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The Case Against Net Neutrality 702

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-needs-equality dept.
jeek writes "While I certainly don't agree with it, this article tries to make the case that Net Neutrality may actually be bad for America. From the article: 'If the government regulates net neutrality, policies for internet access are set by one entity: the FCC. However, if the government stays out, each company will set its own policies. If you don’t like the FCC’s policies, you are stuck with them unless you leave the United States. If you don’t like your internet service provider’s policies, you can simply switch to another one. So which model sounds better to you?'"
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The Case Against Net Neutrality

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  • Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by space_jake (687452) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:10PM (#33219996)
    What other service provider?
    • Re:Choices (Score:5, Funny)

      by bsDaemon (87307) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:12PM (#33220040)

      The ones in another city or state... which is apparently less of a hassle than leaving the US entirely.

      • Also... (Score:3, Funny)

        by recoiledsnake (879048)

        FTA:

        This is common with regulation, since the benefits to a single given consumer from net neutrality are relatively minor, while the costs are bared by the companies.

        Ugh! I don't want to see the companies baring anything!

    • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kage.j (721084) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:13PM (#33220066)

      Unless you're surrounded by a monopoly, or other 'choices' that are vastly substandard. Such as 56k or very-slow adsl, versus high-speed, low-latency cable. 'Choices' -- I'd have to move to get another choice. Hogwash to that point, I say.

      • Re:Choices (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geekmansworld (950281) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:44PM (#33220692) Homepage

        Parent is exactly right. The author's argument is based on the fallacy that "the free market will sort things out". In fact we all know that even competing corporations will refuse to do battle on certain turf, thus resulting in maladies such as price-fixing and/or a lack of competitive choice.

        De-facto net neutrality has worked well enough for everyone up until now. Let's legislate and make sure it stays that way.

        • Re:Choices (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mldi (1598123) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:58PM (#33220930)
          It isn't a refusal to do battle. It's contracted by cities so that only MegaCompany A can provide certain kinds of bandwidth in the area.

          And I'm sorry, but choosing between company B's 1.5mbps DSL (because that's all they can do on their line and it isn't legal to install anything else) or MegaCompany A's city-contracted 15mbps for the same price... isn't competition. It's hampered. It's messed with. It's not capitalism.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by smartr (1035324)

          De-facto net neutrality has worked well enough for everyone up until now. Let's legislate and make sure it stays that way.

          Reminds me of the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Remind me again why we need something to fix a potential problem, when we could just wait until it actually becomes a problem? I realize Comcast is crap, but the FCC isn't going to fix that.

          • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:22PM (#33221428) Journal

            Reminds me of the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

            If this was really true, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because no one would've bothered to fix their slide-rule which "wasn't broke", and then their calculator, and then their Apple IIe -- the Internet wouldn't exist at all.

            Remind me again why we need something to fix a potential problem, when we could just wait until it actually becomes a problem?

            ...and here comes the contradiction...

            I realize Comcast is crap,

            You don't see that as a problem?

            the FCC isn't going to fix that.

            Comcast has already throttled and otherwise abused the bandwidth of their users. They have done exactly the kind of bullshit that net neutrality legislation is meant to prevent.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I realize Comcast is crap,

              You don't see that as a problem?

              And your solution to Comcast being crap is... to legislate them into not being crap? That'll totally work.

              Comcast has already throttled and otherwise abused the bandwidth of their users. They have done exactly the kind of bullshit that net neutrality legislation is meant to prevent.

              So you think that if you agree when you sign up that you won't use more than a certain amount of bandwidth, and you end up using more than that, Comcast should just have to suck it up? I'm glad I'm not doing business with you.

              • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Klinky (636952) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @07:10PM (#33222824)

                So you think that if you agree when you sign up that you won't use more than a certain amount of bandwidth, and you end up using more than that, Comcast should just have to suck it up? I'm glad I'm not doing business with you.

                Uhh, no. He's talking about how they discriminated against bittorrent traffic, all the while saying they weren't doing anything. Legal, illegal, grey area torrent traffic was affected. Didn't matter. Basically it showcased that Comcast was willing to affect specific services on their network. What's to stop them from throttling hulu, youtube, comedy central, all the while prioritizing Comcast.net?

                Comcast doesn't want video on the internet to succeed and would rather have you subscribe to their video service instead of entertaining the notion that they might turn into a dumb pipe someday.

                I feel that, media production/distribution & data distribution should all be broken up to avoid conflict of interest and content/data monopoly. My grand dream is that your ISP provides a dumb connection to a gateway of your choice. They are not allowed to sell anything other than a dumb IP connection. If they want to sell VOIP or IPTV with that, then they will have to spin-off to another company. If they want to own content production companies(e.g. NBC studios) that too will need to be spun off into a separate entity who sells to the IPTV providers, which is accessed over the IP connection. Also there would be requirements for open access, so they can't horde or prevent a competitor from gaining access to content or distributing service over the connection.

                Communication/media companies are already too large & they strongly lean towards regional monopolies. Ultimately capitalism has that fatal flaw where striving for ever greater profits / "efficiencies", usually results in companies merging and merging and merging & when they can't merge they collude with each other to shutout competition. Capitalism is almost an oxymoron because while it espouses free market ideals, it's inhabitants usually are actively pursuing the opposite of a free market.

                There needs to be regulations & rules setup to maintain the market. We can't just set a basic framework and expect everyone to play by those rules forever, or for those rules to still even be valid decade after decade.

                The goal of society & government is to benefit the people, not large mega telecommunications companies.

                • Re:Choices (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by Guido del Confuso (80037) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @07:51PM (#33223222)

                  The goal of society & government is to benefit the people, not large mega telecommunications companies.

