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"Even to observe neutrality, you must have a strong government."
January 14, 2014 3:20 PM   Subscribe


 
Yeah, this could be bad.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Every time I read one of these stories I think, "That's batshit crazy. The EFF is banging a drum no one can hear." I also figure someone will pass a law enforcing net neutrality.

I'm getting jaded. I am starting to think the dream of the internet is over.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:25 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Fuck.

Spot the weasel word in this sentence:

Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want.

prediction: bittorrent traffic mysteriously stops working on all major ISPs within six months
posted by ook at 3:26 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


The entire ruling hinges on the FCC's not categorizing ISPs as common carriers. Had they done so, net neutrality rules would stand.

Now, whether the FCC has the balls to do so, is a whole different matter.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:26 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


I'm getting jaded. I am starting to think the dream of the internet is over.

Joyce summarizes my feeling on the internet nicely in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold."

(Sorry about the weird edit; had a tablet malfunction.)
posted by saulgoodman at 3:28 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Been nice knowing you all.
posted by tzikeh at 3:32 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Why doesn't FCC classify ISPs as common carriers? Are there downsides to that classification?
posted by nat at 3:33 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


TO VIEW THIS COMMENT, YOU MUST ACCEPT AN ADDITIONAL $5 CHARGE ON YOUR NEXT MONTHLY BILL FROM YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER.

CLICK HERE TO ACCEPT

posted by indubitable at 3:34 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


Why doesn't FCC classify ISPs as common carriers? Are there downsides to that classification?

Yes, the big telecoms would find it more difficult to fuck us.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:34 PM on January 14 [22 favorites]


In the future, all websites will be tacobell.com.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:34 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Good news customers! ComcastFilter is now Xfiltery!
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If they can promote some traffic, or restrict others, can they, in terms of these rulings, restrict traffic to a source entirely? I mean, could an ISP decide that no one gets to a certain news source at all?
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:36 PM on January 14


Well, now would probably be a great time to invest in or start an offshore SSH tunneling service.

This is bad, above and beyond bittorrent or "lawful websites".

Between crap like this and the NSA spying issues and the RSA backdoor (not to mention iPhone backdoors and everything else), adding to that our stagnating and regressive ISP/bandwidth market we're losing a technological arms race to, well, most of the world.

We need to convince Joe and Jane Sixpack or whomever that this is as threatening to us and as important as Sputnik and the resulting space race to higher strategic ground.

We're potentially losing bllions and eventually trillions of dollars in competitive business on the global market. This is not AmericaTM. We need to remain competitive more than ever.

We invented the internet. We invented network neutrality. We invented the integrated circuit, the microchip and so much more.

And we're throwing all of that out to protect the RIAA and MPAA's horse-and-buggy business model and monopolistic ISPs like Comcast and the like in an age of (metaphorical) flying fucking cars? What the fuck, America!?

Hey, MPAA and RIAA? Fuck your commercial movies and commercial music. Fuck your TV shows. You're killing off innovation and you're only hurting yourselves and costing yourselves and the artists you're supposedly protecting all kinds of fuck-off money!

Such a waste.
posted by loquacious at 3:39 PM on January 14 [82 favorites]


How is that meshnet coming along? Ugh.
posted by MillMan at 3:41 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


If the FCC wanted to fix this, they could do so quite easily. All this ruling says is that they can't treat broadband ISPs like common carriers but not classify them as common carriers. If they classified them as common carriers, there would be no issue.

However, I doubt they will do anything until the ISPs actually implement some two-sided pricing.
posted by demiurge at 3:48 PM on January 14




Or, more insidiously, those sites pay for their traffic not to be billed to the end user and the rates for everyone else incrementally rise.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


This can still be appealed, right? And go to a higher court?
posted by warble at 3:52 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


No problem, I'll jut use one of the smaller competitors for my broadband.
posted by thelonius at 3:52 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Does this mean that some things will no longer be possible at Zombocom?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:54 PM on January 14 [23 favorites]




"President Obama remains committed to an open internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use, and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products."

That's a rather... neutral statement that doesn't seem to take one side or the other in this.
posted by indubitable at 3:59 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


That's really ████████. I wanted ████████ ███ ███████████ FCC. But despite the ████████ I couldn't even ██████ ███████ ████████ █ ████████! I mean, come on FCC!

It's a free internet and ███████████ █████ █████ █████████ █████ ███████ ██████ █ █████ █████████████ █████ ██████ ███ stop them.
posted by joelf at 4:00 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Didn’t Verizon win? Yes, but there are three caveats.

First, and least importantly, the nondiscrimination rule applies to wireline Internet broadband providers but never applied to mobile Internet providers, so vacating that rule doesn’t affect mobile providers (like Verizon Wireless).

Second, and more importantly [...] the D.C. Circuit opinion suggests the permissibility of a different form of “no-blocking” rule [...]

But third, and most importantly, the D.C. Circuit majority reads section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as providing significant regulatory authority to the FCC. And the authority seems pretty broad.

posted by RedOrGreen at 4:00 PM on January 14


The FCC fought to treat broadband suppliers differently than telcos back in 2005 and now they are reaping what they've sown. For them to now start calling Comcast et al a "common carrier" would likely result in a lawsuit using Brand X as precedent.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:02 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I've been watching this issue since I took an upper level administrative law class in law school in--2008 I think? Anyway, I came to the conclusion then, a conclusion upheld by every single court that has looked at the issue, that is exactly the same conclusion that we got today. Let me put it for you very, very simply.

The Telecommunications Act gives the FCC the authority to categorize various telecom activities as "telecommunications services" or not. If it does categorize a particular thing as a "telecommunications service," that gives it the additional authority to impose significant regulations on said activity, including common carrier regulations. If it chooses not to categorize an activity as a "telecommunications service," its regulatory authority is significantly more limited and does not include the imposition of common carrier regulations.

Back in like 2002 the FCC decided to categorize consumer broadband as an "information service," not a "telecommunications service." At the time, they wanted to let consumer broadband grow and thrive without the burden of federal regulation. And taxation, for that matter. You pay taxes on every phone line you have, cellular or fixed, but not nearly as many on broadband connections. It seemed like a good idea to pretty much everyone at the time. It was a new technology, and no one was entirely sure where things were going to end up. Indeed, the industry was changing so quickly that there was a real and valid concern that any regulations the FCC promulgated would be technologically obsolete by the time they came out.

Well, since then, the FCC has decided that it wants to impose certain regulations on consumer broadband, including things which look very, very much like common carrier obligations. But it has not recategorized consumer broadband services from "information services" to "telecommunications services." As such, it is obvious to pretty much every court that's considered the question that the FCC is trying to have its cake and eat it too. If it decided to recategorize broadband as a "telecommunications service," there is not any way on earth that that decision could be overturned. It is manifestly, unquestionably within its statutory mandate. But it would require a significant amount of bureaucratic blood, sweat, and tears, and quite frankly, the FCC can't be arsed.

Courts don't like it when administrative agencies can't be arsed to follow their own organic statute or indeed their own previous regulatory decisions.

That's about the sum of it, people.
posted by valkyryn at 4:06 PM on January 14 [83 favorites]


now would probably be a great time to invest in or start an offshore SSH tunneling service

Most bittorrent seedboxes (colocated servers dedicated to running bittorrent clients) also provide SSH tunneling and/or VPNs. E.g. seedboxes.cc and whatbox.ca. It's pretty handy when you're on public wifi. There are also a bunch of VPN only services that are even cheaper.

What's funny is that copyright prosecution has turned these kinds of anonymity services from cypherpunk fringe sites into fast, reliable, professionally run businesses. It's great.
posted by ryanrs at 4:07 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


TBH I'm pretty sure piracy will come out of this just fine, consider that a good thing to whatever degree you will, it's everybody else I'm worried about.
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: "Every time I read one of these stories I think, "That's batshit crazy. The EFF is banging a drum no one can hear." I also figure someone will pass a law enforcing net neutrality.

I'm getting jaded. I am starting to think the dream of the internet is over.
"

It's been over for at least 2 years for sure, and possibly 5 or 6. I'd say 2007-2008 is the last of the internet as it was/could have been. Since then it's just become more and more a festering shitshow. An argument could be made that 2003-2005 was even potentially the seed. I firmly believe that at least 2001-2003 is still safe territory net-wise.

Google+, Facebook, Twitter, these all sort of started the downhill slide.

That said, these are the services. In some ways I'd argue that while those suck and started the downfall of content, the providers themselves are where we should really look askance. These are the old time big players who have ruined so much...

In the end, it's Capital, pure and simple.
posted by symbioid at 4:14 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


i keep thinking of those stories i hear about china, how it's pretty commonplace for people to know how to use a proxy server to get around the great internet wall and how they were finding someway to post on twitter during all the wu wei stuff even tho twitter is blocked. or they had their own twitter or something. idk.

so it's not our government per se saying we can't go to alternet.org. it's the government saying ComFinity can say we can't go to alternet.org

i do not like that.
posted by sio42 at 4:15 PM on January 14




Cypherpunks, Anon, & Reddit types have been idly fooling around with Meshnet stuff for a while now. Should the technology start malfunctioning too heavily for their standards I am confident in a solid effort arising to repair it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:20 PM on January 14


"I mean, could an ISP decide that no one gets to a certain news source at all?"

