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Al Franken's Warning On Net Neutrality 564

An anonymous reader writes "Democratic Sen. Al Franken weighed in on Net Neutrality over the weekend at the Netroots Nation conference of liberal activists in Las Vegas, calling it 'the First Amendment issue of our time,' and warning against Republican plans for less regulation. More from a blog post on CBSNews.com: 'Speculating on what the Internet could morph into under the Republicans' preferred lack of regulation, Franken asked the audience of bloggers how long it would take before the Fox News website loads significantly more quickly than the Daily Kos website. "If you want to protect the free flow of information in this country, you have to help me fight this," he said.'"
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Al Franken's Warning On Net Neutrality

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  • Re:"Netroots Nation" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Winckle ( 870180 ) <markNO@SPAMwinckle.co.uk> on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:54AM (#33031128) Homepage

    Given what he said in the summary (which i'm sure you read carefully) it sounds like he's asking for help fighting the cause.

  • by casings ( 257363 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:59AM (#33031228)

    you are a fucking moron.

  • Re:yes, please. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:36PM (#33032020)

    We used to have them. It was called dial-up and any upstart ISP could purchase enough of them and compete on price and features on a level playing field. If you didn't like your ISP, just sign up with another and the only thing that changed was the phone number on your communications program.

    The need for speed changed the hardware requirements and ultimately the level playing field disappeared and was replaced with the large corporations willing to spend money to get the last mile of high speed connectivity to your house.

    If only the government had built its own communication infrastructure instead of financing the small number of corporations that provided an infrastructure that pretty much locks the consumer to that corporation.

    The republicans balk at net neutrality but they don't mind the corporate welfare system that our current telecommunication policy provides.

  • It's more than that (Score:3, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:37PM (#33032028)
    This isn't simply that some websites will load slower than others. It will literally segregate the internet. Sites will load so slowly that you'll no longer be able to visit them at all. ISPs will use this to put companies that compete with them like Netflix, Hulu, Vonage, etc.. out of business. Don't doubt for a second that if your ISP sells phone or TV services that the ONLY phone or TV service that will work adequately on their network will be their own.
  • Re:yes, please. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:39PM (#33032068) Homepage

    Then I propose that we refer to it as a "hands-off market", since the term "free market" falsely implies a maximization of freedom.

    There's already the term "laissez-faire", which loosely translates as "leave it be" or "let it happen". It means exactly what you propose, as does "free market" in this context.

    The market isn't about maximizing your freedom. It's about maximizing the freedom of the market to conduct business how it sees fit.

    Meaning, the 'market' is free to do whatever it likes without restriction. Eventually the consumers will decide what is best, and everything will naturally work out in a way that is best for business, and gives consumers what they want.

    According to the free market people, the companies in the market aren't required to promote your freedoms and should be left 'free' to impose any rules they see fit.

    So, forcing them to not throttle their networks to keep out packets infringes on their freedom to conduct business. You only get the freedom to buy, or not buy a product. All other 'value' decisions fall out of the results of the market, with an implicit (explicit?) assumption that the market will find the 'right' solution.

    In this case, net neutrality says they'd like to apply regulations to industry, so that your rights are made more important that the rights of Comcast to say what you do with your internet connection.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:44PM (#33032160) Journal

    You said, "Libertarians somehow believe that private businesses should be stronger than governments but weaker than individuals."

    I'd just like to correct that flawed statement. I know *no* libertarians who think that, at all. Nowhere do they say private businesses should be "stronger than governments". In fact, a fully functional Judicial system is critical to keeping a business economy working properly. The problems we see today are largely caused by government CORRUPTION, where a big business is able to buy influence in government. Government essentially "partners" with said business instead of performing its proper function as a "referee", who allows the "Free Market game" to continue, unimpeded, until/unless a player starts breaking one of the rules. Big business, as we now know it, is pretty much like a major league football game where the refs can be bought off easily by any team's manager who wants to work a deal with them. The ones with the most money can cheat their way to victory, game after game, with impunity. (And to extend this analogy, we've got a bunch of attendees of said games who know something's wrong and are angry - but don't always realize WHY it's happening. Therefore, some of them are screaming that the rules of the game need changing to fix the problem ... instead of realizing the corrupt referees need to be ejected!)

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:47PM (#33032234) Homepage

    Recently read a book on this and the facts about what happened should frighten people because whatever new regulations came about, they didn't address what happened at all.

    The problem was that places like Credit Suisse and Deutch Bank were packaging up loans into aggregated piles and then selling bonds backing a pile of loans. Most of these "piles" or badly aggregated random assortments of loans of questionable value should have been rated as rather risky - like a BBB bond. Instead, the rating companies were completely irresponsibly rating 80% of the bonds at AAA or "investment grade". Oh, and if the institution packaging the loans took back the lower-rated stuff and repackaged it again 80% of that batch would be rated AAA.