                  The great populist lie. Who do you think runs the "large mega telecommunications companies"? I'm pretty sure they're run by people, not autonomous robots or computer programs. So let's restate what you're saying a bit more accurately: The goal of society and government is to benefit certain people to the detriment of other people, based on who is part of the largest group and hence has the most votes.

                  Your vision of the role of government sounds like mob rule to me.

                  • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:46PM (#33224380) Journal

                    The goal of society and government is to benefit certain people to the detriment of other people, based on who is part of the largest group and hence has the most votes.

                    That's a cynical analysis, not a goal. Let's try again:

                    The goal of government and society is to benefit most people most of the time, to the detriment of the few individuals who violate the social contract -- in this case, those who have enriched themselves massively at the expense of everyone else, using ethics which are questionable at best.

                    Who do you think runs the "large mega telecommunications companies"?

                    If you're referring to all the employees, certainly, we should benefit them. As it is, government and society tends to benefit the board of directors and a few top executives, to the detriment of everyone else.

                    • Re:Choices (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by Guido del Confuso (80037) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @02:36AM (#33225492)

                      The goal of government and society is to benefit most people most of the time, to the detriment of the few individuals who violate the social contract -- in this case, those who have enriched themselves massively at the expense of everyone else, using ethics which are questionable at best.

                      So you want to legislate morality. We must all believe in your ethics, and anyone who doesn't follow your ethical code must be punished, and those who do should benefit. Funny how similar the views of the right-wingers and left-wingers are when you reduce them to their cores.

                      You generally believe the purpose of the government is to benefit people you like at the expense of people you don't like. You can qualify it however you want, but there is nothing noble about forcibly taking from those who have what you want, simply because they're not part of your favored group. If you wanted to say that the purpose of government is to prevent people from unjustly enriching themselves to the detriment of others, then perhaps we could agree. Then it would just be a matter of determining what is "just". But you seem to believe that some people are intrinsically entitled be enriched at the expense of others who intrinsically deserve to be punished, and are willing to use government powers to forcibly do so--after all, government powers derive entirely from the fact that the government has a monopoly on force.

                      The government should no more be benefitting the CEO of the company than the janitor. Personally, I don't believe forcing others to benefit you against their will is right, no matter what sort of populist veneer you put on it.

        • Re:Choices (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Guido del Confuso (80037) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:15PM (#33221272)

          De-facto net neutrality has worked well enough for everyone up until now. Let's legislate and make sure it stays that way.

          If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And whatever you do, for God's sake don't let the government anywhere near it! If the hypothetical problems that everyone is concerned about emerge, there's always the option to legislate later. But what makes you so certain the free market won't sort things out, when by your own admission it has so far done just that?

      • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Thangodin (177516) <elentar@sympatico.STRAWca minus berry> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:06PM (#33222060) Homepage

        As noted, most people don't have a choice of what internet provider is offered. But beyond that, do a tracert on traffic to another part of the country. See that? That's Ma Bell for most of the links. So your local provider is largely irrelevant.

        Business is good for goods and services that you can opt out of. Those you can't (like the internet these days) are called infrastructure, and giving business control over infrastructure is a golden invitation to rent-seeking behaviour, because something you can't opt out of is called a monopoly--particularly when the trunk lines are owned by the people who got there first.

        Legislative capture (special interest control of government) is a problem in its own right, and will become a more pressing problem now that the Supreme Court has given corporations the right to buy politicians as they see fit. If the Tea Party would address that issue, I'd sign up. But they won't, because they are a wholly owned subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp., the goal of which is, you guessed it, legislative capture. In fact, he's built a whole enterprise on it. Want to drum up support for legislative protection of your obsolete business model? Rupert is your man, if you can afford him! So much for small government.

    • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spikenerd (642677) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:22PM (#33220240)

      What other service provider?

      This is the very heart of the whole issue. NN is on the table simply because competition in the ISP business is dead. So why not solve the problem directly by breaking up ISPs that have market dominance in particular regions? Because there's no way our gov't would ever pull that off? Okay, I guess we need NN then.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by genrader (563784)
        People always forget to make this point. In fact, most are ignorant of it. It's not a corporate vs government issue--it's a market place issue. People want to have net neutrality, but giving the FEC the power to regulate will only lead to more problems in the future.
      • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:58PM (#33220952) Homepage Journal

        Even if there was competition in each region, the removal of source-based routing means that you can't dictate which path the packet goes down, which means you can't control how much it is going to cost. The notion of peer-to-peer agreements is going to be shot all to hell without NN, so you WILL end up footing the bill according to the choices made by routers not under your control. Oh, and remember, any router that calculates the weight of a path according to what it is told is very likely to be told that extremely expensive paths have low weight. Again, not under your control, you can do bugger all about it. Since costs are likely to migrate straight to customers, intermediate network providers won't give a damn. They don't have to pay for any inefficiencies caused elsewhere, and since all customer-level ISPs will likely use one of a tiny handful (or a single) intermediate provider, it doesn't matter what ISP you use or which city/State you are in (so long as you're in a State that has that intermediate provider).

        This is one of the bigger problems caused by the threat of abolishing NN. Especially in this day and age. Remember that guy a few years back who mapped out the cable routes using public info and had his thesis classified? If you cannot legally know who connects to what, where, and how at the level 1 and level 2 tiers, you are denied access to ANY information which could reveal which ISPs are likely to cost what amount for the work you intend to do over the Internet. The only way to perform the necessary market research is, in effect, to be a criminal. Not just any old criminal, Gitmo-level criminal.

        Is this over-worrying? Not really. There was once a service that did not have NN. It was called the IPSS (International Packet Switch Stream) service. Do you know, even remotely, how expensive that was? $25k per year even for relatively low-volume use was not unusual. Anyone here want to spend that on Internet connectivity?

      • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ffreeloader (1105115) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:18PM (#33221328) Journal

        Ahh.... So, because the government doesn't act in our favor in one instance we need to give it more power? I have to ask, since the government doesn't act in our favor with the power it already has, what makes you think it is going to act in our favor when we give it even more power? How is more power going to make the government more sensitive to the little guy? I see no correlation between increased government power and more freedom for the individual. In fact, the opposite is true. The more power government has the less freedom the individual has. That correlation is seen in all governments.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)

        What would breaking up ISPs accomplish? There's a fundamental problem that you can only have so many wires going to your house.

        Currently, in most urban places, there's a telephone line and a cable line going to each house. In some places, the telephone line has been replaced by a fiber. That gives you two choices: DSL/FiOS or Cable. Satellite is a third possibility if you don't mind ridiculously bad latency and even higher prices.

        So what is breaking up ISPs going to accomplish? Break up the cable compa

    • Re:Choices (Score:5, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:28PM (#33220348)
      Nonsense! I have plenty of choices. I can choose to let AT&T fuck me, or I can let Comcast fuck me.
    • Re:Choices (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kirijini (214824) <kirijini@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:32PM (#33220462)

      Which would you rather have - choice, or net neutrality?

      I favor "open access" over net neutrality. Open access means telecom providers have to allow other ISPs to use their infrastructure. In fact, I would really prefer de-integrating (disintegrating?) telecom service from telecom infrastructure. I would have no problem with comcast, shitty company that it is, owning half of the cable infrastructure in the US, if all of the content services were run by competing companies.

      So, if I could choose between having choice, versus enforced net neutrality, I would choose choice.

      But, of course, you're right - there is no choice, and so this article is bullshit.

    • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:46PM (#33220726) Homepage

      What other service provider?

      Just like picking between cellular providers or big banks. Unregulated markets tend to function more like a cartel than a true open market. Limiting choices and competition instead of enhancing it.

      We've been listening to the government is bad tripe for 40 years. What we got back for it were environmental disasters, economic train wrecks, the concentration of wealth, higher prices, less competition and corporate rule.

      There's nothing free about the market we have today.

      • by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#33222170)

        Unregulated markets tend to function more like a cartel than a true open market. Limiting choices and competition instead of enhancing it.

        And that, ultimately, is the fly in every variety of libertarian laissez faire capitalist ointment: wealth is a competitive advantage. Even allowing for a certain fraction of businesses that fail due to bad decisions, success builds on success until there are only a few players left. Then the rational decision for those players is to simply divide up the market and fix prices rather than compete, and cooperate to ensure that the barriers to entry are too high for any new competition to arise. Nor does it get any better if those few players actually compete with each other, as the end product is inevitably a single victor, i.e., a monopoly.

        Capitalism just isn't self-sustaining. It's great while it's racing toward equilibrium, but once it gets there, it's like any other system that's reached equilibrium: incapable of doing any good. For capitalism to work -- as with perpetual motion machines -- there has to be an occasional input of energy from the outside. In the case of capitalism, that's trust-busting and various less dramatic forms of regulation. Without that, you have an ever-shrinking number of companies leveraging their ever-increasing power to charge more and more for less and less. It's not that the market is a bad thing or that capitalism is unworkable, it's just that it's not a magical cornucopia. Like every other vast human endeavor, it needs to be properly managed, and just as there is such a thing as too much management, there is also such a thing as too little.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And what choices are they?

      Let's see, on one hand we have:
      Comcast and their lies and refusal of disclosure;
      Horrible horrible customer service;
      powerful lobby that attempts to bar community operated ISPs;
      none-overlapping coverage area between the major ISPs.

      On the other hand we have:
      FCC and their draconian enforcement of policies

      I'd take FCC any day.

      Further more, TFA is not just wrong, but very very wrong. OK, so the courts ruled that FCC lacks the authority to enforce net neutrality. This does not excuse Comc

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by norminator (784674)
      Not only are there few choices for ISPs (the only non-wireless ISP in my area is the one that's known for throttling Bittorrent and VoIP traffic), but the question doesn't even make sense. Nobody is arguing that the government should be everyone's ISP, so the question is completely inappropriate and misleading to begin with.

      The government's role in Net Neutrality is to require ISPs to not block or degrade access to specific content sources. It's just basic ground rules, not a pile of regulation akin to
  • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:11PM (#33220014) Homepage
    Wasn't the main problem that there are still few ISP choices in a lot of places? At least, based on numerous anecdotes I hear.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:39PM (#33220590) Homepage

      I live in NYC and ultimately I have 4 options:

      1) Time Warner Cable
      2) dialup
      3) cell phone data plans (expensive, slow, and capped)
      4) don't use the Internet

      That's in one of the biggest/densest cities in the world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yuriyg (926419)
        Verizon doesn't offer FIOS or DSL in your building?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Verizon doesn't offer FIOS or DSL in your building?

          Suppose they did. The user then has a choice between Filter Package A and Filter Package B. The free-market hand waving, implied by this article, that suggests that Unfiltered Option C will magically appear is total rubbish.

  • Personally? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spicate (667270) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:12PM (#33220036)
    I like the government model better, since there isn't really much competition and there probably won't be, given the cost of infrastructure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Glith (7368)

      Would you like to forward your packets directly to Homeland security/the fbi/the nsa/your local police department directly or would you like them to at least pretend you're just sending them straight to your peers?

  • by MakinBacon (1476701) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:13PM (#33220058)

    If you don’t like your internet service provider’s policies, you can simply switch to another one.

