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If the FCC Had Regulated the Internet From the Start 191

Posted by timothy
from the council-of-wise-and-benevolent-men dept.
In the spirit of (but with a different approach than) last week's post "Is Net Neutrality Really Needed?", an anonymous reader writes with this "counterfactual history of the internet, but one that is all too plausible. Unfortunately, I can see this happening under the new 'Net Neutrality.'"
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If the FCC Had Regulated the Internet From the Start

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  • Pure Fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @09:40AM (#34669782)
    If the internet had been regulated under Title II in the first place, as it should have, giving ISPs and upstream providers "common carrier" status, we would not have the mess we have now.

    Deep packet inspection would be illegal "interception" of content, making tiered or discriminatory service impossible. The government would explicitly need a warrant to snoop. Etc.

    It might not be a perfect solution, but it would be a hell of a lot better than what we have now. Sometimes regulation is not evil.
  • Not so realistic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @09:42AM (#34669794) Journal

    Ok, its an interesting read, but not every realistic. As draconian and fascist as the US govt has become over the last 10 years, many of the ideas in the article simply wouldn't fly. Not everyone in the US is a sheeple. Again, interesting, but there is no way in hell that it could have happened remotely as they stated in the article.

  • by LordKronos (470910) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @09:50AM (#34669804) Homepage

    Ok, its an interesting read

    Then you're giving it more credit then I would. I didn't find it the slightest bit interesting. As I read it, I was thinking how unrealistic it was, until I got to the section about the FCC not approving the internet because it's beta software, etc. At that point I said 'this is stupid", read a couple more paragraphs, got to the first mention of Microsoft Bob, and promptly closed the page. The level of absurdity in the article is so high, it sounds like it was FUD written by Comcast to rally people against net neutrality.

  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @09:56AM (#34669818)

    "In late 2010 the last act of the democratic congress was to pass a massive legislative coup giving the FCC all the authority it required to enforce Net Neutrality and a mandate to bring america's infrastructure up to par with the rest of the first world.

    Over the next two years the FCC rolled out a series of reforms which led to the end of the stagnation and abuses of the monopolies and duopolies in charge of access to the internet in america, began a campaign to run fiber straight to the home in all major american cities creating a massive number of public works jobs, and singlehandedly raised speeds, lowered prices, and improved the quality of american internet connectivity."

    See? I can play the "lets make up a fantasy scenario that perfectly supports my position" game too.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @09:57AM (#34669822) Homepage

    but basically it's a fairy tale about if the FCC had started regulating interstate electronic communications in 1993, and how it would have mandated Minitel [wikipedia.org] compatibility for electronic devices.

    It's amazing how many people have gotten taken in with the misconception that the FCC is "taking over" the Internet. The simplest analogy is toll roads: they're built by private companies, but the government doesn't allow the operators to favor or ban traffic of competing contractors (or anyone else, for that matter).

  • by krygny (473134) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:00AM (#34669828)

    While I don't agree with some of the scenarios in the article (a bit simplistic), I have always been astonished at the laissez-faire approach the Federal Government has always had toward the internet and the WWW. I can only explain it by their ineptitude. Not their libertarian philosophy. As a whole, the Government really never "got it" nor understood the potential until it was too late. Now that it's too late, their hoping that it's not too late. Typical.

  • by Goody (23843) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:03AM (#34669836) Journal
    And what's worse is the conservative media and blogosphere will cite this article and quote it and their viewers will eat it up and be regurgitating it everywhere. It's quite unrealistic and is really just a lame attempt at comedy. TCP/IP and the Internet were in use in other countries before 1993 when the article's timeline starts. If the FCC would had done any kind of blatantly bad regulation, the Internet would have merely evolved outside of the US. The fact is the FCC didn't regulate it, and net neutrality (however currently defective/insufficient) doesn't come close to any sort of heavy-handed regulation. But that doesn't support the right wing narrative of an out of control fascist state.
  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:06AM (#34669844)

    It would have also prevented smaller regional ISPs from being able to participate in the market, as the only businesses with the immense legal resources to comply as common carrier were...wait for it...the Telcos.

    So you'd have been getting your crappy dialup only from AT&T, BellSouth, PacBell, none of whom care about your internet connection like your ISP did, and all of whom have shown a willingness to collude against the consumer.

    Common carrier means a lot more, practically speaking, than you think it does.