They could decide to route all your Netflix requests to Comcast OnDemand, yeah. Or just slow Netflix to shit, if they're a little more subtle.
posted by klangklangston at 4:25 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]




To present a counterpoint, David Farber, a former chief technologist of the FCC and an important engineer who helped create key internet technologies, has long been against net neutrality rules:
When the FCC asserts regulatory jurisdiction over an area of telecommunications, the dynamic of the industry changes. No longer are customer needs and desires at the forefront of firms' competitive strategies; rather firms take their competitive battles to the FCC, hoping for a favorable ruling that will translate into a marketplace advantage. Customer needs take second place; regulatory "rent-seeking" becomes the rule of the day, and a previously innovative and vibrant industry becomes a creature of government rule-making. Advocates of government-mandated network neutrality have argued this is necessary to permit new and resource-poor innovators to bring their products to market; in fact, it will have exactly the opposite effect: innovators are better at fighting it out in the market with better products rather than fighting it out in front of the FCC with high-priced lawyers; they will lose out. The best example: since the inception of the Internet, backbone networks, regional networks, and content delivery networks have exchanged traffic under privately negotiated contracts (call "peering" and "transit" contracts) with no "help" from regulators. Recently, Level 3, a backbone and now content delivery network, has complained to the FCC that Comcast is renegotiating their contract in ways that violate network neutrality. Level 3 discerned that the FCC was now willing to inject itself into contracts that were previously privately negotiated, and that Level 3 could gain a negotiating advantage over Comcast. Unfortunately, the FCC has just agreed to "investigate" Level 3's allegations. And so it goes; market negotiations are trumped by a regulator too willing to inject itself into what has always been private transactions.
posted by shivohum at 4:28 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


"No longer are customer needs and desires at the forefront of firms' competitive strategies"

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahaahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahhahshshhahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

GASP

hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahah…
posted by klangklangston at 4:30 PM on January 14 [45 favorites]


Or just slow Netflix to shit

This seems a pretty likely outcome.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on January 14


So: with this ruling, carriers can determine what traffic does and does not go through their networks. Meanwhile, more and more internet traffic is driven by native applications on mobile devices that don't use HTML or other open-source technologies at all, making content creation substantially more difficult and more expensive for lay people (except via hosted tools like YouTube, where the providers of those tools derive revenue from your content.)

We had a lovely public park; now we're fencing it off, prohibiting nuisance behavior, and paying tour guides to mediate our park visiting experience. So the Internet isn't going anywhere -- you can still stroll through the park, if you behave yourself and successfully dodge the tour guide jitneys -- and in many ways it will be nicer and more useful as this process continues, but we are definitely giving up a lot to get that convenience and monetization opportunity. Time will tell if it's worth it.
posted by davejay at 4:32 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Well it was nice knowing ya, folks. I'm not sure if I'm going to shell out $35/mo more for Comcast's Xfinity Internet Xtras Plus bundle, which is the only one that includes Metafilter access. Are there any ISPs out there that offer just the websites I want, a la carte, for reasonable prices?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:32 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


shivohum: "No longer are customer needs and desires at the forefront of firms' competitive strategies"

This argument assumes that the customers with clout are the little people and not corporate interests or media owners.
posted by Mitheral at 4:34 PM on January 14


ComcaVerizAOLOL: Say, Amazon, you've got a nice streaming video business there. Shame if something happened to it.

[two days later]

"Amazon announces free internet connectivity for all Amazon Prime customers via its newly deployed fleet of wireless internet satellites and quadcopters."
posted by zippy at 4:34 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


Google+, Facebook, Twitter, these all sort of started the downhill slide.

Agreed. With IM and email, the Internet was the communication network, and anyone/everyone could utilize it. With GFT et al, each service is its own communication network, and the Internet is merely a means to access those networks...and there is no trivial way to move data/activity between those networks. Compuserve, (pre-internet) AOL and such all over again.
posted by davejay at 4:35 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


We're at the point where "choice" and "competition" are not meaningful concepts when talking about ISPs. I think we all, as consumers, want the same thing: access to whatever information we want, when we want it, as quickly as technologically possible.

The ISPs serve identical functions - which is to say, none of them provide anything unique.

Moreover, we're at the point where internet access is a necessity for many spheres of activity - personal, social, financial, cultural, you name it.

Therefore, the best option is to confiscate the infrastructure, write a nice check to Time Warner and the other clowns, and provide service to citizens on a public-utility model.

I mean, seriously. Let's start talking about that. Get it out there.
posted by univac at 4:45 PM on January 14 [23 favorites]


Really not sure that Twitter et al really have the seat at the big boys table you guys imagine here, this is more about big, old fashioned unfashionable companies that own things like communications infrastructure and major motion pictures. Maybe your Apple, Amazon and Google get a look in as digital content distributors, but most likely this will be a way to put a squeeze on them from traditional content providers.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


The time for Handwringing about regulatory capture was the 90s. Competition barely exists now.
posted by wotsac at 4:47 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Made sense then. Makes sense now. God I feel both depressed and old:
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996
posted by garius at 4:52 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


"No longer are customer needs and desires at the forefront of firms' competitive strategies"

Which assumes that ISPs actually have to compete for customers at the local level, whereas I understand many people in the US have very little or no choice as to what ISPs are available.

This is all about allowing ISPs to double dip. The end users pay for their end of the pipe, and large companies pay for theirs. ISPs connect to each other via peering agreements, so that both ends are connected to each other. If the traffic is imbalanced between a big and small ISP, then the smaller ISP pays for peering.

But without network neutrality, the ISPs have a new profit stream - charging individual big sites for transit. They see netflix or youtube or whatever valuable traffic transiting their network and making money, and the ISP only getting paid for it once, ie. by the end user. And they see Google making billions while they only get paid for bulk data, while their own services have to compete with those from the open internet.

So without network neutrality forcing them to carry that traffic with the same priority as everything else, they can now bill the end-user extra to get access to valuable sites. Or bill the big providers like google to get access to the ISPs customers.

Actually slapping up a blocking paywall is probably still a bit too risky for the ISPs, as customer outrage might actually end giving people enough incentive to pressure politicians to make ISPs common carriers. So instead, they'll use that big packet shaping infrastructure they already have to throttle bittorrent traffic and the like, and turn on the subtle throttles for any service that makes money they don't get a slice of or competes with their own service.

So the big providers like google and apple and amazon will end up paying a per ISP charge or end up in the slow lane. Small sites will have no choice but to end up in the slow lane. End users will find their ISP service getting slower and slower for the sites they use, and will be subtly pressured into using the own ISPs video services instead of say, netflix which is always slow and buggy and drops out.
And end-users will get to suck it up. No doubt ISPs will add on a new tier of service provision for end users; in addition to your own line speed, you can also pay for traffic priority, so your webpage requests won't get artificially slowed down in transit.

"Verizon now offering Internet Plus - all the great things the internet has to offer, but faster! Only $29.99 extra. Sign up today!"
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:55 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


I wonder if AT&T has a filter for the iMessage protocol? At last, at long, suffering last, they can start charging 5¢/msg to let those through, and begin to recover from their terrible, terrible losses.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:55 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Yeah, people keep scoffing when I say that next generation internet services will be completely decentralized; serverless and peer-to-peer. The tech exists, now the financial motivation is in place. Deep packet inspection may mitigate this for a time, but zero-trust is the new school of cool in network design - ain't nothin' gonna go anywhere unencrypted.

But, more to the point... Neflix's offer should be a very large "$0" written in crayon on a blank sheet of paper. If the ISP does not accept, and begins throttling, Netflix simply cuts back resolution to 480i, and runs a banner on the bottom "Due to issues with your internet service provider, we cannot offer you high resolution service at this time. Please call their customer service hotline at this number:" and put the local ISP service number there.

Hardball, man.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:10 PM on January 14 [31 favorites]


480i?!? It should be sound and old style cable scrambling. Get people all nostalgic for porn at the same time.
posted by Mitheral at 5:20 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


This argument assumes that the customers with clout are the little people and not corporate interests or media owners.

Not at all. Even if corporate or media interests are the customers, they don't necessarily all agree with each other. There are a lot of conflicting interests, and that provides incentives for vendors to behave.

There are a lot of applications that would get a huge benefit from lifting net neutrality requirements: being able to get higher quality of service for streaming video is a prime example.

I think net neutrality was necessary for a time and served its purpose, but I am starting to become very skeptical that regulators would do anything other than impose costs on all parties, make the competition political instead of market-based, and slow everything down.

