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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 '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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  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:53AM (#33031098)
    Where was he when the 70 Dems were against NN? Why didn't he warn against "how long it would take before the Daily Kos website loads significantly more quickly than the Fox News website"? Hopefully it just took him this long to learn about the reality of the issue, and he's not just a partisan spew nozzle. I sent the same warning to Rush Limbaugh when the 70 Dems opposed NN, but I never heard him change his tune regarding "Gubmint takeover of the 'Net"
  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33031190) Homepage

    What about someone like me? I run a little website because I enjoy it and because there is a small cadre of people out there that enjoy reading what I have to say.

    Now let's say Comcast says that unless I pay them $10 a month, they will slow down people browsing my site through their ISP. Then say Verizon tells me the same thing. And Cox. And Time Warner. Suddenly, my little $120 investment per year in my hobby is an order of magnitude bigger, and I can no longer afford it.

    THAT is why net neutrality is important. It isn't to protect the big guys, it's to protect the little guys. ::generalization time:: I find it funny that republicans say they are always "for" the little guy, yet net neutrality is some kind of boogyman amongst them, waiting to come and murder their children.

    It's really weird. And hypocritical.

  • Strawman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:58AM (#33031202)
    Nobody is talking about crippling anyone. Please stop spreading lies about what net neutrality means. Net neutrality only means that ISPs will provide nondiscriminatory service. Fox News has significantly more money than The Daily Kos, and would therefore benefit far more from a non-neutral net (as they could pay for faster service from ISPs across the board) than The Daily Kos would.
  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:05PM (#33031334)

    how does more government control mean more freedom of information?

    How did government control of the postal service mean more freedom of information (getting a letter from A to B in less than several months!)? How did government control of highways mean more freedom of movement (Fewer highway robbers and turnpike toll bandits)? How did government control/regulation of telegraph, radio, television, telephones mean more freedom of information? NN is not about "make content fair", it's about "make queuing/lining up for service fair"

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

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:10PM (#33031414) Homepage

    Will someone please define "free market" for me?

    Literally, one with as few rules as possible. A market scenario in which whatever happens in the market must be good, because the "invisible guiding hand" ensures that the market always makes the best decision.

    In practice, nobody has ever had a free market. There's always some degree of regulation.

    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.

    According to strict, laissez fair capitalism, the BP spill happened because that was the optimal market outcome, and in the long term if it is good business to prevent such things, and if not, it will keep happening. I would argue letting oil companies self regulate gives them no incentive to actually fix things if it might impact their bottom line.

    It's about as brutally Darwinistic as you can get, and its proponents like to think that any form of regulation and rules placed on industry is an impediment to their proper role of making as much money as they can. Effects on society be damned since in the long term, society will vote with their dollars and get the optimal outcome.

    In short, it's something people hold up as in ideal, which never actually produces the results and good things that people like to ascribe to it.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#33031442)

    If this were really such a cut & dry partisan issue, why have 70+ democrat members of congress also asked the FCC to drop it's plans to impose net neutrality rules? []

    I'm not a big fan of the FCC having this power, and not because "I'm a republican," (I'm actually not, in point of fact), but because I see what moronic regulations the FCC has imposed on television & radio. If you look at the "content controls" they've enacted on those formats, is it all that hard to imagine that they'll soon be tasked with "content regulation" on the internet as well, in the form of mandatory parental controls & staggering fines on sites deemed to violate some obscure and arbitrary FCC ruling?

    They do it with TV and radio today. If you give them the same control over the internet, I won't be surprised to see them attempting the same regulations there within a few years. I'm all for the concept of net neutrality, but I'm not convinced the FCC is the body best suited for 'regulating' a 'free and open' internet. I'd like to see a dramatic limitation of their powers to impose anything more than "thou shalt not filter or shape traffic," at the very least.

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

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:13PM (#33031480)
    "Free markets" don't actually refer to the capitalist ideal. The "free market" really means "the system that best maximizes corporate profits." Usually that means as little regulation on corporations as is possible, except when it comes to regulations that create a barrier to entry. So for example, with ISPs, "free market" means that the ISPs can make whatever changes to their policies that they want, and that the regulations on installing fiber or providing wireless access are sufficient to keep new ISPs out of the market without hurting the profits of existing ISPs too much.

    At least that is how I understand the term "free market."
  • Re:A big fat idiot (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:15PM (#33031518)
    You're a fucking idiot. It's precisely because of government intervention that you're capable of carrying out a safe, happy, healthy life.

    That is, unless you wan't the government to cease all regulation with regards to transportation safety standards, food safety standards, building codes, etc. I suppose that's all typical liberal elitism too, eh?

