Save the Internet
April 24, 2006 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Save the Internet is a coalition trying to preserve net neutrality and stop Congress from ruining the internet by giving it to the telecommunications industry this Wednesday. (More links, previous discussion, via.)
posted by homunculus (57 comments total)
posted by homunculus at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2006

I signed a petition this morning from regarding this. Have we had all the Republican fun we can have yet?
posted by BillyElmore at 7:38 PM on April 24, 2006

... and I first learn about this today????? I'm not exactly a disconnected individual and this completely slipped under my radar.
posted by trinarian at 7:50 PM on April 24, 2006

Wednesday? Uh oh.
posted by danb at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2006

I truly believe in years to come the open internet as we know it will slowly erode into a tiered type system much like cable TV is today. You want open unfiltered access? Then you'll have to pay a "premium price". And you wont be able to simply route around them (the filters), at least not legally.
posted by BillsR100 at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2006

here come the rules.
posted by brandz at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2006

If the wire layers had their way, internet bills would look like cell phone bills. That 'feh' would have cost homunculus 15 cents.
posted by sleslie at 8:07 PM on April 24, 2006

BillsR100: I have the same thought in the back of my head for years... all this Google/Yahoo China business has confirmed my suspicions that those in charge on the commercial end don't really have any regards to the spirt of the network, the general public doesn't understand enough to be outraged... but that in some almost-good way, the really cool places will be a little harder to get to and thus the people involved will be a little brighter... something like the old Warez/MP3 channels of old, before you just typed an album name into Napster.

I think with this, though, it'd be kinda hard to break the hierarchies without breaking laws.

Would I be write in assuming this would also shut down P2P networks?
posted by trinarian at 8:08 PM on April 24, 2006

They take a little more each and every day.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:08 PM on April 24, 2006


How much will that cost me?
posted by homunculus at 8:14 PM on April 24, 2006


The good old pirates still have some tricks up their sleeves, lots of routers ignore buffer overflow... I shall say no more.

Also WiMax is beginning to look sexy. Finally if people do this i could see companies like google, whom i believe owns 40% of the worlds fiber, offering to host websites on their network, and then selling access to level 2 internet. Google understand their bread is buttered on the consumer side at least for the moment.
posted by sourbrew at 8:15 PM on April 24, 2006

One side note, didn't we give AT&T some massive tax write off so that they could add bandwith capacity to America, something they never actually did?
posted by sourbrew at 8:17 PM on April 24, 2006

The Internet is not a grocery store.

Grocery stores have limited shelf space so they get product makers to pay for the shelf space their products appear on. A so called "shelf fee" or "slotting fee". Of course a grocery cannot stock all say all 5000 prepared pasta sauces so they cut deals that only some will be stocked and others will be excluded. Likewise they cut deals so that product makers pay for the discount on sale items and even the advertising for them. And you get curious conspiracies such that Coke bottled products are never on sale at the same time that Pepsi ones are.

Cable companies have a limited number of slots so they to engage in "slotting fee" like practices though not quite as much because they also work on a subscription middleman model.

The internet and network connections are not limited to a fixed number of slots so from the provider perspective slotting fees is just a new way to extort money. If an ISP can be paid by preferred customer then they get the preferred slots even if there was no prior notion of slots.

There is not limited shelf space in the Internet. This is a fantasy of Cable and Phone companies that want to be more like captive market grocery stores.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 8:34 PM on April 24, 2006

stop Congress from ruining the internet by giving it to the telecommunications industry
I'm confused... isn't much of the Internet on Sprint and AT&T backbones?
posted by rolypolyman at 8:34 PM on April 24, 2006

Is it even Congress' to give away?
posted by afx114 at 8:36 PM on April 24, 2006

I've not yet really panicking about this, although I'm sure there'll be significant impact if it goes through. Two questions come to mind:

a) would technology like Akamai's thwart this? On the reverse side: doesn't Akamai already provide a service that results in much the same thing as this?

b) what are, realistically, the chances of the bill not passing? I'm assuming zero, because whenever Congress seems determined to fuck us over, it's always overwhelmingly.
posted by Ryvar at 8:38 PM on April 24, 2006

Hrm. I kind of have this sinking feeling that Congress is going to side with whoever offers up the highest 'donation.'
That's how we got crap like the DMCA.

posted by drstein at 8:39 PM on April 24, 2006

DMCA 06 looks even more like a solid reaming.

