Net Neutrality

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Scruffy the Janitor, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. Scruffy the Janitor

    Scruffy the Janitor Active Forum Member

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    If you've got the time and are interested in protecting net neutrality, would you mind filling out a petition to Congress & the FCC? https://www.battleforthenet.com/

    Yeah, I know internet petitions are generally useless, but hey you gotta do something. Maybe contact your Congresspeople too? IDK, I just don't want Comcast saying what I can and cannot do online.
     
  2. Wolfman

    Wolfman Well-Known Forum Member

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    Fucking greedy telecoms. How many times do we have to go through this?
     
  3. Donald Draper

    Donald Draper Well-Known Forum Member

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    I'll be the first to admit that I haven't followed this in great detail. That said, here are a few thoughts.

    I'd rather the government stay out of most things
    I'm generally leery of the government extending power into new areas. Once it's in, good luck getting rid of it (the rarity of this happening is part of why the current rollback is such big news). One aspect of net neutrality is whether or not ISPs should be regulated as telecom providers. With net neutrality, ISPs are regulated. Without it, the government stays out and lets the market run its course. From my point of view, the internet was doing just fine up to 2015.

    I like what tiny bit of privacy I've got
    So the government needs to make sure everybody has equal access to sites. How do they do that? They set up their own monitoring equipment within each ISP. You don't need to be wearing a tinfoil hat to worry about the invasion of privacy when the government is legally monitoring all internet traffic. Remember the hubbub over the Feds forcing telecoms to turn over mass cell phone metadata? There's currently no similar requirement for ISPs to keep information about you. Accordingly, most of them do not so there is nothing for the government to subpoena. If net neutrality grants the government access to monitor compliance with the law, they'll be able to collect detailed information about anybody's internet usage.

    Unintended consequences can suck
    One area currently under investigation as a violation of net neutrality is the practice of not counting certain sites against your mobile data. Some cell phone providers allow you to stream Netflix, Pandora, etc. without using your data. The FCC is now working up a case that these violate net neutrality by giving preference to one site over another. Personally, I like the idea of companies being able to compete by offering additional benefits to the consumer.

    So what's the answer, smart guy?
    I don't know. Part of the reason I don't know is that I don't know what specific problem the net neutrality laws are designed to fix. Furthermore, is that problem one that is actually occurring, or is it merely hypothetical? My general understanding is that people are concerned that the ISPs have too much power. That's not surprising, as there are so few of them. If that's the case, there are already laws designed to prevent a small number of companies from dominating a market - antitrust. Such a breakup has already happened in many of our lifetimes: Ma Bell was broken up in 1982.

    So I don't know the answer to this problem. But I do know that once you establish a new source of governmental power - particularly power that is given to an agency - you're in for a world of hurt. Agencies pass regulations that do not have to go through congress. A metric shitton are passed each day. I'd like to see us use what laws are already there, and only increase the regulatory state if all other attempts fail.

    ***********
    gets off soap box
     
  4. PongQ

    PongQ Well-Known Forum Member

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    I am not a lawyer, but I have been know to shoot of my mouth... This is more "random thought" style so be warned that it is only worth what you are paying for it.

    The problem is, was, and will be accessibility to bandwidth. Right now streaming services want access to additional bandwidth and are willing to pay for it. ISPs are more than willing to take their money and grant them access to the bandwidth they desire. The problem begins when bandwidth in the general pool becomes limited. Let's say Netflix is paying Spectrum a premium for a guaranteed level of bandwidth. Spectrum honors that commitment, but Spectrum customers watching Hulu on Saturday nights cannot get HD streams because Netflix has paid for a level that reduces available bandwidth for other services especially during peak periods.

    Now Netflix gets sneaky. Knowing Hulu viewers are dissatisfied with their service, Netflix ups what they pay Spectrum to increase their guaranteed level of bandwidth and offers Hulu customers a sweet deal to switch to Netflix so they can watch HD streaming during peak times. Hulu will bleed customers...

    Don's comment on mobile data is in regard to AT&T not counting data against your limit when you view DirectTV (and pssibly Uverse TV) on your mobile device. That is because AT&T owns DirectTV (and Uverse). AT&T mobile customers will gravitate towards AT&T owned TV services because they receive preferential treatment.