    Not quite. For most Americans, there aren't more than a couple of ISPs available (excluding Satellite and ye olde dialup modem), so you really can't. Where I live, the only available broadband has been Verizon DSL, from 2003 up until 2010, so if they had decided to start throttling bandwidth to unapproved sites, I would've been screwed.

  • by lymond01 (314120) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:13PM (#33220068)

    If you don't like the FCC regulations, write your congressperson, get them changed.

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:14PM (#33220080) Homepage Journal

    If you don't like your internet service provider's policies, you can simply switch to another one.

    Assuming, of course, you actually do have a choice, the market works, the providers do not collude on anything and the big players don't dictate de factor policies.

    Or, in other words: In the ideal dreamworld of the free market fanatics, there's always this "competition" solution that solves every problem and gives the best answer to every question. In the real world, things are quite a bit more complicated.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:20PM (#33220222)

      Or, in other words: In the ideal dreamworld of the free market fanatics, there's always this "competition" solution that solves every problem and gives the best answer to every question. In the real world, things are quite a bit more complicated.

      That's due to a misapplication of free market. The free market theory assumes an equilibrium in which demand and supply meet. Equilibrium dynamics only hold for large values of entities. Therefore, the free market theory completely breaks down in situations where small numbers of suppliers or customers exist. That's certainly the situation we have in the US with very few telecom options.

      For that reason, it's completely inappropriate to believe that the free market will solve *this* problem, even if one believes (as I do) that a truly free market generally works best where it exists. For this commodity, there simply isn't a free market.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      To elaborate on that complication -

      Certainly the obvious answer to this question is "what competitors?"

      However, even if we had a competitive panacea - say, a commonly held, local government managed last mile over which you could connect to dozens of ISPs, all competing for your dollars - we would still not have a truly competitive environment for one reason: price signals, or, rather, the inability to communicate them. Before we conclude that a market can solve a problem, we have to make sure that the s

  • by Brit_in_the_USA (936704) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:14PM (#33220088)
    Aggregates your two DSL ISPs and 2 cable modem ISPs so you can get to youtube , hulu, netflix AND facebook through one easy Ethernet connection! Eliminate that pesky unplugging and cable mess!
  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:15PM (#33220106) Homepage

    What is needed is network transparency, not necessarily network neutrality.

    EG, under some definitions of network neutrality, various useful traffic shaping (such as placing heavy users in a different QOS tier when compared with light users, implementing per-user fairness, or doing Remote Active Queue Management to mitigate the effect of overbuffered access devices), would not be allowed.

    Yet such shaping would generally benefit all users: it prevents heavy users from impacting light users (in the first two cases) and even reduces heavy users self-inflicted damage (in the latter case). But the same devices which could implement such beneficial shaping could also perform amazingly anticompetitive traffic manipulation, such as disrupting a user's VoIP calls.

    Thus what we need is network transparency: ISPs must disclose what their policies are: how they shape and manipulate traffic in ways that may benefit or may damage users. And we need active verification of such policies, because although most ISPs will be honest, some won't be.

    • by spiegel (39944) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:22PM (#33220242) Homepage

      because although most ISPs will be honest, some won't be.

      Where have you been for the past 10 years? Most ISPs (read: Telcos & Cablecos) have long demonstrated their inability to be honest.

      And while transparency is certainly important, its only the first step. What the most NN people want is transparency + nondiscrimination based on traffic source. If you have no or few alternatives for internet access, it does very little good knowing that your ISP is screwing you.

      • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:36PM (#33220530) Homepage

        Where have you been for the past 10 years? Most ISPs (read: Telcos & Cablecos) have long demonstrated their inability to be honest.

        Where have I been? In the trenches.

        I was one of the researchers behind the web tripwires project [washington.edu] for detecting ISP injected advertisements. I was one of the developers of the RST injection detector [isoc.org] that was used to monitor how ISPs were disrupting traffic with injected Resets. And I'm one of the developers of Netalyzr [netalyzr.com].

        And overall, most ISPs are actually honest, and even the dishonest ones have gotten a fair bit better.

        EG, Comcast was incredibly dishonest at the start on their BitTorrent shaping (denying what they were doing altogether), but in the end were honest about it once they got caught (it did indeed only affect upload-only BitTorrent flows, we were able to independently verify this), and has become much more transparent about their traffic shaping and port filtering policies since then (they even have done IETF drafts on how their traffic management is done today).

        And this is why I believe that thing that really makes a difference is being able to validate that what an ISP says is actually true: If ISPs know that manipulations will be detected, they have a much lower incentive to manipulate traffic. This is why I believe in network transparency.

        You notice how you don't have ISPs talking about doing advertisement injection. Why? because its detectable. You notice how most ISPs no longer mess with BitTorrent? Why: because its detectable.

        This is the biggest benefit of transparency and enforcing transparency by measuring for violations: it keeps honest ISPs honest, and punishes the dishonest when (not if, but when) you catch them.

    • Stop over-subscribing the lines and actually invest in infrastructure. Verizon was for a while but it seems their FIOS rollout is over, sadly it never reached me.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:30PM (#33220402) Journal

      Thus what we need is network transparency: ISPs must disclose what their policies are: how they shape and manipulate traffic in ways that may benefit or may damage users. And we need active verification of such policies, because although most ISPs will be honest, some won't be.

      I have one choice for highspeed internet.
      Transparency will not help me if my ISP decides to implement shitty policies.
      All things being equal, government regulation is less of a burden to me and millions of other Americans than boxing up our lives and moving.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:40PM (#33220626) Journal

      under some definitions of network neutrality, various useful traffic shaping

      QoS falls under no one's definition of network neutrality. Those who conflate QoS with network neutrality are engaging in FUD. They are deliberately confusing the nomenclature in order to scare people away from true network neutrality.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:16PM (#33220134)
    ... regulating work conditions. If you don't LIKE how the government runs the coal mines of the great british empire, your only choice is to leave for th ecountry and haul manure on a farm. If the coal industry self-regulates, you're free to go work at another coal mine if you don't like the labor conditions there. This is the case against government interference in the great industrial age.
  • Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:18PM (#33220166) Homepage Journal

    If you don’t like your internet service provider’s policies, you can simply switch to another one.