... and not in a polite manner.
posted by sourbrew at 8:42 PM on April 24, 2006

Here's on USTA.

jesus h. christ.
posted by swell at 8:48 PM on April 24, 2006

I have little faith that we'll be able to stop this. Partly I feel that way because I believe that these providers' arguments are not entirely without merit. What I believe would be most appropriate and beneficial for everyone, is that the Internet be seen as an essential public utility and regulated as such normally is in the US. This is, of course, exactly the opposite direction of the trend we see here in this proposed law. But the current status is too ambiguous—speaking generally about the US, we simple have not decided how we feel about the Internet in these terms and the result is that if we were to assume we would decide this in the direction or relatively unfettered market economics, then the current situation is very unfair in a variety of ways and these these companies do have a point (but they're vulnerable in other ways because by no means are any of them truly in favor of a “fair” competitive environment).

Though I generally prefer market solutions, my neoloberal stance on such things allows broad exceptions for things that a majority might recognize as being essential to the public well-being. Though there are loony conservatives here and there that oppose the US interstate highway system, a large majority across the spectrum will agree with the proposition that it is has enormously to the citizen's advantage and that in general we can see a great deal of advantage that most alternatives would not produce as beneficial results as we've seen. Likewise, then, in my opinion, the Internet is very much something like this—in some ways it is like a public utility, but it is far, far more interstate and international than anything else comparable. That places it without question in the US federal sphere and these questions should be resolved in the US in that context.

What we've had to this point has been something which has very much via serendipity been trouble-free and almost universally beneficial. It's as if a combination of the US government and a variety of large companies sort of ad hoc built a interstate (and internation!) highway system that anyone could use, with little or no access charge and indiscriminately...and this structure just is. It's unstable, really, and although what's happening in this law is mostly the wrong way for this to be decided, in my opinion, it is a decision that's been overdue.

On Preview: "I'm confused... isn't much of the Internet on Sprint and AT&T backbones?"

Yes. The matter isn't owenership of the infrastructure; it's the matter of how an individual owner of part of that infrastructure is restricted by law from exerting control over exactly how that portion of the infrastructure is used by their customers.

Something comparable might be a hypothetical US in which the big parcel carriers like UPS and Federal Express accounted for 99% of all traffic (imagine no postal service) and they wanted to control how customers utilitize their service on the basis of content and/or determine pricing on the basis of content. It doesn't seem very nice, I admit, but if you were a delivery company, you would probably feel you had a right to exercise a minimal control of selling your services based upon some discrimination of content (no child porn, for example). But in this hypothetical world, the very few large companies, a handful of small companies, and a conglomeration of a hoc government carriers all have pretty efficiently been providing these essential services without regard to content. Now the big companies wants the law to explicitly allow them to control the bandwidth they sell on the basis of content. It's not an entirely unreasonable proposition. But we're much, much better off, in my opinion, if we see this is an essential civic resource.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:52 PM on April 24, 2006

So this is about limiting US access to the Internet? Does it matter to the rest of the world? Not being snarky, I'm honestly wondering.
posted by muckster at 8:55 PM on April 24, 2006

didn't we give AT&T some massive tax write off so that they could add bandwith capacity to America, something they never actually did?

But they cooperate with the NSA, and that's all that's really required of them.
posted by homunculus at 8:59 PM on April 24, 2006

This is going to happen sooner or later, because it doesn't really hurt big corporations at all.

It only lays punishment towards small companies and individuals, neither of which tend to have strong lobbies.

We waited a long time to find out if the Republicans would change Washington or if Washington would change the Republicans. Sadly, the latter is clearly the case.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:06 PM on April 24, 2006

The site lost all credibility for me with its alarmist, unthinking repetition of the Shaw VOIP thing. Shaw's charging $10 a month if you want your VOIP traffic prioritized over your Internet traffic. Or you can get a router that does this, or, of course, you can take your chances, which will work 90+% of the time. If it doesn't work, you can always change to a different ISP -- since it's VOIP, you don't even lose your phone number. Using that kind of alarmist FUD to scare people into signing a petition on the off chance that they might be ignorant of the real situation with Shaw is flat-out deceptive.

