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The end of the level playing field (avc.com)
336 points by mooreds on Feb 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



There isn't a new level playing field coming along anytime soon.

The internet was the pinnacle of a series of benign regulatory choices, clear and present dangers of older models being avoided, and lack of incumbent awareness, and adaptation.

This era has ended, we are in the end game, and how America fights and sets an example here, <despite> all odds, will influence how this resource gets used for generations.

This is not a fight you can give up.


Well stated and I very much agree. We got the benefits of an unregulated internet largely by chance. Now the cake is baked and being sliced up. One positive thing I see happening is some small, agile companies rolling out fiber broadband. Ting comes to mind but there are others for sure.


Are you willing to drop AT&T and Verizon, regardless of the cost? That also means dropping the MVNO's who just resell AT&T and Verizon's capacity at a lower price.

You may have to build your own last mile internet infrastructure. (See comments below about mesh networking)

I assume T-Mobile will join in on this zero-rating of data, based on their "all you can eat" promotion. You may not be able to use a cell phone in the US.

Boycotts do get the attention of the company, but it's going to take a long time and a lot of hard, hard work.


It's not just America - in India, we've recently fought this battle with Facebook (which magically doesn't push for zero rating in America.) and telcos. It's hard and they are coming for round 2 and round 3.

But it must be fought.

The fact that America fought for it under wheeler and the previous administration was at the very least an example to point out the hypocrisy of Facebook, and an example of the country which created the internet valuing net neutrality.

Maybe/perhaps Coders/computer scientists/computer engineers need a body to govern ethics, and that body needs to make the moral and clear call on net neutrality.


I use to have this notion too, but keep in mind that the Internet was started as a military project. The fact that it ended up being commandeered by large conglomerates shouldn't really be surprising.

There are countries in Europe, the South Pacific, et. al. where carriers offer "free social" where they don't charge for Facebook and Twitter. Wikiepdia is offered for free by some African carriers; which allows them to also benefit from a lack of real network-neutrality.

When it comes to media and freedom vs industry, I think this video from the mid-2000s explains the situation best (in terms of network neutrality):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66PbSzwnLes


It wasn't a military project any more than the radio or telephone were. Or railroads and highways.


Slightly off topic but wasn't the original purpose of the interstate system to be able to move war materiel around the country by land efficiently?


And to land bombers, if memory serves.


This was not a goal of the American Interstate system: http://www.snopes.com/autos/law/airstrip.asp


Radio, telephone and trains were all private inventions, developed for money. The Internet was explicitly not commercial for many years.


So? The outcome of wars are almost entirely decided on the basis of logistic and communications systems. It's hardly a relevant matter to point out that research into communications and logistics has military value and would originate from military funding.

This is not something one needs to 'keep in mind' to conclude that commercial entities would end up controlling and administering it.


FWIW, Samuel Morse obtained a $30,000 grant from Congress in 1843 to build an experimental telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington.


The internet was but the World Wide Web was not.


Fred's a smart guy. I hope the end of the neutral internet hastens the rise of mesh networking.

If I want to order a pizza online, it really shouldn't have to go through the ISP gatekeepers, travel along a Level 3 trunk, be inspected by the NSA, and then be routed back down to the pizza joint 3 blocks from my house.


Mesh networking has theoretical limits that guarantee that normal internet will beat it by a mile.


I worked with a sensor network team years ago. I think back then the largest mesh networks were only about 200 nodes (I think it was a French University, but I'd have to go back to our notes). I'm sure it's improved by now.

There are some very difficult limits when you try to route traffic where everyone has the same bandwidth. This is why we have trunk lines and undersea fibre cables.


That is exactly the issue. Either we need deteministic authoritative lookup and routing, or we need a yet undiscovered routing algorithm and network topology.


Or as danjoc proposed, you can just keep the networks small. No need for a backbone on a neighborhood-wide network.


Sure, until I need to contact my family 300 miles away.


Ok, your neighborhood is bigger than mine!


Surely the whole point of ARPAnet was that it was a mesh so that there would always be multiple routes from A to B. This is necessary to make the network fault tolerant. If it isn't a mesh it is not a network just a tree.


the ARPAnet backbone is a mesh. the "last mile" ISP networks are trees. what we have now is a hybrid system. a pure mesh system in those last mile networks is not feasible at scale, unfortunately. traffic congestion, hardware interoperability, and meshnet protocol latency become overwhelming when the number of users rises.


It's likely that the mesh network would be combined with the wired network where if you need to contact someone much further away it will seek them out across what we designate today as the Internet. But mesh networks will fill in the local and regional communications role as time goes on. It's an inevitability as we keep utilizing smart phones, tablets, and laptops.


This is not true. Any network topology, including the present-day Internet, can be considered a subset of a mesh network topology.


And it works because there is capacity where it is needed, and the network is deterministic with authoritative lookup services. Even if everyone had 100/100mbit and we use a mesh network with a relatively efficient topology, with say random walkers to find ressources, it will wouldn't scale well enough.


A mesh network with an incentive system could provide incentive for building out infrastructure where it's needed, without our existing oligopolies over the last mile. In other words - if you were to pay each of the nodes your packets pass through, you'd have competition where absolutely anyone could hook into the network at any point and provide the necessary bandwidth and get paid for it, no permission necessary.


Thats the current internet with a twist, which means wires, which mean land rights, regulations and large telecom competition.