Regulatory capture is very real, and in this case it's become something that prevents innovation rather than spurs it.
posted by shivohum at 5:33 PM on January 14


Freedom of communication must be served as a public utility or allow it to be choked out once and for all.
But public utilities are rarely efficient.
The Invisible Hand is faster to the switch but is coin operated.
Asking Comcat&tizon to not toll the roads is anathema to what they are.
But these connections are too important to allow marginalization. This is why there are very few privately owned sewers.


An answer is needed and quickly but a wiser person than i must provide it.
posted by Colonel Panic at 5:35 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


That's some pretty nice video you're streaming to our customers. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:37 PM on January 14


There are a lot of applications that would get a huge benefit from lifting net neutrality requirements: being able to get higher quality of service for streaming video is a prime example.

But why is this stifled by net neutrality? Net Neutrality doesn't prevent you from offering your customers a high quality streaming solution, it just prevents you from locking your competitors out from offering your customers a high quality streaming solution. I honestly don't see a problem here.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:38 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


But why is this stifled by net neutrality?

ISPs aren't allowed to open up "private" end-to-end channels through the normal Internet to allow streaming or mission-critical applications special, privileged transport. Right now your streaming Skype session has to compete neutrally with everything else that's going -- most of which is not as time-sensitive.
posted by shivohum at 5:45 PM on January 14


Net Neutrality Is Dead. Here's How to Get It Back

An Internet petition? That's how he thinks we'll get it back?
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:51 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


ISPs aren't allowed to open up "private" end-to-end channels through the normal Internet to allow streaming or mission-critical applications special, privileged transport.

No. You're perfectly free to open up as many "private" end-to-end channels through the Internet as you want--they're called VPNs.

What you aren't allowed to do under net neutrality (at least if you're an ISP) is purposely degrade traffic that isn't flowing across your private channel to create some incentive for people to use it.

Right now your streaming Skype session has to compete neutrally with everything else that's going -- most of which is not as time-sensitive.

So?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:54 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Oh, for fuck's sake.
posted by flippant at 5:58 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


ISPs aren't allowed to open up "private" end-to-end channels through the normal Internet...

That's not how the internet works. No provider controls the end-to-end physical link between a customer and a given content provider, and the data link is not established by the ISP, it is established between the two parties.

What you're serving up here is standard-issue industry FUD. Carriers are allowed to do QoS and they all do. Net neutrality means they are not allowed to do it in a discriminatory manner: meaning they can optimize the throughput of any kind of traffic, just not discriminate against a particular source of that kind of traffic.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:00 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


I think net neutrality was necessary for a time and served its purpose, but I am starting to become very skeptical that regulators would do anything other than impose costs on all parties, make the competition political instead of market-based, and slow everything down.

Very recently, Comcast managed to buy Seattle's mayor. Once the new guy was elected, the city saw digital television service through the company become for-fee and the city's fiber optic rollout plans killed. Comcast has been given free rein over a number of US cities and it is not obvious that services have improved while they enjoy profit-making in the current regulatory vacuum.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:01 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


"But, more to the point... Neflix's offer should be a very large "$0" written in crayon on a blank sheet of paper. If the ISP does not accept, and begins throttling, Netflix simply cuts back resolution to 480i, and runs a banner on the bottom "Due to issues with your internet service provider, we cannot offer you high resolution service at this time. Please call their customer service hotline at this number:" and put the local ISP service number there.

Hardball, man.
"

Given that CBS only beat Time Warner here because of NFL, Netflix's bargaining power is about zilch.
posted by klangklangston at 6:10 PM on January 14


"I think net neutrality was necessary for a time and served its purpose, but I am starting to become very skeptical that regulators would do anything other than impose costs on all parties, make the competition political instead of market-based, and slow everything down."

"Upon further reflection, this conforms to all the theoretical free-market dogma I already believe about regulation, and consideration of actual facts is unnecessary."
posted by klangklangston at 6:12 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


There is no reason why QoS and Network Neutrality cannot be reconciled -- it's only a problem from the point of view of someone with an interest in making it look like a problem. From the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society: Netword Neutrality and QoS: What a Non-Discrimination Rule Should Look Like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:16 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


People got all up in arms here in PA when the state legislature was considering selling ("selling"?) part if the turnpike to some company that would maintain it and charge tolls and give a kickback to the state.

Perhaps people not technically inclined (like me, i get all this but would be hard pressed to explain it to someone who doesn't know what Chrome is or that you don't need AOL AND Comcast) might understand this issue if it was compared it to "information superhighway". It would be like that company taking over the turnpike but to get to philly you had to pay extra to use the well-paved portion of the turnpike.

Or you had to have the ezpass thing and if you didn't pay extra to use the fast lane your car would only go 45 mph.

Is one of these analogies getting somewhere close?
posted by sio42 at 6:21 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It's widely held that the FCC bungled the case. Notably, Law Professor Who Coined "Net Neutrality" Lashes Out at FCC Legal Strategy (WaPo link)
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:21 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


the CONSUMER is watching content on netflix. or downloading Comcast (nbc) content on Comcast's network without paying comcast for that. at the same they're dropping their comcast cable subscription. and then their ad revenue is falling because no one is watching their crap. they want their dollars back, CONSUMER. so now they'll just charge you more for your internet if you want to keep using their bandwidth. which, depending on where you live, you may not even have a choice.
posted by ninjew at 6:25 PM on January 14


It would be like that company taking over the turnpike but to get to philly you had to pay extra to use the well-paved portion of the turnpike.

Or they cut a special deal with Ford so all Fords get to use the paved turnpike but anyone with a different make of car has to drive on the dirt shoulder.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:27 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


No provider controls the end-to-end physical link between a customer and a given content provider

No single provider does, correct, but a series of them would. Right now you can pay for extra performance from the user to the ISP, but you effectively cannot pay for extra performance beyond that point. Why not?

meaning they can optimize for the kind of traffic, just not discriminate against a particular source of that traffic.

Yes, you're right that there's some rough provision for QoS already, but it is very rough. The unclear distinction between "kind" and "source" and the ambiguity of non-discrimination rules make that difficult. Indeed, from the condensed summary of the paper you cite ("From the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society: Netword Neutrality and QoS: What a Non-Discrimination Rule Should Look Like."), net neutrality should NOT involve blanket non-discrimination. And the paper offers several possible non-discrimination rules.

The question is: do you want regulators deciding which of those rules to adopt in a fast-moving technology marketplace? I don't think they're very well suited to the task.
--

Comcast has been given free rein over a number of US cities and it is not obvious that services have improved while they enjoy profit-making in the current regulatory vacuum.

Ironically, the cable industry is very regulated. The problem is that regulated industries often control their regulators.
posted by shivohum at 6:27 PM on January 14


Right now you can pay for extra performance from the user to the ISP, but you effectively cannot pay for extra performance beyond that point. Why not?

Because as you just said, there's no one provider controlling the entire series of links between an ISP's customer and a content provider.

Also aren't you being a little fast and loose with semantics? You already enjoy the fastest possible connection your ISP currently has with a given content provider. There's no way that link can be any "faster" unless either the intermediate infrastructure is upgraded, or your ISP prioritizes traffic to that provider at the expense of traffic to all other providers.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:39 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


There's no way that link can be any "faster" unless either the intermediate infrastructure is upgraded, or your ISP prioritizes traffic to that provider at the expense of traffic to all other providers.

Right, and I am saying that that kind of prioritization already happens to an extent. If you have a 100 Mb/second connection and your neighbor has a 10 Mb/second connection, you're already getting priority over your neighbor to your ISP. For one thing, the higher capacity connection can sustain much higher levels of traffic with low latency. For another, high speed connections are also often "business" connections and your ISP prioritizes them over residential connections on its own servers.

So in other words, for money, the ISP is effectively provisioning more capacity and higher speed -- priority -- to one person at the "expense" of another.

Now why is this a good thing? Because it makes the whole pie bigger for everyone. By increasing profits, it spurs innovation and infrastructure development.

We wouldn't want a system of "bandwidth neutrality" where everyone was restricted to exactly the same speed connection to their ISP.

So if we think that's true, why not simply extend that principle further into the network?
posted by shivohum at 6:55 PM on January 14


Right now you can pay for extra performance from the user to the ISP, but you effectively cannot pay for extra performance beyond that point. Why not?

Please define "extra performance". Generally speaking, latency is irreducible: you cannot speed up packets unless you have multiple peering agreements in place and can selectively switch traffic to the faster route. At times when this is possible at all it's not done on a per-customer basis -- the NOC in charge of a given segment will do it to manage congestion for a very large amount of undifferentiated traffic. The fact is that if you've got 120ms ping times to your destination there isn't one damn thing the intermediate carriers can do about it.

This is what I mean by FUD, because what is at issue is not preventing customers from buying all the bandwidth they want: the Stanford recommendations actually have that as the defining principle. What is at issue is preventing service providers from interfering with content providers they don't like despite the fact that they have been paid in advance for the bandwidth by their customers.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:57 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


This is such bad news I can't even.

Therefore, the best option is to confiscate the infrastructure, write a nice check to Time Warner and the other clowns, and provide service to citizens on a public-utility model.

I mean, seriously. Let's start talking about that. Get it out there.


