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Hands off the Internet?
May 13, 2006 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Don't Regulate is telecom-sponsored ad dressed up as an underground cartoon, writes Timothy Karr. At issue is net neutrality (previously discussed here).
posted by F Mackenzie (37 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yech. Awkward, condescending, and a random jab at Canada just for the hell of it. All of that in addition to it smelling bad from frame one.

Today's propoganda sucks.
posted by cortex at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2006


I have crazy friend who says it's wrong to want net neutrality.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:40 AM on May 13, 2006


Awful.
posted by beerbajay at 7:40 AM on May 13, 2006


Way to confuse the issue!

I had no idea that Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft currently paid zero for their bandwidth. And they'd get rich off on my back!

I pay $44.95 plus a shitload of state and local taxes to get my internets in my home. Will I pay more for fiber to the house? Sure. It isn't like the ATT or TimeWarners of the world are building the infrastructure to lower prices to the consumer. They want to make billions of dollars just like the evil Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

Nice touch with the old "who do you want in control you or the government" line. As that is the choice. It is the telcom companies versus the content providers. The group with the most money writes the law. We don't have a say in the matter.

This whole mess will lead to a shittier internet and mean that the true innovation will be done offshore or in places like Canada. [that was a cheap shot at Canada, but this whole site used the "government bad" talking points so an anti-Canada or anti-France slam is to be expected].
posted by birdherder at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2006


It's pretty obvious how this is propaganda and doesn't give you any balanced information.

I wonder who they think they will win over though? There are 3 types of net users. Joe apathetic who doesn't even care about genocide or NSA spying on citizens, Myspace kiddie who wouldn't care because there are no nekid ladies, and Ubergeek who knows better.

Maybe there is a third market for uninformed people who like bad brainwashing cartoons? Children?
posted by parallax7d at 7:59 AM on May 13, 2006


Don't Google and Yahoo already have to pay for the bandwidth they use?

The telcos want to charge extra for content that lots of people want. Didn't they already get massive tax breaks to develop delivery systems they never built? They are the main reason we are so far behind other countries in high-speed bandwidth availability and pricing.

Dealing with these monopolies is like being cellmates with an over-muscled guy named Bubba that wants to make you his bunk muffin... you don't have a lot of options and the end result is the same.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 8:03 AM on May 13, 2006


"But they don't want to pay anything -- instead they want to stick consumers with the whole bill."

I'd love, love, love for the person who wrote that particular bit of copy to open their personal internet bill and one month, find the $45 or so figure replaced by whatever Google pays for bandwidth. I'd bet it's, at a minimum, five figures monthly. If not seven or eight.

"They don't want to pay anything." What utter and transparent B.S.

The idea of giving the people who, at the height of their dominance of the industry, gave us such wonders as "Caller ID" even the slightest more bit of control over the economics of data transfer is an invitation to take us back 20 years.

Kneecap a telecom exec today. And ask them if they've turned your net traffic over to the NSA while you're at it.
posted by weston at 8:05 AM on May 13, 2006


Is there a legitimate argument against Net Neutrality?
posted by mkultra at 8:12 AM on May 13, 2006


Wow, that's actually very clever.

The whole handsoff.org site is very carefully crafted to appeal to libertarians and others who feel *any* regulation is bad. Of course, in their bogus 'anti-government' stance they gloss over the fact that FCC, the current administration and the bulk of Congress support the telcos in their quest for self-regulation.

I have continually upgraded my connection since before there was an Internet. Going from 9600bps to 14.4k, 14.4k to 28.8k, 28.8k to 56k. Then to slow ADSL to faster ADSL and now cable. Each of these speed increases has come with a corresponding price increase. Will I upgrade again when the next big thing comes along? Of course I will. I'm an addict and they have me hooked. I will pay whatever it costs for my next fix.

The problem is that throughout this cycle the one common factor is that each connection has provided the exact same content as the previous one. It just comes at me faster. This is what I expect from a commodity. I have no problem with this and if I want more speed I expect to pay more money, that's what business class cable and T lines are for.

What I don't expect is for them to meter content. Downloading 100 webpages or streaming a three minute video costs them the exact same. The infrastructure is there and it's not like their expenses go up with each byte. These are electrons and it isn't as though they are trucking them anyplace.

If they want a piece of the Google pie my advice is for them to create something. Then they can sell ads or charge a subscription fee just like every other site out there. If it is worthwhile they will make their money -- isn't this how the 'market' they babble on about works?
posted by cedar at 8:23 AM on May 13, 2006


Curious I tought telcos were loaded with money, yet all they can come up with is that lousy transparent propaganda site ? It's not even effective.

I am sure telcos are charging google et al per tera or per giga, but they aren't getting free bandwidth.
posted by elpapacito at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2006


Maybe there is a third market for uninformed people who like bad brainwashing cartoons? Children?