The point is that your last mile can be a proper meshnet, and the backbone operates in real-time competition, and people wanting to compete on parts of the backbone are much more able to - and people wanting to compete in the last mile are able to as well. You could have someone pull fiber from the backbone to somewhere vaguely near you, and depend on the meshnet from there, or you could travel a few kilometers over meshnet hops, or some combination of the two depending on whether a packet relates to something user-interactive. It solves a problem - monopolies in Internet transport - it just doesn't handwave away basic understandings of physics.


'mesh network' popped up here exactly because we want to avoid the fat links in that mesh.

And getting substantial data (including transit) routed through a heap of wifi devices in a city isn't easy. To the next city - hard. Over the big pond - well...


Mesh doesn't need to be limited to Wifi. The only reason purely radio-based mesh networks are difficult is interference. With enough intermediate wired links interacting with the network (i.e. 3 or 4 Wifi hotspots route to an entire apartment high-rise), the problem is trivial, and hierarchies can be generated based on link capacity and topology just like with the Internet (BGP/RIP). This requires updating routing protocols and in some cases, infrastructure, so there's a lot of hysteresis against change (I know; I've tried).


You can order a pizza in 1kb of data and a 10 second latency would be no problem. Pizza web site can be cached.


Current best widely used distributed topology is Kademlia, and it contacts O(log n) nodes in a search. With 1.000.000 nodes that is 20kb of data. With 1.000.000.000 it's 30kb of data. That is fine for simple messaging.

But once have located a large ressource you need, and you start to transfer data, at say 10mbit/s, you use 10mbit/s for every node from source to destination. It doesn't scale with trafic.

I haven't followed the state of the art that close in a few years, so there might have been some improvements, but none that have made much fuss.


But you're assuming sending data is 100% unique and arbitrary.

We know with newer algorithms like IPFS that complex datastreams can be broken down into 256kB chunks all each individually hashed. Not only that, but most data is shared traffic. Yourtube, Facebook, software, you name it. Most unique data people create is textural or small, not the 10MB/s canard.


That require a lot of caching. People needs to be villing to dedicate many GB to this cache around the network for it to be effective.


There's 2 levels of caching in IPFS. Persistent and temporary.

Persistent is when you pin something, or add something (which pins it). It's stuck in block storage until you run a command to remove it.

Temporary is when you go to some IPFS site, and download stuff to your cache. This is the same thing as your browser cache. In IPFS, there's a garbage collector that circle around every time you hit 10GB (or whatever you set it to).

What that means, is some content that goes viral ends up being supported by everyone going to said content. I know I don't clean my browser cache every few minutes, or really ever. And if that means that my and others connections are sped up because of that, the better.


There is probably more than one route between two points, in a tightly connected mesh. But I agree, it gets insanely complicated rather quickly.


I am curious to learn more about this if anyone has a recommendation for a paper or two to read.


This is probably the most widely cited one: http://circuit.ucsd.edu/~massimo/Papers_files/Capacity-Physi...


Do you mean "wireless" and "wired" or is there something specific to the mesh vs trunk topology?


Not sure that that user was referring to; but yes, there is a specific topological problem: Routing tables. With current internet topology, only a small number of nodes need to know how to route to everywhere; most nodes simply forward 99.9% of addresses to their default "upstream" router.

Since the vast majority of nodes are not able to keep global routing tables (both because they lack the storage, and also because they lack the bandwidth needed to keep such tables up to date) you have two choices: 1. A subset of nodes are "supernodes" which know how to get anywhere (aka. our current internet topology), or 2. Addresses carry enough semantic meaning to allow nodes to guess which way to forward them (e.g., "I don't know who this packet is going to, but it's somewhere in San Francisco").

That second option would require a complete renumbering of the Internet, and it's still not clear that it would work; purely geographic routing would result in packets from Plymouth to New York getting stuck at Land's End because they want to go West but the cables all land East of there.

Note: This problem doesn't exist with small mesh networks, because for small networks you can have every node maintain a copy of the entire routing table.


Would it not be possible to build a distributed routing table?


There is CJDNS (https://github.com/cjdelisle/cjdns/blob/master/doc/Whitepape...) which has distributed routing table and addressing based on public keys.


Traditional tables won't scale.

Have each node know it's position (lat/lon) and the position of it's nearest neighbors. When you send a packet, you send it to a lat/lon, and every node that sees your packet just tries to nudge it a little closer, until it gets there. Then to speed things up on the return trip we can ask each intermediate to add their position to a list on the packet.

Of course, moving nodes present a bit of a problem. Because they will keep attaching and detaching, there returning packets won't know where to reach them. I suppose if you knew your route through space you could send "scout" packets ahead of you, feel out the terrain, and prepend those positions to the list of your packets (so that they can find you when they return).

Dealing with changes to the (static) topology and also rogue nodes (ones that misbehave, drop packets, lying about their position, etc) are interesting problems. I think they can be solved.


I think geography is a red herring.

The addresses must have meaning and hosts must self organise into a subnet based on connectivity, which feels like a np-hard problem... That does not imply that there is no reasonably well working approximation that works more or less as good except for edge cases. (Literally, ha...)


No reason a spatial routing algorithm couldn't take connectivity into account. Indeed, this is a pretty straight-forward application of A*.


I came to think of molds and how they route networks with just local agents...


It might be, but you'd need to be smarter than me.


Maybe the problem is harder than it superficially seems, but assuming the network is not super sparse, sending things in the right geographical direction (GPS is ubiquitous) should be a very good heuristic. Couple it with exact routing information for the "neighborhood" (idk which radius would make sense) of a node, should be able to avoid going down a dead end most of the time.


here's a simple (very bad) example of distributed routing.

Addresses are simply bitstrings of some length.

