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AT&T's Net Neutrality Doublethink 215

GMGruman writes "George Orwell would be proud of AT&T, as Bill Snyder explains in this blog post, for its new ads saying it supports Net neutrality when in fact it is working actively to scuttle proposed FCC rules that would clearly ban discriminatory practices against different types of data, such as video streaming or VoIP. It's also trying to get government subsidies to build a substandard broadband network for the under-served areas of the US. If it and its carrier partners win, 'Internet freedom' will mean freedom for carriers to be the 21st century's robber barons."
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AT&T's Net Neutrality Doublethink

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  • I'd like to see... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...electricity companies trying to charge you different prices for using different applicances. We already have "electricity neutrality", why isn't net neutrality taken for granted?

    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:14AM (#30401212)

      Because there's no 'unlimited' plan for electricity.

      If ISPs charged people according to usage, there would be no need for a 'net neutrality' bill... ISPs would be loving people who used more, instead of hating them. But then the users would be angry because they've had 'unlimited' so long.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those people. And I'd love to have my cake and eat it, too... But the simple truth is that I use WAY more than most people and they get to pay for some of it and that kind of thing is going to come to an end one way or another.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by irondonkey ( 1137243 )
        I agree with you that more than likely, we'll eventually end up with a use-based billing scheme. The issue I see is that it seems the ISPs want to keep the "normal" users at the current pricing, and simply charge more for the "heavy" users. If it's usage based, some people will use less, which ought to mean they get charged less since they no longer pay part of the bill for the heavy users, which would mean less money in the pockets of your ISP.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The flaw with your reasoning is that ISPs are already undercharging. So there's no "spare money" to decrease rates. I'm personally paying $15/month - how much cheaper can it get? Instead people are using more data, which will require laying more lines, and therefore require higher rates for those demanding users while everyone else holds steady.


          "AT&T is asking asking the government to define broadband as anything over 768Kbps downstream and 200Kbps upstream." What's wrong with

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Svartalf ( 2997 )

            Depends on the existing lines.

            In many rural areas they have party-lines (not usable for DSL...) or lie at a distance from the CO that's well beyond anything other than iDSL rates if that. They'd have to spend a bit of extra money that the profit margins aren't "high enough" for them to bother with- there's a reason that the rural areas have Internet access problems in the first place. Nobody wants to serve the areas because they're less profitable.

            If they're wanting to define Broadband as 768/200k, I'm al

            • The distance for 1.5 Mbit/s, using a DSL repeater, is 10 miles. For 768k it's almost twice that. Worst-case the phone company could do for a rural town what they did for my old coworker - run a fiber line to a DSLAM, and then use the DSLAM to provide DSL over the existing phone lines.

              As for cost, it probably will be higher for rural users. Oh well. They choose to live there, which means having some inconveniences like having to drill wells for water, bury tanks for sewer, and pay $30 for 768k instead of

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Just... Wow. What's wrong with having the government define broadband as anything over 768Kbps down and 200Kbps up? I'll tell you. The rest of Earth will laugh at us. That's what's wrong with that. I realize the size of the US puts a different burden on network deployment here, but please stop pretending like we don't know that pretty much all of South-East Asia is now on DOCSIS 3.0 and/or fiber-to-the-door.

            I offer to /. again my anecdote about Comcast changing my plan from unlimited to hard capped at 250GB

            • I would have to guess that since Comcast is really the US Government, that this is not what we call a healthy business model. Rather than spend their money marketing and lobbying, they should have spent it on their network. I think it's absolute horseshit, and I feel cheated every time I pay the bill.

              Right on brother. I dare anyone to disagree with that. If they spent half of the money they are spending on lobbying and advertising, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

          • My parents in Green River, Wyoming have the ability to choose between cable and dsl. They have the same DSL options I do in Prescott Valley, Arizona and their cable internet service is far better than my option (Cable One). Prescott Valley has a population of over 35K, while where my parents are, the population is about 12K. Prescott Valley has several close surrounding towns/communities, and Green River isn't close to anything.

            I know this is all anecdotal, but I'm in a rural area, paying about $50/mo
          • 768k is slow as hell and sure as hell isn't broadband. If you're going to define speeds for broadband, start somewhat higher - 2Mb at least. Our broadband service currently sucks donkey balls and redefining the word won't change that.
          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Wholesale bandwidth costs less than $10/Mbps in the quantities they buy. Since they oversell it by a factor of 100, that's WAY less than $1 out of the $15 you pay.

            The bulk of that $15 is to maintain the connection between your house and their facility. That cost is the same if you saturate your connection or never use it at all.