The whole handsoff.org site is very carefully crafted to appeal to libertarians and others who feel *any* regulation is bad.


So it's for children and children at heart.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2006


I just caught a banner for it on the TPM sidebar. Any other sitings in the wild?
posted by rafter at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2006


I believe that hidden beneath this topic is an attempt to convert existing internet services to a cable TV model. If bandwidth congestion was the big issue, you need to look no further than satellite internet access: the Fair Use Policy (FAP). The user pays for a specific level of bandwidth, and if exceeded, they get throttled.

In a telecom version of fair use, you throttle by content type, allocating bandwidth by type of activity and premium services. VoIP gets a priority (and under a proposed bill, flat-taxed by number). IPTV gets a priority (and via the broadcast flag, could be regulated to select providers). Premium content gets a priority (if they've paid for it). Everything else? Possibly throttled.

Hello Web 3.0?
posted by F Mackenzie at 8:48 AM on May 13, 2006


Any other sightings in the wild?

yeah, a premium blogad on digby hullabaloo.

i emailed the blogger and referenced him to this thread.

btw, here's a corrected TPM link.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2006


Is there a legitimate argument against Net Neutrality?
posted by mkultra at 11:12 AM EST on May 13


Well the shittyness of my VOIP phone during peak hours is one. I think the providers will continue to have a very hard time offering services like VOIP and IPTV with any gaurantee of quality until they can control of which packets get priority.

Not that I don't fear what the telcos would do with that kind of control
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2006


Is there a legitimate argument against Net Neutrality?

Well, there is a moral argument. At the end of the day, those cables don't belong to you, they belong to Verizon, AT&T, etc. and are theirs to do with as they please.

There's an economic argument too. A deregulated market is better than a regulated one, in general. There is more freedom to innovate, and more importantly, a greater incentive to invest in new infrastructure, spurring competition, which lowers prices and improves service.

But that's the starry-eyed idealised free-market version. In reality, the telecoms market is not free. It's loaded down with regulation (e.g. the entire FCC) designed, like most legislation, to preserve the status quo. Personally I think it would be business suicide for an ISP to block "enemy" sites, so the imagined horrors of a non-neutral net are somewhat overblown. But I also think the telcos are cynical bastards who would screw us all in as-yet-unimagined ways. So even libertarians can't really support what the telcos are saying, as the magical land of deregulation that they are proposing as an alternative doesn't exist.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2006


Well the shittyness of my VOIP phone during peak hours is one.

Silly rabbit. If you want VOIP you can use the cable or telco solution and not have issues like that. So Vonage or Skype would need to pay the telco/cable company to get equal footing with the in-house product. And of course, they'd pass that cost on to you or they'd go out of business. It is not in the telcom companies' interest to give competitors an equal footing.

To me it comes down to choice. If my broadband provider implemented a scheme that would mean the packets I happen to want to fall to the back of the line, I can't switch. I can get 6Mbps from TimeWarner. Because of the telco infrastructure in my neighborhood, DSL barely breaks the 1Mbps mark even if I am paying for the 6Mbps package. Satellite? More money, slower service? If I had real choice, I wouldn't have a problem with an old-school broadband doing whatever they want. But thanks to generous political donations from SBC, citywide wifi is illegal in my state. WiMax is still a long way away. And Cingular and Verizon's broadband over cellular is $$$ and I'd assume they'd employ the same policies as their wired sister companies.
posted by birdherder at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2006


Well the shittyness of my VOIP phone during peak hours is one.

killing off net neutrality isn't going to fix that. only bandwidth will. supposed packet priority would only theoretically help for in-provider calls without net neutrality, and then only with bandwidth, and then only by throttling other calls. the question becomes, who gets to make shitty calls so that others can have better calls. your isp is already limiting your bandwidth without net neutrality to give you shitty calls during peak hours. without neutrality, there nothing to prohibit one provider from downgrading content from another provider. it will just be a war over who wins the vertical market monopoly. globally, even.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2006


i don't get it ... can't they make enough money selling information about us to the nsa?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2006


btw, here's a corrected TPM link.

Thanks. "talkingpointsmenu." Whoops.
posted by rafter at 9:35 AM on May 13, 2006


Well the shittyness of my VOIP phone during peak hours is one.

That's because VOIP -- and indeed, any solution demanding realtime packets -- is WRONG when applied to the Internet.

TCP/IP has many features, guaranteed time of delivery is most explicitly not one of them, and attempts to graft such onto the protocol break other things, like the routing advantages that make the whole system work.