    Hahahahaha! That's a good one. And here I thought I was already tolerating ISP abuse, crappy upload speeds, poorly maintained infrastructure, and false service tech. arrival times because I just felt it was the right thing to do. Now that I know I have a choice to work with an ISP that will treat me with respect and dignity well, gosh darn, I'll just hop on over this month.

    Oh wait.

    I don't know if this article was written by someone in another country or what, but like most of our shitty national industries (cell phones, auto insurance, medical services, political parties, etc.) we in the U.S. don't have any choice in what services are provided to us by our ISP. We might have the illusion of choice in one area or another, depending on how badly your local branch wants to maintain reputation, but real choice? Nah, this is the freedom lovin' US of A. We don't do that sort of thing here.

  • Which one indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:18PM (#33220174)

    So which model sounds better to you?

    How about the model in which it is illegal for a company to both own the pipes and have any interests in the IP that may be flowing through it? The model in which their would be huge fines (more than what they actually earned to make it an actual penalty) when it is shown that they had any deals to profit on the IP flowing through them?

    Cuz, I don't know... maybe the worst possibility is one in which the vastly huge amount of choices I have in ISP providers will limit, or aggressively manage, the content I can access because it conflicts with their goal to monetize their own copyright catalogues?

    • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:44PM (#33221758) Homepage

      Yup - the vertical integration is what is killing us.

      How about this - split the pipes from the traffic entirely.

      The telco provides a cable that routes ethernet packets from your house to a central office. Full stop. They can sell by the byte - just like your water bill. They are PUC regulated - costs plus minor profit - just like the water company. If the uplink is dedicated (no shared wires between the home and the CO), then they couldn't meter use at all - only charge to rent/maintain the line (and that is based on technology - no implementing intentional bottlenecks to abuse billing).

      Once the packets get to the central office they can go to any number of ISPs, and the telco isn't allowed to own any of them, or invest in any of them. The telco charges by the rack and kWh to have space in that office - full stop. You pick your ISP, who provides traffic to the internet, email, etc. Since ISPs don't own the last mile, I'd expect there to be a fair amount of competition. Oh, and if you want you can be your own ISP if you put a router in that CO and pay for the power and uplink (probably not a practical solution for small customers, but companies could do this).

      The last mile is the natural monopoly, so the goal should be to make the last mile boring. Last mile providers should get nice steady incomes, and little company growth. Your water company doesn't need to grow (unless you build more homes) - it needs to keep your water going. Utilities get steady almost-guaranteed rates of return, in exchange for heavy regulation and PUC-set prices.

      This really isn't a complicated model - we've been doing it for a century.

      This way the "internet" itself can stay nice and unregulated, like the free-marketers want. Once you get past the CO ISPs are no longer a natural monoply, and barriers to entry are much lower. Your town could run a co-op if they wanted. ISPs like AOL could flourish next to ISPs that provide nothing more than IP carriage (no email, no web, no support, no home router, etc). Some ISPs would throttle connections, some would not but charge by the byte. You can buy whatever you want that way.

  • by Glires (200409) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:21PM (#33220228)

    Hmmm... this line of thought sounds familiar for some reason.

    If the government regulates [mortgages], policies for [mortgages] are set by one entity: the [FTC]. However, if the government stays out, each company will set its own policies. If you don't like the [FTC]'s policies, you are stuck with them unless you leave the United States. If you don't like your [mortgage banker]'s policies, you can simply switch to another one. So which model sounds better to you?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      The one where the government acts to prevent collusion between the different companies, as well as to prevent any one company from having a monopoly in a specific market. You are correct, self-regulation doesn't work without the government enforcing transparency and severely penalizing companies for lying to customers.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:24PM (#33220272)

    1) Net neutrality extends further than your ISP. You only have "control" over who provides you the last leg.
    2) Control in #1 is quoted, because you may only have one viable option. Lucky if you have two. Very lucky if you have more than 2.
    3) Most smaller DSL providers, fixed wireless, etc are backended onto one of the few major telcos. They are often at the mercy of these back end providers, and in turn the end user has no control either.

    Regulatory oversight is needed when an industry is a monopoly or oligopoly (few participants, high barriers to entry, etc). Telecom is such an industry. The FCC may not be perfect, but it is necessary.

  • by dryo (989455) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:24PM (#33220288)
    OK, I doubt that many slashdotters, who are typically Libertarian-leaning, will be able to hear what I'm saying. But here is is anyway: free-market fundamentalism is foolish and greedy. It's what got us into trouble with the current economic meltdown. Repeating the mantra "the free market will solve everything" is really very similar to belief in the second coming of Jesus, fairies, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Sadly, we cannot trust government to do the right thing (whatever that is), but neither can we trust the free market. And by "free market," I mean obnoxiously large and powerful corporations. I would rather take my chances with the government; at least there's a tiny bit of accountability there. They've done some good things in the past, such as abolishing slavery and setting minimum wages. Without government intervention, the sacred "free market" would still use the blood of slaves to oil the engines of industry. Now it's just overseas wage slavery, which is something of an improvement, I guess.
    • OK, I doubt that many slashdotters, who are typically Libertarian-leaning, will be able to hear what I'm saying.

      They hear you! At the time I write this, there are 16 comments above this one rated +5. Of those 16, 16 are in favor of government intervention to protect Net neutrality.