I am interested in your views and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:07 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Yeah i mean i only sort of get the nitty gritty but this isn't about how fast your service is but what is being accessed with your service and if the provider can control that access if they don't want you going to say Netflix or Hulu. Or Al Jazeera.
posted by sio42 at 7:08 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Maybe this is awfully naive, but if Verizon/Comcast/Etc. starts buckling down on access, or bandwidth, or whatever, why can't a "free-access" provider jump in with an upstream provider and reap the rewards (and customer loyalty)?

That type of thing doesn't work for TV because all the channels and cable companies have been in bed for way too long. (right?)

I just have a hard time being so "woe is me, ya internet", because I doubt it'll go down that way, or get that far.

Edit: a pinch more clarity
posted by stinkfoot at 7:12 PM on January 14


And AT&T, for one, has already said so in so many words. Right now if you buy 40Mb/s down, then you're paying for AT&T to carry that amount of traffic to you over their network, irrespective of where that traffic came from before it hit their border gateway. But AT&T is saying -- again, pretty much in so many words -- oh noes, Netflix is sending the movies to my customers for frees! It's not enough to charge our customer for the data as it flows to them, we must charge Netflix for those exact same bits again!
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:13 PM on January 14


La Resistance comes from the most unusual corners. The Pirate Bay, for instance, is at the forefront (albeit for selfish reasons).
posted by IAmBroom at 7:21 PM on January 14


Maybe this is awfully naive, but if Verizon/Comcast/Etc. starts buckling down on access, or bandwidth, or whatever, why can't a "free-access" provider jump in with an upstream provider and reap the rewards (and customer loyalty)?

Because most communities award a monopoly cable franchise, and freeze out other competitors. Verizon FIOS and now Google Fiber are offering alternatives as telecom providers, but they are verrrrry slow to roll out, may be frozen out of the market by the municipality, and in the case of Verizon, hostile to net neutrality.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:23 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: They could decide to route all your Netflix requests to Comcast OnDemand, yeah. Or just slow Netflix to shit, if they're a little more subtle.

I'm extremely suspicious that this is already happening, and started happening the instant this ruling came down. They're at least experimenting with it.

I have a "50mb" comcast connection. In reality i get somewhere between 30 and 60mbps depending on the time of day and such. This is generally enough that no traffic interferes with any other traffic.

So imagine my surprise a day or two ago when suddenly nothing will play above the minimum quality on netflix. Speed test to any other server gets ~30mbps even over wireless. Netflix? they metered it from their end and i was getting under 10. I was trying to test out their 3d streaming and it was utterly failing, and traffic in general was moving so slow that nothing above like 360p would play from them.

Am i wrong to be suspicious as hell?

ArkhanJG: Which assumes that ISPs actually have to compete for customers at the local level, whereas I understand many people in the US have very little or no choice as to what ISPs are available.

Fuck, it's like this most places. I live in seattle, which is a "major city!" and a "tech hub!"

Your choices are clearwire, which is the old pre-lte 4g standard and tops out at 1.5mbps or so, centurylink DSL which has horrendous reliability and support and tops out at maybe 20mbps(but, in most parts of town really like 10 or 7 or worse and if you get worse than 7 they'll just say it's your fault or your contract says they don't have to provide it, fun!), or comcast which goes all the way up to 100mbps and works great. Yea, comcast support sucks, but their service consistently works more than anyone elses and is actually fast.

So everyone either has centurylink or comcast, and everyone who has centurylink has issues all the time and is stuck with early 2000s speeds. They consistently delivered about 3mbps to my place in a fairly central part of town, and i supported their awful BS service at multiple locations for my job.

This is the boots on the ground reality in a lot of places. And there's many parts of town even within city limits at which you can ONLY get one ISP realistically. Either you're actually limited as such because of the location, or the only other ISP can only provide the shit tier of service there. Good times.


So, all that said, what VPNs do you guys recommend? i think i'll be buying an account soon. I've heard these guys are good...
posted by emptythought at 7:24 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Or if you live in other parts of Seattle, Wave rather than Comcast. And if you live in one of a couple dozen high rises down town, there are a couple of other providers, like Condointernet. Except wait, Wave bought Condointernet. And Sprint bought Clearwire, and they don't offer service anymore.
posted by wotsac at 7:35 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


At times when this is possible at all it's not done on a per-customer basis -- the NOC in charge of a given segment will do it to manage congestion for a very large amount of undifferentiated traffic.

But the removal of net neutrality rules would probably alter peering agreements so that this became far more common on a per-customer basis.

It's not enough to charge our customer for the data as it flows to them, we must charge Netflix for those exact same bits again!

Sure -- but suppose this incentivized all the network providers to upgrade their infrastructure because they could now charge for better service. It might not be such a bad thing. Instead of the current situation, where everyone gets low-quality, low-reliability streaming, in that new situation at least some streaming might be good. Right now I see things stagnating; there's not enough profit in upgrading things.

Also, I think the real problem is ultimately not network neutrality but the lack of competition in the last mile. If prices to serve traffic from Netflix, etc. became really high, it would create great incentives for large companies to build out their own broadband services.
posted by shivohum at 7:42 PM on January 14


Sure -- but suppose this incentivized all the network providers to upgrade their infrastructure because they could now charge for better service.

Better service than what? Better than the artificially degraded service they deliberately inflict on a particular content provider in order to further monetize you as a customer? Once again: you are already paying for the downstream bandwidth, and if they've underprovisioned you then they have no business charging you for a rate they can't provide.

Charging Netflix basically not to throttle their traffic which you have already paid for is in the most generous interpretation double-dipping, and less generously, extortion.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:01 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


My worry is the upstream effects, here. If Bell (my provider, in Canada) is connecting to big AT&T (or whoever) pipes, how long until my service starts getting throttled, or I'm not allowed to connect to $whatever because AT&T refuses to allow access to it?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding entirely how the intertubes work, and if so please tell me where I'm wrong, but basically: unless I am totally mistaken, this will have effects reaching around the world.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 PM on January 14


Short term that may happen. Long term big content providers at least will at a minimum get mirrored outside the US. The Us will turn into a bit of roach motel where data will go in but anyone who can afford it won't serve data out if they can swing it. Should be good for the Canadian hosting business.
posted by Mitheral at 8:51 PM on January 14


Better than the artificially degraded service they deliberately inflict on a particular content provider in order to further monetize you as a customer?

No, better than the service they give you now. Right now these companies don't have much incentive to upgrade their infrastructure. If they can charge for better QoS, they then have an incentive to make things better.

Once again: you are already paying for the downstream bandwidth, and if they've underprovisioned you then they have no business charging you for a rate they can't provide.

The problem is that "underprovision" is a very subjective term. If a cable company charges you for 30 Mb/s download but you only get that speed at very off-peak times, is that underprovisioned? If it gives you your requested speed to the ISP but drags its feet on upgrading its hardware for peerage connections... is that underprovisioned? Or merely suboptimal?

The reality is that to get network capacity expanded, there need to be monetary incentives. So we can either restrict business models, ensuring universally mediocre service, or allow some companies to pay for privileged access -- making it a whole lot more profitable to upgrade the infrastructure and experience for everyone.
posted by shivohum at 9:22 PM on January 14


Third option: sell privileged access by degrading everything else rather than upgrading anything.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


The problem is that "underprovision" is a very subjective term. If a cable company charges you for 30 Mb/s download but you only get that speed at very off-peak times, is that underprovisioned?

Yes, very much so. Missing your commitment once in a while is c'est la vie. Seldom meeting your commitment at all is misrepresentation and would be breach of contract... except they write the contract and in rigid duopoly it's take it or leave it.

But that's beside the point.. I was basically kidding about "underprovisioned" and I shouldn't have offered another opportunity for misdirection. The regulation in question is, AGAIN, about whether they can deliberately discriminate against businesses of their choice, and double-dip by selectively denying you the service you're paying for in pursuit of a little rentierist windfall. If your service level is 10 times the necessary bandwidth and works fine with content providers too small to be worth shaking down, but they deliberately throttle providers who haven't paid the toll, then it's not a provisioning problem. They have demonstrated that their network is suitably built out -- and they are basically denying you the bandwidth you have paid for as a pressure tactic. They are degrading service that you have paid for because they want into somebody else's pockets. This is what the regulation is meant to prevent, because they will do it. They've pretty much said so.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:56 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


"No, better than the service they give you now. Right now these companies don't have much incentive to upgrade their infrastructure. If they can charge for better QoS, they then have an incentive to make things better."

This is insane. As there's no real competition due to the actual costs of ground cable infrastructure, which requires things like right-of-way clearance, coordination with other utilities, and other huge up-front costs, there's no incentive to "compete." As such, there's no point in having better service — you'd increase profit by charging people to have not worse service. Same cost to you, and another revenue stream.

The competition in things like telephony came from treating telecoms as common carriers, requiring network neutrality and requiring the leasing of excess capacity.