    I don't see this as much of a privacy issue as the content providers are going to police the ISPs because it is necessary to their survival. I don't see the ISPs or the government monitoring individual usage to enforce net neutrality, but if the ISP can sell extra bandwidth to content providers they will monitor usage to show they are meeting their commitment to a certain bandwidth level. And the ISPs will collect usage data so they can market themselves to high bandwidth providers looking for targeted demographics.

    I say net neutrality is necessary to maintain free access to all content. Then the answer is to increase the bandwidth capabilities of the ISP services to attract high bandwidth customers and providers. That is a benefit to providers, consumers, and the entire bandwidth infrastructure nationwide. All good things and still driven by market forces; and likely implemented through public-private contracts that generate revenue for the government and the private sector.
     
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  5. Xenoman

    Xenoman New Forum Member

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    This is the straw man fear mongering tacit. People that don't understand what Net neutrality is but are just told that the government is taking over the internet. It's not true and is regulation that is desperately needed. You can't have a market self regulate when there is literally zero market for competition. With no competition, there is no incentive to improve service or reduce prices. That is why it's a race to the bottom for companies like Comcast to raise prices as much as they can while providing as little service as possible. The internet is actually getting worse and that is not even considering how much it has been held back compared to other countries where 100Mb is standard, accessible nearly everywhere and much cheaper.

    More fear mongering. It's like how there is a cop stationed at every intersection to make sure everyone obeys every stop sign. The FCC operates and investigates on received complaints. People are smart, (not most people in general, I mean the techy ones). When ISP's start blocking or throttling certain sites, people will find out. It comes up all the time when stuff stops working and the source is discovered. No monitoring is needed or required.

    Again, there is no competition. Comcast (for example) doesn't like that people are streaming with Netflix and canceling their cable. So to hinder Netflix, Comcast adds a data cap. The only reason for that cap is to increase profits, it's not about network management or anything else. Just profits. So now Comcast introduces their streaming service Xfinity and offers no data limits. This isn't a benefit. This is strong arming customers to a single choice. It's like a McDonald's employee going over to Burger King, throwing a bucket of cockroaches on the counter and declaring, "Come eat at McDonald's for a cockroach free experience." If that is not enough, Comcast actively throttled any data from Netflix so users would have laggy and low resolution videos. So you could suffer with Netflix or switch to Xfinity which doesn't have these impediments of course. This stopped when Netflix finally paid Comcast their ransom so profits are the only motivation. Either be a customer or be a customer of a company that also pays us. It feels like paying a mob protection money.

    Well here is some of the shit they have been up to.

    (A history of net neutrality infringements from freepress.)
    https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-violations-brief-history


    MADISON RIVER: In 2005, North Carolina ISP Madison River Communications blocked the voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) service Vonage. Vonage filed a complaint with the FCC after receiving a slew of customer complaints. The FCC stepped in to sanction Madison River and prevent further blocking, but it lacks the authority to stop this kind of abuse today.

    COMCAST: In 2005, the nation’s largest ISP, Comcast, began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network. Users of services like BitTorrent and Gnutella were unable to connect to these services. 2007 investigations from the Associated Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others confirmed that Comcast was indeed blocking or slowing file-sharing applications without disclosing this fact to its customers.

    TELUS: In 2005, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications company, Telus, began blocking access to a server that hosted a website supporting a labor strike against the company. Researchers at Harvard and the University of Toronto found that this action resulted in Telus blocking an additional 766 unrelated sites.

    AT&T: From 2007–2009, AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services on the iPhone. The wireless provider wanted to prevent iPhone users from using any application that would allow them to make calls on such “over-the-top” voice services. The Google Voice app received similar treatment from carriers like AT&T when it came on the scene in 2009.

    WINDSTREAM: In 2010, Windstream Communications, a DSL provider with more than 1 million customers at the time, copped to hijacking user-search queries made using the Google toolbar within Firefox. Users who believed they had set the browser to the search engine of their choice were redirected to Windstream’s own search portal and results.

    MetroPCS: In 2011, MetroPCS, at the time one of the top-five U.S. wireless carriers, announced plans to block streaming video over its 4G network from all sources except YouTube. MetroPCS then threw its weight behind Verizon’s court challenge against the FCC’s 2010 open internet ruling, hoping that rejection of the agency’s authority would allow the company to continue its anti-consumer practices.