Right now, this very minute, all across America, ISPs are raising speeds and dropping prices. Verizon is rolling out fiber-to-the-home for ridiculously cheap rates, Comcast is upping their speeds in response. I now have two choices with Comcast, I can pay half price for the connection I had before (6.0M/768K), or I can have LAN speeds for downloads (10 Mbps -- and the equivalent of a T1 for uploads) for the same price. With fierce competition now driving this kind of continual improvement, the first ISP that offers anything less than true Internet service puts itself at a significant competitive disadvantage and will lose customers in droves. I don't see this as being a significant actual threat, as there will always be ISPs that cater to users who care that they are getting 100% pure unfiltered Internet.
posted by kindall at 9:33 PM on April 24, 2006

Or you can get a router that does this, or, of course, you can take your chances

yeah. the router will prioritize the VOIP traffic within your home network, but its not going to do anything to the traffic on the provider network(s).

i design network hardware for a living. with every new box we give the providers more and more control over how they prioritize packets. and believe me, the last thing they want to do is respect customer 1q or DSCP values - that's a disaster from a network stability/DOS attack standpoint.

"shakespeare got to get paid, son"... or, rather, Comcast gotta get paid. ISPs don't like the fact that in today's model, they "just" provide pipes at a monthly flat rate, while everyone else provides sexy services that people pay for. SBC/Comcast/Whoever would love to turf your vonage or skype packets so they can turn around and sell you their "premium" VOIP service.
posted by joeblough at 9:51 PM on April 24, 2006

Well, the biggest problem with VOIP tends to be the asymmetrical bandwidth -- the outbound pipe fills up much quicker than the inbound pipe. So, if you can prioritize the order in which packets go through that bottleneck, you solve 99.44% of the problems with VOIP priority. Your ISP has plenty of back-end to go around, they'll have no trouble getting the packets where they need to go in a timely fashion.

(I have been "99.44%" as a synonym for "virtually all" for years and so far no one seems to have noticed that the number is in fact the advertised purity of Ivory soap.)
posted by kindall at 10:28 PM on April 24, 2006

ISPs don't like the fact that in today's model, they "just" provide pipes at a monthly flat rate, while everyone else provides sexy services that people pay for.

I admit I don't fully understand the ins and outs of this but it strikes me as similar to gas companies trying to charge more to people who drive fancy cars. Or something.
posted by fshgrl at 10:31 PM on April 24, 2006

I don't see this as being a significant actual threat

This is a truly absurd comment. "In like a needle, out like a plow." The behemoth corporations, who run congress like a hand runs a puppet, have every intention of gutting net neutrality and turning the internet into the Internet®. Destroying net neutrality is a first, major step towards controling the pipeline. If they succeed, the web will be processed, censored and filtered into tiered packages, jammed with advertising and spyware and sold back to us at monopolistic prices.
posted by chance at 10:32 PM on April 24, 2006

With fierce competition now driving this kind of continual improvement, the first ISP that offers anything less than true Internet service puts itself at a significant competitive disadvantage and will lose customers in droves.

Garbage. Your "fierce competition" consists of at most your RBOC and your cable company. If both decide to manipulate service to their advantage (and they will), they won't "lose customers in droves" because the customer will have no place to go.

This will be the new internet. Just as the wireless operators refuse to give up their walled gardens, won't interoperate for fuck, and nickel and dime you for every action you take, that's exactly what the telcos will do. And the difference is they aren't even providing the services, only the bandwidth, which they agreed to do, and which you are already paying for. What they want to do is make you pay twice, first for the service they are providing, and then for services that other people are providing. This is the last few nails in the coffin of the technological lead which better men than they created for us, and which they are chiefly responsible for squandering. Screw them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 PM on April 24, 2006

Near term, the backbone owners are going to get theirs, come hell or high water, in this, the best of all possible market driven economies. Sucks to be not them, in their vision of the future.

On the other hand, there is already so much dark fiber in the ground in North America, that Google or MSN will have no trouble building out a new consumer backbone in a matter of months, if the telcos are foolish enough to give them operating margin by stupid pricing moves. The telcos aren't the deepest strategic thinkers, and the next couple of years ought to be pretty interesting...
posted by paulsc at 10:54 PM on April 24, 2006

yeah i agree that the death of the internet is probably overstated, thanks to the likes of Google hovering at the sidelines.

but George_Spiggott's comment is well-taken. ISPs and the companies at the internet's core look at verizon's CDMA business and drool. until recently you (well, the average person) couldnt even load a song or a picture onto a verizon handset without paying verizon extra. verizon's wireline division would kill to have that kind of control over what you do with your PC.