The idea that allowing companies to charge extra for not worse service will improve the consumer's experience is magical thinking.
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


The UK approach is an interesting one to compare. Here, we had one monopoly telecom, BT, that was state owned. It was privatized in the 80's, but even today they own the majority of phone lines.

What happened as a result of regulation is that the company that owns and maintains the physical telephone wires and exchanges (BT openreach) is firewalled off from the other parts of the business. BT internet and BT phone services pay rent to openreach to use the lines and offer their own services.

More importantly, other companies can rent the lines at the same rates, controlled by a regulator, and BT openreach's backhaul to a Point of Presence. This means that it's easy to become a DSL provider up to 20Mb/s over copper phone lines, and/or provide phone service over the same line. You can have one company doing phone, and another doing DSL.

BT openreach has also been deploying fibre to the cabinet, i.e. fibre to the copper termination cabinet at the end of the street and VDSL2 modems in the cab up to 78Mb/s to the house - we're at about 50% population coverage now for that, and a number of ISPs are available using it.

ISPs also have the choice of putting their own equipment into telephone exchanges, (local loop unbundling) which means they only have to pay market rent for the copper line to the house. They can also take advantage of the fibre to cab. They pay less to BT (as they provide their own backhaul to exchanges) and are thus generally cheaper. In rural areas, while BT was dragging its feet upgrading to ADSL2+ DSL in the exchanges a few years ago, quite a few unbundled ISPs were deploying their own LLU equipment faster.

We only have one cable provider, Virgin, but they offer up to 120Mb/s and cover most towns and cities. There are also a few experimental places with 100Mb/s fibre to the home via openreach.

In towns and cities, that means you usually have the choice of virgin, many DSL providers, and a number of the same iSPs also offering FTTC services, and several LLU DSL/FTTC services. And prices vary tremendously based upon line speed, monthly quota, contention, customer service, and traffic management policies, and have been getting steadily cheaper across the board. Note, traffic management applies to classes of traffic, i.e. bittorrent vs https vs vpn, rather than source provider.

I'm out in a rural area, and currently get unlimited quota 18Mb/s DSL for £2 a month plus £14.50 a month line rental (that also covers phone service provision) with free weekend phone calls from a BT openreach reseller. I'm lucky in that I'm relatively close to the exchange, but a friend who's on the same exchange but several km further away still gets 12Mb/s. We're scheduled to have the FTTC upgrade to our street cabs completed by BT openreach in the next couple of months, which will allow us up to 78Mb/s from a number of providers, including the two LLU providers in our exchange, who are stupidly cheap.

The biggest problem is middle-of-nowhere rural places, where line length limits DSL to only a few Mb, and there aren't enough people to cover the cost of upgrading them to FTTC. The goverment is spending money to get coverage to those places, with a goal of near universal coverage by 2017 IIRC.

Where I work has this problem; we're using a small local provider that connects to BT backhaul, and gives us line of sight wireless to one of their hill towers, so we currently get 50Mb/s. That ISP is running a fibre near us to get to a new tower they're putting in to cover the next town over, and we may well get our own tap from that, and go up to 100Mb/s.

It's not perfect, and it's easy to be envious of say, France, which has been investing in their broadband infrastructure better and faster, but the amount of competition amongst ISPs here is tremendous, and if you're anywhere other than a rural notspot, you have literally dozens of high speed provider choices. Ten years ago, I was envious of US internet connections. Not any more.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:44 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Third option: sell privileged access by degrading everything else rather than upgrading anything.

This also helps the telcos in their two-decade quest to never, ever lay an inch of fiber that they can find a way not to lay. Why expand capacity and speed when you can just continually degrade everybody's service to squeeze more and more people into your existing network?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:48 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The upshot of Tuesday’s ruling is that it could open the door for internet giants like Verizon and Time Warner to cut deals with large content providers — say Disney or Netflix — to ensure that their web content was delivered faster and more reliably than other sites.

I think most people will be served by ANY and EVERY improvement in speed and reliability. Maybe pressue from customers like Disney or Netflix will force the broadband operators to upgrade their networks and invest more in research. Christ knows that operators haven't been terribly interested in doing this for their ordinary broadband customers.
posted by three blind mice at 12:34 AM on January 15


I decided long ago when the UK government started blocking certain websites they don't like that I would take matters into my own hand by using a VPN so that neither they nor my ISP know what my internet traffic actually is. I'd advise anyone who values their personal liberty to do the same.
posted by walrus at 2:35 AM on January 15


(I do realise that they could probably break the encryption if they wanted to, but they would find it profoundly uninteresting if they did and it's more about making the cost prohibitive for me. If everyone's traffic were encrypted then the security services would be forced to focus only on those who they suspected of criminal activity, rather than carrying out blanket surveillance)
posted by walrus at 2:48 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


So we can either restrict business models, ensuring universally mediocre service, or allow some companies to pay for privileged access -- making it a whole lot more profitable to upgrade the infrastructure and experience for everyone those companies that pay for privileged access.

Fixed that for you.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:18 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


ArkhanJG, your description actually sounds a lot like the situation in the US. There are basically always three or four consumer broadband options: DSL, cable, and satellite, and increasingly wireless broadband. You'll only have one option for cable and satellite (usually), but there can actually be more than one DSL provider in some areas, i.e., where a local DSL outfit is leasing a major telecom's copper. FiOS is only available in a very, very few urban areas, and not at all in rural and even most suburban areas.*

The speeds aren't as good though. DSL is usually in the single-digit Mb/s, and cable usually maxes out around 50Mb/s. FiOS is very, very uncommon, but it's blazingly fast where it's available.

I think the difference can be explained in a single word: geography. The continguous US contains just over 8 million km^2, whereas the UK is a bit under a quarter million. The population density is also a lot lower. Only four US states--and none of the big ones--have an average population density equal to or greater than the average population density for the entire UK (about 660 people per square mile). Even California, the most populous US state, only has an average population density of about 244.

In essense, US telecoms need to serve a lot more people over a lot more area. This makes rolling out new services orders of magnitude more expensive. There are more customers to serve, and each and every one of them requires more infrastructure than they do in the UK. For a variety of reasons (including FCC price caps) US telecoms and ISPs can't charge rural customers more than urban ones, so the amount of money that they can get from rural customers just doesn't justify the cost of the rollout.

Indeed, it required Congress to authorize the FCC to spend money on universal access for rural areas to get telephone service. The FCC has been asking for--and Congress has been debating--doing the same thing for consumer broadband since at least 2008 (when I attended several committee meetings on the subject in both the House and Senate), but I think it's been a real issue since the turn of the century.

The UK only formally adopted a universal broadband commitment a few years ago, but they had a lot less work to do on both an absolute and a relative scale. Geography makes the cost of rolling out new services lower, and there are fewer customers to serve anyway, so it's going to require a lot less public support to get this thing going. The FCC is in the process of launching its "Connect America Fund," and it's slated to cost something like $4.5 billion by 2020, something like $115 million a year. Which doesn't sound like much, but the FCC only has a budget of about $336 million, so that's an enormous chunk of change in relative terms.

The solution to all of the problems discussed here and elsewhere in the thread is simple (though hard) and two-fold. First, the FCC needs to decide to regulate consumer broadband as a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. It can start that process any time it wants (or the President tells them to), and though it'd require a lot of bureaucratic elbow grease, there's no question it could do it. Second--and this may be the real kicker--Congress has to decide to fund universal broadband service like it has funded universal telecom service. Given the state of play in the US Congress, that seems less likely every day. And it's not even really a typically partisan issue. It's more an urban/rural thing, with urban congressmen being slightly opposed and rural ones slightly for it. No, the real problem is that it's just not a high enough priority for anyone to spend their finite amount of political capital supporting it, or for chamber leadership to devote time to that instead of more pressing issues (of which there are an almost infinite number).

It's not the kind of thing that one congressman can say "Hey, I want this" and everyone else is like "Yeah, whatever, fine". I.e., pork. Those things are usually single-district issues with very small budgets that don't affect anyone outside the district (other than strictly marginal budgetary effects). This is a national regulatory program, and while a lot of people may be for it in principle, no one is going to just let one or two guys spearhead the legislation and then sign off on it. Everyone has a stake in it, so everyone has to deal with it, and the cost in terms of legislative time and energy has been perceived as too high given (1) the apparent benefits, and (2) the other things Congress has to do right now.

So in one sense, the FCC is making the best of what it's got given depressingly limited congressional support. But in the other sense, dammit you lazy good-for-nothing bureaucratic ass-monkeys, you had one job! Follow your own f*cking rules!

*Which makes the mailings Verizon sends us every few weeks advertising their FiOS service in slightly bad taste. It's not available in my part of the postal district and isn't likely to be in the next decade.
posted by valkyryn at 4:56 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Walrus, they wouldn't need to break encryption. GCHQ/NSA would just need to perform traffic analysis of the exit point and correlate traffic on your VPN link with traffic crossing the remote VPN node.
posted by indubitable at 5:09 AM on January 15


Still seems like rather a lot of effort to find out that I like reading metafilter and some football forums.
posted by walrus at 5:24 AM on January 15


where's a good a place to learn more about all of this - both the laws and the technology being discussed? the EFF site? is Wired relevant anymore? i guess that's probably an askme...

just seems like a lot of folks in this thread with some good knowledge about the technologies and impacts surrounding all of this.
posted by sio42 at 5:25 AM on January 15


because they will do it. They've pretty much said so.

