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The Issue of Net Neutrality The invisible hand of greed?

#1 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-24, 10:22

Bill Moyer's Journal with Commissioner Copps of the FCC.
http://www.pbs.org/m...0/profile2.html

At issue is an April 2010 court ruling that the FCC does not have regulatory powers over internet service providers like Comcast. At the heart of this debate is the ideological concept of government regulation versus laissez-faire capitalism. The question is: which approach actually yields net neutrality?
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#2 User is offline   hotShot 

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Posted 2010-April-24, 13:57

Imagine there is a commercial bridge site, that has a monthly membership fee.

They make a deal with the national internet providers, that their data will be transported 3-times faster than the data of their competitors especially FBS (Free-Bridge-Site).

As a result of that deal, at speedball tourneys at FBS most boards cannot be finished within the time limit. All play at FBS get's significantly slower.

Now FBS can chance their business model and change a membership fee and pay for faster traffic, or they will lose their customers, because they are no longer satisfied by the service.

Would you consider that the American method?

In theory someone could limit your data traffic speed, hope you are in a business where you depend on quick access to news, like a broker or a journalist.

Would that be democratic?
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#3 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 12:30

The issue in the court case wasn't whether the FCC *should* have this regulatory power, it's whether it *does* have this power. It only has the powers granted to it by Congress, and the court found that this wasn't one of them. So I guess your question is whether Congress should legislate net neutrality, and have the FCC enforce this.

There are decent arguments both ways. Laissez-faire embodies the spirit of the free market. If you want something, you pay for it. If you want something better, you pay more. Why shouldn't a web site that wants to be able to reach customers faster be allowed to pay ISPs for that improvement? Isn't this just normal capitalism?

Net neutrality recognizes that the Internet is an enabling infrastructure, and its success owes to the free and equal access it has historically provided. "Information superhighway" is not just a cute metaphor, it suggests a real relationship. We don't have different highway toll rates depending on how fast you drive (although we do have special rates for trucks, and roads where trucks are prohibited, so there isn't true "road neutrality").

On the other hand, the Internet is also like the phone system or postal system. Companies that want to make it easier for customers to reach them can pay extra for toll-free phone numbers or prepaid reply mail.

#4 User is offline   cherdanno 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 12:44

This isn't really about free-market versus regulation. ISPs are a very heavily regulated market, and they benefit heavily from that; in many local markets they have monopolist structures (and in many more duopolist with just two broadband providers). Net-neutrality would be a way to prevent them from exploiting their market position as ISPs to gain advantage in the market of content providers, to the further detriment of the free market in other segments.
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#5 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 12:56

In the US, I don't think ISPs are very heavily regulated. Certainly not in comparison to other utilities. Most broadband companies sell Internet, cable TV, and phone services, and the latter two services are much more regulated than the Internet service.

#6 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 13:13

You guys do not seem to have watched the telecast or read the transcipt of the broadcast or I heard/read it totally wrong. Commissioner Copps pointed out, if I understood it correctly, that the ISP services were reclassified in 2002 by the FCC as information systems, and thus removed from telecommunications company regulations.

The court case found the FCC has no regulatory role over the present classification - Copps said - if I understood correctly - the classification should be changed back to telecommunications so the FCC can regulate the ISP services, that new law is not necessary.
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#7 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 13:24

Quote

The issue in the court case wasn't whether the FCC *should* have this regulatory power, it's whether it *does* have this power. It only has the powers granted to it by Congress, and the court found that this wasn't one of them. So I guess your question is whether Congress should legislate net neutrality, and have the FCC enforce this
.

If I understood the broadcast correctly you statement is factually innaccurate. My understanding is that the court found the FCC does not have regulatory powers over information systems - the FCC under Bush changed the status of these companies from telecommunications companies to information systems - and it was this status change rather than law that prevents the FCC from still having regulatory control.

The powers are there already for the FCC to use - it is a matter of classification, not of Congressional decision-making.

Quote

There are decent arguments both ways. Laissez-faire embodies the spirit of the free market. If you want something, you pay for it. If you want something better, you pay more. Why shouldn't a web site that wants to be able to reach customers faster be allowed to pay ISPs for that improvement? Isn't this just normal capitalism?


I agree there are arguments both ways - but IMO the pure laissez-faire arguments are naive to the extreme. The question to me is which method best serves the public's interests?

Laissez-faire certainly serves corporate interests best - but without public-driven leadership it would be hard to imagine what the U.S. phone system, electrical grids, water systems, and interstate highway systems would look like.

We seem to have found out what happens to healthcare and banking when we give laissez-faire a free reign, and our broadband penetration is about 15th among all industialized countries.

Commissioner Copps pointed out that free enterprise works best when it is guided by public interests. And that is the debate IMO. Is he right?
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#8 User is offline   Gerardo 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 16:59

barmar, on Apr 25 2010, 03:30 PM, said:

We don't have different highway toll rates depending on how fast you drive

Sure we do.