Well, the biggest problem with VOIP tends to be the asymmetrical bandwidth

yeah, that's true of P2P apps also. generally anything that saturates the uplink also kills the (typically much fatter) downlink due to outgoing TCP acks getting dropped. a home router with traffic shaping functionality will really help you in this situation... like a linksys WRT54g with one of the many 3rd party firmwares loaded.

but what i was talking about was the provider DE-prioritizing traffic based on its content in order to sell you prioritization you wouldnt otherwise need. that's just lousy.
posted by joeblough at 11:34 PM on April 24, 2006

There's a lot of good comments in this thread, on both sides of the fence - though I'm pretty sure everyone here is on the consumer side of the fence, even if they're realistic/pessimistic in their assessments.

Besides all the dark fiber available, I think that it is high time for private wide-area networks - probably via wireless.

It's been a long, long time since the hackers, ubernerds, power users and everyone else in the thin edge of the wedge built their own networks - rather than, say, just tunneling/encrypting/wrapper-ing pseudo-private networks on existing 'net backbone.

Remember packet radio? Remember the BBS? Remember ZUM-0 call forwarding POTS relay chains? Remember Fidonet? Remember it well, and remember how much we used to literally own that hobbyist space?

Now think passively focused but legal strength long-range WiFi links. Think HAM, think Mesh networks, think repeaters. Think hacker-refined WiFi antennas freely published and easily made - Pringles cans part two.

No, it won't compete with subsidized telco. It won't be 10 Mb or fiber-to-home connected to mega-fat mixed-use infrastructure pipes. No, it won't be as reliable, or as easy to use.

Yeah, it'd be a great big huge stinking pain in the motherfucking ass. Just like it used to be a big huge pain in the ass to debug Fidonet bottlenecks, just like it used to be a pain in the ass to physically hie ourselves to various BBS user's houses and set up reliable ZUM-0 forwarding chains.

Except now instead of simply programming multiline MBBS nodes, and punching in call-forwarding DTMF strings, it'll be climbing up antennae towers and aligning microwave antennas, and configuring our own routers and mini-sized network operation centers. It'll be illicit cable string-ups, short hop fiber links, self-healing mesh networks, multimode physical layers all trying to work together.

So, stop throwing out that old hardware. Save those old WiFi cards and bridgeable and/or flashable APs. Save those old P-IIIs, save the RAM, save the mobos and drives. Hell, save those Pringles cans and pigtails, save those oldschool wire-mesh microwave dishes.

Yeah, it'll be work, but it could be entirely ours.
posted by loquacious at 12:11 AM on April 25, 2006

loquacious has it
posted by pyramid termite at 12:21 AM on April 25, 2006

Does he? The telcos are having a lot of success suppressing municipal wifi -- the nice thing about buying congressmen is that they tend to stay bought; and man, legilsators are cheap compared to real investments! Tens or hundreds of grand at most, compared to millions or billions on R & D and infrastructure. Why pay to improve your network to fight off competition when it's so much cheaper to buy legislation to outlaw that competition? If they can do it to the munis it's not so great a leap to suppose that they can do it to you and me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:41 AM on April 25, 2006

Loquacious, that brought a tear to my eye. In a positive way.

I'm part of one of the first generations that can't really remember life without the internet. As you can probably guess, I'm an insufferable nerd. I'm not sure if I'd be a different person if I hadn't cut my teeth on BBSes and FreeNet (back when FreeNet was a dialup ISP, not a darknet app), but I know that contacts I've made across the wire, and information I've learned, have been invaluable to me.