            I doubt very much that they take a loss on you.

      • by ffejie ( 779512 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:41AM (#30401538)
        Read the article -- they state that the debate over tiered pricing is over. The ISP will be implementing tiered pricing. The new debate is over how much can the government involve themselves in the matters of maintaining a network.
      • How long do you think it will be before all those buffet restaurants go out of business? Why do you think they and their customers have tolerated such an unfair pricing structure for so long?
        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

          Actually, many of them DO go out of business because it's really, really hard to get 'unlimited' right, including making it a good deal for the light eaters as well as the gluttons. Sometimes it's not even possible.

          But those restaurants don't implement a 'neutrality' scheme, either. Many of them put up more of the cheap food than the expensive food. (No, not all... But then, not all ISPs will limit, either.)

          I never said ISPs would go out of business. I said they would solve the 'unlimited' problem in s

      • Nope... you're correct, but metering electric usage is, IMHO, a little more of a necessity than metering Internet usage. Electric power generation involves very real and substantial costs that aren't really a matter of one-time investments and minimal upkeep to "upgrade" so more power is supplied. EG. If I put several large businesses on a power grid and they start drawing a lot of electric power, I very well might be looking at putting another generator online to handle the load. Every hour that genera

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        The economics are all different. Speed (Mbps) in the internet world is economically equivalent to KWh in the electricity world. The routers don't consume any more of anything if you push your connection 24/7 than they do if you don't even use the net.

        The ISP's upstream is billed on 95th percentile of the data rate rather than on megabytes as well. The telecoms providers have had a sweeter deal than the power company from day 1. The power company never ever gets to bill you for a MW/hr every month even thoug

    • by ffejie ( 779512 )
      And I wish that the Internet were as simple as Electricity. Looks like we're both not getting what we want this Christmas.
    • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:46AM (#30401606) Homepage Journal

      No, we don't have "electricity neutrality" - you've never heard of "off-peak" KW/Hr rates? It only makes sense to offer it to commercial consumers of electricity, but they pay less for electricty used during off-peak hours...

      • But at least those rates are based-upon a realistic limitation (it's cheaper to run generators at night rather than shut them down, and that benefit is passed to the consumer). With internet non-neutrality, we're discussing Comcast ISP charging 1 dollar per gigabyte to access youtube.com, but providing comcast.com at no cost. It's using monopoly power for an unfair competitive advantage.

        • P.S.

          My electrical company is discontinuing nightly rates, and I'm not happy about it. My home would heat a tank of water at night, and then use virtually no electricity during the day, but now it won't matter when I run my heat - it will all cost the same. :-( Talk about a step backwards!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by club ( 1698284 )
      Are you sure? I know that in both Australia and New Zealand you are billed differently if you have Nightstore Heater, as just one example.
    • ...electricity companies trying to charge you different prices for using different applicances. We already have "electricity neutrality", why isn't net neutrality taken for granted?

      Actually, they do charge more for locations with a worse power factor [snopud.com]. A lower power factor is caused by inductive loads, so you are charged extra for using too much inductive loading.

      That said, it doesn't matter if this is caused by a large motor or what the motor is used for, which is how the ISPs would love to regulate. The utility companies also tell you up front what PF results in which charge, while the ISPs may not.

      So, the utility companies are actually fantastic examples of neutrality. Limits a

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        >>>A lower power factor is caused by inductive loads, so you are charged extra for using too much inductive loading.

        In other words they discourage the use of CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps). Interesting. IMHO that's a good thing, because Edison resistance bulbs eliminate mercury poisoning, dim turnons, premature heat-death, and high cost.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        However, power factor can be corrected and unlike the distinction between a server and a client, a poor power factor actually costs the power company more to provide for.

    • This is a weak comparison you're trying to make. Electricity is usage based which means you ARE charged for using different appliances. A lightbulb is going to be inexpensive to operate. But run something like a clothes dryer and your usage rises dramatically, meaning you're going to pay significantly more. Run something like an electric welder and you pay even more. This is how pricing for all utilities work.

      With Internet and television, on the other hand, you pay a monthly fee for with is, in theory, pers

  • by martas ( 1439879 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:00AM (#30401032)
    i wish there was a tractable way of making lying in an ad a criminal offense punishable by death for all those responsible...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shikaku ( 1129753 )

      False advertising.

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

      • i wish there was a tractable way of making lying in an ad a criminal offense punishable by death for all those responsible...

        He's obviously not completely serious, but he makes a good point. We do need more enforcement and harsher penalties for misleading advertising.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kenh ( 9056 )

      Where would we store all the convicted politicians once your proposed law goes into effect?