At consumer levels, bandwidth is major price differential.

#9 User is offline   Gerardo 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 17:04

Should carriers be allowed to act (charge/manage/throttle/whatever) based on what kind of payload do they carry? Or not? If they do, in what circumstances?

#10 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 17:18

The question, of course, is not whether the internet itself should be regulated but whether or not the companies that provide access should be regulated. It really gets down to whether or not we decide that internet access is more a public utility than private enterprise, IMO.

The only reason there was access to telephones in rural America was because the telecommunications industry was required to give them access. If we allow supply/demand/cost/profit to solely determine interet acces how truly unfettered does that access become?

Do the tollbooth owners have the right to decide who can or cannot drive across the bridge and at what speed, based on payments?
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#11 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 17:23

Network Neutrality is a pretty complicated issue which involves a number of different dimensions

1. Architectural design principles for hardware / software
2. Pricing models
3. Legal principles

This is a dramatic over simplification, however, the Internet and POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) were architected using very different design principles.

The telephone system was designed to provide a very high quality of service. The underlying hardware and software was designed to provide near deterministic performance.

The Internet was designed under the assumption that the network was unreliable. In general, the design philosophy eschewed QoS type solutions, preferring to solve these problems by overbuilding the network and providing more bandwidth.

ATM v Ethernet provides a very useful example.

In general, the Ethernet type "Big Fat Pipes" won out on the technical side. Its much cheaper to overbuild a simple / stupid system than it is to engineer a complex QoS based network.

Here's where life gets complicated...

The service providers prefer systems that implement QoS / Differentiated Services because these systems allow them to make more money. If they engineer a "smart network", they can start selling value added services and they're no longer stuck selling a commodity.

A lot of the Network Neutrality debates boil down to arguments about "Engineering Principles" versus "Business Model"
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#12 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 17:37

Isn't the disturbing aspect that without regulation the ISPs have the power to determine content?
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#13 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 17:45

Winstonm, on Apr 26 2010, 02:37 AM, said:

Isn't the disturbing aspect that without regulation the ISPs have the power to determine content?

A lot of the original (Interet Engineering Task Force) IETF types have a very strong Libertarian bent to them.

Few of them are happy that the large Telcos are designing systems that have the capability to shape traffic. With this said and done, I don't think that they are any more excited at the thought of more government regulation.

Historically, opportunistic encryption was viewed as the easiest solution to this problem...

If all the traffic on the Internet is encrypted / anonymized then the Telcos can tell what is what.

If the Telcos can't read the traffic, they can't shape the traffic...

9-11 pretty much put the kibosh on this
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#14 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 18:00

Quote

Few of them are happy that the large Telcos are designing systems that have the capability to shape traffic. With this said and done, I don't think that they are any more excited at the thought of more government regulation.


This concept has become somewhat of a catch-22. Instead of the government regulating content we have consolidated among a handful of corporations who now devise content of their own, especially in the sphere of public information, i.e., news.

We have to be honest and admit that the method with which we receive information shapes the public debate.
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#15 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2010-April-25, 18:47

old old debate....do we redistribute the pie or try and grow the pie......see this issue raised in many other cases.

for example should we make sure all have equal access to InternetA which limits internetB or should we encourage InternetB which may cause pain for internetA.


Note protecting InternetA protects.....older established internetA companies....and hurts future internetB companies BUT may be more equitable/fair/Just......
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#16 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2010-April-27, 14:13

Gerardo, on Apr 25 2010, 06:59 PM, said:

barmar, on Apr 25 2010, 03:30 PM, said:

We don't have different highway toll rates depending on how fast you drive

Sure we do.

At consumer levels, bandwidth is major price differential.

True, at both the consumer and wholesale levels, there are price differentials for bandwidth of the access circuit. But normally, once a packet gets through that bottleneck, it's treated equally by the rest of the Internet infrastructure.

The net neutrality debate is over long-haul carriage. E.g. Google purchases high speed access from AT&T, but then has to pay Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, etc. to get them to carry the packets to their customers at the fastest rate possible.

#17 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2017-November-22, 07:33

From Washington Has Delivered a Tangled Message on AT&T’s Power by David Gelles:

Quote

It’s an ‘open the champagne bottles’ moment for AT&T. They can just tell people to pony up. — Tim Wu, Columbia University professor who coined the term net neutrality — the concept of providing equal access to the internet.

What next? Pay-per-post in the water cooler?
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#18 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2017-November-22, 09:05

From The Internet Had Already Lost Its Neutrality by Megan McArdle:

Quote

When President Donald Trump’s critics have demanded to know what his supporters got in exchange for voting for the genital-grabber-in-chief, thus far those supporters have had only one concrete achievement they could really point to: the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Now it looks like they will have another: the end of the Federal Communications Commission’s push into “net neutrality.”

A brief history of that effort is in order. Under the Obama administration, the FCC looked to write regulations that would limit the ability of internet service providers to play favorites with certain services on their network. The administration was haunted by the specter of ISPs blocking political content, accepting payments from big content providers like Netflix to prioritize their services (thus making it difficult-to-impossible for upstarts to compete), and otherwise turning the internet into a closed garden rather than the open frontier its architects envisioned.

Unfortunately, the FCC ran into a problem: Courts kept telling the commission that it didn’t have the legal authority to force ISPs to keep their networks equally open to all comers. So a couple years ago, the FCC moved to reclassify ISPs as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. That offered much more scope for regulation, and finally allowed the FCC to realize the dreams of internet activists everywhere.

Too much scope for regulation, said critics -- including Ajit Pai, then a commissioner, and now the chairman of the FCC. Pai wrote a blistering dissent to the FCC’s decision, summing up the major problem with the FCC’s move: It forced ISPs into an 80-year-old framework designed for the telephone monopolies of a much different era. Those regulations were more concerned about things like controlling market power than, say, promoting innovation. And while the advocates for net neutrality stressed the benefits for competition among content providers, the critics asked what would happen to competition among ISPs, since heavy-handed regulation often acts as a barrier to entry for new startups, which can’t afford to negotiate the regulatory apparatus.

Those of us old enough to remember the telephone service looked like in the 1970s, before the FCC unwound a little -- which is to say, pretty much like the service our parents had when they were children, down to the astronomical prices for long distance calls, and the chunky plastic rotary telephones -- can see why critics were concerned about giving the FCC that kind of power to block innovation. No problem, retorted advocates: The FCC just won’t use much of its regulatory power. The technical term is “forbearance,” and the FCC offered to do a lot of it when it brought ISPs under Title II, for example by forgoing its statutory authority to set rates.

But offering not to use the power is not the same thing as not having it. A future commission might change its mind, and in the meantime ISPs would have to plan their investments accordingly -- knowing that the revenue they’d counted on to make some new project pay off might vanish at the stroke of a commissioner’s pen. That kind of regulatory uncertainty does not generally foster innovation, or for that matter, sound business decisions.

Unsurprising, then, that under Pai, the commission quickly announced a proposal to roll back the Obama-era innovations. A contentious public comment period followed, but today, the FCC announced the final word: Tier II regulation of ISPs is going away, and the net neutrality rules with it.

The internet will be filled today with denunciations of this move, threats of a dark future in which our access to content will be controlled by a few powerful companies. And sure, that may happen. But in fact, it may already have happened, led not by ISPs, but by the very companies that were fighting so hard for net neutrality.

Consider what happened to the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi publication, after Charlottesville. One by one, hosting companies refused to permit its content on their servers. The group was forced to effectively flee the country, and then other countries, too, shut it down.

Now of course, these are not nice people. Their website espoused vile hate. But the fact remains that what they were publishing was not illegal, merely immoral, and their immoral speech was effectively shut down by a small number of private companies who decided to exercise their considerable control over what we’re allowed to read. And what is to stop them from expanding this decision to other categories, forcing the rest of us to conform to Silicon Valley’s idea of what it is moral and right for us to see?

Fifteen years ago, when I started blogging, it was common to hear that “the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” You don’t hear that so often anymore, because it’s not true. China has proven very effective at censoring the internet, and as market power has consolidated in the tech industry, so have private firms.

Meanwhile, our experience of the internet is increasingly controlled by a handful of firms, most especially Google and Facebook. The argument for regulating these companies as public utilities is arguably at least as strong as the argument for thus regulating ISPs, and very possibly much stronger; while cable monopolies may have local dominance, none of them has the ability that Google and Facebook have to unilaterally shape what Americans see, hear, and read.

In other words, we already live in the walled garden that activists worry about, and the walls are getting higher every day. Is this a problem? I think it is. But that doesn’t mean that the internet would get better if Google and Facebook and Apple and Amazon were required to make every decision with a regulator hanging over their shoulder to decide whether it was sufficiently “neutral.”

The fact that these firms were able to cement their power at the moment when regulators were most focused on keeping the internet open tells you just how difficult it is to get that sort of regulation right; while you are looking hard at one danger, an equally large one may be creeping up just outside the range of your peripheral vision. Indeed, you may be making one problem bigger while trying to solve another. We may indeed be facing a future of less choice and less consumer power. But this decision is unlikely to be what brings us there.

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#19 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2017-November-22, 09:55

Is there a silver lining to the end of net neutrality -- could ISPs block Trump tweets? :)

#20 User is offline   Al_U_Card 

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Posted 2017-November-22, 10:33

"Free" enterprise includes the price to be paid for research, innovation, development and distribution. As long as a monopoly (or collusion) is avoided by regulation and enforcement, the public demand will drive the profit incentive (At least in theory...).
Keeping tabs on the byzantine relationships of ISPs, content providers and distributors is where attention must be paid to ensure a level playing field as well as participants who are on the level.
If past performance is a guide....get ready to pay....yet again.
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