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Net Neutrality Protests Move Online, Yet Big Tech Is Quiet ( 71

The New York Times: Protests to preserve net neutrality, or rules that ensure equal access to the internet, migrated online on Tuesday, with numerous online companies posting calls on their sites for action to stop a vote later this week. Reddit, Etsy and Kickstarter were among the sites warning that the proposal at the Federal Communications Commission to roll back so-called net neutrality rules would fundamentally change the way the internet is experienced. Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site, cleared its entire home screen for a sparse white screen reading "Defend Net Neutrality" in large letters. Reddit, the popular online message board, pushed in multiple ways on its site for keeping the rules, including a pop-up box on its home screen. But the online protests also highlighted how the biggest tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have taken a back seat in the debate about protecting net neutrality (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; syndicated source), rules that prohibit internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast from blocking or slowing sites or for charging people or companies for faster speeds of particular sites. For the most part, the large tech companies did not engage in the protest on Tuesday. In the past, the companies have played a leading role in supporting the rules.
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Net Neutrality Protests Move Online, Yet Big Tech Is Quiet

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  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:44AM (#55731475) Journal

    The megacorps won't be very negatively affected by a tiered Internet, they could even benefit. They'll get shaken down by ISPs, but in return they'll receive massive barriers to entry, protecting their empires from any scrappy new startups forever.

    • This is why I have been telling people to buy Comcast stock. They will become the major gatekeeper for the US internet.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      That's likely because they already benefits before, the fact that they were for this abomination of NN in the US should make people very wary of supporting it at all. There were likely regulations in it that gave them more benefits and less consumer protections.

      • Hmm... can I still prefer the beast I know over the beast I don't even want to know? Because so far the internet is still quite usable.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Hmm... can I still prefer the beast I know over the beast I don't even want to know? Because so far the internet is still quite usable.

          Sure. Just remember if you want actual NN rules though you're still going to have to go through the process of nuking that abomination anyway.

          • Can we nuke Comcast first?

            I mean, even Churchill allied with Stalin to get rid of Hitler, even though he knew that "both pigs should be slaughtered".

            • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

              Can we nuke Comcast first?

              By all means. Just remember you also need to break the current stranglehold that those companies hold on media while you're at it. Gotta do the same up here in Canada, and it's a damn slow process. For comparison 4 companies(Rogers, Bell, Corus(aka shaw), Telus) own 95% of all media up here.

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      The very large companies probably have a slight preference for net neutrality, just because they already have nearly insurmountable advantages and they'd rather not have to pay the additional fees. But as you say, it wouldn't really be that much compared to their net worth, and having an even bigger barrier to entry would let them get way with a lot more consumer unfriendly stuff. "We don't care. We don't have to. We're [Facebook/Google]."
    • the big companies have the money for the fees and this means no upstarts can shut them down. Remember, at the end of the day Facebook is just a website with crummy adverts. All it takes for it to implode is for the teenagers to get bored and leave. Then nobody'll think they're cool anymore and the whole house of cards blows up.
      • You are right...Except all of the anchor's they've now created...

        Checking schedules for soccer/kids sports
        Facebook isn't my website?
        If only gmail would get rid of spam....
        Where else would I store my pictures?
        This isn't the internet? ...

        These are the day's of my life

      • "All it takes for it to implode is for the teenagers to get bored and leave. "

        Already happening...and not just teenagers. People got bored with it a long time ago and then Facebook started hardcore manipulation/addiction vectors of human nature. It is negatively affecting the people feeding the platform, making them depressed and creating a loop where they seek the source of their depression to cure the symptoms. I quit, uninstalled the app and feel great. Been to the desktop site maybe twice since I "q

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      The megacorps won't be very negatively affected by a tiered Internet, they could even benefit. They'll get shaken down by ISPs, but in return they'll receive massive barriers to entry, protecting their empires from any scrappy new startups forever.

      Any additional costs that megacorps encounter will be passed down to consumers. Business as usual.

    • Exactly. They have the companies that own or feed the large media corporations by the balls. If you want access to people you have to see Facebook or Google for permission. They will only benefit from Net Neutrality be revoked. They are in the club.

    • Google tried to fight the major powers and got slapped back (Free cell phone, free internet). When that happens people remember the old saying: "If you can't beat them, join them."

  • Perhaps they have been negotiating with the ISPs for great deals if they keep quiet? Or perhaps they are considering going into the ISP business themselves?

    I don't think anyone here would be surprised to see Google or FB switch sides if they could earn more money by doing so.
    "Do no evil" hasn't been on the charter for a long long time after all.

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:46AM (#55731493)
    The large tech companies like FB have already made arrangements with Comcast and the other pipe-owners. They will happily pay a premium for their bandwidth, as it will make it harder for newer, less flush rivals to compete against them. What good is an Old Boys' Network if you can't use it to squash the young pups?
  • They can afford to bribe ISPs for preferential treatment, and shut smaller competitors out of the market.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh No

  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:52AM (#55731531)

    The big tech companies all voiced support for Net Neutrality because it was good PR or aligned with their interests. At this point, however, the cause is lost, and, frankly, they’re accepting that while it’s not an ideal situation, it will actually work out okay for them.

    For instance, if ISPs decide to “tax” companies like Netflix, they’ll have to do so in a consistent manner lest they run into other regulatory issues, but those sorts of fees would basically establish a higher bar for entry that would prevent new competitors from entering the field against Netflix. Sure, Netflix will have to raise its prices, but so would anyone else who’s just trying to get started, so in the end it works out okay for them.

    If there was something to be gained by voicing opposition to these changes, they’d be doing it, but there’s nothing to be done now and nothing to be gained for them by remaining in opposition, so they’ve tapped out.