Yes, I think they will. I think they will also go further than that and actually charge more for BETTER service, because it will be profitable to do so. And so better service, which costs money, will come into existence.

This whole notion of "double dipping" btw is conceptually problematic, sort of like double taxation. What's considered "double" is not the point: the point is how to get better internet service for everyone. I don't think regulation is the best way to achieve it.
--
there's no incentive to "compete."

There is an incentive to compete. Those who can charge money to provide better service from Netflix et al. to their customers would make more money. The market would be the content providers, and in that market there is plenty of competition.

Not to mention that in fact DSL, cable, and wireless internet providers do compete right now. Facilities-based competition works, and content-based charging would encourage content providers to build out their own networks, like Google is/was considering.
posted by shivohum at 6:18 AM on January 15


FiOS is very, very uncommon, but it's blazingly fast where it's available.

Only if you pay for the super speed tier. I finally moved to an area where Verizon has FIOS and to my annoyance, I'm paying almost the same amount as I did when Comcast was my provider (for internet and TV service only) for the same speeds - it's actually about 5 dollars more. To get Verizon to uncap my connection so I can take advantage of the much higher speeds that FIOS is capable of would cost me another 40 a month. Gotta love capitalism.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:49 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


where's a good a place to learn more about all of this - both the laws and the technology being discussed?

The FCC. Specifically their Broadband.gov website. Here is their page for the legal framework involved. It discusses Comcast v. FCC, the 2010 D.C. Cir. case that came to exactly the same conclusion as in this week's Verizon v. FCC ruling. Depressingly enough, that page suggests that the FCC didn't learn its lesson in Comcast and thought it could get away with it if it just argued better this time around. To no one's great surprise, it didn't.

The argument made on that page for not regulating under Title II is that the FCC didn't want to subject broadband connections to the same regulations as telephone lines. I and basically everyone else agrees. Broadband connections are not phone lines and shouldn't be regulated in exactly the same way. But I think the only reasonably way of reading the FCC's argument here is "Regulating broadband connections properly, including distinguishing them from other kinds of 'telecommunications services' would require an enormous amount of work that we'd rather not do. Can't we please just take a shortcut?"

The answer, today just like in 2010, is "No." Which as much as we might be in favor of these particular regulations, is the correct answer.
posted by valkyryn at 6:59 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


The problem is that regulated industries often control their regulators.

This is not a problem that is an inevitable and unavoidable result of government regulation.

This is a problem that is the result of policies and practices intentionally created and applied by politicians and bureaucrats (elected, appointed, or simply hired) who choose to allow the regulated industries to have significant influence in the regulatory process.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:15 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Only if you pay for the super speed tier. I finally moved to an area where Verizon has FIOS and to my annoyance, I'm paying almost the same amount as I did when Comcast was my provider (for internet and TV service only) for the same speeds - it's actually about 5 dollars more.

But with fios -- or any fiber to the home -- you pretty much don't have to worry about network contention in your neighborhood, so (unlike cable the last time I had it) you get your 35/35 even when everyone else in the neighborhood gets home and starts using their connections.*

And particular to fios, you often get generally better picture quality because Verizon just vomits the same bitstream** they received instead of applying an additional layer of compression that throws half or more of the bitstream away.

*But you still have to worry about global contention on the link between Verizon and Netflix's ISPs.

**For mpeg2 channels. Channels that are native mp4, like the various HBOs, Verizon decompresses and recompresses as mpeg2 because they have a lot of hardware out there that is old and shitty enough to be unable to cope with mp4.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 AM on January 15




you get your 35/35

Not available at the Comcast-equivalent tier (15/5) that I'm at. The other tiers are 50/25 and 75/35 which would push my monthly internet bill to much more than I'm willing to pay. It's a duopoly, with no real competition. The only thing that would get Verizon or Comcast to start pushing their prices down would be competition from the public sector.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:10 AM on January 15


Not to mention that in fact DSL, cable, and wireless internet providers do compete right now.

Just like butter, cream cheese, and jam compete for your toast-spreading dollars, so there only needs to be one brand of each.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:23 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


"Indeed, it required Congress to authorize the FCC to spend money on universal access for rural areas to get telephone service. The FCC has been asking for--and Congress has been debating--doing the same thing for consumer broadband since at least 2008 (when I attended several committee meetings on the subject in both the House and Senate), but I think it's been a real issue since the turn of the century. "

And prior to the telephone service, Congress had to authorize money to get electricity to rural areas. Though the Rural Electrification Administration, which is what moved over to telephones — it was part of the New Deal, and vastly improved the viability of rural life. It would be awesome if we did something similar again, though it's good to note that the electric companies pitched a mighty bitch over having to "compete" with the government, despite deciding that it was too unprofitable to run wires out to rural America.
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


cosmic.osmo: "Well it was nice knowing ya, folks. I'm not sure if I'm going to shell out $35/mo more for Comcast's Xfinity Internet Xtras Plus bundle, which is the only one that includes Metafilter access. Are there any ISPs out there that offer just the websites I want, a la carte, for reasonable prices?"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

gasps

Because Comcast and unbundled services and...
posted by Samizdata at 8:30 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I envy you all. In my town there is two options. Comcast and AT&T DSL. I can't get Comcast in my building since it was wired for shared cable and Comcast jacked up their rates when the contract renewal came along. So I got stuck with a "Pro" 3Mb/512kb connection.

So you all can stop your 30/30 whining already. Please?

(OTOH, I CAN get a decent SD Netflix stream, which, amusingly enough, got working with Linux.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:41 AM on January 15


MetaFilter and it's subsidary sites have been hostiley taken over purchased by The Discovery Company, a partner of ComFinity.

We hope you will enjoy the increased speed with which you can now browse the sponsored and edited content you have always enjoyed from your favorite MetaFilter sites, now known as DiscoFilter.

Based on extensive customer feedback, we've added content we know you'll love, such as TrailerParkFilter, BabiesGoneWildFilter, BakingShowDisasterFilter, and SexSentMeToERFilter*.

As always, you will have full access to all of the archives of MetaFilter prior to its becoming part of our family of sites**.





*Holy crap i am not making that show up.
**Based on the terms and conditions of your ComFinity contract access level for archive access. If you have questions or cannot access the content, please contact ComFinity. DiscoFilter is provided as part of a service package provided exclusively by ComFinity.
posted by sio42 at 8:42 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


shivohum: "because they will do it. They've pretty much said so.Facilities-based competition works, and content-based charging would encourage content providers to build out their own networks, like Google is/was considering."

No. A million times no. This violates every single fucking ideal of separation of concerns with regard to the signal and the carrier.

1) In order to increase "competition" you want content providers themselves to lay the fiber. What about the little guy who has plenty of content but not the bajillions to lay the fiber.

2) Duplication of resources? How many goddamned cables and systems do we need to lay?

3) Fracturing the network (well, this is the thing, innit? Every fucking network wants to be their own little fiefdom... this is sort of what I'm talking about above, where while I'm talking about Google/FB/Twitter, etc... those are services that split up the communal cyberspace... here we're discussing literally creating disparate networks, and the ones who already OWN the current system will have a tremendous advantage over those that don't when it comes to laying more fiber.)

4) I think the idea occurred to me above (if it wasn't explicitly mentioned)... What we're witnessing is a digital corollary to the enclosure of the Commons in England way back yonder. We can all be our own little capitalist kings now... An it seems that you want it that way.
----------------------------
I don't have a problem with the idea of multiple networks coming together, unfortunately, not in this way. This is an alliance of fiefdoms, not an organic arising of spontaneous networks who work together and evolve their own sort of communal codes. These fiefdoms then work to maintain their hegemony over the users, locking them in, hoping to be the dominant one, preventing co-operation, not encouraging it. Except when it comes time to protect their oligopolies, then they will most assuredly work together.
----------------------------
Fuck that noise. I remember what the net was, and what I dreamed it could have been. Not just another subscription channel for big content. But I've seen all my other digital dreams smashed, why even bother pretending to live in an illusion. The plebes want their stupid facebooks and their upworthys and their linkbait. Why think when you can hit "share". Why create, when you can consume? Why learn to think in more complex and interesting was, when you can have it handed to you on a silver platter, all for the low low price of $69.95 a month. Golden platter will be $79.95/month, and the Platinum Platter for only $89.95/month. That's less than a hundred a month and you can have it all. Act now!
posted by symbioid at 9:00 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Not available at the Comcast-equivalent tier (15/5) that I'm at.