If my address is a=a1a2...an, I need to store the first segment of the shortest path to each r_1=a'1a2...an, r_2=a1a'2...an all the way up to r_n=a1a2...a'2, where a'k != ak (i.e. all the addresses with a hamming distance of exactly 1 from me). I then simply route a message with an address b=b1b2...bn to r_i where i is the first non-zero bit of a xor b.


There is Kademlia, but it still needs to be improved to take geo distance and link quality into account, for it to work on a global scale.


There is Geodemlia, that routes by geographical distance and is based of Kademlia and its routing buckets.

The problem, as with most P2P-networks, is that its not resistant to high network churn.


Yes, it is like thinking you can implement a service like Twitter in a distributed way. You can, but you loose some of its properties like performing analytics over all the messages in real time.

It is important to first apply basic computer science theories before trying to invent a perpetual motion machine.


> You can, but you loose some of its properties like performing analytics over all the messages in real time.

That seems like a feature :) Why do I want my messages to be available for analysis?


> Why do I want my messages to be available for analysis?

So I think you already have a lot of options for that.


The thing is, many of us don't care if Twitter has our messages for analysis. That's their problem, not ours.

Marketing needs shouldn't hamper technical progress.


Citation requested.


Mesh networking just revolves around the idea that computers can be linked. If mesh networks have theoretical limits then the internet has them as well.

Mesh networking is a collection of multiple technologies in its ideal form.


This gets at the heart of the matter: "mesh networking" means a bunch of different things. It started out meaning a network composed of mobile devices with omnidirectional antennas, running an ad-hoc routing protocol. This is probably why OP said it has limits, as such a network will be slow and lose a lot of bandwidth with every hop. These days, it's mostly a phrase used when people are excited about networking technologies.


Mesh networks have some practical limits they are unlikely to overcome, like crossing an ocean, or any sufficiently large unpopulated area. You do need expensive dedicated infrastructure for that.


Nothing about that is a physical limitation of linking computers. That's a limitation of a specific type of linking computers. There is nothing that says people couldn't lay cable down on the Atlanitc to cross the pond. Nothing about that has to do with the concept of the network being made up of linked computers. That has everything to do with how they are linked.


My thoughts (almost) exactly.

Are you active in the Mesh Networking space? If so, what's the latest? Anyone else out there is welcome to ring in as well.


Get a ham radio license and join Network 44 if you'd like to get involved.


I knew something like this must exist! Thank you.

I can't believe there's an entire /8 block dedicated to this. That's like owning a square mile of land in downtown San Francisco.


Why does one need a license to run a radio?


Mostly so that someone else "running a radio" doesn't get to degrade your tv reception, or your mobile phone connection, or your local police/fire/ambulance service communication, or air traffic control's ability to safely manage airplanes, etc.

The radio spectrum is scarce - and while there's a lot to criticise about how governments "hand out" chunks of that spectrum to telcos, commercial radio networks, tv networks, et al - there's clearly a public-interest-need to be able to slap down _hard_ people like this:

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/lonewolf-radio-hoaxer-hack...


It depends on your country but for Americans the FCC places restrictions on communications (what you can say) and band plans (where you can talk).

Why they would do this is many fold and if you'd like to hear why the government might want to do this I'd need to write in longer form them a comment.


I could be wrong on this (it's been years and years since I got my ham license), but I think the licensing of individual operators is intended to _ensure_ that ham radio is preserved for individual operators. The idea being that keeping the band available for... say, emergency communication, is in the public interest.

Also, for what it's worth, transmitting on CB (Citizens' Band) radio doesn't require a license, but I think it's restricted to very low-power bands.


CB radio is legal (in Australia and the US at least) thanks to "class licences". A manufacturer can sell equipment that meets certain limitations (eg: 5W max transmit power for 27Meg CB, from 26.965MHz to 27.405MHz), and customers can then buy and use them under the manufacturers "class licence". This is the same for heaps of other radio transmitters - your wifi, you garage door opener, your baby monitor, your bluetooth headphone, the video downlink on your quadcopter, the zigbee network for you lightbulbs etc. All of those run in specific frequency bands with capped maximum transmit powers (if legally sold. My local .au rules say 2.4GHz analog video is limited to 100mW, it's cheaper to buy 600mW transmitters from China than legally class-licenced gear locally, so a lot of people do - much to the disappointment of neighbours who's 2.4GHz wifi reception turns lousy when a 600mW video Tx gets powered up nearby...)


Ingenu has an SDK/dev kit available. It's a little on the expensive side, and patent encumbered. A bunch of wireless execs trying to disrupt the wireless industry. The LoRa WAN stuff is cheaper and more open, but seems more primitive.

All of it is low bandwidth, but how much bandwidth do you really need for "large pepperoni and 2 liter pepsi"? Same goes for all these 140 char messages flying around.


Your pizza joint isn't running their own server (which is most probably a good thing).


No, but they probably have a fairly decent small set of expensive failover servers for their web site and customer databases, and will almost certainly have a desktop to communicate the days' financials back to head office in a different state/country.

In a world where mesh networking is a reality, when a franchisee buys into a chain business it will come with local networking hardware, part-and-parcel with the branded window-signs and soul-destroying uniforms.

In my personal little dream-future, anyway :-)


Ummm, yeah - so you've never worked for the hospitality industry huh?

(You tell em "$5/month isn't an appropriate webhosting plan for your online ordering!" and they say "Yeah, I can get it for $12/year with GoDaddy!")