    Well, that meant that you could buy insurance against these bonds defaulting for next to nothing, because they were highly rated.

    Big problem - lots of pensions and other stuff is required to invest in AAA bonds and only AAA bonds. Now you have the rating companies rating BBB bonds (junk) as AAA so pension funds and other stuff ends up investing in these. Of course they are going to default. And then what happens to the pension fund?

    The interesting part of all of this is the very few people that saw what was going on cashed in big (as in billions) on buying up "insurance" (CDS) on supposedly AAA rated bonds backed by mortgage securities. It seems that almost nobody figured out what the perfectly obvious outcome was going to be. Many of these folks were raking in plenty in loan origination fees while all this was going on, so that may have been a contributing factor.

    So far, I haven't seen anyone bringing the rating companies (Moody's, etc.) to task on this. Without absolute confidence in AAA bonds, I don't see how the pension fund system can work. The answer here may be more regulation, but certainly not the kind of regulation that has been proposed or enacted so far.

  • Re:Flawed (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nematode ( 197503 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:52PM (#33032334)

    What are you talking about? Net neutrality is basically about -preventing- content discrimination by ISPs. Comcast can't go throttling your traffic based on the content of the packets - whether that content is political or, as is more likely, based on how much the host server owner has paid Comcast.

    How you go from that to "the govt [will] squash opposing viewpoints in the name of neutrality" is a mystery.

  • Re:yes, please. (Score:3, Informative)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:54PM (#33032372) Journal

    The entire banking fiasco of the last few years is what happens when the financial industry has as close to a free market as they can get.

    You do realize that the banking industry is probably still the most heavily regulated industry in America... right? Health Care is a very close second, if not first now.

    Here is a small list of banking regulations to start with:
    http://www.federalreserve.gov/bankinforeg/reglisting.htm [federalreserve.gov]

  • Re:yes, please. (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:56PM (#33032412)

    Yep. The free market, WHEN IT'S THERE, works very well. Do you guys remember the dial-up market in the mid to late 90's? It truly was very competitive. I remember early companies having insane rates like $40 for 8 hours of access. Within a year or two that was down the $20 for 40 of access. A few more years? $20 per month for "unlimited" access (unlimited in quotes because they didn't seem to care how long you really used it, as long as you didn't have a "keep alive" program pinging a server to make sure it never disconnected). Towards the end of the dial up era I'd literally found a company locally that offered unlimited dial-up for $99 paid annually.

    It was truly easy to switch companies back then, as I went through almost a dozen different dial-up companies for my access. Now, I have DSL. It's a lot faster, but for speed at that rate, I have no others options. The DSL is bought from the local telephone company. No other provider has access to those lines so I can't get DSL from any other source. There's no cable out where I'm at so no option there either. My internet bill hasn't changed in price in 7 years now. About a year ago they did decide to up the speed of their bottom tier (the one I'm on), from 1Mbps to 3Mbps, but no change in price ($45 per month). They don't need to - they're the phone company, and no one else can compete.

    As said, the free market works WONDERFULLY when it exists. But in this case it doesn't. IMHO, we should have a Federally owned universal ISP option. You can't tell me in this day and age that Internet access isn't as important as the postal system, which is federally owned.

  • Re:yes, please. (Score:5, Informative)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @01:25PM (#33032912) Homepage Journal

    market scenario in which whatever happens in the market must be good

    - disagree on your definition. It's not about 'good' vs 'bad', that's what causes people to misunderstand markets and to want more regulation. It is about what is balanced vs unbalanced. Free Market does not know 'good' and it does not know 'bad', it tends towards an optimum price/quality ratio through market feedback system that signals whether there is room for competition or not.

    What governments and regulations do, is they break the business cycle of boom/bust, break something that in fact causes the market forces to be in balance. Government does not want the balance to be restored, it wants a perpetual boom and it never wants to see a bust, because bust means that there is a correction, businesses need to cut spending and government needs to cut spending, and where have you ever seen a government that actually wanted to cut spending and shrink? It does not exist, as do not exist people, who want to let go of power and money.

    And, when the greedy bastards manipulate the system to get as much money for themselves and screw everybody else over, you get to see all sorts of reasons why the free market isn't such a good system. The entire banking fiasco of the last few years is what happens when the financial industry has as close to a free market as they can get.