Fine; then with fiber to the home you get your 15/5 even when everyone else in your neighborhood logs on.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 AM on January 15


content-based charging would encourage content providers to build out their own networks

Yeah, that's a great idea! That way only established corporate interests would have the ability to launch new internet products; no longer would we be bothered by all those pesky disruptive technologies introduced by startups or individuals with good ideas, like BitTorrent or bitcoin or p2p file sharing or netflix or Google or, you know, the web.
posted by ook at 9:08 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Having a gazillion overlapping duplication of cables and such is kinda what happens in the future according to Snow Crash.

There's all these competing high way systems. And it sounds crazy and bizarre and very neon.

Because it's not a good idea to do things that way.
posted by sio42 at 9:14 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


like BitTorrent or bitcoin or p2p file sharing or netflix or Google or, you know, the web.

One of these things is not like the others. Cough, DARPA, cough.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 AM on January 15


I said the web, not the internet. Tim Berners-Lee 4 Lyfe
Here, have a cough drop
posted by ook at 10:35 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Fine; then with fiber to the home you get your 15/5 even when everyone else in your neighborhood logs on.

Most people in my neighborhood are with Comcast because to even get FIOS requires an additional box to be installed on the exterior of your house as well as an internal battery backup, and there's no discernible benefit in speed or cost. The point I was trying to make originally, but which I failed to do, was that I was really excited about moving to a neighborhood where I finally had what seemed like a real choice between competing IPSs, only to find that the two providers available to me weren't really competing, so it wasn't much of a choice.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:45 AM on January 15




there's no discernible benefit in speed

But there is, since you get your advertised speed pretty much 24/7 instead of only when nobody else is home and awake. And if you take the tv, the picture quality on fios is head and shoulders better than Time Warner (and, from what I can tell, Comcast).

I agree that it's not much of a choice, but in the other direction. At this point I wouldn't accept cable tv/internet without a marked discount from fiber.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:05 PM on January 15


Very recently, Comcast managed to buy Seattle's mayor. Once the new guy was elected, the city saw digital television service through the company become for-fee and the city's fiber optic rollout plans killed.

Heh, this just happened in Australia, but on a national scale.

We were going to have a nationwide fibre to the home network as a public utility.

Now Abbott's been elected, you can get your fibre (if you live in a sufficiently dense part of the country) if you want to pay a few thousand to Rupert Murdoch.

Abbott even held his communications policy launch at Fox Studios.
posted by moorooka at 1:23 PM on January 15


I was a Comcast subscriber for 14 years before switching to Verizon FIOS living in a large apartment building and surprisingly (because I know it's definitely a possibility with cable ISPs) never experienced a slowdown at any time in my internet service (I barely watch TV, but the FIOS picture is definitely better than what I got with Comcast, however). And I'm a heavy net user in the evenings and weekends.

If the FIOS installation hadn't been free, it would have made zero sense for me to have switched (and it probably doesn't make sense now, given that I'm paying about five dollars more a month and don't really watch TV). I just never experienced any speed issues at all with Comcast.

My contract with Verizon is up in two years and if they try to bounce me back to a higher rate, I'll be heading back to Comcast again.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:28 PM on January 15


Instead of the current situation, where everyone gets low-quality, low-reliability streaming, in that new situation at least some streaming might be good.

Assuming your connection is fast enough, there's no reason for streaming to be low-quality or low-reliability. I have reasonably good ADSL2 internet and get about 10Mbps. I've never, ever had an issue with Netflix HD streaming. Why? Because my local ISP isn't a bunch of assholes. They let Netflix put CDN boxes (which are free) on their network so bandwidth on my ISP's side is pretty much not an issue at all. Even before Netflix rolled out their CDN boxes, I never had any streaming issues. YouTube in HD also works perfectly well. And this isn't some deep-pocketed megacorporation, it's a local ISP that believes in network neutrality and customer privacy. So if you think we can only get decent streaming though appeasement, that's wrong.
posted by zsazsa at 2:19 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


The AP had a very convoluted article about this.

"Services such as Netflix already pay their broadband providers to send data from their systems. What's in question is whether they'll also have to pay their subscribers' providers for delivery of the data."

The article never says anything about consumers having to pay more also.
posted by sio42 at 6:54 AM on January 16


I experience frequent drops with Comcast- every couple of weeks there's an outage, once a week or so the internet connection just dies, doesn't respond any troubleshooting, Comcast swears up and down it's on our end, and then it comes back on its own. It's infuriating because it always seems to happen either when I get home in the morning or when I'm getting up in the evening.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:38 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


sio42, while there is no direct mention of "consumers paying more" (to the pipeline companies), there are a few issues at hand.

When you look at the competition like Hulu which is now partially owned by Comcast, do you think Comcast will charge themselves money? So now they own the pipe, they don't have to pay themselves, the competitor now does. Now we get an example of their ownership of the pipeline giving an advantage that Netflix now has to figure out how to recoup. Everytime netflix streams they are not gaining as much money as Hulu could now that Hulu doesn't have to pay AND they also get the money from Netflix. Customers won't necessarily bear a direct increase in cost, but if you think Netflix would just eat the cost you're severely mistaken.

Now, perhaps there's a way to eek out some money that's not via customer charging (I fear commercials might be the one other way to do so). Either way, Hulu/Comcast is now using its ownership of the tubes to receive a competitive advantage in the market.
posted by symbioid at 10:25 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


We used to have that with Time Warner at our old place, and the ultimate explanation after months (MONTHS!) of going through that every couple days was that the previous tenants had gotten their TV through Dish, and the Dish installers had basically ripped out a bunch of the internal apartment cabling, though they left the end points. So while we'd had to do crazy shit like use two boosters, eventually some industrious TW tech started snaking the cable out and found it in weird, mangled chunks, and then spent another full day reinstalling all of the cable for the unit (and cursing the Dish assholes).
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on January 16


ook: "Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want."

Hi! Verizon Wireless customer since 2006... I want unlimited data with 4G, either tethered through my cell or through a hotspot-type wireless router, and I want it in Glorieta, NM, 15 miles from Santa Fe on I-25 N. It's barely outside the state capital along a busy interstate freeway winding up through Pecos. I'll make it easier. Just provide unlimited data on a single smartphone using 4G/3G, or a fixed router that won't leave my residence - I'll pay $100 for that, which seems like a lot compared to what I'm paying now .... Or how about anything without usage caps? No?

Grrr. I'm moving to a new place, and it's amazing and is everything I want right now... except internet service, which appears to be limited to satellite, Verizon 3G/4G, and maybe T-Mobile 2G. The only one without severe caps is T-Mobile, except it's hideously slow at 2G. No direct wireless or wimax providers appear to cover the area, though they seem to cover everything around it. Where I'm living now is more rural, but there's fiber through most of it, and right now I'm getting 20-25Mb/s on Centurylink DSL for around $60 (no discounts). I don't like dealing with the phone company, and they also have caps at 250GB/mo., but its pretty easy to avoid that, even if you use the service for a lot of streaming. But moving an hour away I'll be paying at least double and will be getting far less (6GB caps?), to the point where streaming services may not be worth the hassle... or even surfing the web, sending photos to iCloud, etc., and a ton of other basic shit I do all the time online. Like those multi-GB iPhone updates or Win 7 security updates for my laptop and desktop, which could easiy tip me over the limit in one shot- a single OS update on one device could shut me off for the rest of the month.

I even checked Earthlink for access (after giving up on every other option), and I laughed when they came up with zero broadband options and instead offered dialup at 56Kb/s (but the website did say "sorry!" so there is that moment of automated sympathy to savor while I try to remember if that would even be possible, though I have plenty of computer parts from years of IT work, but I gave up stocking modems after going years without any need. I don't own anything that has a fucking dialup modem anymore, and as far as I know the phone company does not do landlines in that location either, which is increasingly common in rural areas.

It's not a dealbreaker. I'm trying to make peace with having very limited internet at home - cell service is decent enough for voice - and finding places in town with wi-fi where I can bring my laptop if need be. It's just fucking ridiculous that it's still such a huge hassle trying to get connected to the internet in many areas of the US, when these telecom companies go before Congress and the FCC time and time again and promise they're committed to getting everyone connected. I was connected at 1.5Mb/s in the year 2000 for the first time. I can't believe I'm seriously considering internet access that is slower and less reliable than the service I had nearly 15 years ago, at a minimum of 2-3 times the price.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:34 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Marvin Ammori for Slate: The Net Neutrality Battle Has Been Lost. But now we can finally win the war.
All the FCC had to do back in 2010 was clarify that Internet service offered by cable and phone companies is a “telecommunications service,” and to “reclassify” it as such. That would require reversing a few of the earlier orders but would have likely been upheld in court. And presto: Internet freedom preserved.
...
Even though he and his general counsel promised to reclassify Internet service, Genachowski essentially caved as the cable and phone companies unsurprisingly continued to oppose network neutrality.
...
Those of us who had been involved with the net neutrality debate knew that, without reclassification, the flawed FCC order would never stand. But there were 100 ways it could have fallen. I thought that the court’s decision would be a baby-splitting half-loss that could enable the FCC to wipe its hands of network neutrality and pretend everything was A-OK.