    PAXFIRE: In 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that several small ISPs were redirecting search queries via the vendor Paxfire. The ISPs identified in the initial Electronic Frontier Foundation report included Cavalier, Cogent, Frontier, Fuse, DirecPC, RCN and Wide Open West. Paxfire would intercept a person’s search request at Bing and Yahoo and redirect it to another page. By skipping over the search service’s results, the participating ISPs would collect referral fees for delivering users to select websites.

    AT&T, SPRINT and VERIZON: From 2011–2013, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system that competed with a similar service called Isis, which all three companies had a stake in developing.

    EUROPE: A 2012 report from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications found that violations of Net Neutrality affected at least one in five users in Europe. The report found that blocked or slowed connections to services like VOIP, peer-to-peer technologies, gaming applications and email were commonplace.

    VERIZON: In 2012, the FCC caught Verizon Wireless blocking people from using tethering applications on their phones. Verizon had asked Google to remove 11 free tethering applications from the Android marketplace. These applications allowed users to circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering fee and turn their smartphones into Wi-Fi hot spots. By blocking those applications, Verizon violated a Net Neutrality pledge it made to the FCC as a condition of the 2008 airwaves auction.

    AT&T: In 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan. AT&T had one goal in mind: separating customers from more of their money by blocking alternatives to AT&T’s own products.
     
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  6. PongQ

    PongQ Well-Known Forum Member

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    I'll state up front I am a proponent of net neutrality if it wasn't clear from my previous post.

    We act like this is a simple subject, but it really isn't. Consumers do not want ISPs controlling how their internet connection delivers data of their choosing. But the ISPs built, own, and maintain their own infrastructure. And in a lot of cases, ISPs aren't only ISPs, they also provide content and other services.

    In my area, we have Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) and AT&T as the big players in the ISP business. Both of them offer high speed internet, but Spectrum also offers Cable TV, Smart Home, and digital phone services; AT&T also offers digital phone, Uverse TV, and wireless services. To them, net neutrality requires them to provide bandwidth for competing services on equal footing with their own. I don't find it difficult to understand why they oppose it.

    If you look at Xenoman's list above, a common theme is the ISP giving preferential treatment to its own services. Considering that in the context of them doing that on a system they built, own, and maintain leads to another thought. By charging a company like Netflix to have access to a certain level of bandwidth, the ISP is generating revenue it can use to maintain and expand its capabilities. The alternative is increase rates for customers. Or as pointed out above, try to steer customers to your own services in a variety of ways.

    Bandwidth is still the answer to my mind as there is so much advancement to be made. Fiber to the home (FTTH) is a long way off, but I think it is something that is inevitable. Much like the electrification of society a hundred years ago.
     
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  7. Wolfman

    Wolfman Well-Known Forum Member

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    Too bad they don't want to spend money on improving infrastructure to eliminate bandwidth issues and would rather spend money on lobbying for new laws that would cripple competition so they can continue to charge a ton of money for shit service. I was really hoping Google Fiber would be more widespread by now.
     
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  8. PongQ

    PongQ Well-Known Forum Member

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    It isn't in Google's interest to foot the bill. Fiber to the home (or at least the neighborhood) is going to need to be underwritten by the government so it is open and not owned by a single entity. Perhaps they will auction off bandwidth they way the wireless spectrum is.

    If you owned your own infrastructure and were told you needed to expand its capabilities so others - whose services compete directly with you - could benefit from it, but you could not charge them for the expansion; what would you do?

    In my area, AT&T and Spectrum are competing so they are constantly upgrading their systems. Ten years ago, a 6Mbps DSL connection cost me $50/month. Five years ago, a 15Mbps U-Verse connection cost me about the same. Now I have a 30Mbps cable connection that costs $40/month.
     
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  9. Donald Draper

    Donald Draper Well-Known Forum Member

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    Thanks for the detailed reply, Xenoman. You've given me quite a few things to think about.

    The interesting thing about the net neutrality debate is that it seems everybody wants the same thing - the consumer should be able to use any app and access any content free of ISP censorship or throttling. The question seems to be how best to achieve that goal.

    A good place to start is to examine how the cases you cite were resolved (limited to discussion of cases in US).

    Madison River - The FCC began investigating the blocked VOIP service in February 2005, and a consent decree was entered the next month. That consent decree fined the ISP $15,000 and it agreed not to block Vonage for the next 30 months. There is no indication the ISP began blocking Vonage again, or has blocked anything else.