    As if it knew you were advocating handing an advantage to the telcos, my Captcha word was: "Tyranny"

  • by stevesh6 (1018130) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:14AM (#34669864)
    And if someone in a position to do so had gone before Congress in 1990 and testified that in ten years or less, every 12-year-old in the country could have a box in his bedroom which would provide him with 24/7 access to unlimited, free hard-core pornography, the Internet would have been smothered in its crib. Politicians aren't the people to be making these decisions.
  • by Senes (928228) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:21AM (#34669896)
    This isn't about regulating the internet, it's about preventing private regulation; if you hate people telling you what you can and cannot do then you should support preventing ISPs from being able to decide how your connection can be used.

    As long as people are tied to their service providers then they're at the provider's mercy unless it is illegal to impose such controls. "Regulating the internet" would be telling users what to do; that's exactly what would happen if ISPs could shape traffic and they wouldn't have to release you from your contract.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:25AM (#34669910)

    Most people don't realize that draconian rules and totalitarian environments don't happen overnight. They happen over several years of incremental changes that fly below the radar until there comes a point when people wake up and cry "How the hell did this happen?!?!" What's worse is that these incremental measures are instituted "for our own good" and those who place a higher value on emotional reasons for doing things rather than the practicality of the measures and blindly accept these measures. They rarely see the unintended consequences of a policy. Net Neutrality sounds like a good idea: Cool, all traffic will be equal! My ISP won't be allowed to filter my torrent downloads!! WOOT!! Yeah, um, no. Your ISP is going to scale back or cancel any rollout of faster service or they will lower everyone's speeds or they will charge everyone more money. The targets of government regulation never bend over and take it up the ass. They always pass on the ass-f*cking to someone lower in the food chain.

  • by Trinn (523103) <livinglatexkali@gmail.com> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:30AM (#34669938)

    What's up with the anti-NN articles lately? Smells of astroturf if you ask me, to be honest, though I'm wondering how it got past firehose stuff. This article is just the usual FUD approach, I thought slashdot was a bit more capable of recognizing such. The article boils down to some simple appeals to partisanship, fear of being on the "losing side" (when we all are unless you happen to be one of the F500 CEOs or something else equally silly), fear of oppressive government control / fear of the government 'breaking' the internet (the Order and Report is actually very specific and focuses merely on anti-competitive cartel/monopoly tactics)...

  • by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:30AM (#34669942) Journal

    On Slashdot it's mostly imagined that regulation is a wholly good thing, at least in principle: the government siding with the people against the corporations.

    Any reminder of the problems that can be caused by regulation is therefore worthwhile.

    This is not to say that regulation is a wholly bad thing, either. But it can easily make things worse, by closing out competition, for example.

    Wherever you see corporations colluding against the public, you may be tempted to suggest regulation as the solution. If so, don't be surprised to discover that their industry is already heavily regulated, and (perversely) regulation is exactly what is enabling the collusion.

    And what is the inevitable solution to that collusion? Why, more regulation, of course. The existing regulation must be inadequate, so we need more of it.

    In other words, we have only a hammer, so every problem must be a nail. There is a cycle here, and it's not the virtuous sort.

    So, if you wish to call for regulation, you should consider the regulation that's already in place. Why is it inadequate? And how is your proposal immunised against the same problems? Because you will not be the first person to suggest regulation - those who came before you had similar ideals, and despite their good intentions, they created the current mess.

  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW (79176) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:35AM (#34669958)

    They have the power to do common carrier NOW. Notice that that is not what they are doing.

    The FCC does not want to make the Internet common carrier.

    They are violating a court decision doing regulation the way they are doing it.

    It is very telling as to what the FCC is more interested in based on how they are going about this.

    I think "fairness" is a big motivator for them, but they're not concerned about packet fairness, I think they're more concerned about content fairness. Thats a path I don't want to see them take.

  • Regulations... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:42AM (#34669986)
    Actually, regulating the Internet could take many forms. For example, you might only be allowed to use certified equipment (or perhaps only certified software) to connect, as is the case with CB radio. Or, more optimistically, ISPs may be required to act as common carriers and not be allowed to turn the Internet into a clone of the cable TV system.

    It is not really a question of whether or not the Internet should be regulated, it is a more of a question of which regulations would be best for the American people. The large corporations that currently control our access to the Internet want to turn it into another cable TV system, with "websites" acting as "channels" and "peer to peer" being a forgotten memory; without some sort of regulation, they will go ahead and do that, and we'll need to establish a second Internet to escape.
  • by khallow (566160) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:49AM (#34670016)

    You must not have gotten the memo. Anytime that a government agency does something which might theoretically affect a business in some indirect, but negative, way, it's an unwarranted abuse of government power and an example of Nazism, Fascism and probably Socialism.