  • Re:New movie idea! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:18PM (#33031590)
    This reminds me of something that really bugged me about this story on CNN. When CNN reported basically this same story yesterday, the link from their front page read "Former SNL Alum talks Net Neutrality" or something like that. Then you click, and it turns out they're talking about Senator Franken. It struck me as really disrespectful to refer to him that way. It would be like referring to the governor of California as "Former Body Builder Schwarzenegger" or our 40th president as "Former Actor Reagan".

    Yes, Franken started out as a comedian, but he's now an elected United States Senator and should be afforded the same respect as any other Senator. Of course, the amount of respect we give to our senators tends to be vanishingly small (in most cases deservedly so), but we at least give them the dignity of referring to them by their proper title.

    I'm probably overreacting, but I was surprised to see a supposedly serious news organization do something like that.
  • by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:21PM (#33031632) Homepage

    This isn't an issue of Fox News paying more for their servers. That's a fair way to improve infrastructure.

    The fear is that without Net Neutrality there will be pay-for-play. Let's use something less politically involved so that it's easier to look at the real issue. MySpace has lost a lot of market share to Facebook, so they decide to pay AT&T 'x' amount to make sure that Facebook doesn't load well for their users. Perhaps they block a style sheet so the site becomes visually unusable. It's basically an ISP protection racket.

    There's a substantial difference between fair (upgrading servers, buying more bandwidth, etc.), and unfair (paying to cripple competition).

    And remember you shouldn't get up in the politics of whether you like Fox News or not. If you happen to like Fox News just imagine MSNBC does this to Fox on your internet connection.

  • Interesting quote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:32PM (#33031912) Homepage

    I can't find the exact words, but I watched a documentary on poverty the other night, and one of the economists basically said this:

    "In a purely capitalist economy, the market solution to a famine is a lot of dead people. Demand for food then falls, the supply again reaches a price equilibrium, and then the problem is considered solved."

    People always favor an unregulated economy when they are at the top of it.

  • I take your point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <> on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:36PM (#33032002) Homepage Journal
    but social software and social networking are all dependent on a neutral net that makes it easy link and combine. It is also true that ASP and SaaS business models are also dependent upon a neutral net.
  • Re:I take your point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:43PM (#33032150)
    Oh I agree 100% (was just joking above). I always think the best example though, for explaining net neutrality to people unfamiliar with it is to talk about video on demand services. When I'm trying to teach them why a neutral net is important, I point to the fact that, for example, both Netflix and Comcast offer video on demand. But only one company is an ISP and in a position to affect the quality of the other's business by capping or slowing bandwidth. This tends to help people grok net neutrality faster than aligning it with the interests of facebook and flickr.
  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:44PM (#33032166)

    Likely because they have doners or other special interests that would be negatively affected by it, just like any other politician working for themselves and not the people.

    Right, my point is that painting it as some sort of partisan issue is kind of misleading when elements of both parties are actively fighting it. Franken is doing this, and your commentary on the "republicans say..." does this too. It distracts from the real issue at hand, which is that the telcos are throwing money at everybody they can to make sure this goes away.

    Once again, I like the notion of net neutrality, but am reluctant to believe that the FCC won't abuse its regulatory power down the line as soon as some well-intentioned PAC says "but think of the children, there's boobies on the internet!" And suddenly, rather than shaped traffic, we have websites being fined out of existence for "harming innocent children." I would prefer that - if FCC gets control of this - that Congress explicitly limit the FCC's charter in this space to simply be "imposing net neutrality, with no extra authority to impose future regulations or restrictions not authorized by Congress."

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

    by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) < minus herbivore> on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:48PM (#33032276)

    Is a free market one in which Comcast controls everything b/c the government keeps its hands off?

    You've got it wrong. Comcast controls everything because they enter into contracts with local governments that forbid other cable providers from coming in.

    Effectively in this example, Comcast controls everything because the government can't keep it's hands off.

  • but I don't understand why the web 2.0 crowd, ASP and SaaS have not spoken out about net neutrality. Collectively they have some serious money; but for whatever reason seem complacent.
  • by jgagnon ( 1663075 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @12:57PM (#33032454)

    If they pay to be one of the "more neutral" crowd instead of the "less neutral" crowd, then they win over their competition. It's too early for them to get involved from a theoretical perspective. In time they will all get involved from a business perspective.

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

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @01:43PM (#33033296)

    Free market is never stated in terms for the consumer. It is always stated in terms for big business.

    While regulation is always stated in terms for consumers. The interesting thing is that the more regulated a particular industry is, the more dominated it is by big business. Somehow, it seems that the thing that is always stated in terms for the consumer always favors big business. Maybe it's time we tried something that is stated in terms for big business, then perhaps we will get something that actually favors the consumer.