I still can't get excited about net neutrality, but maybe that's because I'm from a country (UK) where telco competition is strong enough - and number porting etc easy enough - that anything that's anticonsumer will get punished by the market.


The UK extensively regulates and censors Internet access. It's possible you can't get excited about it because you don't have a culture of a free Internet.

British providers have happily performed deep packet inspection in order to "prioritize" traffic with little to no resistance from the public. Britain just doesn't share this principle.


Yes and no. The market works in the UK. If you don't want a "hand holding" ISP that filters and DPIs your connection you have a range of good alternatives e.g. http://aa.net.uk/

The shittiest providers in the UK are usually the vertically integrated players (Sky, Virgin, BT) that optimise their business around selling bundles to consumers (TV, mobile, net and movie subs).

Fortunately, thanks to local loop unbundling providing a relatively level playing field, there are lots of "net only" providers that focus on delivering a technically strong, unadulterated connection to the internet for consumers that value that.

Bonus: VOIP is also really easy in the UK. When I lived there, I ported my landline number to http://www.voiptalk.org (which I still maintain now), had a 4G unlocked SIM from Virgin with virtually unlimited data and an 18MBit ADSL connection from Andrews & Arnold. All monthly contracts, no tie in. Total cost was ~£50/month iirc. Worked beautifully and felt very "free" (as in freedom) to me.


If we accept that neutrality regulation is unnecessary in the UK due to the effectiveness of the market that exists here, we should remember that this market itself exists because of other forms of regulation which have been imposed, including: the ease with which customers can switch ISPs, publishing official figures of the frequency of complaints about ISPs, the incumbent telco being required to provide wholesale internet access (with price controls) which can be resold by any company who wish to set themselves up as an ISP.

It seems to me to have done reasonably well at encouraging suppliers to compete on price, and on customer service quality (provided you don't take the ISP's word for it).

It hasn't been great at hastening the widespread availability of > 20Mbit broadband, and that is probably in part because of a particular technological and financial internet access model becoming somewhat entrenched, due to the very same regulation.

I tend to be of the opinion that net neutrality is a useful tactic where a functioning competitive market doesn't exist, and is beyond hope of being made to exist. Outside of that, I'm much less certain of how valuable it is.

(I'm not going to address the whole UK internet censorship and data logging thing, because it's orthogonal to the structure of the market. And also because it's really fucking depressing.)


Yes, I'd argue that the UK's approach to regulation may as well be network neutrality by another name. It's looser than the FCC's interpretation but the desired end result (from a consumer perspective) is very similar.

Re: UK internet censorship and data logging - agree not connected to this debate (and, yes, it's fucking depressing).


AA are also the only people I've found who'll let you port your mobile number to them for VOIP.


I remember getting a 3 sim card in the UK, going to erowid.org and getting a screen saying the site was blocked. If you wanted the block lifted, you'd have to go to a 3 store and present an ID to show you were over 18 (and I assume that ID would be forever associated with your account).


In many countries you cannot even buy a SIM card without providing an ID.


Welcome to India.


This is no issue with a VPN. My "real" number is registered with a VOIP provider, and I just buy a new SIM card from a vending machine at the airport with cash every so often. I'm not even trying to be particularly anonymous, it's just easy.


You'd also need to create new accounts for all your services each time, or any basic logging of access will trivially link your SIM, data provider's IP, your VPN, and your endpoint services. You only need to mess up once and your "anonymity" is compromised. In this instance it would be the IMEI of your phone, the tracking data used by advertisers and data miners to fingerprint your devices, and whatever services and accounts you use for email or social networking on your device.

Real anonymity is hard, and takes a level of paranoia not many can sustain without suffering mental health issues.


Can you give me an example of where my experience as an end-user in the UK is different from what it would be in the US? Currently in Thailand where there's noticeable censorship.


Net neutrality only helps consumers at a big scale in the long run. It's not really beneficial in a direct way for any individual in the short run. So suppressing net neutrality is not something that a lot of consumers are likely to punish. Though it's clearly better for everyone overall.

The situation is a bit like drug addiction. Obviously it's better for a person's health to not shoot heroin. But an addict will always find the immediate benefit of one more hit more compelling than the vague, long-term benefits of getting clean.

Telcos understand this dynamic, and they're trying to play up the short-term pleasure - by offering so-called "free data" - in order to distract people from the long-term harm and drum up support for suppressing net neutrality.


To be a little more explicit about why net neutrality is important in the long-term, it's to allow small companies to compete on the Internet. If Google or Facebook can pay for faster access than some new startup, they'll have an innate advantage over the startup. It increases the barrier to entry for companies on the Internet, all so ISPs can make a few extra bucks.


The problem in the US is that the people who are against consumer focused regulation have no problem with regulation that locks out competition.


UK has strong telco competition because of a strong local loop unbundling program (BT OpenReach), the US had that at one point (Telecom act of 1996), but the FCC progressively weakened it to the point that it only remains applied to phone lines served from a central office, which limits the number of serviceable users as well as the capacity of internet service. Since overbuilding is expensive very few areas have meaningful choices, so we're left with trying to regulate good service, instead of having poor service punished by the market.


As an Australian, me too. Kinda. Except in the opposite direction: I've never had net neutrality, and I'm not sure I care.

We've always had data-caps that would sound insane to those of you in the Americas or Europe, and we've always dealt with them by not having net neutrality.

As an example, I remember the first time coaxial cable Internet started becoming something that was really purchasable by a large number of residential users. The speed was 10Mbps down, 1Mbps up. The data limit for the month was 10GB. Extra data was available at the low low rate of 14c/MB (or $140/GB, for those who don't want to do the math). The provider, though, maintained a large private mirror of downloads that were "free" -- they didn't count towards your monthly cap. They mirrored things like patches for games, linux ISOs, and they had a fairly large shareware repository.