    - but it's not true, do you actually truly believe what you write here? There is no free market in banking, no more than in Telco or Oil business, no more than in other big businesses. Governments prefer monopolies because monopolies give them more money back, governments 'recycle' more money from monopolies than from cut-throat businesses that truly compete on cost, where do those competing businesses can get money from to give to governments? Monopolies are created by the governments, any big business today is fed and oiled by the government. Look at the banking industry - FDIC is a prime example of something that was government regulation aimed at fixing a non-issue that lead to a gigantic moral hazard and helped to create huge banking monopolies. FDIC was created after the great depression to fight a problem that only affected about 2% of banks - those banks lost the money and couldn't return it to customers, when in reality the problem was not about people not being able to get their paper money back, but about people having the money and not being able to buy things with them, because paper lost value. While creating FDIC for probably 'noble' reasons (in reality for reasons based on political expedience) the real effect of it became something more sinister: people now spend no time thinking about the bank they use, no more time than thinking about which TV they'll buy. Moral hazard for the customers and for the banks. Banks, who do not have to compete for customers based on their performance and sound business, those banks can become as reckless with money as they can get away with. This is not the only reason for huge banks running the government, many other reasons exist: like the entire idea that government pushes forward about living on debt and never really repaying it. Free money that government prints and gives to preferred corporations make monopolies, or do you believe otherwise? Military industrial complex and banks and insurance industries and colleges even, many businesses that get money directly (discount Fed window, military bills) or indirectly (government guaranteed loans, medicare), these businesses now do not have to compete for customers, and they can push the prices way too high, because government guarantees the money will be paid.

    According to strict, laissez fair capitalism, the BP spill happened because that was the optimal market outcome,

    - not really. Look at the competitors, while BP had maybe a thousand violations of various procedures over 10 years, the rest of the oil industry had hardly 50 combined. BP is a very special

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:39PM (#33034374) Homepage Journal
    "Internet access isn't a constitutional right"

    Remember, the US Constitution does not enumerate the rights of the citizenry, but, instead it is there to enumerate the LIMITED powers granted to the Federal Government.

    Everything else is (supposed to be) granted to the states and the people. So, you should have a natural right to pretty much anything not spelled out by the laws of the lands (mostly on a state and lower level).

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:05PM (#33034848) Journal

    Instead, the rating companies were completely irresponsibly rating 80% of the bonds at AAA or "investment grade".

    The theory of tranches of asset-based securities is that you expect a portion of them will have more risk due to prepayment or default. You separate out the ones that are less risky (which get a higher rating) from those that are more risky (which get a lower rating).

    This works pretty well when the probability of prepayment or default was well understood - it worked fine for about 20 years. During that time, AAA-rated mortgage backed securities did not default.

    The problem was that the US moved from a predictable, random occurrence of mortgage default to an unpredictable, massive burst of defaults across the entire country. This was combined with a deflation of all housing prices and reduction of house sale liquidity, which make the valuation of the mortgages that did not default questionable (you only have a price if you have a market. If no one shows up to the market because they are scared and confused, there is no price).

    lots of pensions and other stuff is required to invest in AAA bonds

    Indeed, government regulations required many people, including banks, to hold AAA-rated asset backed securities as capital. These regulations actually encouraged the holding of mortgage backed securities over holding individual mortgages - the regulations encouraged them to sell off mortgages to Fannie/Freddie and private companies, and buy back mortgage backed securities.

    The SEC "officially recognized" only a small number of ratings agencies for these ratings, including Moody's, Fitch, S&P.

    So we had all kinds of regulation. The SEC regulated the ratings agencies. Banks were required under Basel rules to hold certain rated securities.

    Everybody missed the risk of the real estate market bubble implosion - the private banks, the private insurance companies, the government-sponsored enterprises, the government regulators, Congress, and new homeowners.

    I think it is silly to try to draw ideological results from this situation. There simply was no real understanding of the situation ahead of time. Regulations are very good at stopping known bad behavior, but regulators don't have magic crystal balls into the future.

    The one thing we do know is that debt multiplies risk - we have learned this from history over and over. We might not know ahead of time what kind of new risk is being multiplied by the debt, but we know the debt does multiply the risk. Yet we have not gotten rid of the mortgage interest personal income tax deduction, or bond interest deductions for corporate income tax, two laws that encourage more debt than is required. Plus we seem to be willing to have plenty of sovereign debt.

  • Re:yes, please. (Score:2, Informative)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:10PM (#33035816) Journal

    nor did the government "forcing" people to make loans, since no such program existed.

    From my links:

    The Community Reinvestment Act (or CRA, Pub.L. 95-128, title VIII of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1977, 91 Stat. 1147, 12 U.S.C. 2901 et seq.) is a United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.[1][2][3] Congress passed the Act in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining

    It "encouraged" banks by requiring that they loan to low income families who most likely couldn't afford to get the loan in the first place and they were allowed to offer those loans at a higher percentage rate... which only made it worse. So now the banks had to loan to them, but they could loan at a higher (risk) percentage rate that the lower income was never going to be able to afford.

    Then the Fed stepped in and provided further incentives to the banks to provide these faulty loans by allowing them to trade them off.

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