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:01AM (#30401040)
    With the AT&T network, "under-served areas of the US" includes pretty much the entire country, including isolated rural towns like San Francisco [sfgate.com].
  • Subsidies ok. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:03AM (#30401066) Homepage Journal

    Broadband is one of those cases where experience matters more than ideology. Ideologically, we might say we should have no government interference in the broadband market, or the government should provide broadband to everyone, but what really worked is the government giving the carrier a measure of guaranteed returns on their investment in exchange for satisfying some general social obligations. This worked stunningly well in the old electric industry, where state PUCs did regulate rates, for sure, mandated service levels, for sure, but, at the end, the shareholders of the electric company got a nice dividend check every year. Not a growth stock, but a reliable dividend stock, a good service for consumers, a good company to work for in the community, and it was really about as much of a win-win deal as anyone could get until everyone got greedy - consumers and shareholders alike, and screwed it all up with electrical deregulation.

    To wit : I really don't have a problem with taxpayer subsidies for rural broadband IF the broadband companies subsequently tie themselves to Public Utilities Commissions for the setting of rates in the way electricity worked in the better and pre-deregulation days. Give the rural carriers the monopoly, have the government set the rates. That provides badly needed service, the government gets its social responsibilities fulfilled, and the carrier owners get a nice dividend check.

    This isn't rocket science. But we just have to get rid of this awful grip of capitalism / socialism black and white thinking that has seized our minds and focus instead on historically that which has worked to build our communities.

    • Re:Subsidies ok. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Wildclaw ( 15718 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:39AM (#30401518)

      Why subsidize when you can own instead? It is just a waste of tax payer money. If you want broadband built, you buy the service of putting cables into the ground from companies, and end up owning the cables, which you can then rent out to ISPs who want access to end customers. To separate concerns and reduce centralization, you place the ownership in city/state owned non-profit businesses created for the purpose of maintenance and fee collecting on said broadband.

      What you don't do is give big companies 200 billion dollars in tax relief and tell them to build broadband if they want. Because that way you don't get anything in return. Because once the money has been given out, the companies accepting the subsidies have no reason whatsoever to keep a low price. They can just go ahead and charge as much as the market can bear. And there won't be many competitors because the subsidized will have an unfair competitive advantage.

      • Re:Subsidies ok. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Friday December 11, 2009 @11:43AM (#30402382) Homepage Journal

        Why subsidize when you can own instead

        Because you want the private sector to come up with the capital for initial construction and by doing so, assume the risk for construction delays and other problems.

        The reason a government has a private sector, isn't ideological, or rather why a private sector works, is sound risk management. If the King wants to build a tower, and screws it up, the King is out the money. If the King goes and says, "I'll tell you what, build whatever you want, but I get a piece of the income", well, the King doesn't have to assume any risk, at all. He makes the barons, if you will, eat the risk and the capital costs, and gets to collect. When you socialize something, you have the government absorb all the risk. Tis much better to let the government work through monopolies, and just collect the money.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Being a customer of the Uncle Sam Monopoly is even worse than being under the Comcast monopoly. At least I can tell Comcast to go "frak off" and not use their service. Try that with a government-owned ISP and they'll just suck the money from your paycheck instead. Like the U.S.P.S. and Amtrak does.

        And if you think RIAA is bad.....

        Wait until the government becomes your ISP and spies you downloading a movie or song (or worse: porn). They won't just send you a nasty letter; they'll have the cop

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)


        A better solution, now that we have fiber optic, is simply let as many companies enter a neighborhood as desire. Fiber is so narrow you could run a dozen companies in the space of a centimeter, and then just let each customer decide which company they like best (Comcast or Cox or Charter or AppleTV or LinuxISP or MSN or AOL or...). And before you say it can't be done, some towns already do have multiple ISPs. You pick your ISP the same way you pick what brand of car you want.

    • >>>screwed it all up with electrical deregulation

      It works well for me. My natural gas + electricity bill dropped about 10% when I switched companies. That may not sound like much but when multiplied over a year that's ~$250 saved.

      • by tjstork ( 137384 )

        It works well for me. My natural gas + electricity bill dropped about 10% when I switched companie

        There's a looming reliability problem in the works.