  • Gee I wonder why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:53AM (#55731539) Homepage Journal
    The entrenched big tech corporations are now looking to eliminate potential competition. For example Netflix bundles their app on Comcast cable boxes. They want to make sure that their traffic is prioritized over their competitors. Of course, Google will want Youtube prioritized, etc.
  • 1. The way the FCC imposed net neutrality rules is dumb. When broadband first rolled out, the FCC tried to regulate it by pretending it was the same as cable TV. That didn't work out, so now they are regulating it by pretending that it's the same as the telephone system. That's also stupid. The internet isn't a phone, or cable, or satellite TV, it's the internet.

    2. Getting rid of "net neutrality" in it's current form, simply means the FTC will be regulating it instead of the FCC. That's good or bad, depend

    • But that's the $64000 question: will congress step up to (re)enact net neutrality proper? Or sit on their laurels? As someone who typically votes republican, I have to admit it will probably be democrats who step up first, though I'd like to see a bipartisan bill.
      I do however, except someone to step up in congress, because the sponsor of that bill has "hero" written all over him to the people. What congress critter would want to pass up that kind of fame and PR?

      • Any congressman that knows being a hero to the small part of your constituency that even knows what NN isnt good if it pisses off the ones giving them money?
    • by atrex ( 4811433 )
      The "basic" QoS traffic shaping you refer to you be used by Verizon and Comcast to prioritize their own streaming services only, not streaming services in general.

      I could be wrong but I believe VOIP traffic is already prioritized, if you're using an actual VOIP box supplied by your service provider. The likes of Skype and others probably aren't though.

      IIRC the FTC is more of a reactionary body - one that only investigates complaints brought to it's attention from outside, not one that proactively estab
      • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

        The "basic" QoS traffic shaping you refer to you be used by Verizon and Comcast to prioritize their own streaming services only, not streaming services in general.

        Then that's not basic QoS. That's why I said service and connection agnostic rules. VOIP gets priority over streaming video. Streaming video gets priority over web sites. Web sites get priority over downloads. That's all that should be allowed.

        The fact that the internet can get "slowed down" during a major event (like Xmas day) is the direct result of a complete separate problem compared to NN. The lack of available bandwidth is caused by the big ISPs having little to no incentive to build out their network infrastructure because of the monopolistic contracts they hold in most areas. They suck up endless profits while investing only the bare minimum back into their equipment.

        You don't build out your infrastructure assuming everyone is going to be using the maximum amount of what you are providing. The water system isn't designed for every household to take a shower, run their dishwasher and washing machine all at the same time. Roads aren

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hmm... getting warm in here. I wonder if someone is trying to boil this here frog.

    Sure, the first few months won't see much change. But the change (and restrictions) will slowly ramp up, as people get used to them. Then one day we'll wake up with a completely balkanized internet, and wonder how we got there.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @11:23AM (#55731697)
    The ISPs can't wait to start charging Big Tech for access to their networks. That is why Big Tech is quiet, they are afraid to rile the ISPs.
    • by sinij ( 911942 )
      I disagree. Google blacklisting Comcast would be by far more damaging to Comcast than Google. Sure, it would be an equivalent of a nuclear war, but it is unlikely Comcast would survive this as an ISP.
      • Google won't blacklist anyone. But an ISP can do more subtle things to mess with the tech firms. An "overloaded" edge router here an there can make it look more like the Big Tech firm's problem.
  • by Maritz ( 1829006 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @11:40AM (#55731775)

    The FCC aren't going to listen, you don't have any actual consumer-oriented governance or lawmakers.

    You have a corrupt, pro-corporate setup. Foxes running the henhouse. All that. Pai has even been joking about it. Laughing at the peasants.

    This is a done deal. Just another glorious benefit of the orange manchild making you 'great again'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by DCFusor ( 1763438 )
      This would be the same Ajit Pai Obama appointed? I was with you up to orange. Bureaucracy is a separate government and doesn't change much with the tie color of the putative leader.
      • by ausekilis ( 1513635 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @02:25PM (#55733015)

        Obama appointed Pai to the FCC. Trump appointed Pai as FCC chair, and was then confirmed by Congress. Pai just happened to be the closest Big-Telecom Stooge. If not him, it'd be another Verizon lawyer.

        • Why assume that? O could have appointed any manner of person, but he's the one who choose Pai. Period. Remember, we all thought Wheeler was going to be a disaster, having been a cable lobbyist, but he turned out a lot better than anyone - including I'm sure the people who got him into the job - thought he would. Just asking for some honesty and some understanding of how things work in the real world, but I guess partisan confirmation bias rules here with the kiddies - facts need not apply, and no one RTFM
      • by pots ( 5047349 )
        Obama nominated Pai as an opposition commissioner, someone with very little actual power. He was there because the law requires two opposition commissioners. Trump nominated Pai as a majority commissioner, there because he liked what Pai wanted to do (i.e.: kill net neutrality).
  • The article itself makes a good point that the big guys have other existential policy / political issues that they're dealing with, so while they may want to push for net neutrality, they want to save their firepower for those issues especially since it looks like they can't win the fight for now given how the FCC is stacked.

    Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that supports net neutrality, said the biggest tech companies were less vocal because they were facing more regulatory battles than in past years. Social media sites have been criticized for allowing foreign actors to interfere in the presidential election of 2016. The biggest tech companies also face complaints from some lawmakers that they have become too large and powerful.

    “First, the major tech companies are very aware that Washington has turned hostile,” Mr. Feld said. “In this environment, the big tech companies try to keep a low profile and play defense rather than take positions that draw attention.

    “So with the dangers of standing up in D.C. greater, their existential concerns about net neutrality reduced because of their own massive size and a desire not to spook investors, it is unsurprising that Silicon Valley giants have melted into the background and have preferred to work through their trade associations,” he said.

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