways. I find it hard to understand why it doesn't automatically apply to ISPs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_carrier [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Common carrier (Score:5, Insightful)

      by T Murphy (1054674) on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:11PM (#32107206) Journal
      Telephones and railways have gone through antitrust cases. ISPs have not. My guess is we need a full-fledged monopoly to form before things get better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Why don't they just make ISPs common carriers. A common carrier has to take anyone's traffic without favor or discrimination (as long as the customer can pay). The concept has served us very well for things like telephones and railways. I find it hard to understand why it doesn't automatically apply to ISPs.

      ISPs don't have the history of monopolistic abuse that telcos and railways do.
      Fundamentally, that's why they've managed to play by a different set of rules.

      IMHO, the FCC is changing the regulatory landscape because of ISPs' greed.
      It was pretty much over for them once they started saying things like:
      "We're going to filter what we want"
      "Google should pay us to reach our customers"

      They really did this to themselves.

  • ... OR (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <(ten.egdup) (ta) (todhsals)> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:04PM (#32107164) Homepage Journal

    The FCC could just, you know, respect the fact that we live in a representative democracy and that as unelected bureaucrats that don't get to invent new laws restricting the free behavior of the people. The FCC could lobby Congress to write a law implementing what they want, instead of trying to tyrannically decide for us what they think is best.

    I am mostly in favor of Net Neutrality (especially in cases where there's a de facto monopoly for a particular broadband provider). But I am not in favor of the FCC making up its own rules. I am in favor of elected representatives voting so we can hold them accountable in the end.

    • Re:... OR (Score:4, Interesting)

      by astar (203020) <max.stalnaker@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 05, 2010 @10:57PM (#32107492) Homepage

      something off center about your argument. fcc is executive, but it also has legislative and judicial functions. In fact, these extras are impossible to get rid of.

      this area is called administrative law. It is supposed to be simple, informal, and navigateable without a lawyer :-)

      the reason it is constitutional is that while you have go into the admin court system, when you exhaust your remedies, you get to go to the usual courts in the other branch of government.

      as far as rules, agencies can make all sorts of binding rules, persumedly from within their enabling language. and all the admin judges will take them as gospel. but once you leave the admin system, the other judges will feel quite free to slap the agency around.

      Actually, having rules is a positive. I have seen programs repeatedly try to run without any rules! for the admin review judge, a question becomes "do i shut this program down". Interesting considerations at that point.

      • by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot

        the reason it is constitutional

        It's not. That's why the FCC lost the case 3-0.

        • by astar (203020)

          yah, this particular rule was unconstitional, presumedly because the fcc could not make a good case that congress had given them that particular authority area. I admit i have not read the actual decision. but no one is ever going to say the fcc cannot make rules. but originally, someone was seemingly complaining about the existence of fcc rule making apparatus.

          The appeals court’s 3-0 decision, which was written by one of the court’s more liberal members, Judge David S. Tatel, focused on the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elashish14 (1302231)

      Your argument makes sense, but the flaw is that democracy doesn't work that way. Yes, in theory, we could remove any elected official that blocks net neutrality, or any other law that would make sense to any reasonable, moral human being. In truth, all that matters is how much PR you pull, how much the lobbyists bribe you, etc. that wins you an election.

      Where everything really gets derailed is in the court's ruling that gave cable companies a monopoly on their lines. If you open up the lines to allow compet

      • by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot

        Your argument makes sense, but the flaw is that democracy doesn't work that way.

        No offense, but tough shit. The fact that representative democracy doesn't always work well doesn't give anyone the right to make up laws outside of that system.

        But if this is what it takes to get net neutrality, well better than nothing I say.

        If by "this" you mean "the FCC illegally making up its own law," that's unacceptable. The rule of law must be followed, because if we don't follow it here, we can't rely on it later.

        That said, I agree with you that the problem is the overregulation. Net Neutrality is "needed" because of a lack of competition created by federal regulation.

        I can't

        • by Nathanbp (599369)

          If by "this" you mean "the FCC illegally making up its own law," that's unacceptable. The rule of law must be followed, because if we don't follow it here, we can't rely on it later.

          What are you smoking? The entire purpose of the FCC is to "make up laws" (as you put it) about the communications systems in the country. Do you think Congress passes a law for each frequency band saying what it can be used for? No, they delegated that authority to the FCC. Now, obviously they can only regulate the matters that have actually been delegated to them by Congress, but to try to imply that it's totally outrageous for the FCC to regulate on net neutrality is bogus.

  • Hmm, I'm guessing large subsidies for improving broadband, but with strings attached, such that the businesses receiving the money have to abide by net neutrality and respect the FCC.

  • If anyone has ever had anything to say on the subject, now might be the time to repeat whatever has been said to those with the potential to influence this process. It would be ashame to look back on a period of time, and realize that the moment to really influence it has passed.

  • Fight the FCC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Torino10 (1369453) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:24AM (#32108770)

    Considering that the FCC can open up WiMax, and initiatives such as O3b may demonstrate that MEO satellite systems can offer nearly fiber speeds to third world nations, aren't the TelCo's just slitting their own throats? If companies like Google, ones that make more money by increasing the number of people who can access the internet and there services, are willing and able to offer free or nearly free internet access via low latency MEO satellite constellations and other radio transmission methods. why would agencies such as the FCC want to stop them?

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