They can have my connection when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

George_Spiggott, intellectually, I know you're right. But, darnit, let me dream. :p
posted by Alterscape at 2:45 AM on April 25, 2006

An example scheme
a) John Company creates some interesting content (video, audio, website, whatever)
b) An handful of companies (telcom companies) manages sizable portions of internet infrastructure
that's reality, now let's use a revealing fantastic and yummy analogy
a) We have many companies producing interesting drinks. Each -kind of- company make a drink, for instance Coke, Beer, Water, Fruit Juice.

b) an handful of companies control special "liquid pipes" that bring not only water to your home, but also all the drinks you want ! You can choose at any time by choosing which drink to have, much like a vending machine, except there is a pipe that brings the drink home
So far what happened is that, thanks to advanced technology many can't tell from magic, one had to pay a monthly fee or hourly fee or daily fee to tap the liquid pipe. Many companies were in the liquid pipe business, but only the biggest survived because they destroyed the little ones by offering bigger pipes for less money, like telcos providing DSL or cable. There were companies that weren't expert in liquid pipes, what they wanted to sell was access to pipes , but obviously the pipe operators knew technology more and better then the others and managed to becomes the people that sell access to the pipes.

That's so far. Now pipe operators want more. You didn't pay a particular price to drink Beer and a different price to drink water from the the operators want you to pay extra if you drink Beer from their tap. Put that on top of Beer higher price and you see that _you_ are going to pay the _beer_ more.

Why ? For no other reason that they can because they own part of the infrastructure : the reasoning is very similar to your boss refusing to increase your pay or reducing it for no other reason that they can, except the usual endless list of plausibile excuses. BUT your boss is _giving_ you money so _you_ try adapting ...whereas the pipe companies _get_ your money !

Notice also how the they don't care if it's a brand of Beer, they only care about the kind of product. Obviously little producers of beer will not be able to charge more and they will be wiped out by carwash producing ones..but who cares the real demand comes from alcoholist, they will buy anything (similarly, pr0n)
It'll be illicit cable string-ups, short hop fiber links, self-healing mesh networks, multimode physical layers all trying to work together. So, stop throwing out that old hardware. Save those old WiFi cards and bridgeable and/or flashable APs. Save those old P-IIIs, save the RAM, save the mobos and drives. Hell, save those Pringles cans and pigtails, save those oldschool wire-mesh microwave dishes.

Yeah, it'll be work, but it could be entirely ours.
That's so romantic, loquacious, I am about to cry. I was a Fido node, had my dosage of Telegard , Renegade, Maximus et al. It was a community of highly driven and motivated hobbist and pros that created a network out of thin air. Remarkable, admirable and indeed we could do it again ! Except that now there is the net out there and a lot of people will prefer just paying the fucking bill every month. Youngsters don't have the frontier mentality required to do that...or if they have, maybe they could start ethernet networking entire blocks..but we already had the physical layer in place loquacious :)

Plus with all the fake regulation like 1) you can't pull an ethernet from block to block otherwise terrorist will win (or similar restricting discouraging bullshit) 2) it's illegal to mess with wires or wireless as planes will fall from the sky

Let me say I would be the first digging tunnels and poking holes to push fiber everywhere so much I love the community driven mentality AND the net :) but I don't really see this as an opportuinity to build my own internet..on the contrary I don't want to lose a level of freedom to corpocrate mentality. Also nothing forbids us to pursue both ways.
posted by elpapacito at 3:26 AM on April 25, 2006

As muckster asked way back, I was interested to know whether this is something I should care about in Australia. Having done 30 seconds of research through google, it seems not, as one of the big worries people seem to have is that it will make the US a technological backwater bypassed by the rest of the world.

Interesting thought: given the need to pay extra just to get US customers in, how many global companies might focus more on Europe (or, more likely, Asia)?
posted by jacalata at 4:08 AM on April 25, 2006

I should care about in Australia.

Nope, because such actions will just help take money and funnel it to the moneyed interests, who will then ship the money out of the US of A. Meanwhile, the US of A will continue its backwards technological slide.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:44 AM on April 25, 2006

The one question I have --

Wouldn't this revoke common carrier provisions?
posted by eriko at 5:30 AM on April 25, 2006

whether this is something I should care about in Australia.

When the Megacorps get finished reaming the American public until there is no blood left in the turnip, they will come after easier pickings. And these profit driven bastards know no boundaries, as all the shucking and jiving being done to do business with China clearly demonstrates. As long as you are on the planet, you are, a potential customer.