I couldn't get cable Internet at home -- they never ran the cable down my street -- so I was stuck on 28k dial-up. I would have killed for cable, data restrictions or not.

But that was back then. What about now?

Now? We have companies that deliver data over LTE who do similar-but-different things. I have a cellular plan with Optus (AKA Singtel), which is $80 a month. For that, I get 20GB worth of downloads, but I also get absolutely unlimited streaming of Netflix, and unlimited streaming from most of the popular music services (Spotify, Google Play, I Heart Radio, Apple Music, and maybe others I can't remember). I stream tens of gigabytes of video and audio every month, and I can do this because of the lack of net neutrality here. Some other provides on pre-paid services which typically have tiny data caps will provide "unlimited social media access" -- because that's how they draw in teens, what I assume is the most valuable market segment for pre-paid.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that when a service becomes big enough that it's marketable to with free data, then one of the providers will pick up on it as a value-add. Something they can do that improves their service so they can grab more market share.

Some of you are probably going to argue that this is a symptom of a broken market, and I'm not sure that's the case. Networking in Australia is hard. We have 1/10th the population of the US in a country about the same physical size.

It's possible I'm really very wrong about how this all works. Maybe I'm naive and it's all really terrible and I should be upset. It's just hard to see from here how perfect net neutrality is an issue.


Historically, bandwidth in and out of Australia was super expensive, because there weren't that many undersea cables connecting it to the world; that's why Australian providers would run mirrors with uncapped access, but everything else had high usage fees; I would guess one of the conditions of getting a service zero-rated is connecting to the carrier in Australia, so the carrier isn't footing the international data bill. Likely many of these providers have local caching and serving, and may update their storage when undersea cables are off peak to reduce their own data costs. (OTOH, the undersea capacity has increased a lot, so it may not be as expensive as it once was)


I used to joke that the reason that Australian data-caps were so low is that they have to get all of the data over by boat.

The way I see things is that having an Internet service that is in high demand is simply incentive for ISPs to peer with you.

Netflix reportedly said (link below) that it regretted offering 'unmetered data' to Australian ISPs, because they feared it would have a chilling effect on the availability of other streaming services.

Their fears were unfounded: Stan & Presto are both available unmetered on certain ISPs. (Quickflix went out of business, but not because of ISP deals, but because they couldn't compete in library size and other major ways -- I suspect there's simply not room for three Australia-based streaming services to license enough content to keep themselves afloat.)

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/netflix...


Just a head's up: Presto was owned by FoxTel, and was shut down this month.

Stan seems to be a good competitor, but that's only comparing it to the Australian Netflix library. I'm of the opinion that all competition has done is split the market, as they fight over the same set of exclusives.

I'll often browse US Netflix rather than switch between Aus Netflix and Stan to find a movie I've seen previously. US Netflix seems to have 90% of the missing content Stan offers over Aus Netflix.


Are any "value-add services" Australian-borne?


Yes. Australian Football is free to stream on certain LTE carriers, along with Netflix on Optus I get access to the ABC (national government-owned broadcaster) and Stan (an Australian streaming service much like Netflix, owned by Fairfax).

Home-broadband wise, here's a link to Telstra (Australia's largest telecomms company by a large margin) and their policies around free content on their residential "BigPond" ISP: https://www.telstra.com.au/support/category/broadband/manage...

And a link to services available for 'free' on Internode (now owned by TPG, which is I think at this point Australia's second largest ISP) http://www.internode.on.net/residential/entertainment/unmete...

TPG themselves do free Netflix, although I'm not sure what else is unmetered.


Admittedly, I've only taken a cursory glance and so I may have missed something, but it seems to me that most of what's offered is either large corporations (Netflix, Xbox), or the Telecom network's own media arm.

That's nightmarish to me. 6 corporations owning 90%+ of media outlets in the US is already bordering corporatist dystopia.


Optus isn't unmetering Netflix because there's a shady backroom deal with Netflix to try to drive their viewership by sales of cellphones, Optus is unmetering Netflix because it's a tractable problem, they can QoS the traffic, and they can deliver a service that will hopefully attract more users.

If you don't happen to watch much Netflix, but another carrier offers a deal on something you do use? Switch! Or maybe you don't need the value-add services and just want an overall cheaper plan? You can do that, too! Porting to a different ISP or cellular carrier is a legally enforced right here. 99% of the population of Australia is able to switch at will to a number of different providers, and there's nothing like the regional monopolies that companies like TWC or Comcast have in the US.

There's huge, fundamental gaps in the way different continents provide Internet access. Maybe if there were no competition of ISPs at a local level in Australia, net neutrality would be a huge problem here. It isn't a problem here, though. I don't think it's something that the average Australian in the street has thought much about, and if you explained it to them they probably wouldn't understand what the big deal is. Despite the fact that we don't have net neutrality, the sky isn't falling, and Australian access to the Internet is basically as free-as-in-freedom as it is in the US.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, and the idea that ISPs must only ever be dumb pipes is one way to solve the problem of competition in the Internet provider space, but it's certainly not the only one.


And this is exactly why net neutrality is an enormous issue in the United States: Typically we only have one local broadband carrier. Two if you are exceptionally lucky. And the local ISP monopoly is often run by fucking Comcast or Time Warner Cable ("now called Spectrum"), two of the worst companies on this planet. Net neutrality is an enormous issue for Americans.