      Please, stop the mantra that Slashdotters are Libertarian-leaning. They aren't.

  • WHAT!?!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by multimediavt (965608) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:24PM (#33220294)

    If the government regulates net neutrality, policies for internet access are set by one entity: the FCC. However, if the government stays out, each company will set its own policies. If you don't like the FCC's policies, you are stuck with them unless you leave the United States.

    1. We live in a democracy in the U.S., and if we don't like a policy created by the government we have a mechanism for changing that
    2. If a company makes a policy we have ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to change that policy (except through government regulation, duh!), especially if that company has a monopoly (real or perceived) within a market of service
    3. This article must have been written by Fox News or some other conservative crackpot that obviously has something to gain from the end of Net Neutrality, so EFF YOU! We've heard your theory. It's BS. STFU!
  • by rollingcalf (605357) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:26PM (#33220322)

    ...than policies set by monopolists or duopolists.

  • Same old argument (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:30PM (#33220394) Homepage Journal
    This is the same old anti-regulation argument, and for some things I agree. If one is talking about the price of widgets, the only rule should be that the free market must be free to operate, that is competing businesses can't collude to set prices. The Nixon price fixing scheme does not work. The rules against collusion simply set up a even playing field that enhance the free market, by setting an initial state from which to compete. Things like the minimim wage and the forty hour work week, extremely ill thought liberal plots that codify the disastrous theory that we have to pay people just because they have done some work, are beneficial as they set limits which helps a business compete on more useful things, like innovative product and process rather than simply trying to minimize cost of labor.

    So what does this mean to net neutrality. Net neutrality is a basic rules, like not colluding, or the work week, or code of building, that will drive innovation. Without such a rule companies will compete on which data is delivered quickly, instead of the speed of quantity data delivered. Collusion will be the norm as companies form ties to deliver certain data quickly, while making competing data not quick. As most of us only have one ISP, particularly for the last mile, and often without choice, we will be forced accept service not on the quality of content but on the availability of delivery(And before people take this to anti-iPhone rant, everyone has access to a competing company and a competing smarter phone).

    With net neutrality, companies will be forced to invest in innovation, which is of course why many do not want net neutrality. No one wants the government to force them to spend money on innovation. Can you imagine the uproar when building codes required indoor plumbing? Sure it makes sense where it is cold, but down south it is a waste of money! But the fact is with net neutrality companies are going to learn to make efficient use of available bandwidth so that all content can be delivered quickly, not just the content the ISP chooses. It will be create real jobs, with people installing fiber, people looking at the data, and engineers developing solutions, instead of simply provided money so that top executives can buy dates.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdielmann (514750)

      The rules against collusion simply set up a even playing field that enhance the free market, by setting an initial state from which to compete.

      Yeah, if it weren't for that pesky human element, the free market would be wonderful. It reminds me of an old quote. "In capitalism, man exploits man. In communism, it’s the other way around." The magical "free market" is no better than the other two at getting rid of flaws in human nature (it really is just a subset of capitalism), and is as willfully ignorant of the nature of human greed as communism is, just in the other direction.
      I like the ideal of the free market as much as I like the ideal o

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:32PM (#33220458) Journal

    I mean, really, why should there be laws against fraud? I mean, someone rips you off, you just go do business with someone else (who also rips you off, because it's legal). False advertising? I mean, if companies use false advertising, it'll catch up to them and you'll do business with someone else. Your roof caves in on your family's heads because the contractor cut corners on material or workmanship, and didn't build the supporting structures right? Do business with a different contractor next time. Airlines don't maintain their planes right, and kill or disable passengers? Well, people will just do business with other airlines, right?

    Maybe your employer should be free to expose you to hazardous materials or unsafe working conditions? I mean, you can always quit and go work for someone else, right?

    I'm sorry, but there's some business practices which businesses should never be free to do. I'm sure there is room for disagreement on whether Net non-neutrality rises to that standard, but my point is, just saying that people can take their business elsewhere is A) not always true - as others have mentioned, in some localities, there is basically a monopoly on broadband Internet, and B) dodges the issue of whether anybody should ever be allowed to implement such network management policies, to begin with.

    Net non-neutrality will, over time, seriously degrade what the Internet is for many customers. It will lead to a lot of anti-competitive behaviors wherein ISPs disadvantage some content providers over other content providers (or their own in-house content). It will do so in such a way that customers will have *no idea* that their ISP is to blame (in some cases), and will wrongly blame the content provider, or in some other cases (prohibitively small/overpriced bandwidth caps, for example, where it would be more expensive to upgrade to a useful 'tier' of bandwidth allotment so they could use Netflix, Hulu, or something similar to get TV programming and movies, instead of subscribing/upgrading to the ISPs own cable-TV packages for the same or similar content), the customers might know the ISP is to blame, but not have much or any recourse to correct the problem.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Government regulation also creates an economic 'level playing field'. Typically, one of the biggest problems of the laissez faire model of the free market is that, once someone figures out a way to get an economic advantage by business practices which are harmful, but save money or increase revenue, it will eventually force most other players in the market to adopt the same practices - because either the ones getting the advantage from the harmful practices are able to undercut the competition on price, sub

      • The other thing people forget is that regulation does not preclude competition.

        Alberta is a good example. Alberta has decided that automobile insurance is complicated and that it's hard for people to understand. Alberta therefore has created an industry-standard wording (in partnership with the industry) so that when you buy auto insurance, the basic policy and the common options are identical from one carrier to another.

        Despite this, there is massive auto insurance competition there. People buy insuranc

  • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@NOspam.gmail.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:33PM (#33220464)

    I'll just change out a few words a see how it sounds.."