  • by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:04AM (#30401082) Journal

    Robber Barons? You, sir, slander the good name of brilliant men like Jay Gould and Daniel Drew. How dare you! [mises.org]

  • will be? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by castironpigeon ( 1056188 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:06AM (#30401100)

    If it and its carrier partners win, 'Internet freedom' will mean freedom for carriers to be the 21st century's robber barons

    What do you mean - will be? We already pay a ridiculous monthly fee for piss poor access that you can't even get in most parts of the US. The areas that do get broadband access are all carved up into local monopolies so that users can stay crowded on the same cables as 10 years ago that can no longer carry the load and if you do try to use the broadband you paid for you get disconnected or throttled by the carrier. So how is this any more than business as usual?

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      Providing basic access to those currently with only dial-up access is a reasonable goal, even if it doesn't meet the highest definition of "high-speed broadband."

      Your real issue is within the realm of the state and local regulatory agencies - your town, state enables monopolies, not the federal gov't.

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:07AM (#30401122) Homepage

    I remember when the internet first went private. None of the telecos minded inheriting the original infrastructure. But now that it's time to invest in new technologies, they whine like a spoiled little kid. Somebody call the whaaaambulance.

    They're trying for the same deal the big banks get. Taxpayers shoulder the infrastructure investment, but the telecos get to run it and make obscene profits without any real oversight.

    Our 40 year "government regulation is bad" experiment ended with disastrous results. Without a referee looking out for the interests of the public, which has a lot of skin in this game, the telecos are going to ride us all like a carnival pony, just like Wall Street.

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      Uhm, there's been NO INVESTMENT in the infrastructure since "the internet first went private"? Really? The network hasn't been upgraded or backbone capacity hasn't increased since then?

      What a simplistic view of the telco/internet infrastructure...

    • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:54AM (#30401704) Homepage Journal

      Our 40 year "government regulation is bad" experiment ended with disastrous results

      You mean the failure of our 100+ year experiment whereby the government hands out favors to some entrants, giving them a tremendous marketplace advantage with the full power of a gun behind it? That experiment has a long history of failure world wide. It shouldn't surprise anyone that it is also failing here.

      We have had a mixed economy for a very long time. The #1 trick of the statists and their useful idiots is blaming all of our problems on what we continue to have a shrinking share of - marketplace freedom.

      One would surmise that if unregulated markets were actually a problem, the amplitude of our cyclic economic destruction would be ever decreasing as the benevolent weight of regulatory graft piled ever higher. Yet this has not been the case. And in light of experimental results that contradict the hypothesis thus far tried, a scientist, or a policy maker who's aim was economic success, would be willing to modify their approach.

      But that's not what we have. We have a government that is it's own end. It exists for its own power, and any course of action not commensurate with the increase of power and the subjugation of man isn't realistically considered.

      • by wurble ( 1430179 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @11:53AM (#30402490)
        Not all regulation is created equal, and that is why the argument from the "free market" folks is a false dichotomy. For example, letting a company gain a monopoly in a particular region/industry is bad. Enacting regulations which actually FORCE a monopoly is even worse. One is free market, the other is not, both are bad.

        It is not a matter of free market or not a free market. It is a matter of what regulation.
        • by bmajik ( 96670 )

          For example, letting a company gain a monopoly in a particular region/industry is bad


          Monopolies that help the monopoly holder sustain unnaturally high profits are unsustainable without coercion, and in western society, coercion is done by governments.

          IOW: if there is a monopoly out there that is over charging you and reaping huge profits, they are not long for the world unless they have a government propping them up somehow.

          If it was truly an issue of the profits being too high, a different market place

    • Wait, I don't follow your logic here:

      Government regulation of the Telco's has caused this, so we need more regulation?
    • 40 year experiment? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Benfea ( 1365845 )
      This wasn't a 40 year experiment. We had much the same thing going on in the late 1800s and early 1900s with much the same results. We didn't learn our lesson the previous two times, so I expect we won't learn our lesson this time either. In another few decades, the big corporations and big financial companies will whine that following the law is too hard and the sheeple will listen to them.
    • >>>Our 40 year "government regulation is bad" experiment

      You have it backwards. Most of the ills of the last 20 years (back to the Savings-and-Loan Crash) were caused by regulation. For example, it was government regulation that caused the current economic crash. I know you won't believe me, but here are the politicians in their own words *encouraging banks to make high-risk doomed-to-default loans* (or else face being drug into court).

      Clinton-era: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivmL-lXNy64 [youtube.com]

  • YOU let this happen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:10AM (#30401168)

    They'll be robber barons because like in the 1800s, they bribed/gamed the governmental control system in place to achieve monopoly power.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would it not be nice for consumers in these rural towns to be able to vote with their dollar and pick the best carrier.
    "Hmm, I could choose AT&T who wants $60 to be able to browse 4chan, or, I could choose INTERNET4YOU who will give me free access to every site for only $40"
    Why is the government supporting the creation of bigger and bigger monopolies?