Hahahahaha, 6 media corporations? Six? I wish!

Name just one (in Australia) that isn't owned by Murdoch or Fairfax :P


The UK increasingly restricts net access to certain sites (piratebay ban), and the telcos are not competitive everywhere.

> that anything that's anticonsumer will get punished by the market

many large telcos are going the way of mobile networks, by tying you in with complex, one-sided contracts, salesmen-sold "bundles" etc.

How many inexpensive, short-term mobile contracts can you get? If internet contracts aren't there now, they will be soon.


Nobody's going to switch carriers because of free data. I think you're missing the point here


I have switched carriers several times in the last 15 years, usually for data or pricing reasons.

I'm not atypical. It's easy to switch in the UK, easy to port your number, and people have little carrier loyalty. Switching home broadband is more of a pain, but switching cell carriers (or, rather, "mobile providers") takes a phone call and a day of questionable connectivity and that's it.


If people are paying for data on one carrier, that another carrier is offering for free (for whatever reason), that can be a reason to switch; that's why T-Mobile is offering it. In the US, it's relatively simple to switch your cell phone service, and there are many choices: 4 mainstream national carriers, all of them have prepaid brands, and many MVNO options as well.

For home internet, if you have a choice, it's usually between only two companies with different technology, and often significantly different bandwidth options, there's not much room to compare on price, and very little room to compare on routing or terms of service.


My point was saying nobody is going to switch away from a carrier because that carrier is offering free data.

I think people are missing the point of the posted article, or maybe I am. As I understand it, the complaint is that giving free data for the incumbent tech giants' products gives them a distinct advantage in the marketplace over small / startup offerings which do not have deals for free data. This advantage means the "level playing field" of the internet frontier is dead.


Anecdotal (counter)evidence: in India, Reliance ("Jio") has been offering free (which is a first) 4G (I believe only one other carrier offers that) data for a few months now, ending March of this year. (I believe they're using this to both draw users and give people a taste of what a fast mobile data connection can be like as well as to work out teething problems. Nobody's a saint, etc.)


I don't get it. So is FCC just silently sneaking in anti net neutrality again? I thought they pulled that out after huge outcry. Were they just waiting for public to forget and move on?


It's not "sneaking in," Pai has been explicitly against net neutrality and consumer protections for his entire tenure. This was one of the things Americans decided last November: a free and open Internet is bad thing, and access to it should be controlled by the big multimedia companies.

Turns out, you get what you vote for.


I don't remember this issue coming up at all during the presidential election. Although, I'd wager even if it had, the outcome of the election would not have been altered in any significant way.


Doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to realize Republicans are against regulations and favor big businesses over consumers. It was absolutely on my radar during the election, the Republican members of the commission have been exceedingly clear about their opposition to small businesses and consumer rights.


Sure, I just don't think we should make broad claims about the will of the people vs. consent to govern in broad way. To put another way, Americans may be happy to say they are against regulations, but yet still may favor a particular regulation if it was brought up in a poll.


It got some coverage[1] but I'm sure your second point is right: not a top issue for many voters and I'd bet that almost none of the few who do care strongly about it either way would have been pulled towards a candidate they otherwise wouldn't have supported.

1. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/10/hillary-clinton-...


You don't think they give up after one try, do you? Look as us Brits with the IP Bill (Snooper's Charter). May tried to push it through a couple of years ago as Home Secretary and the public backlash stopped her. Four months after she becomes Prime Minister she sneaks it in with barely a whisper.

You want a US version of events? Slipping CISA in its entirety into an Omnibus Bill in late 2015 after it was initially rejected as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act.

It's endemic.


It seems that these are symptoms of representation democracy. People elect someone to make decisions in their best interest and then they make decisions for their own interest because its so easy to hide them. There is really no solution to this except people being directly in charge and be able to block any bill they collectively wish. Representational democracy was the only economically viable option when voting was expensive but its no longer the case, at least technically. A simple direct democracy would be simply to have monthly electronic voting directly by people on whatever congress passed to either let it go through or block.


No, since the inauguration in January the FCC has been essentially sold (perhaps given) to Verizon and is now doing exactly as Verizon wants. Similar things are happening to every regulatory body in the federal government; we are entering a dark era of zero consumer protection, zero labor rights, zero work done by the federal government to help the country/citizens in all spheres of industry. It's a great time to be a CEO of a large company, a bad time to be just about anyone else.

The outcry worked when Wheeler was chairman of the FCC -- he cared/listened. The current chair takes calls from big telecoms, not from you.


Certainly what it seems like. Internet regulations are like Climate change-- not really tangible in a traditional sense and sometimes difficult to grasp. People are very focused on this immigration/Travel Ban thing right now, because it's real and easy to understand, comparatively. I don't expect there to be a lot of popular pushback on this issue right now there was earlier, mostly because public attention is largely elsewhere


There's a new chairman.

Watch some of the older videos with the last chairman, the new guy was always the one arguing on the side of short sighted business interests. The guy disgusted me when he was just a board member, now he's running the shop.


SpaceX's low latency internet access won't come a moment too soon. Competition hasn't been possible but it could be.

Maybe Google can reconsider their decision to deproritize Google Fiber.


How feasible would it be to just crowd source something through maybe an organization like EFF or a collection of organizations? How many satellites would be required? Could they be rebuild so they cost less? What else would this entail? I know nothing of the subject so these are idiot questions I know.


Would this only effect up and coming telecom firms and high bandwidth services (video streaming, audio streaming, gaming, etc.), or also your every day SaaS startup?