    "While I certainly don't agree with it, this article tries to make the case that environmental control may actually be bad for America. From the article: 'If the government regulates environmental control, policies for environmental impact are set by one entity: the EPA. However, if the government stays out, each company will set its own policies. If you don’t like the EPA's policies, you are stuck with them unless you leave the United States. If you don’t like your oil/chemical/waste/paper mill/ environmental impact, you can simply switch to another one. So which model sounds better to you?'"

    See for me, a purpose for government is to stop (or slow) the wanton behavior of business since its goal is profit, not societal responsibility. Until everyone in this country had multiple choices for internet access we absolutely need a power that can step in between the consumer and business and say to business "you need to play nice now".

    Before I moved I had two providers, Charter or DSL via AT&T for home broadband. Now because I went more rural I only have one (dsl and satellite for TV). In no way does that provide me the power to speak with my pocket book unless I turn off tune out and read books. The Government is not evil or incompetent in most ways and overall the FCC has performed a good balancing act between public interest and private interest. The last entity I want deciding access to what I consider a utility today is a corporate CEO who's focus is on his pocket, not mine. Try this with water or electric and people would scream bloody murder.

    For fun, if NN is removed, I'd like to see taxes adjusted such that providers that throttle or tier access pay a higher tax vs providers that keep one tier, no limits, but adjust package costs by bandwidth (like now).

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @04:54PM (#33220870) Homepage Journal

    Let the phone and cable companies decide who goes on the network, and they'll get as close as they can to a walled garden full of their business partners.

    Let the net remain an open playing field, and you get true competition.

    Maintaining competition in the marketplace is an accepted function of government.

    Over the last couple of decades, the Nethead way has brought us Google. The Bellhead way has brought us ringtones. You decide.

  • for keeping our electricity rates down.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:16PM (#33221292) Homepage

    My problem with this argument is that it's basic premise is false: it presupposes that I have more choice of ISPs than I have of government regulators. It so happens that this is incorrect. I have a choice of one regulator: the FCC. But I only have a choice of perhaps 2 ISPs: the cable company who serve my area, and the phone company that serves my area. That's because providing Internet service involves running wires along the public right-of-way, and those two entities have a legal monopoly on that. Normally I'd discount that, except that the monopoly exists because of the actions of those entities themselves: they refused to provide service at all unless they were granted that monopoly. This isn't a case of the government just up and granting them the monopoly, they actively worked to get it.

    And their interests don't align with mine. I want, for instance, VoIP service that's cheap, reliable and of decent quality. They want to provide VoIP service that they can charge me for while spending the least they can on it. Normally they'd immediately be buried by Skype (which is exactly what actually happens), but if they can discriminate based on whose VoIP packets those are they can force Skype to be unusable by me and give me no option but to use their service if I want VoIP. The same for streaming audio, video, photo hosting, blogging, everything. The FCC, at least, isn't directly profiting by their regulations. So if I have to be subject to the whims of an entity and my alternatives are extremely limited at best and aren't radically different from each other, I'll take the one that isn't going to profit by hamstringing me.

  • retarded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:20PM (#33221362)
    And when all the ISPs adopt the exact same policy that allows them to make the most money while screwing over their customers, then exactly who do you choose as an ISP (provided you even have a choice in your area)???

    I know, First Amendment and all, but sometimes stupid people just need to keep their mouths shut, both for their own good and the good of anyone within earshot.
  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:51PM (#33221852) Journal

    Two points:

    1. If the FCC is allowed to regulate speed, it establishes an argument that they are allowed to regulate everything else, including content, rates, policies, contracts, and who owns the infrastructure that has already been paid for by a private entity.
    2. If the FCC establishes "minimum service standards" and "maximum service standards", ISPs will deliver the minimum and not one byte more. Why should they do anything else? If they're in compliance, they cannot be displaced, as nobody else will enter into competition. I certainly wouldn't invest in a company trying to compete with an established player in a fully-regulated business that requires a significant infrastructure.

    Do you like your cell phone service? That's exactly what your Internet service will resemble.

    As a ham radio operator ("Extra" license), I've seen firsthand and experienced firsthand just how well the FCC protects the "public interest". They don't. The FCC in all cases sides against the general public and with major communications businesses, and once the FCC has authority to decide who is allowed to offer what bandwidth to whom, they will be back to their normal modus operandi: taking services, bandwidth, and other allocations from public use to give to the fattest lobbyists, or in this case crafting law and policy to favor established players (thus preventing new competition). A leopard doesn't change his spots just because it's in a new place, and the FCC will not change its essential character just because it's been granted sweeping new authority where before it had none.

    It comes down to this: with government authority, there's no such thing as "just a little regulation", and with public utilities you get the minimum mandated and nothing more. I'd love to see an exception, but as far as I know, there is none. Why is this different?

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:02PM (#33222014) Journal
    Competition or government-funded service ? In one case you have to trust them to provide a good service and in the other you have to trust them to prevent vendors lock-in. Competition is not automatically good, sometimes it create many abusive local monopolies. If there must be a monopoly somewhere, I prefer it to be run by the government.
  • by mano.m (1587187) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:24PM (#33222240)
    'If the government regulates racial equality, policies for equal rights are set by one entity: the Constitution. However, if the government stays out, each state will set its own policies. If you don’t like the Union’s policies, you are stuck with them unless you leave the United States. If you don’t like your state’s policies, you can simply hop across the border to another one. So which model sounds better to you?' Etc.
  • Perfect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:26PM (#33222264) Homepage

    What's that quote from Chomsky?