    Of course, the scaremongers are helped quite a bit by the fact that the theory is so often true in practice. For "exhibit A" consider the security apparatus. Because they could, the Department of Homeland Security took over airport security in the US and has everyone who flies on a commercial plane doing all sorts of humiliating things. For "exhibit B" consider the Commerce Clause [wikipedia.org] in the US Constitution and how it's been used over the past century or so to justify any regulation of any commerce (be it interstate commerce or not). A couple good examples of how this clause has been abused are the War on Drugs and the recent banning of the incandescent lightbulb (I believe the law takes effect in 2012). For "exhibit C", the Social Security number was explicitly promised not to be a national ID, but things turned out otherwise. For "exhibit D", consider the intelligence and law enforcement agencies over the past 90 or so years and the many illegal things that they've done.

    Even when the intent is to be business-friendly, there are frequently unintended consequences. Sure the original story was hysterical and unrealistic, but there is precedent for government action being more harmful than expected.

  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @10:50AM (#34670022)

    I think "fairness" is a big motivator for them, but they're not concerned about packet fairness, I think they're more concerned about content fairness.

    The fact that everyone is so focused on "content" shows that the suits still do not really understand the Internet, or perhaps they do understand it but they do not like what it means. This is not about "content;" the Internet is not just another broadcasting system. Websites are not just "channels" that you use a web browser to "tune in" to.

    Unfortunately, as you pointed out, the FCC does not see things this way...

  • Re:Only in america (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:07AM (#34670064)

    The internet is a worldwide network. If one country banned or censored it, it would make almost no difference to everyone else - expect that the amount of spam might be down a little.

    Now it is. What about in its infancy? Without the US, would Finland house the ICANN lookalike?

  • by DCheesi (150068) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:09AM (#34670074) Homepage

    In the early days, internet service did not require regulation because there was plenty of competition. The barriers to entry were low; anyone could set up a modem bank and T1 service and start serving dial-up customers. My provider was a local one-man operation, with service just as good as (and cheaper than) the big names.

    But with the transition to broadband, the incumbent phone and cable providers gained immense power. Their existing physical infrastructure gave them a largely insurmountable advantage over potential new entrants. This created an effective duopoly, one that still persists today in many markets. In such a situation, the free market cannot function, and government regulation is required to prevent abuses.

  • Re:and so ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:11AM (#34670084) Homepage Journal

    Because it was the small ISPs that pioneered one price, all-you-eat Internet service. Early offerings from the telcos were metered services, priced per megabyte.

    The small ISPs forced the big telcos and cable to offer the pricing structure that's in place today.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:21AM (#34670114)
    The scenario described in TFA is but one of millions and millions that could have transpired. Yet that one was chosen because it fits into the author's agenda.

    .
    GMAFB

  • soooo ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:26AM (#34670140) Homepage Journal
    what relevance does this have ? telcos consolidated because of the all you can eat prices ? they werent going to consolidate, if there wasnt such a model ? youre talking as if consolidation didnt happen in ALL other sectors left without regulation.

    let me put bluntly : if you allow it, big dog eats the small dog.
  • by hercubus (755805) <hercubus@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @11:56AM (#34670252) Homepage

    So, if you wish to call for regulation, you should consider the regulation that's already in place. Why is it inadequate? And how is your proposal immunised against the same problems? Because you will not be the first person to suggest regulation - those who came before you had similar ideals, and despite their good intentions, they created the current mess.

    What regulation? What can my carrier currently do or not do with my content? Is traffic shaping okay? Can this or that ISP throttle and or choke my Netflix streaming? When they start doing it who do I call to complain?

    Ever flip on a light switch? I do it all the time and it works pretty good. There's a highly regulated monopoly that works okay. How did regulation of old school utilities turn out okay despite the involvement of government? Can we look at that success and apply it to the ISPs? When the power company wants more money they have to present to a board that checks the numbers. Not perfect, but what is? When my ISP wants more money they just change their name and say we now have an X in our name and your bill is going to go up X dollars! Isn't that GREAT!!!

    And before we talk about stifled innovation, I'll consider real innovation and not some imagined future innovation. The rest of the world has innovation, we don't, and we're currently ever so not regulated...

  • by mapkinase (958129) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:13PM (#34670288) Homepage Journal

    In late 1993, AOL and Delphi become the first online services to offer the Internet. The FCC orders both to drop the feature until the FCC's labs approve it.