    Comcast - In 2009 Comcast settled a class action lawsuit related to throttling internet speeds for those using P2P software. The suit claimed Comcast had violated its own terms of service, and that it also violated various consumer protection laws (related to false advertising, etc.). Comcast no longer singles out P2P traffic when the network is at capacity, a more balanced slowing occurs.

    ATT (Skype/Google Voice) - This is a curious example to cite in favor of net neutrality. ATT wasn't doing the blocking - it was Apple. And it doesn't appear that any of the current net neutrality laws would address this practice. Apple, after all, isn't regulated. Nothing would stop Apple from making such an offer in the future.

    Windstream - Subscribers complained, and Windstream fixed the redirect issue.

    MetroPCS - In 2011 they blocked streaming video from all but YouTube. They don't do this anymore. I'm not aware of any current cell data provider that blocks particular sources. This is likely due to the massive increase in network bandwidth over the last six years.

    Verizon - They got fined $1.25 million for blocking the tethering programs, and the programs were reinstated. The basis of the FCC fine was that Verizon has contractual obligations to net neutrality from the 2008 spectrum auction. They still have those contractual obligations, whether or not the net neutrality legislation continues to exist.

    ATT (FaceTime) - At the time ATT decided to block FaceTime, Verizon and Sprint announced they'd let everybody use it. Shockingly, it took less than a year for ATT to change its mind for nearly all of its customers (it kept the restriction for those with grandfathered unlimited data).


    I go back to the question of what the net neutrality regulations are supposed to address. Put somewhat more specifically, what will these regulations address that is not currently being addressed by other means. From the examples above, it doesn't look like anything will be gained. Each of these situations was handled using existing methods: consumer complaints, breach of contract lawsuits, competition from other providers. In addition, due to the expansion of bandwidth it doesn't appear any of these are likely to recur.

    After further thought, I’m still not convinced these regulations are necessary as they don’t seem to address the primary problem – lack of competition between the ISPs. Back in 2015, multiple news outlets took the position that net neutrality isn’t worth celebrating because what we really need is more competition.

    The most interesting approach to increase competition is to last-mile unbundling. This process would allow any ISP to use any physical infrastructure already in place - for a fee. It would bring us back to the days of choosing between AOL and Prodigy as our ISP. The biggest objection to this approach is the belief that it would discourage laying out new infrastructure if anybody was entitled to rent space on it. There are ways to address this, including granting a monopoly position for a certain amount of time after construction.

    My current position is - go for last-mile unbundling and leave it at that. See how it goes. Craft legislation in response to any remaining problems that are not able to be addressed via existing laws, regulations, and contractual agreements.

    For those of you that still want net neutrality, I'd offer one suggestion. Call your congressman/senator and ask for legislation. Getting a statute passed is much more permanent than mere FCC administrative regulations. As we're currently seeing, the FCC can change its own rules each time a new party takes power and appoints a new commissioner/board.
     
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  10. Donald Draper

    Donald Draper Well-Known Forum Member

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    I have Google Fiber. It's hard to imagine how much it cost them to lay it on my street. I live on a huge loop, about 3/4 miles around. All of our utilities are underground. Google Fiber was on my loop for close to three months. They had huge teams of people digging trenches in the street, repaving, etc. Then they had to run line from the street to each house, through yards, etc. It must have been incredibly expensive, tons of manpower and equipment in our small area for a long time.

    While they were laying the fiber, Google decided to drastically reduce the areas of town it was going to service. It did downtown, of course, which is very dense and relatively cheap to hook up (not least because of pre-existing utility tunnels). They also ran fiber to neighborhoods with above ground power lines. All that took was running an additional fiber along the utility poles. But for everybody else with buried utilities, they cut their losses. They also decided not to expand to a few other cities
     
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  11. Donald Draper

    Donald Draper Well-Known Forum Member

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    With last-mile unbundling the owner of the lines can charge a reasonable fee for their use. That reasonable fee would necessarily incorporate the amortized cost of building the line.

    Your thought about fiber being laid by the government is in the works now. It started with Universal Service for phones, but the FCC has been expanding this to include broadband internet.
     
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  12. Pocatello

    Pocatello New Forum Member

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    Government is never the solution. Government fucks up everything it touches.

    If you still believe that the government is here to protect you from big business... ouch. The awakening will be painful.
     

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