    They want the people to hate and fear the government, because democratic government has a dangerous flaw -- it actually has the slight chance of becoming truly democratic. You see, corporations are perfect -- perfect tyrannies.

    http://www.ebook3000.com/politics/Noam-Chomsky---Class-War---Audiobook_49792.html [ebook3000.com]

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:28PM (#33222292) Homepage

    Everyone on his blog already pointed out that the vast majority of consumers don't have choice when it comes to ISPs, so you actually have greater influence by voting over the FCC than you do the threat of switching providers.

    He also fails to address another aspect of Net Neutrality: The big entities like Google make deals, while the small entities get screwed. The absence of Net Neutrality is a lock in for large entities and a barrier to entry for upstarts and challengers. The absence of Net Neutrality actually favours entrenched interests, making the overall marketplace less competitive.

  • by Roogna (9643) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:39PM (#33222438)

    Ironically, we have a existing example in history using pretty much the same companies that are involved in ISP's. Back in the day there was a single phone monopoly in this country and the government pretty much let them do their thing. That huge monopoly owned every piece of the phone system, including the handset -in your house-. It also meant there was absolutely zero competition. As such you paid the phone company for EVERYTHING. Calling to another town? That costs. Calling another state? Boom, even higher prices!

    Time passed, that monopoly got themselves broken up, and amongst other things we got some FCC controls in that formed competitors. Now WE owned our phones. In the process phone technologies leapt forward and the costs to use them tanked such that I can now call my father in Europe for pennies per minute instead of dollars per minute, and calling anywhere in the country? Just part of the basic package.

    Now slowly but surely what was that monopoly has re-merged and re-formed into a couple of huge companies, and since they lost control of the phone, now they want control over your Internet. But as history has shown that is an incredibly bad and expensive idea for the consumer. That is why for all intents and purposes in most areas, you only have ONE choice for high speed Internet (if you even have one, I once lived 50 feet from fiber bundles from every major telecom, and about 150 yards from the central office for the area.... Couldn't get even basic high speed internet there. Why? The telecom and the owners of the apartment complex were at odds over a local office building both were trying to buy, so the telecom simply refused to add the equipment needed to provide DSL to that complex.) So SOMEONE has to control these telecoms and force competition on them. Look at how often local cities and townships have tried to install Internet access for their town and have had it blocked by a telecom in the courts. This SHOULD NOT HAPPEN. If it -was- a free market these companies would HAVE to compete. Communications though are NOT a free market. Above and beyond the expense of trying to start a telecom from the ground up there are simply too many under-the-table agreements in place to work around. That is why we need the FCC to be able to have the power to enforce net neutrality onto these companies. Because unlike so many things (What device in my house I watch a legally purchased DVD on?) that the government should NOT be involved with, communications like power, water, roadways, etc... are exactly WHY we have governments in the first place. These things need to be available effectively %100 of the time.

    Ideally the backbone providers should be exactly that. Backbone providers. They should provide a connection (wired, or wireless, think of your cell phone here too) that carries data. They really shouldn't know, nor care what that data is. It certainly shouldn't effect the price! Others (you, your mom, a company aiming to be a local ISP, Google, Apple, Slashdot, whoever) should simply be able to buy a connection and pay to send their data across. This may mean it's a business providing a web site, your connection to access said website, or your local ISP to provide services, such as e-mail, web space, or whatnot. Now obviously the backbone providers themselves won't run fiber straight to your doorstep, but that's not an issue. Because local companies (or global companies, or whoever) could buy the bandwidth from the up stream provider and split it up for lower groups. Now in theory this IS how the Internet works, but the net neutrality fight is about the fact that those backbone providers want to provide all the content as well, and want to charge MORE to carry data that isn't THEIR content. Now it's exactly that attitude that caused companies like AOL to fail, trying to put their personal content at the forefront and prevent access to others content. It's why up until the iPhone (Love it or hate it, it -did- change cellular controls in the US) you couldn't get a

  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @07:05PM (#33222742) Journal

    The FCC isn't setting limits on us (at least not for bandwidth and price).

    It's setting limits on companies that want to set limits on us, in an industry where those companies get their main resource - right of way on public infrastructure like power poles, digging up streets, easements through people's property, etc. - from us essentially for free.

    Breaking net neutrality creates a public internet that will get the short end of every resource stick, and a non-public internet that will get full value from any limited public resources used to deliver the signal.

    We're giving up our resources to them and getting essentially nothing in return unless we pay a premium price for it.

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:34PM (#33223936) Homepage
    Once they figure out that there's money to be made from jiggering the Internet traffic flow through their networks, there won't be anything to keep all of the ISPs from doing the same thing.

    The problem is that as concepts go, Net Neutrality is pretty abstract: if some of us even have colleagues who don't understand what's at stake, we can be sure that the overwhelming majority of ISP customers don't know or care. So, if it's not enforced by law, to expect any individual ISP to voluntarily treat all of its Internet traffic the same would be similar to expecting there to be some large theaters that would be be willing to play movies without showing advertisements. Of course, all those theaters will tell you that if they did that, their prices would have to go up, and that's true. However, the fact is that they never give us that choice, because A) they know that most movie goers don't care anyway and B) they know that the advertisers would not like the viewers to be given that choice -- better to keep things simple!

    Yes, really small theaters often don't bother with ads, but that's because they don't sell enough tickets. Advertisers are only willing to pay theaters significant amounts of money if they can be convinced that the ticket sales are high enough. Below a certain threshold there's not enough money in showing ads, so theater owners will often try to increase their ticket sales by advertising that they don't show any advertisements.

    In the same way, only small ISPs would advertise Net Neutrality because A) they aren't big enough to convince any significant content providers to make deals with them and B) they can't afford the necessary equipment anyway. On the other hand, in this case there's nothing to prevent a small ISP's upstream service provider from jiggering the traffic. And for that matter, if Net Neutrality were not required by law, where would the ever jiggering stop for sure?

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