    Where does this come from? Current sizzling fresh regulation does not say anything about that as far as I know.

  • by hercubus (755805) <hercubus@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:20PM (#34670330) Homepage

    ... created an effective duopoly, one that still persists today in many markets. In such a situation, the free market cannot function, and government regulation is required to prevent abuses.

    This is the part that the Libertarian loudmouths ignore. There is no market. Their magical invisible hand that solves all problems just turns into a choking fist when you have too few competitors.

    The only sane solutions are government owned pipes (think water/sewer) or highly regulated privately owned pipes (think electricity/gas).

    I like my local city utility monopoly. I like my power and gas monopolies. I despise all two of my choices from the Net duopoly camp.

    Every city knows they have to "do" sewer/water/trash. Every state knows they have to "do" power and gas - even if it's just to set up a framework for local co-ops. Wish some state was willing and able to "do" Internet and fight off the corporate douchebags. Maybe next generation...

  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scalarscience (961494) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:30PM (#34670364)
    Every time I've seen the 'suits' attempt to create 'channels' in an attempt to market something on top of a layer of tech, the technology underneath it moves so quickly that any attempt at a static, controlled form of it winds up being obsolesced rather quickly. Remember having screensavers with feeds pre-rss as if we'd all been waiting for CNN to enter every idle second we had? And apps you could run at the top of your screen (which were early forms of spyware in some cases, logging basic user metrics before anyone care about such things.)
  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:37PM (#34670392)

    I think "fairness" is a big motivator for them, but they're not concerned about packet fairness, I think they're more concerned about content fairness.

    The fact that everyone is so focused on "content" shows that the suits still do not really understand the Internet, or perhaps they do understand it but they do not like what it means. This is not about "content;" the Internet is not just another broadcasting system. Websites are not just "channels" that you use a web browser to "tune in" to.

    Unfortunately, as you pointed out, the FCC does not see things this way...

    Bingo.

    "Net neutrality" is an attempt at turning the internet into just that: web sites being channels you tune in to. Because the content providers don't like a free-for-all - they want barriers to entry into the content-providing market. The internet has - up until now - dramatically reduced the barriers to entry into the content market. Movie studios, record labels, old-school newspapers - they've all had their apple cart upset by the internet.

    Oh, yeah, and the AD AGENCIES that make billions and billions of dollars off those industries - even on the internet. ESPECIALLY on the internet (gee, I wonder who THAT could be?)

    But the world's best barriers to entry into any market are thousands of pages of government regulations - most of them written by lobbyists and lawyers from large corporations already in the market. The "net neutrality" rules have been written by the content providers, with a little help from the ISPs. Oh yeah, that's a combination with the best interests of the consumer at heart.

    And guess which political party the content providers overwhelmingly donate to?

    And guess who they are? They include RIAA and MPAA.

    Who are the useful idiots on the "net neutrality" debate, now?

  • Re:Pure Fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101 ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:54PM (#34670462) Homepage Journal
    I'm a free marketer, but yes, sometimes regulation is not evil. Proof? Easy. Child labor laws and its sibling, compulsory education. We could also talk about paying poor miners in scrip and forcing them to buy goods at inflated pricing at Company Stores [wikipedia.org].
  • by sstamps (39313) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @01:26PM (#34670584) Homepage

    Seriously, I had to check which site I was on when I started reading that article.

    If the FCC was as evil as it is painted in that article, BBSs would never have come into existence. Instead, FCC regulation ENABLED BBSs to exist, and at a level that could be afforded by most anyone.

  • Re:Regulations... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @01:30PM (#34670602) Homepage

    > When I connect my network, which, for the record, is
    > under my sole control, and not under any other regulation,
    > to another network, we have a piece of the "Internet".

    Well you run off the rails pretty much immediately, right here infact. The rest of your rather long rant is just based on this bogus bit of wishful thinking.

    You have to get through your ISP in order to get to the outside world. If they are unregulated, then they are free to mess with you as much as they want too. It's like if all of the surface streets leading to your local highway were controlled by Microsoft or McDonalds. They could control what gets to Target or Walmart or your local grocery store or even your own house via UPS or FedEx.

    Imagine Walmart or Apple being able to prevent Amazon or Netflix from delivering to you via UPS or the postal service.

    That's what your local unregulated ISP can do to you.

  • Re:soooo ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @02:00PM (#34670758) Homepage Journal

    No, what I'm saying is if it weren't for the small ISPs, you would paying metered prices. Small ISPs had a big effect on the end market.

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