George_Spiggott has it right. The mentality of the imagined-lost-revenue business model makes bribing Washington for protectionist legislation more thinkable than increasing profits by delivering a superior product.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:44 AM on April 25, 2006

Lovely, loq, but the large portion of Americans not living in highly urban areas will still be screwed. Heck, I live in a nerd/hippie island in the middle of upstate NY and there's no WiFi that I've found near my home. I have to go downtown or to campus for that.
posted by Eideteker at 5:53 AM on April 25, 2006

I want to join the loquacious lovefest as well. That was an beautifully written and compelling post.

Someone (not here) tried to justify this by comparing this to toll roads.

This isn't the same, not by a long shot.

Toll roads in theory at least increase carpooling, and are essentially a tax only on those that use the resource.

So while he pays other taxes that contribute to the highway, he pays a premium when he needs to or chooses to travel certain roads.

The scheme the ISP's want to set up is more like if the toll road contained exits to various restaurants, and unless those restaurants paid a fee the exits leading to them would be completely closed off.

What's that MacDonald's at exit 154? You don't want to pay for the traffic we are delivering? Then turn those golden arches upside down and sit on them. And Taco Bell, no one is going to be running for the border if you don't pay up...

Who am I kidding? Of course the big guys can and will pay. It's the Maria's Taco Hut and The Java Stations of the world that would find themselves a lot more out of the way.
posted by motherfather at 7:11 AM on April 25, 2006

Okay, okay--

So this vote on Wednesday, this is just the committee voting on it, right? It still has to go to the entire House and then the Senate, as far as I can tell. (No one's being particularly clear about this.) So we've got time, at least, to write our representatives and our senators and try and stop this as best we can. It's lock down time, but not panic time yet. Right?

Or can the House Commerce Committee just overturn these rules completely on its own?
posted by thecaddy at 7:14 AM on April 25, 2006

Thecaddy: Things like this tend to get steamrolled through, especially if they think the public won't notice.

The best place to kill it is in committee.

Else we might have the bankruptcy bill: part 2. Something that is essentially written by an industry to generate more revenue for themselves.
posted by motherfather at 7:41 AM on April 25, 2006

Anything less than complete net neutrality tilts the playing field in favor of those with deep pockets. Period.

We're just now seeing some really interesting -- sometimes compelling -- developments in rich media on the public commons... think youtube, for example, or vblogs. Now extrapolate: combine wikipedia and youtube and organized blogging and vblogging networks, and all of a sudden you've got the stuff of radically different and wholly merit-based content; unfiltered, unfettered and unbeholden to corporate interests. This is good.

Now, imagine Fox news entering into an agreement with Telcos: promote *our* streaming video, *our* brand of message. Which is the same as saying, *demote* and *degrade* the message on the commons... 'cause for any given pipe, bandwidth is a zero-sum game; you promote one, you demote the other. This is *not* good.

From a purely technological point of view, prioritized traffic has a certain appeal. Technology however, is blind to the political spectrum; those who employ it are not.

Be very afraid of this bill.
posted by deCadmus at 8:18 AM on April 25, 2006

I've phoned both my congressman and the the one from my state who's one the committee in question. In the case of my own rep what I said was:

"I urge the congressman to vote against any bill that comes out of committee that doesn't uphold network neutrality in the strongest possible way. To allow the telecoms to manipulate, degrade or alter the content going over their wires would be a disaster for consumers and for innovation, and help to put us even further behind the rest of the world technologically. Just to be clear: the bill that comes out of committee must uphold network neutrality or he should vote against it. "

I thanked the staffer and was very polite. I hope you'll do the same and urge anyone else you can to as well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2006

I sent emails to every congressman in my state and the local paper. It may not be too late.

My question is what will it take to stop this from happening again in 6 months? If the grass/netroots groups defeat this bill this time- its only a matter of time before a new one shows up and the cycle must be repeated. Eventually net groups will miss an internet-killing bill and it will go through.

We see bills like this (or ones that try to ramrod American citizens from some other direction like the broadcast flag or bankrupcy bills, lets not even think about what bills the oil companies have cooked up) literally every week or two under this administration.

Is our only option for maintaining our privacy/fair use/fair competition rights just to wait until the next election and hope we have something left? What if that's too late?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:53 AM on April 25, 2006

Can someone answer Ryvar's question? I though the same thing a few months ago when I read about this movement afoot to eliminate net neutrality.

Other thoughts not fully formed:
  • I'm sad to see former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry is leading the charge against neutrality.
  • I'm slightly bemused that a lot of the libertarian big mouths who were singing the praises of the market, are now looking for government protection of the Internet from...the market.

posted by Cassford at 11:07 AM on April 25, 2006

The telcos are having a lot of success suppressing municipal wifi -- the nice thing about buying congressmen is that they tend to stay bought; and man, legilsators are cheap compared to real investments! Tens or hundreds of grand at most, compared to millions or billions on R & D and infrastructure.

The thing I can't figure is this: the amount of industry opposition (and money) that should be on the net-neutrality side of this issue should be huge. How is it that a few telcos, famous for their poor service, whose heights of innovation over three decades include "Caller ID", can possibly stand against the explosion of businesses who've built their success on the most revolutionary communications advance in the last 50 years?

The only guess I've got is that established businesses may disdain it, but they know wrecking net neutrality establishes barriers to entry and therefore reduces the threat from startup competition. It's a cynic's guess, though, and while it's easy for me to believe that's exactly the kind of game Microsoft and a few other heavies would love to play, I really have trouble believing the bulk of businesses launched to success by the Internet would have sold their souls so quickly.
posted by weston at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2006

In response to a few comments:

People have already done WiFi mesh networks. For example, San Francisco has one. Yeah, it ties into the normal internet at various points, but it's entirely possible to swap data with someone across the city without ever having to hit the "real" internet.

I don't know what the current distance record is for un-amplified, "legal" WiFi, but one figure I've heard confirmed was 50 miles. That might have been 50 kilometers, but I think it was 50 miles.

That's almost good enough to compete with the old telco microwave relay links. Except, y'know, without the house-sized feedhorns and concentrators, and massive towers and service buildings.

The thing about standard, vanilla WiFi is that as it stands at legal power output ratings is that you can use it for small hotspot footprints, or you can channel that (legal) milliwatt radio power into tightly focused beams (or lobes).

People already use this technology for broadband radio WAN/LAN connections in rural areas. There's a couple of companies offering line-of-sight microwave broadband links in both urban and rural settings.

For rural areas, robust repeater stations and access points could be as simple as a mini PC in a ruggedized box, a pair (or more) of beam-focused antennas up on a guy-wired pole, a wide area omnidirectional antenna for LAN access (if desired), a solar panel and a battery bank.

Urban installations are even easier. You don't even need towers or poles, you just need line of sight from rooftop to rooftop.

Heck, you could hide these things up in trees. With free discarded tech you could build 'em the size of suitcases.

With custom built or purpose built hardware they could be the size of a shoebox, or even smaller.

Could it be blocked or jammed? Yeah, it can be blocked or jammed, like any radio signal. But that would entail blocking all 3.4 gigahertz radio energy - which means blocked consumer cordless phones and lots of other free-for-consumer-use 3.4 ghz spectrum technology. And attempting to block or jam individual beams or lobes is problematic and costly.

It would also mean that any entity interested in blocking all of an implemented and robust wide-area mesh radio network would have to saturate the entire network footprint with radio energy. Which means they would basically have to build a competing network of jammers, or saturate whole continents with jamming energy - either from large transmitters or from satellites or what have you.

This is, of course, the brute-force response. It would also probably be possible to build a similar "jamming" network that uses lower energies, but instead uses intelligent or dynamic WiFi blocking/scrambling techniques like breaking WEP/WPA keys and inserting erroneous beacons, frames or other signals to break the data link or transport layers of the OSI model.

Could it be legislated out of existence and made illegal? Yeah, it could. But it would be difficult to do without simply banning all consumer grade, free, legal digital radio LAN and related technologies. They'd have to ban 3.4 ghz digital phones, too, which I'm sure could be repurposed into nifty line-of-sight network devices.

Anyway. For now, write your reps. Give 'em an earful.

But also remember this could be just the ticket to give the nerds a kick in the pants to build their own networks.
posted by loquacious at 12:57 PM on April 25, 2006

Congress : Something that is essentially written by an industry to generate more revenue for themselves.

(If you had a hard time determining the subject of that, it is purely intentional.)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:39 AM on April 26, 2006

That reminds me of the old question, "If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of progress?"
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2006

In other AT&T news: Feds Drop Bomb on EFF Lawsuit
posted by homunculus at 9:16 PM on April 28, 2006

posted by homunculus at 1:49 PM on May 2, 2006

This Spartan Life.
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2006

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