I was wrong on that point. The loss was so definitive, the powers granted to cable and phone companies so outrageous, that the FCC has a live grenade in its lap.
So now the FCC can possibly save net neutrality for real, and reclassify internet service providers, including mobile service providers, as "telecommunications services" or something like that, instead of being an "information service," like Google, Twitter, Slate and Yahoo are.

Pretty much what valkyryn wrote upthread.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:49 PM on January 16


Symboid - yeah, i meant that the article seems to focus on what it will cost Netflix (or whoever) while avoiding any mention that it will impact consumers by either/both costing them more, limiting what content providers they have access to.
posted by sio42 at 5:27 AM on January 17


so it's not our government per se saying we can't go to alternet.org

No one's going to say you can't go to Alternet. Even your various forums are going to be fine. If they decide to restrict bandwidth to a certain site, it's going to be one where "[you're] okay with this", and you'll be okay with it, because that's how this works.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:49 PM on January 17


Cypherpunks, Anon, & Reddit types have been idly fooling around with Meshnet stuff for a while now.
Exactly. These are not acceptable people in polite society/the places we go to for our Good Opinions. These are the people who have something to worry about. You'll still get your Alternet and Upworthy.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:56 PM on January 17






I found this bestof comment from reddit's /r/law to be very enlightening,
EDIT: HERE IS THE DECISION! Don't take my word for this, read it yourself if you are truly concerned.
This is shaping up to be a very controversial decision and, considering the misdirected angst toward the court in other threads, will likely be widely misinterpreted by people who don't understand it. That's not to say it's easy to understand; it's actually very difficult to understand, which is all the more reason not to trust headlines from /r/politics and TMZ. So, against my sense of caution, I'm going to offer just a brief explanation of why the court reached this decision (brief because it's also difficult for me to understand...).
Let's back up and get a tiny bit of information about the FCC powers. The FCC is empowered by the Communications Act of 1934. They are further empowered by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is pretty much the only significant overall of communications law since the 1934 act. The Telecommunications Act gives the FCC certain expansive powers in regulating "common carriers." Specifically:
By virtue of their designation as common carriers, providers of basic services were subject to the duties that apply to such entities, including that they “furnish . . . communication service upon reasonable request,” 47 U.S.C. § 201(a), engage in no “unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services,” id. § 202(a), and charge “just and reasonable” rates, id.
The FCC could force a "common carrier" to provide a service to all reasonable customer requests at the same rate, without discrimination. This common carrier designation only applies to companies providing telecommunications services, and only to the extent that they do so. 47 USC § 153(51) ("A telecommunications carrier shall be treated as a common carrier under this chapter only to the extent that it is engaged in providing telecommunications services..."). The FCC is allowed to regulate other providers in other ways, but the authority to force a company to treat all customers equally only applies to common carriers.
Now let's look at the net neutrality regulations that are at issue in this case. The court says:
The Order first imposes a transparency requirement on both fixed and mobile broadband providers. . . .Second, the Order imposes anti-blocking requirements on both types of broadband providers. It prohibits fixed broadband providers from “block[ing] lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.” . . . Third, the Order imposes an anti-discrimination requirement on fixed broadband providers only. Under this rule, such providers “shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.”
So the regulations promulgated by the FCC impose 1) transparency requirements, 2) anti-blocking requirements, and 3) anti-discrimination requirements. As to the latter two, those sound very similar to the sorts of regulations that the FCC only has the power impose on common carriers. This wouldn't be an issue if the Verizon services were considered common carriers, but by the FCC's own rules they're not. Expressly not. Instead, in 2002 the FCC chose to classify broadband providers as "information services," not telecommunications providers. And as § 153 of the Telecommunications Act says, only telecommunications providers can be common carriers.
We think it obvious that the Commission would violate the Communications Act were it to regulate broadband providers as common carriers. Given the Commission’s still-binding decision to classify broadband providers not as providers of “telecommunications services” but instead as providers of “information services,” see supra at 9-10, such treatment would run afoul of section 153(51)
So the remainder of the decision deals with whether those last two regulations (anti-discrimination and anti-blocking) are common carrier regulations. If they are, the FCC has drawn its own box here. It can't call something an information service provider and then regulate it as if it were a telecommunications provider.
Thus, we must determine whether the requirements imposed by the Open Internet Order subject broadband providers to common carrier treatment. If they do, then given the manner in which the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers, the regulations cannot stand.
(Another problem is it's classification of mobile broadband providers as "private" instead of "commercial" services, but that's more complexity than is needed for this post ("Likewise, because the Commission has classified mobile broadband service as a “private” mobile service, and not a “commercial” mobile service, see Wireless Broadband Order, 22 F.C.C.R. at 5921 U 56, treatment of mobile broadband providers as common carriers would violate section 332: . . .))
The FCC responds to this by arguing that the end users (you guys and gals at home) are the customers, not the "edge providers" (the websites and such). Since the FCC is only regulating treatment of edge providers, it's not subjecting the companies to common carrier treatment because they're still free to discriminate against the end user (i.e., charge different rates, choose not to provide service, etc.). The court dismisses that out of hand.
It is true, generally speaking, that the “customers” of broadband providers are end users. But that hardly means that broadband providers could not also be carriers with respect to edge providers. . . . Because broadband providers furnish a service to edge providers, thus undoubtedly functioning as edge providers’ “carriers,” the obligations that the Commission imposes on broadband providers may well constitute common carriage per se regardless of whether edge providers are broadband providers’ principal customers.
They make a couple more weak arguments, such as: 1) that edge providers never "request" service, technically, and 2) never pay for the service, arguing that those are requirements for common carrier status. The court responds that those aren't actually requirements, they are incidental. In any case, the fact that the edge providers haven't done something yet doesn't mean that the rule doesn't impose restrictions on the company. These all strike me as strangely weak arguments...
The court then sinks the last nail into the coffin of the regulation by discussing how the FCC has not even attempted to argue that the regulations aren't essentially the same as common carrier requirements. (I'll leave out most of the complicated stuff, but you can go to the decision if you want to read specifics.)
We have little hesitation in concluding that the anti-discrimination obligation imposed on fixed broadband providers has “relegated [those providers], pro tanto, to common carrier status.” In requiring broadband providers to serve all edge providers without “unreasonable discrimination,” this rule by its very terms compels those providers to hold themselves out “to serve the public indiscriminately.”
Having relied almost entirely on the flawed argument that broadband providers are not carriers with respect to edge providers, the Commission offers little response on this point.
...
Significantly for our purposes, the Commission never argues that the Open Internet Order’s “no unreasonable discrimination” standard somehow differs from the nondiscrimination standard applied to common carriers generally—the argument that salvaged the data roaming requirements in Cellco. In a footnote in the Order itself, the Commission suggested that it viewed the rule’s allowance for “reasonable network management” as establishing treatment that was somehow inconsistent with per se common carriage. But the Commission has forfeited this argument by failing to raise it in its briefs here.
In any event, the argument is without merit. . . . The Commission has provided no basis for concluding that in permitting “reasonable” network management, and in prohibiting merely “unreasonable” discrimination, the Order's standard of “reasonableness” might be more permissive than the quintessential common carrier standard.
Whatever the merits of this view, the Commission advanced nothing like it either in the underlying Order or in its briefs before this court. Instead, it makes no distinction at all between the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, seeking to justify both types of rules with explanations that, as we have explained, are patently insufficient. We are unable to sustain the Commission’s action on a ground upon which the agency itself never relied. . . .. Nor may we defer to a reading of a statutory term that the Commission never offered.
So, now we can go all the way back to page 4 of the brief and sink our teeth into the actual holding here - i.e., the reason why the court struck down the net neutrality regulations:
Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.
TL;DR: The parts of the Open Internet Order that imposed regulations concerning net neutrality were vacated because the FCC classified internet providers as "information services," not "telecommunication services." The anti-blocking and anti-discrimination requirements, according to statute, can only be imposed on types of telecommunication services. It's the FCC's own fault, not a government conspiracy against net neutrality.
EDIT: Arguably a more important part of the decision UPHELD the FCC's power to promulgate net neutrality regulations under § 706. I wrote another "brief" post about that here - LINK. Careful, it's a heavily moderated sub.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:52 AM on January 21








It's funny how instantly the shit ISPs started doing that right after that decision. It's obviously, blatantly, exactly what they wanted from it.

I've been experiencing shitty netflix performance on Comcast since the decision as well. It was near instantaneous. Like, I saw posts about them having lost and when I got home from work it was suddenly working like shit.

Netflix and my partner were quick to blame my new smart tv, but I tried it on my iPad, ps3, that tv, and MacBook Pro, and my iPhone.

I think the most damning thing is that my office, two blocks from my house, has no such issues with its crappy business DSL. You can tracert any ip you want and get nearly identical hops besides the obviously ISP related first couple.

On paper my home connection slays that one, but as soon as you try and stream netflix or torrent anything you suddenly get shitbutt performance.

I should really just pay for a VPN, but i feel like I shouldn't have to on principle. Ugh.
posted by emptythought at 1:03 PM on February 12






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