There are way too many abuses, and way too few user benefits, to QoS on the Internet. If you want a reliable phone, we have two completely distinct ways of giving you such right now -- get a phone, or get a cellphone. If you want a reliable, fully QoS network, they're out there as well, and they work great for Voice over Network. Hint: The phone company uses it. Hint 2: You don't want to know the cost.

TCP/IP does many many things well. What it doesn't do well, at all, is realtime -- delayed arrival and out-of-order arrival are very much expected and accepted.

There's a reason the telcos have completely different networks, running completely different protocols, and why they're very bad at sending random packets to random places, but very, very good at sending a stream of packets from Point A to Point B in the right order, at the right speed, with as little latency and drop as possible.

VoIP is like a scooter engine in an SUV -- it might move the car, but it'll never be efficent. And, as a political bonus, you're giving the telcos the urge to take over the net.

Just so you can make a crappy sounding phone call. Thanks!
posted by eriko at 9:38 AM on May 13, 2006


At the end of the day, those cables don't belong to you, they belong to Verizon, AT&T, etc. and are theirs to do with as they please.

and for which they are handsomely rewarded already at whatever rate they please to charge.

after that, if they want to choke of some portions of traffic in preference to their own or their favorite fuckbuddies, then it becomes a matter of public interest, as it inteferes with the commerce of others.

as it is, i pay for bandwidth on both ends with telcos in the middle and the bulk of what i'm paying going to the telcos at exhorbitant rates. i have a broadband isp at home, on average the highest utility bill i pay. somehow, it seems pretty far out of balance that home bandwidth costs me more than electricity or gas, given that electric and gas companies have infrastructure and raw materials and labor to pay for also. but that's the way it is. and i have two leased server pipes, the bill for which is astronomical, just for doing some piddly volunteer non-profit work. between the two and my cellular provider i pay over a third of what i pay in rent to telcos. at the place where i work, a university, a huge portion of the budget goes to telcos, running the cost of education about double what it would otherwise be, and making my salary which which to pay my own personal services less. we're getting reamed here with "what they please" and they are not satisified. this is a matter of public interest in what have to be considered public utilities vital to commerce. they can't have all the growth to themselves.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:53 AM on May 13, 2006


Well, there is a moral argument. At the end of the day, those cables don't belong to you, they belong to Verizon, AT&T, etc. and are theirs to do with as they please.

Sure, but they were put in with cooperation with local governments, with the belif that it would benefit residents, not simply to benefit verizon stockholders.

Those bandwidth providers have local monopolies or duopolies, so while they compete with each other over geographic 'turf' individual customers are locked in. Now they basically want the right to use their paying customer base (you and me) for ransom.

And then there is the fact that these same telecom companies have lobbied to make it illegal for cities to put in their own geographic wifi service.

These companies make money screwing every penny they can out of the consumer, which they have a local monopoly on.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2006


As far as VoIP goes, I've had pretty good luck. Trouble usually happens on my end, but only because I haven't set up QoS on my router, so large downloads make phone calls really interesting.

Also, VoIP uses UDP for the bulk of communication, which does not care if the data ever arrives, or what order packets arrive at the other end.
posted by chibikeandy at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2006



Well, there is a moral argument. At the end of the day, those cables don't belong to you, they belong to Verizon, AT&T, etc. and are theirs to do with as they please.


Not to mention there's been a good deal of talk about how much public money was spent on helping the telcos get the very optic fiber they talked about in this funky little cartoon. The very fiber they're still, by and large, not using.

And sure, let's let them do what they want with "their" pipes. One telecom exec recently argued that we don't tell gas stations what they should charge... and that really should have given those who sell gasoline ideas. Look at all the money UPS and the shipping companies make -- and they don't want to pay for the gasoline they buy! What any reasonable seller of petroleum-based-fuel would do is charge UPS more.

And you know what would be great, while we're talking about shipping? If only shipping companies got priority in traffic. Then not only would our mail-order goods would reach us more quickly, but they'd reach businesses in a more timely manner, and that would help them operate more efficiently, and costs would drop! The only obstacle? The selfish shipping companies aren't willing to pay more to help such an arrangment come to pass, and the government owns and regulates most roads so that all traffic has the same priority and cost. It's really a shame we're stuck in this state of affairs.
posted by weston at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2006


Any other sightings in the wild?

As noted, it's on TPM and Digby's. There was obviously a big buy across the blog space. Atrios accepted the ad as well, saying

Let Them Spend Their Money: I'm happy to take some of it, but you can feel free to ignore the Telco ad to the right.

Clearly there was a big buy on the Blogads "Liberal Blog Ad Network". Most top right-wing blogs are part of Jammies, which uses corporate skyscraper ads, so none there. The top-ranked right-wing blog using Blogads seems to be Hugh Hewitt, and it wasn't there.

It's actually an interesting strategy, trying to get liberals to support "deregulation" (it's sort of the other way around in reality, but anyway). That is, they're ignoring their natural consistuency in favor of going after a demographic that may not be as receptive. Is it simply logistical? I doubt that; otherwise they'd be on Hewitt's site (unless he opposes them and didn't accept the ad; I don't know). It's a bit like Dean's 50-state-strategy (and the 50-state strategy that the GOP has been using at least since '94).
posted by dhartung at 12:00 PM on May 13, 2006


Net Neutrality is largely irrelevant.

In the mid-to-late 1990s anyone who could, laid fiber. Just about every electric utility has dozens of pairs of fiber running along their transmission lines. In most cases, a single pair is lit up for the utility's own use, the rest remains dark.

If the existing long-haul providers attempt to jack up prices enough that google notices, google will simply light up their own dark fiber routes and bypass the expensive long haul routes.

If prices are jacked up enough to hurt small and medium sized internet shops, then venture capitalists will jump in and light up new routes, creating new low-cost long-haul providers. Bankers love fiber because it is an infrastructurial way they can play the internet game. They will probably get burned, just like they did in the late '90s, since they don't really understand fiber.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2006


At root, this is part of the legislative end run to ensure hugely disruptive changes, such as building public wi-fi networks, are firmly under telco control. With this legislation in place, any competitor offering mobile VOIP phones over a city wi-fi network could be re-directed at the telcos discretion (or worse, “accidently” suffer Enron-style rolling blackouts).
posted by egg meister at 1:53 PM on May 13, 2006


Yeah, but it is too easy to build your own high-bandwidth long-haul fiber network.

On paper, long haul lasers can send a signal 40 km. In reality, they can go much farther, without any amplification. If you are dealing with pasisvely amplified erbium doped fiber, you can build very long runs at a very low fixed cost. The only variable cost is the fiber run itself, and that depends entirely on your negotiating skills.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:02 PM on May 13, 2006


b1tr0t: You are aware that the regulation in question doesn't actually revolve around the infrastructure itself, but QoS stuff at the edge of the network.

It doesn't matter if google can build it's own long-haul networks if it's packets are filtered out at the ISP level.
posted by delmoi at 2:30 PM on May 13, 2006


b1tr0t: You are aware that the regulation in question doesn't actually revolve around the infrastructure itself, but QoS stuff at the edge of the network.

Do you have any idea how much the cable companies would love it if telecos did that?

I'm not saying that the proposed legislation is a good thing, just that it is largely irrelevant. If it passes, fine - there are ways to work around it. If it doesn' t pass, fine - things stay as they are.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:39 PM on May 13, 2006


Do you have any idea how much the cable companies would love it if telecos did that?

Why wouldn't the cable companies do the same thing?
posted by weston at 5:33 PM on May 13, 2006


The cable companies are not bound by the same regulations as the phone companies, so they could do this now. They don't do it now because they are competing with the phone companies for internet access.

If you had a choice between a $40 / month cable modem connection with fast access to google, and a $40 / month DSL connection with slow access to google, which would you choose?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:41 PM on May 13, 2006


They don't do it now because they are competing with the phone companies for internet access.

should read

...for the internet access market.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:42 PM on May 13, 2006


They don't do it now because they are competing with the phone companies for internet access.

I suppose what I'm thinking is: if all of their telecom competitors are doing it, and it really does bring them extra revenue, why wouldn't the cable companies do it too? There doesn't even have to be out-and-out collusion at the next peering agreement meeting, just quietly following suit.

I can see that things would probably work out as you say in a very competetive market... and perhaps those markets exist in some places. When I look around my state, though, I don't see it.
posted by weston at 9:15 PM on May 13, 2006


That is a good point. No one (in the industry) cares much about areas with low population density because it is much harder to recover an infrastructure investment there. Even in Washington State, there is a dramatic difference in internet access when you get to the edge of Urban Seattle.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:04 PM on May 13, 2006


Sure, but they were put in with cooperation with local governments, with the belif that it would benefit residents, not simply to benefit verizon stockholders.

Actually I strongly suspect that the local officials who gave permission to dig up the roads didn't give two hoots about residents. Phone companies sidle up to you, take you out to expensive dinners, send you on expensive fact finding missions, pledge construction contracts to your associates, and even hand you company stock or used bills in a brown envelope.

Not to mention there's been a good deal of talk about how much public money was spent on helping the telcos get the very optic fiber they talked about in this funky little cartoon.

True, but this is an argument against corporate welfare, not against what the companies proceed to do with the welfare handouts they've been given. We gave them the fiber; now it's theirs. We don't demand personal welfare recipients spend their welfare checks on things that are in the public interest.

Of course if the networks are a joint venture between local government and the phone company, then the rules are different. But I don't think this is very often the case.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:11 AM on May 14, 2006


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