Edit: how exactly would this have a negative impact on SnapChat?

Double edit: I think net neutrality is a good thing, and worth finding clear arguments to fight for.

Triple edit: Reasons I believe the net should be neutral...

1. Consumers should be able to use any internet service they choose.

2. Consumers should pay the same for data usage regardless of what the service is.

3. Businesses should be able to provide their service for the same data usage cost as any other business.


If Facebook makes deals with cell phone carriers to have their traffic be free to the end user, it may incentivize SnapChat users to switch to Instagram for a comparable experience minus the data charges.

Luckily, most of the largest technology companies are incentivized in one way or another to keep net-neutrality as it is. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon literally sell cloud computing services to tons of companies large and small who could be negatively impacted. Apple wants new apps made in the App Store and would prefer these new apps hurt Facebook, Google, and Amazon in some way if possible. Facebook relies on third-party mobile applications and websites for collecting tons of data to feed back into their ad system. Google prefers an open web to index and serve search ads against.

I don't think the lines are as clear as Fred has drawn here. There are plausible reasons for major technology companies to come out in support of net neutrality that are in their own self-interest, not just good-will.


The opponents of net neutrality aren't those guys - it's AT&T, Verizon, Altice, Comcast, CenturyLink, Charter, TimeWarner, etc.

With net neutrality, they are essentially forced into a very low margin business of selling data pipes, where it's all very comoditized, and it's difficult to 'add value'.

Without net neutrality, they can pick and bundle services over the top and give them prioritised traffic on their network, so watching Comcast Video is prioritized, but watching Netflix buffers every 4 seconds. Offer subscribers a short term discount to try Comcast Video, and then watch as the money rolls in when everyone dumps Netflix and moves over to Comcast Video.


I can attest to this experience on Centurylink gigabit trying to stream Comcast's Xfinity Go, or streaming Netflix while on Comcast before they made the backroom peering deal. In the evenings, they would either run at the lowest quality, or buffer very often while running in potato vision.


To clarify, given the net is not neutral, Facebook will be able to provide better services because they pay internet providers some fee for extra bandwidth and reduced latency. While Snapchat would decide to provide worse services at a more reasonable cost to them.

This helps Facebook in the battle against Snapchat, but hurts Facebook in that they have to pay an extra fee. A similar argument could be made with other tech companies and their rivals.

Is this a correct interpretation?


The correct version of the argument is that Facebook can afford to pay for extra bandwidth and reduced latency, but new market entrants cannot. Snapchat has plenty of funding.

It also has knock-on effects in the allocation of financial gains of successful startups. The more money required to launch/scale a company, the more likely it is that investors (capital) get a larger share of the profits than founders or employees (labor). That's not necessarily a direct reason to oppose/favor net neutrality, but is worth considering alongside all the other data points.


> There are plausible reasons for major technology companies to come out against net neutrality that are in their own self-interest, not just good-will.

Sorry, just to clarify, are you saying that there are plausible reasons for major technology companies to support net neutrality because of their self interest?

(I found your statement a bit hard to parse.)


It was hard to parse because I didn't actually write what I meant! Sorry.

I meant these tech companies have reasons to support net neutrality besides good will.


Tech companies aren't the same as network providers, though. And Google didn't make it as an ISP. It pits tech against telecoms.


Without net neutrality there is nothing stopping Comcast from switching to a whitelist model where any destination IP outside their network is unreachable once it hits 0.01% of all outbound traffic. This would allow small one-offs like a doctor's office website but block just about everyone of even small size. Then you can pay Comcast for the "privilege" of being unblocked.

They don't even need to truly block traffic, just refuse to upgrade peering links at POPs and let continued growth of traffic do the work for them, which is basically what they did to Netflix.

If we unbundled the last mile and had true competition none of this would be a problem; people would just switch ISPs. Unfortunately we don't have competition. Don't tell Ajit Pai though; he thinks competition is "robust" because you can choose from metered wireless plans on already crowded spectrum. From the point of view of his paymasters that's true: Verizon would be happy to have you switch from Comcast so you can buy data by the GB on their wireless network. It is vastly more profitable for them! They inherited their core spectrum for a song and don't have to lay fiber to millions of homes. The capital costs are vastly lower than wired broadband and the scarcity jacks the prices.

If Republicans still gave half a shit about a free market economy they'd follow the Texas electricity plan: A heavily regulated company that owns the last-mile lines. It charges cost plus a margin for future capital upgrades. Terminate at the closest NOC/POP and dump the traffic on the ISP's network. You could go even further and just task the infrastructure company with providing unlit fiber from every home and business; let the ISPs compete in providing the ONT/CPE so you can get innovation there.

People forget: the federal government spent a ton of money to get electricity everywhere. Much of the power infrastructure wasn't funded by private companies. Even the trans-continental railroads (so lauded in Atlas Shrugged) weren't built by private enterprise. The federal government back-stopped the whole thing with money and soldiers.


Why are we giving up? Tech workers, startups, and VCs collectively control huge amounts of money and skilled labor. Organizing it all would obviously be a challenge, but fighting this is a solvable problem!


Are there technical solutions here?

The client-server model of the WWW seems to tilt in favor of consolidation. What about something more akin to database replication for sharing information? Data moving around asynchronously, viewed at the users leisure, and synchronous actions are only needed sometimes (e.g. for buying things). Right now, a lot of synchronous things happen, requiring users' action and attention for little reason (but encouraged by the client/server model because you need to make a request).