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

    by shadowfaxcrx ( 1736978 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @01:56PM (#33033548)

    Your comment on it being Darwinistic is right on, but I think it needs some expansion. It's only Darwinistic if you look at it as the companies and the consumer in the same ecosystem. Without net neutrality, the "fittest" player in that game will be the large corporations that control access to and traffic on the internet. The losing player - the one who, in our Darwinistic model, ends up being booted out of the gene pool (or in this case, gets rendered completely subservient to the whims of the large corporations) is the consumer.

    The free market is fine and dandy as long as consumer choice actually matters. But when consumers cannot choose an option that is actually fair to consumers, the free market has failed to achieve the "Best" outcome, and must therefore be pulled back in order to give consumers a chance.

    We aren't talking about leveling the playing field between Comcast and Charter here. We're talking about leveling the playing field between big business and consumers. And if we don't, then anyone who doesn't own a major ISP is going to lose.

    Franken's example was one outcome - another is having to have a line of credit of sorts with every ISP that hosts anything you might want to look at. If I'm a TWC customer who wants to look at a website hosted on Comcast's servers, there would be nothing to stop Comcast from charging TWC money to access that site. And TWC would, of course, pass that right on to me. The megacorps would get rich(er), and I would be left either paying potentially hundreds of dollars per month to browse the web, or cutting off my net access altogether, which in today's society would have major consequences in daily life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:19PM (#33033992)

    Except that your argument is a bit flawed, since it isn't the FCC that determines the regulations in regard to decency, they are only tasked with implementing the rules. The FCC can fine folks for showing a booby during the Superbowl, because Congress passed a law not only giving them that ability, but REQUIRING that they do so. The FCC has no authority nor ability to levee such fines, unless directed to do so by law. They take laws enacted by Congress, and determine a standardized set of rules that will apply to enforce that law.

    Lets also note that the FCC was not behind the COPPA regulation, or any of the other regulations ALREADY put on the books, designed to save the children from boobies.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:23PM (#33035162) Journal

    I find your blind faith in the free market ... disturbing.

    Free is no good if that means "freedom to eliminate all competition". We want a competitive marketplace, not anarchy. We need some rules to stop destructive competition and monopolization.

    And even then, you can't count on the free market to deliver the best value. Sellers never want anyone to be resourceful, they want us to have to always buy solutions. They're always trying to make up more problems for us to buy our way out of. Always trying to manipulate the public. Madison Avenue. For instance, the other day a car dealership held a show, and I came to see the electric car they were showing off, and got a refresher on what sad trained monkeys those salespeople really are. They were dropping all kinds of disparaging hints about the smallness and unsuitability of city cars. Claimed you can't take a city car on a long trip, and when I disputed that, shifted to you wouldn't want to. Hardly troubled to listen to what I was saying, and I about had to slap them to get them to shut up about the crossovers and move on to the electric car. Well of course they make more profit if they can sell the monster SUV.

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

    by EvolutionsPeak ( 913411 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:56PM (#33035620)

    in truth a free market would almost never result in a monopoly.

    On what do you base this conclusion? How much is "almost never"? What should we do when one does occur? Is it possible to understand the set of circumstances under which they occur? If so, should we use that understanding to try and prevent them from occurring?

  • by NiteShaed ( 315799 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:18PM (#33036908)

    So because you don't like the messenger you're going to instantly switch positions? If Franken came out and did an interview about how he firmly believes in the force of gravity, would you jump out a window because you'd no longer believe that things fall? If he said swimming in raw-sewage was bad for you would you race to the nearest waste-treatment plant to go for a quick dip?
    Comments like that are a great example of why our system is so hopelessly broken.

  • Re:Interesting quote (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zeroshade ( 1801584 ) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:25PM (#33047670)

    Unless of course the famine was caused by a shortage of resources. Then the free market example you have given will just make the famine worse. Those who produce the food will produce more food, thus running through resources quicker, thus making the famine worse. Also, as a result of the famine, prices will go through the roof (supply and demand) since there will be a high demand of food and a dwindling supply. Thus a balance would eventually get struck as those who could afford the food continue to eat and those who cannot afford the food will die. The length of the famine is irrelevant. A government regulation to ensure people food would be necessary. Otherwise you're just saying "oh, if you can't afford this necessary food for your own survival. Too bad, the free market has decided that you don't get to eat."

    Just because the free market approach works in many cases, does not mean it works in all cases. We don't live in a vacuum, whereas the free market is only guaranteed to work if there is no external influence. A closed system.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein