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Congress Hates Internet Users
June 9, 2006 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I just heard some sad news on talk radio. Net Neutrality was found dead in Congress this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the community will miss it. Even if you didn't enjoy its work, there's no denying its contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
posted by brownpau (96 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by kimota at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2006


Ha! My . got there before anyone else's! That's why I pay more for my Internet connection!
posted by kimota at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2006


why not outsource the Net to China since everything else goes there.
posted by Postroad at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2006


Congress hates the Internet? Democrats, notsomuch. That vote was vividly split across party lines. It was a GOP thing.
posted by digaman at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2006


AT&T knows what's best for me.
posted by chasing at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2006


.
posted by jrb223 at 10:25 AM on June 9, 2006


This will be good for the economy, if you think making the rich richer and the poor poorer is good for the economy.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:26 AM on June 9, 2006


Please tell me the Senate still needs to vote on this. Or something. [cries]
posted by scarabic at 10:29 AM on June 9, 2006


Most of the arguments against net neutrality that I've come across tend to be sentimental odes to some imaginary time in the past when the net was "democratic". I'm not sure I know what people are talking about in that case, since internet access was until recently, mostly unavailable to the developing world. Internet access has always been about who could afford broadband and who had to make do with 56K modems.

Maybe I'm missing the point entirely, but isn't this just an extrapolation of what the nature of online access has always been?
posted by slatternus at 10:30 AM on June 9, 2006


Oops, "Arguments FOR net neutrality". Sorry.
posted by slatternus at 10:31 AM on June 9, 2006


You're thinking of the end users, slatternus, but consider internet content providers and site operators. Big money will have an enhanced presence on the internet. It will be harder for scrappy startups with limited funds to get online with better products than the big guys, because their content/sites will be in the slow lane. Making fat telecom fees a precondition to being able to serve up a site quickly is going to strangle smaller players.

"Democratic" is a metaphor, anyway. But it's currently true that with regard to the telecom backbone, no one big or small has a built-in advantage right now.
posted by scarabic at 10:35 AM on June 9, 2006


Slatternus: No. Consider that, right now, Cox (which owns both ISPs and newspapers) is throttling access by their ISP customers to Craigslist, to the point of making CL unusable. Why? Because classified ads are major moneymakers for newspapers, and CL is eating their lunch.

This is what net neutrality is about. Once this passes (and I have little hope that it won't) the most we can expect (and perhaps more than we can reasonably expect) is that in major cities, there will be enough different ISPs that at least one of them will promise "we don't limit your Internet access."
posted by adamrice at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2006


In other words, expect MetaFilter to get a lot slower in the coming years as it's relegated to the "legacy/free" network. Telecoms will start building out their "Internet 2!" bullshit and it'll be full of paid-up subscribers like MSN who have the deep pockets.
posted by scarabic at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2006


Cool, those are actually the most straightforward explanations I've come across.
posted by slatternus at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2006


I have a question, pardon my ignorance if this has been discussed before...

Is this a zero sum game? By granting faster access to those who can pay does that automatically limit access to everyone else?

In my understanding the pipes in the US are artificially squeezed so on the user end of things the download and upload speeds are slower. Haven't people mentioned that in places like Japan they have significantly faster download speeds than in the US?

Basically, if this is true, couldn't the telecos just open up the pipes for those who pay thus giving everyone the speed they are used to but pay sites faster speed?
posted by Sandor Clegane at 10:45 AM on June 9, 2006


Basically, if this is true, couldn't the telecos just open up the pipes for those who pay thus giving everyone the speed they are used to but pay sites faster speed?

Your faith in humanity is charming and quaint.
posted by verb at 10:47 AM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is this a zero sum game? By granting faster access to those who can pay does that automatically limit access to everyone else?

Well, what seems likely to happen is that packets from preferred hosts will get priority in the central routers, so if any one router is near it's (possibly artificially limited) capacity, then yes, it's zero-sum until traffic eases up. I think.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2006


Internet access is incredibly zippy in Japan, and in the UK too.
posted by slatternus at 10:49 AM on June 9, 2006


Oh c'mon. Who needs to access sites that aren't on the AOL homepage, or that don't come bookmarked with Realplayer?

Buncha Communists.
posted by washburn at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2006


Wow, my Republican congressman voted Nay. But 106 Democrats vote Aye, and 92 Nay. :(
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2006


Once again, one of the great inventions of the human race is sold to short-term profit jockeys. *vomit*
posted by Dantien at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is this a zero sum game? By granting faster access to those who can pay does that automatically limit access to everyone else?

Automatically? No, I suppose not.

But even the sunniest versions of the plan basically boil down to "If there's a conflict between bits, we're going to throw away unpaid bits in favor of paid bits."

At the same time, an ISP throttling-down sites that it doesn't like or that it competes with in some way doesn't automatically make other sites go faster.

couldn't the telecos just open up the pipes for those who pay thus giving everyone the speed they are used to but pay sites faster speed?

They could. But they're probably get more paying "customers" if the sites who don't pay the protection money get throttled down and become unusable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 AM on June 9, 2006


RTFA:

"The issue now moves to the U. S. Senate, where Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has scheduled a third hearing on his own telecom reform package Tuesday morning.

Like the House-approved bill, Stevens' proposal showcases national video franchising. It leaves issues of network neutrality to further FCC study. "

The fight now moves to the Senate, where there is a competing version of the Telco bill. From Fresspress.net:

"AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Anthony Riddle. He’s the executive director of the Alliance for Community Media. Welcome to Democracy Now! Is net neutrality over?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: No, I’d say that we’re halfway to the apocalypse right now. There’s been a fairly bad bill for the Internet and for public media that has gone through the House. It’s the COPE Act, and it was passed in the dead of night last night, 3-1 margin. Effectively, it continues this sort of decision that was made by the Supreme Court last year in August which changed the Internet fundamentally. Before that time, it was understood that all data on the Internet was to be treated equally and that nobody was to block any information going from anyone to anyone. With the Supreme Court decision in last night’s bill, the companies that operate the wires or fibers that bring the Internet to and from your house have the ability to offer preferential treatment for pay, and also to block any content that they deem opposing their business interests.

AMY GOODMAN: So users already pay Internet service per month. So this does the other end, the content providers, people who put up websites would also have to pay?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: No, they actually pay already now. You know, if you have a website, you have to pay for space on the website and you have to pay for a pipeline for people to reach, and however big that pipeline is for people to come to your web site, that determines how many people can access your webstreams or whatever. So people are paying on both ends already. What they’re trying to do right now is get people to pay for the middle, so that you can pay for an EZ-Pass lane if you’re Disney and have a lot of money, and if you don’t, then you’re going to have to sit in the long lines waiting to go through the toll booth.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this Senate going to approve this kind of bill?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: There’s a set of bills in the Senate that are very similar. There’s some differences or whatever. What the Senate will have to do is pass a bill and then the two houses will have to get together and do what they call a “conference committee.” Since both of those houses are controlled by the same party, you know, with large majorities, they can actually change the bills in toto in this conversation. They don’t have to stick to the bills that were actually passed. They can add anything or take anything out as long as both houses agree.
"
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:01 AM on June 9, 2006


Ah, slatternus, but on top of being able to charge more for "tiered" service to both content providers and end users, the big bandwidth providers can now completely control what you get to see on your internet. It has the potential to get pretty extreme.

Sony could make a deal with Comcast to give them the best bandwidth for their crappy music service, while choking down iTunes, for instance.

Not likely, but it's theoretically possible.

And of course, this could totally destroy BitTorrent et. al. The bandwidth providers could sniff out and close any traffic between sharers.

Or at least that's how I read it...

And slatternus, people with 56K modems can still access the same exact content that broadbanders get, just much more slowly.

This will now allow companies to more or less arbitrarily decide what people who can or can't pay will be able to see, at a content level, similar to the tiers of service on cable TV.

Hate to think of what it will do to things like webcomics, or Homestarrunner... your cool Flash cartoon won't be able to go viral unless you can afford the big pipe when you need it. And all these musicians who've been able to find a niche market online? Forget it. You'll need a new kind of "record deal" to reach people now.

Stuff like YouTube could really, really be in trouble.

I think this is just bad news for the kinds of innovation and growth that have been going on for the last several years.

It's back to the same old sucking up to/getting ass-raped by big corporations to get enough capital to get your ideas out there. Disgusting.

On preview, what everyone else said...
posted by zoogleplex at 11:01 AM on June 9, 2006


I've never known the internet to be a "democracy". I've always thought of it as anarchy... a group that keeps tabs on itself. That's the way I want it to remain.

I want us, the users, to have the power to show where the internet will take us, and not the telco's.

Failing that, it would be interesting to see what kind of hack-arounds people come up with if the telcos do succeed.
posted by triolus at 11:04 AM on June 9, 2006


TIERanny...

I think politicians should be forced to wear nascar like uniforms with patches of the companies that sponsor there campaigns.

Man i miss the twentieth century.
posted by Dreamghost at 11:06 AM on June 9, 2006 [3 favorites]


Al Gore must have seen this coming when he invented it.
posted by mds35 at 11:07 AM on June 9, 2006


They are building a magnificent, strong, and mighty dam.

Right in the middle of an ocean.
posted by squalor at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think politicians should be forced to wear nascar like uniforms with patches of the companies that sponsor there campaigns.

I love this idea!
posted by jperkins at 11:12 AM on June 9, 2006


I think politicians should be forced to wear nascar like uniforms with patches of the companies that sponsor there campaigns.

Is this information available online? That is, breakdown of campaign contributions by corporations and total contributions received for a given candidate?
posted by jperkins at 11:17 AM on June 9, 2006


Could this, in any manner, inspire a competitive alternative to the current infrastructure? I.E., someone seeks to develop a web that bypasses the telecoms? Note, I realize such a thing would be an enormous and time consuming undertakening, but would it at least theoretically be possible?
posted by Atreides at 11:19 AM on June 9, 2006


jperkins, maybe here and more generally here It still seems to me there's a lot of cash unaccounted for...
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2006


Failing that, it would be interesting to see what kind of hack-arounds people come up with if the telcos do succeed.

Well that's my next question: isn't there a way around this? I don't know, I'm not technically adept, but can't people using the slow lane come up with some kind of illicit way of threading multiple data streams so that you get more bang for your buck out of the "lower tier"?
posted by slatternus at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2006


Atreides, I suppose it's theoretically possible to develop a totally wireless web that doesn't use any land lines at all - but you'd have to buy the frequencies at auction from the FCC. I'm pretty sure most of that bandwidth has already been locked up.

Perhaps it could be done over public frequencies like PRS... but no matter what this isn't easy.

The alternative is to build a complete, globe-spanning fiber-optic network that is in no way connected to the one that exists now which is owned by the telcos, and start a completely new Internet that's completely unconnected to the old one.

Where ya gonna get the trillion dollars you'll need to do that, I have no idea.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2006


Thankfully there are still bills before the Senate, and they're not quite as abject in their servitude to corporate contributors. There's hope that net neutrality will make it into the language of Ted Stevens' bill (not that he'd be for it or anything), and if that fails, Ron Wyden's bill S2360, the Internet Nondiscrimination Act which deals with it directly may make it to the floor.

Also, this deserves another airing. Just in case you want to know a little more about what the Telcos are really all about and why their squeals of "using our pipes without paying for them" is a load of drivel.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:25 AM on June 9, 2006


Goodbye Internet, or Hello Shadow Internet?
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2006


slatternus, I suppose it would be possible to build some kind of data compression into servers and browsers so that instead of serving HTML directly as text, the page would flow out in compressed packets and be decompressed at the browser end.

That wouldn't do anything directly for images or video though, because they're already highly compressed for the most part (JPEG, PNG, MPEG are all compression schemes). So just like a video codec, you'd need a text codec. It could save maybe 90% of the bandwidth for straight text, so there'd be a little more room to send the images, perhaps?

I don't think it would make a lot of difference since the text is a very small percentage of the traffic.

Oh and hey - say goodbye to VOIP phone service like Skype. You really think AT&T is going to allow that to compete with their digital phone? Forget it.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:30 AM on June 9, 2006


the page would flow out in compressed packets and be decompressed at the browser end.

This has been implemented for years, it is called "HTTP compression", and all major servers support it, even if nobody uses it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2006


And remember, the monopolists only control the "last mile" wire pair or coax to your house. If they succeed in what they're doing, they'll create new competitors, for example, WISPs. If the telcos overspend their investment in anticipation of new revenue streams, this competition, or the threat of it, could destroy their margins and send them into the red on the whole deal.

(The bad side of this is it will send them whimpering back to Congress for more support, and Congress will continue to pay them for failure... out of our pockets.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:35 AM on June 9, 2006


adamrice, Excellent info. Actually this entire thread is very informative. Thanks for the post brownpau and everybody contributing to the conversation.

Dreamghost: TIERanny; ooh, nice neologistic pun.
posted by nickyskye at 11:36 AM on June 9, 2006


I think it's a zero-or-negative-sum game. In the simple case, you have transit networks just bumping traffic into higher priority queues, which is only going to have a big effect if the network is congested. In the slightly less simple case, you have networks throttling certain traffic flows even if there is capacity going unused that could carry it.

Take the Cox case. Cox can benefit in two ways: one, by taking payoffs from content providers; two, by forcing users towards its own classified-ads business and away from Craigslist. They might decide that that's worthwhile even if it doesn't speed up some other website.
posted by hattifattener at 11:37 AM on June 9, 2006


Are telecos outside the US trying to do the same thing?
posted by Sandor Clegane at 11:40 AM on June 9, 2006


Computers, good sense and politicians just do not mix.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on June 9, 2006


Best of luck with your internet there, America.
posted by Hogshead at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2006


The latter two have never mixed, Artw.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:01 PM on June 9, 2006


Basically, large Telcos are using this to extort content providers. They want to charge providers premium access to their customers. Then, if MSN wants, they can pay a fee to make sure that people visiting their site get the fastest content. Startup sites like Youtube/myspace/cl/facebook that get a lot of traffic will be artificially slowed down unless they pay the extortion fee.

It amounts to the government selling off the carpool lanes to the highest bidder(s)... So now you can't use the carpool lane if you don't have a car from a manuf that pays the "Carpool lane" tax. Keep in mind that in my hypothetical situation, you're the one that pays for the lane to be built through your own taxes. They aren't going to lower what you pay, they're just trying to get money from who they can, and block sites they don't like (without it being a freedom of speech issue... "We're not blocking their freedom of speech, they just can't afford to speak here" type arguement)
posted by hatsix at 12:02 PM on June 9, 2006


I love the Internet, and so I initially was a knee-jerk supporter of NN; upon further reflection, I think I've changed my mind.

I don't see how a lack of network neutrality is not just an extension of what already exists: larger organizations can already get more bandwidth and get that bandwidth better connected to the Internet; they can already obtain agreements that guarantee them levels of service and quality that individuals and small businesses cannot afford, and so on and so forth. They can, in other words, get more reliable, faster connections already. ISPs can already throttle bandwidth to their home users in favor of corporate users.

This can enable lots of new applications. In particular, you might be able to build absolutely latency-critical medical applications deploy them reliably and cheaply over the Internet. You could probably also do real-time video and audio streaming more effectively and reliably. This in turn would probably create greater incentives for ISPs to build up their networks, and home users would probably benefit and be subsidized by that build up.

As far as I can see it, providers have HAD a non-network-neutral environment for years now, and have not abused it too much. There is probably more competition in providers than ever before (DSL, cable, satellite, dial-up, wi-fi, cell-phone broadband networks), and so the threat of one provider locking out or throttling popular applications seems, well, low, because users will get outraged and other providers will eat their lunch.

Moreover, if certain providers do abuse network neutrality provisions, why couldn't they simply be hammered under existing anti-trust laws?

The basic problem with network neutrality regulation goes is that it is fixing a problem that does not exist yet, and that very likely will simply never exist. And the burdens of imposing a whole new set of regulations on ISPs and enforcing them, and potentially freezing out a great deal of innovation seems a high price to pay. Why not wait for all of these problems to happen first, and then act? The Internet is still changing too rapidly to freeze it in place.

As far as Cox throttling Craigslist goes, it seems as if it is due to some software they use and are trying to fix, and is likely unintentional...
posted by shivohum at 12:03 PM on June 9, 2006


... so will this actually affect anyone outside of America?
posted by Drexen at 12:08 PM on June 9, 2006


"In particular, you might be able to build absolutely latency-critical medical applications deploy them reliably and cheaply over the Internet."

This should be a public service, and already built in. It's possible to do this now.

"As far as Cox throttling Craigslist goes, it seems as if it is due to some software they use and are trying to fix, and is likely unintentional..."

Suuuuuuuure it is.

Anyway, this is aimed at the telcos, not the ISPs, correct?

Except that some of the telcos are also the ISPs, like the new AT&T. Think of the unfair advantage there.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2006


It's back to the same old sucking up to/getting ass-raped...

Speaking of which, what will this do to the online porn business?

And what Drexen said: will this actually affect anyone outside of America?
posted by pracowity at 12:14 PM on June 9, 2006


will this actually affect anyone outside of America?

Technically no, I guess not, but the more comments I read the more it just sounds like a bad precedent. I can easily now imagine Rogers Cable here in Canada offering up "Express Service" subscriptions as some kind of bonus added value feature, like they're doing us a favor of some kind.
posted by slatternus at 12:19 PM on June 9, 2006


Most of the arguments against net neutrality that I've come across tend to be sentimental odes to some imaginary time in the past when the net was "democratic". I'm not sure I know what people are talking about in that case, since internet access was until recently, mostly unavailable to the developing world. Internet access has always been about who could afford broadband and who had to make do with 56K modems.

This has nothing to do with the world outside the US. And yes it's the way the internet "always was" and still is today.
posted by delmoi at 12:28 PM on June 9, 2006


Seems to me that if this idea makes lots of money for the US telecos it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world tries to follow suit.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 12:30 PM on June 9, 2006


There's no way legal to "hack" around this, the packets either come from 'prefered' hosts or they don't. Hosts won't be able to 'upgrade' to the high-speed download system any more then you or I can hack our cable or DSL modems to upgrade to the higher speed.

In other words, it is possible, but a felony.

Although I suppose Russian porn servers might used hacked access systems, without fear of reprisal.
posted by delmoi at 12:37 PM on June 9, 2006


Mmmm, the crisp, cool taste of bottled Internet.

ReRefreshing!
posted by tittergrrl at 12:38 PM on June 9, 2006


In other words, it is possible, but a felony.

Yeah, I was thinking that certain types of internet-dependent businesses might benefit from a black routing virtual network, perhaps paying a retainer fee for times when it's really needed...
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2006


My Fox Internetworks says everything is just fine, and we should just trust our Dear Leaders.
posted by BillyElmore at 12:45 PM on June 9, 2006


Americans comprise 3% of the world population. Americans will eventually enjoy being the backwards backwater hillbillies of the internet.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:00 PM on June 9, 2006



posted by brownpau at 1:02 PM on June 9, 2006 [5 favorites]


It's my understanding that popular companies like Google and Amazon are against this bill. Couldn't they threaten to boycott any ISP that goes for a pay for play model once the Republican Congress rubber stamps this bill? Is it even possible for a site to deny an ISP to view their content? What ISP is going to stand up to Google? Remember when China backed down when they threatened to ban Google if they didn't censor....nevermind.
posted by any major dude at 1:08 PM on June 9, 2006


Is this something I'd have to be an internet user to understand?
posted by Flashman at 1:19 PM on June 9, 2006


brownpau's got it.

But still, it's not the ISP. It's the backbone, the telcos. If Google wants people to be able to access them at best speed, they're going to have to pay more to have that guaranteed access, which hits the bottom line hard - and if AT&T decides to have their own search engine, they can compete unfairly against Google.

The thing is, this would be kind of like walling off the two left lanes of I-95 in Connecticut or the 405 in LA and making them Toll Only, while leaving the other 2 or 3 lanes free.

Or worse, being able to move the wall over to the right if there are enough paying drivers. The "pay side" of the road would be optimized for the amount of cars that were on it, so everyone can drive at highway speed free of congestion; the rest of the road would have to deal with the bottleneck.

I understand that the freeways are publicly owned and the Net infrastructure is private, so the analogy isn't accurate.

Maybe the People of the United States should buy the Net infrastructure - just the cable and fiber and necessary switches - and make everyone including the telcos into "users."

Oh sorry, that would be a Communist thing to do.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:19 PM on June 9, 2006


Just remember, the telecoms are complaining about having too much demand for their products. You'll pardon me for not losing any sleep for an industry that thinks this is a bad thing.

I sincerely hope that either
1) This whole thing dies a messy death when Google just decides to roll its own (W)ISP out or
2) The nastiest, most horrific anti-NN bill gets passed and 802.11s networks start popping up all over the place. Mmmm mesh networks.

Also, this 'competition' thing is bogus. Even here in NYC with telecoms on every street corner, all the DSL lines have to be serviced by Verizon techs. All the phone lines are Verizon lines. I have the choice between two Cable ISPs and a million DSL ISPs that all go through Verizon. My sister's house has one cable ISP and thats it. Competition? I haven't seen any evidence.
posted by Skorgu at 2:23 PM on June 9, 2006


* thunderous applause for brownpau *
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:11 PM on June 9, 2006


Precisely. There isn't any competition.

My choices (in LA) are:

Cable TV: Comcast

Local phone service: AT&T (formerly SBC)

That's it.

All DSL that comes to my building (and everyone else in my region) comes over AT&T (SBC) lines, and of course the cheapest DSL service comes direct from AT&T. I can get Earthlink or AOL DSL, but what's the point when I can get it from AT&T for about $10 less per month?

That's not competition.

There's really no way to get real competition until every ISP can get direct service access to the entire network instead of having to go thru the telcos, and that's not going to happen.

What's most likely to happen something similar to what you see in broadcast TV and radio. Only the content that has the most money behind it will be easily accessible. You don't see too many independently-owned TV stations broadcasting these days, do you? It's technically possible to build your own transmitter and broadcast anything you want, but it's illegal to broadcast unless you've paid for the frequency you're broadcasting on via the airwave auction or a license, and such fees are well outside the reach of most single private citizens and small companies.

Someone else is going to decide what you get to see on the internet, based on who can pay the most to show it. Bad.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:17 PM on June 9, 2006


* thunderous applause for brownpau *

I'll second that!
posted by scarabic at 3:42 PM on June 9, 2006


It's my understanding that popular companies like Google and Amazon are against this bill.

Of course they are, it directly affects their ability to make a profit. Can they afford better lobbyists than the telcos? Given that this bill passed the House, I'd say they can't, or they haven't actually tried.

I bet they'll try now.

Hmm, interesting... this bill creates an interesting situation. It would allow the telcos to hold the dot-coms up for ransom to keep doing their business, which affects the dot-com's bottom line. This could put major brakes on the dot-com economy, and perhaps even force some dot-coms to sell out to larger conglomerates just to stay alive.

Perhaps this is an attempt by the "old money" of telcos and broadcast to squash the "new money" upstarts of the successful dot-coms, who have been succeeding in their business models and shifting profits and revenues away from the previous vested interests.

Have they noticed that this would be terrible for the US economy as a whole?
posted by zoogleplex at 4:14 PM on June 9, 2006


This may be the first time i've ever seen an industry try to legislate itself OUT of business.

Haven't they heard of Wireless Internet?
posted by Freen at 4:37 PM on June 9, 2006


Sad. How much inpact will this have on the non-US portions of the net?
posted by spazzm at 4:52 PM on June 9, 2006


brownpau's graphic is a bit much, the site wouldn't be innaccessable, it would just be slower.
posted by delmoi at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2006


With all the free speach you Americans have been getting away with since the late 1780's it's about time.
It has been a long, hard road getting all you "revolutionist" under the yoke once more.
I can't tell you how hard it has been keeping the truth from the American people lately... and another thing: The people who dumped that shipment of tea in boston are terrorists and will be punished.
Bend over for your government/CORPORATE aristocracy!
I know you won't fight, you can't afford it. MwwHAHAHAHA!
(But seriously, I hope another revolution is coming soon. Eat the rich!)
posted by indifferent at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2006


A short primer for the less knowledgable

a) the net is made by electronic lines, whoever owns them can make you pay to access the lines. It's like telephone
b) not surprisingly telecom companies own most of the lines
c) in the past the lines were mostly used for 1) phone call 2) faxing

Note: phone call / fax are both -services- that made the line useful : who the fuck would care about a phone line to home if they are the only one with a phone ? Also, who the fuck would care to have a line if they can't have a phone/fax attached to it ?

d) in the present lines are being used to 1)phone 2)fax 3) navigate the net (send email ,get video, send video, a bunch of stuff)

Now if you had a company tell sells phone/fax you would be pissed when you see that your line is being used to sell a lot of stuff to other people ; that is because you are NOT selling the most profiteable services (that once were phone calls and fax) so you are mighty pissed at your incompetence, but you don't have but yourself to blame for not seeing it coming.

At the same time, you lowered your price of broadband to attract more customer, increase demand which isn't but good. Yet again by sheer incompetence you probably overbooked your lines and saturated them by offering user unrealistically high speed nominal brodband for a dime. Nice job ! But hey telecom companies ARE NOT runned by geeks, but by my fellow MBAs.

Somebody in the telcos figures that selling pricey high speed lines to private companies isn't enough. Usually you have the one who is taking most profit also pay for his part of cost because he can afford it, while you leave the least successful with slower, less expensive lines. THat's perfectly fine as succesful company can afford to buy more and faster lines, passing the cost down to the consumer by redistributing over the customer.

Somebody in the telcoos figured it is far MORE profiteable to discrimate by content

----------------------------------

CONSUMER Point of view

Consumer sometime is just like a King of the flies : happy because he thinks he is king, but he really is eating shit. Regardless, he's satisfied and that's all that counts.

The consumer argument is probably "who cares, I already pay for broadband" and "they will offer me different packages, I will choose, If I don't like they don't get my money so they better make me happy ! "

That is correct, but they don't see some big points.

a) you can video-phone half the world for almost FREE right now
b) you can download video, even if not the best quality
c) you can upload video
d) you can send email with attachments

There is a bunch of things that will slowly but surely become SERVICES and telecoms don't like that
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, consumers began to attach new devices to their internet connections, and use internet services that were not in existence in the mid-1990s. The reaction of many broadband operators was to impose various contractual limits on the activities of their subscribers. In the best known examples, Cox Cable disciplined users of virtual private networks[2] (VPNs) and AT&T, as a cable operator, warned customers that using a Wi-Fi service for home-networking constituted "theft of service" and a federal crime.

A solution was rather evident: raise broadband price, shape broadband so that users that want, for instance, a 20 Mbit pay more then twice a 10 Mbit and so on , having the heavy users finance part of the higher costs. Yet this discourage toughtless consumerism and "people want to see video" on the internet ; such lines could be subsizides by content provider.
posted by elpapacito at 5:07 PM on June 9, 2006


Perhaps someone is knowledgeable about this; I believe I remember reading stories about Coogle massively buying up "dark fiber" i.e. fiber already laid that was not in use. Does anyone know about that and whether it would constitute adequate pathways to bypass telco and cableco backbones? Not that it would necessarily benefit anyone else anyway.
posted by wpbinder at 5:20 PM on June 9, 2006


Google
posted by wpbinder at 5:21 PM on June 9, 2006


wpbinder: probably only at the backbone / medium distribution but I seriously doubt that they have structure for millions of users.
posted by elpapacito at 5:22 PM on June 9, 2006


What matters here is the last mile; the backbones are owned by a lot of players, and where there are multiple routes (or the potential for them with new peering agreements), competition will keep the telcos in line; if they try differentiating on content or origin and have stupid, complicated bililng arrangements, their peers say "fuck that" and change their routes.

Where they have full control is in the last mile; there is very little meaningful competition here. Only one company controls the copper pair into your home. You can switch to cable, or vice versa, but if your cable operator only offers a variation on the same shitty deal (and they will) , that's it.

What this means is they're not really talking about charging for the pipe -- they're talking about charging for access to you. You're not just a paying customer (though you are always that), you're an asset on their books; something to be packaged and sold to content providers who in turn sell you to their advertisers.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:33 PM on June 9, 2006


I can easily now imagine Rogers Cable here in Canada offering up "Express Service" subscriptions as some kind of bonus added value feature, like they're doing us a favor of some kind.

Isn't Rogers already exorbitant enough?
posted by oaf at 5:38 PM on June 9, 2006


Which is actually the business model of a lot of websites. They're selling the "eyeballs" of the people who visit them.

So the Last Milers want to sell your eyeballs to the people who are using them to make money.

Of course, you will be billed more for your Internet access, which means you'll be paying for your own eyeballs.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:41 PM on June 9, 2006


Uh, my above it to George_Spiggot's post.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:42 PM on June 9, 2006


AT&T rep Dinsdale Piranha: "You've got a nice website here guv'nor. It's be a shame if nobody could get to it. Know what I mean?"
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:55 PM on June 9, 2006


I guess now Google knows who they were messing with.
posted by washburn at 5:56 PM on June 9, 2006


Haven't they heard of Wireless Internet?

As I said before, that requires airwave frequencies, which are subject to all sorts of regulation. While there is spectrum allotted for WiFi, there's the problem of it scaling up.

If everyone who's currently wired to the Net decided to go wireless, what will the traffic look like?

Not to mention that wireless isn't as fast as landline fiber yet.

I mean, it's possible to create a nationwide peer-to-peer wireless internet... but that means everyone's home computer has to double as an IP router for pass-through traffic. Talk about slow bandwidth! Your machine would be chugging 24/7.

A solution to that would require local dedicated routing nodes with some kind of super-high-bandwidth transceiver system to reach other equivalent nodes, just like the wired internet. There would have to be a bandwidth heirarchy with multiple redundancy.

This is all possible, it's exactly what IP is designed to do, it's just a question of the transmission system. Maybe Google could set up their dark fiber as the backbone of something like this, and use satellite and microwave to handle the local nodes.

It would be a major, major undertaking to totally bypass the existing wired infrastructure.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:49 PM on June 9, 2006


Who cares? ITs just another way the rest of the world can choose to kick America's ass. The business of the US government is pimp'n its own capitolists. When the pro-net freedom people can show that other nation-states are kicking American ass up and down the block, THEN the congress will do something.

Otherwise, get used to slow access unless you pony up.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:19 PM on June 9, 2006


Precisely. There isn't any competition.
My choices (in LA) are:
Cable TV: Comcast
Local phone service: AT&T (formerly SBC)
That's it.

I'll do ya one WORSE.

If I had TELEPHONE service with AT&T, then I could get DLS from AT&T. But, because my BILLING agent for local phone service is not AT&T (even tho AT&T provides the line), I can't get AT&T DSL.

So my choice is dialup or having a T1 brought in. ($10 vs $500 per month)

posted by rough ashlar at 7:29 PM on June 9, 2006


Where they have full control is in the last mile; there is very little meaningful competition here.

Don't forget - the last mile exists because of the government sponsored monopoly.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:34 PM on June 9, 2006


Ugh, that sucks, ashlar.

Y'know, I actually exist as a result of that government-sponsored monopoly, the phone company. My grandfather went to MIT and right out of school started with New Jersey Bell Telephone on Day 1 of its existence. He married my grandmother about seven years later and my dad was born about four years after that. Grandpa worked there, and then at AT&T when the Bells combined, until the late '60s, and was a Telephone Pioneer of America. So the entire set of preconditions for my existence was enabled and paid for by the Bell System.