  • More like "Net Neutrality Doublespeak", no?
  • Net Neutrality means the Internet backbone carriers should operate just like the post office - everyone buys a 44 cent stamp and takes their chances with delivery, you can't pay for better service, and there is no lower class of service than first class.

    And substandard broadband? By who's definition? If I listen to some folks almost all US broadband pales in comparison to hand-picked alternatives (Finland, Japan), other folks think that anything that is several times faster than dial-up is better.

    Wait, I ge

    • Re:Don't get it (Score:4, Informative)

      by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @11:39AM (#30402318) Homepage

      Actually...the Post Office is a poor analogy.

      1) You can buy better service (Priority Mail, Express Mail...).
      2) There IS a lower class of service than First Class (Parcel Post...).

    • A lack of Net Neutrality on the other hand, places a still growing communications phenomenon in the hands of for-profit companies who, as is their want, will charge as much as possible for the lowest acceptable quality of service while attempting to gain control over as much of the market as possible.

      Many people connected to the Internet do so through an effective geographic monopoly, so at this stage there are no market pressures to prevent them charging what they see fit, and never improve the situatio
  • unlike regular electricity you can do a lot of things with the electrons coming over the internet wires

    Google and the rest of the silicon valley upstarts want to stream all kinds of data and grab most of the profits while avoiding large capital investments into low return markets like broadband access for people. the ISPs are in a constant upgrade mode and want to stop the cycle. every time they upgrade their networks and start to pay the interest on the bonds some other company makes up some new service to

    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      i guess the google profit margins comes from them running their own "isp", thanks to grabbing dark fiber left over from dot-com and similar...

      • by alen ( 225700 )

        they own the fiber for their own network, not for the last mile to people's homes. that is the most expensive part of every network to lay, maintain and support.

        the ISP's are always complaining with the bandwidth problems at the last mile or on their networks a hop or two from the last mile. In AT&T's case it's at the tower level since you need thousands of towers to serve some markets. and AT&T's profit margins are a lot lower than Google's. Maybe Google should start their own cell phone service an

  • Bill Snyder writes a long post, with meticulous footnotes, criticizing certain AT&T ads, but not once does he link to the actual AT&T ads! Where are the ads so we can judge for ourselves?

  • It is so difficult for an editor of a site that calls himself "news for nerds" to know the difference between QoS and net neutrality? I mean, the issue has been discused for so long it is even boring.
    TFS talks about the discrimination against "some types of data", that is QoS and generally accepted to be a good thing. In the other hand, TFA talks about different service providers (true net neutrality issue).
    Giving the number of times these terms have been discussed, it is annoying that an editor still bri
  • Orwell proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by a_nonamiss ( 743253 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:58AM (#30401772)
    Why would Orwell be proud? I think he would be horrified. He wasn't adulating the society in 1984, he was writing in fear for what ours might become. The book was supposed to serve as a wakeup call. The fact that we're inching closer to this society might make his prediction correct, but I don't think he'd be happy about that.
  • George Orwell would be proud of AT&T

    No he wouldn't. Describing something in a work of fiction isn't the same as advocating it.

  • It always amuses me how so many of you will jump on the band wagon that a company using the government's regulations to its benefits means that there isn't enough regulation, or that the overpowering government in all aspects of life as abhorred by Orwell is the same as AT&T business practices. Stop and take a look at what those who want net neutrality are actually asking for: The government should create rules that force service providers to charge the same regardless of usage. Who sets the price? Wh
  • Is this something like the canSPAM act, the one that didn't .. can spam that is :)
  • by smitty777 ( 1612557 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @11:52AM (#30402482) Journal

    I've got it! We can create our own open source network lines. Each person will go to the hardware store and buy 10 meters of fibreoptic cable and dig a trench in front of their house. We can take our spare parts and combine them and make servers! Power to the people! Stickin it to the man! Yeah!!!

  • You can be against regulation while still being for the principals of what people think they are getting when they say "Net Neutrality".

    Being opposed to regulation does NOT mean you are opposed to what the regulation is trying to accomplish, you just see a better way to achieve the same effect.

  • Early on, the debate about Net neutrality centered on the issue of tiered or metered pricing .. The argument now is much more complex and centers on control of content and applications on both the wired and wireless Internet.

    If a carrier can pick and choose among different types of content and different types of applications, its competitors (and, ultimately, the users [infoworld.com]) are severely disadvantaged.

Only God can make random selections.