As far as monopolies go, it really wasn't some horrible monster. What other company could promise five nines of uptime for 50 years straight, and service extending to almost every American? It did get stodgy and stubborn in some ways, but the original AT&T developed the core technology of just about every piece of communications technology that exists today.

I wonder if it's possible for cities, counties or states to buy out the Last Mile via a public bond issue...
posted by zoogleplex at 7:49 PM on June 9, 2006


In Michigan, there's been legislation that's gone back and forth in the house to prevent municipalities from doing just that. You know, in the name of "competition."
When people will realize that the government represents the public, and often that the public can do a broad job cheaper and better than a corporation, I don't know but hope that it comes soon.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:10 PM on June 9, 2006


.
posted by cellphone at 9:16 PM on June 9, 2006


best comment ever
posted by cellphone at 9:20 PM on June 9, 2006


What I find most frustrating about this is the backbone companies and ISPs are already being paid twice for the traffic.

Businesses pay ISPs for bandwidth to host their websites. Customers pay ISPs for bandwidth to access those websites.
If either want more bandwidth, they pay more for it.
Backbone companies are paid by the ISPs to actually transfer the traffic.

Now the ISPs and backbones aren't happy merely being paid twice to deliver packets, they want to set up an arbitrary number of tollbooths in the middle, and unless the company or user pays every single one of them, the packets will be artificially slowed down or dropped altogether, to 'make room' for the 'high priority' traffic.

The potential for ISPs to block their competition's websites, or just extort successful businesses for virtually unlimited amounts of money is truly scary. Non-ISP provided VOIP will be amongst the first to be legally killed. The US telecoms companies have already started, but they've been wary of lawsuits. With the law on their side, they won't hesitate to milk 'net companies for every penny they can get.

And we outside the US will be affected - any US website, especially the smaller players will suddenly get a low slower.
Non-telecom VOIP into the US will become unusable.
I for one am not welcoming our new telecom overlords.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:43 PM on June 9, 2006


CNN.com does a good job of providing an even-handed analysis of this bill:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation to open cable TV markets to more competition, possibly saving consumers hundreds of dollars a year, passed the House Thursday.
posted by papakwanz at 12:54 AM on June 10, 2006


Well, fuck me ugly.

*fires up bittorrent and starts slurping like a $5 whore*
posted by loquacious at 2:40 AM on June 10, 2006


papakwanz: yeah possibily it also sends the man on Mars, realm of possibility knows no bounduary ! Except those of physical reality and legislated reality.

For instance take any cable subcription plan, let's look at this example
# BASIC GROUPS World News BBC World
# CCTV-9*
# CNN
# CNBC Singapore
# Bloomberg Television
Any 3 Groups $20.00($21.00 with 5% GST)

# Education Animal Planet
# Discovery Channel
# Discovery Travel &
Living Channel
# National Geographic
Channel
Any 4 Groups $24.00($25.20 with 5% GST)

# Entertainment AXN
# Hallmark Channel
# MTV S.E.A.
# STAR WORLD
Any 5 Groups $27.00($28.35 with 5% GST)

Notice that if you want a single channel or 2-3 channel coming from different packages ( for instance BBC, Discovery and Hallmark) you can't have it, you can't have it a-la-carte. Why ?

Is there some technological problem ? No, the technique to deliver you only one channel has been existing for at least 10 years and is already embedded (or easily embeddable) in many digital receivers. Is there some legislative problem ? Hell no , nobody prevented cable to offer you a single channel.

So where is the problem ? Simple, cable would like to say you are inundated with a lot of choice, except that if have to choose between 500 different types of manure BUT I don't want to pay for the 499 I don't watch, I can't ! Yet aren't you a whiny little bitch, there is ton of shit for you to see ! Stop complaining already and pay only 27 instead of 20..only $94 more an year.

Will the increased internet competition force cable to offer me single channel ? Unlikely as Internet content subtracted viewer from cable (can't watch everything all the time can you ?) and costs a fraction of a fraction of cable (comparing content) and is bidirectional ( you can contribute, decide) and offers you to choose even the most irrelevant detail if you so please. Certainly you can see video on the internet, but the way inet is built it stil isn't possible to let you have HDTV on internet and HDTV is the new TV drug of choice and if you have seen it, you know HDTV is unbeatable by any internet video compressed or not.
posted by elpapacito at 3:11 AM on June 10, 2006


And Don't let Moby tackle you !
posted by elpapacito at 4:50 AM on June 10, 2006


elpapacito: yeah... I actually was being sarcastic with my comment about CNN.com. That first sentence makes it pretty obvious that they are biased in favor of COPE.
posted by papakwanz at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2006


Meet the winner
posted by homunculus at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2006


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