It would certainly change things. "Engagement" might be harder to measure and monetize, so it might force us toward something more like micropayments. But micropayments might be more possible in such an environment as well. With little money on the line, it's easy to update a database record and move the real money around later (if that's even required -- you could imagine digital IOU records acting like currency).

And more importantly, I think it would reduce the need of companies like facebook and other consolidating forces (though perhaps not google search).


It's not a technical problem so I think the best thing would be figuring out ways to make it visible to the average user: e.g. imagine if Netflix could reliably show a “Comcast's network is throttling your movie” message.


There never was a level playing field? Narrative fallacy.

Occasionally technology produces moments where dynamic conditions allow for people to leverage large amounts of energy if they get lucky. But all those people participating on a "level playing field?" they are "cheating" as hard as they can at every step.

The perception that things were ever even is just that. A perception. Our ecosystem is not "even". Nature doesn't "know" what "fair" is.


I'm not really sure what you're trying to say.

The idea being presented—which I agree with—is that the nature of the Internet up until relatively recently was that any organisation could participate with equal access to any other – regardless of their size. That was a good thing, and is a really excellent tool for democratisation of a resource, because it removes essentially all barriers to entry. Any company could, for example, offer streaming audio or video services, and Internet users were free to purchase those which they think are worthwhile.

This changes when the Internet stops being a public communications network in principle.


Basically: the internet was never a level playingh field. It was always controlled by telecom and Big Gov. It wasn't designed to be equitable and has never been a laissez faire system of any sort. To participate you need capital, clout, and insider status.

My point is that the principle of an open Internet is a fallacy of narration, trying to fit a story to the situation for the purposes of journalism.


Big fan of Fred. But I am struggling to connect all the dots on the FCC statement and what the various companies responses will likely be and how long that will take?...

Basically, there's new people at FCC, where will we see the effect of new policy first and when?

Is my Verizon bill going to double? Is my phone going to give me mild but painful electric shocks if I don't click on any fucking Google AMP links? Fred, what is going to happen?


Your bill won't change. It's the companies that want to offer things on the internet that will have to pay a premium. The cable companies can now tax every little startup as well as big companies. It means only well funded companies will be able to offer things online.


> Your bill won't change.

yet

wont be long at all before these monopolies start double dipping i.e. charging customers for netflix traffic (either via having it count towards a cap while hulu doesnt or some other method) while still charging netflix.

there's no business incentive for this not to happen because 90% of people have no choice, and when verizon and comcast both do it almost no one will have a choice


I wonder how difficult it would be to stream data over Facebook video or messenger? With messenger I assume they'd rate-limit you, but video might be harder to stop.


Fundamentally, net neutrality is when everyone's upload speed matches their download speed, there is no throttling, and it is enforced.

Otherwise individual creators or those who can not pay for preferential treatment are at a disadvantage to those who can, with the spoils going to the most predatory actors.


May be Elon's satellite cluster will come and deliver the deathblow. Fast, cheap, anywhere, wireless.


To be fair, that's my only hope as well. There doesn't seem to be almost anyone on this miserable little planet who doesn't bend when they receive some very particular phone calls. It's disgusting and discouraging.


Everything but fast, unfortunately.


"Neutral" just means using some QoS setting that someone thought was "fair".

It's heavily biased toward current protocols and their current uses, and is just as unfriendly to potentially groundbreaking tech as an "unfair" QoS.

While the alarmists predict that all google.com requests would be redirected to bing, I think the reality is likely to be far more like T-Mobile's recent controversial approach.

Some factual points to keep in mind:

- There is a big difference between peak and average bandwidth, and it's very specific to the protocol what defines acceptable performance. This applies to every upstream provider, not just ISPs.

- Bandwidth providers (ISPs, ISP's ISPs, etc.) are often in the business of speculating on demand. Simply put, this means that they preorder bandwidth that they expect to be adequate for the peak and average bandwidth demanded by their downstream nodes.

- The characteristics of bandwidth demand are a function of the protocols in use and random variation. QoS is used to create a graceful fallback when there is not quite enough bandwidth to route all traffic instantly. Optimal QoS settings are a function of the protocols being used by downstream nodes. It is not guaranteed that every network congestion situation can be mitigated by QoS without a desegregation in service to someone downstream. This applies to ISPs as well as upstream providers.

- So aside from the google => bing scenario everyone pretends is worrisome, in reality what would happen is that removing net neutrality would allow for bandwidth speculators (ISPs and everyone upstream) to make smarter longer-term deals which required less extra bandwidth. This is analogous to an improved financial instrument to make longer-term thinking (and longer-term deals) possible, with less uncertainty about demand, etc. For example, a startup could offer a 4K streaming service by negotiating a deal with ISPs to ensure high quality. See the next point for an example of why this matters.

- Services with heavy demand such as youtube are not vulnerable to QoS (except for the google=>bing dystopia). Why7? Because there is extremely predictable demand. If you are an ISP and your upstream provider offers you discounted bandwidth for youtube only traffic, you can safely make that decision for the medium/long term because you know youtube is infrastructure and your customers are going to use it. This predictability creates the incentive for firms to add fiber links and capacity between youtube and ISPs so that customers get high quality video without slowdowns at peak times. Note that Youtube encouraged this competition between ISPs by having an ISP ratings page a few years back.

- For services like Tor or BitTorrent, there may be increased fees for residential circuits that require those services, because they will opportunistically use up any available bandwidth. This doesn't really fit the residential pricing model that is arbitraged by ISPs, and is more akin to a business level circuit. If the protocols become more widespread then that will change, and it will be included in the profile of residential data.

In conclusion, net neutrality limits the ability of firms to offer long term deals. It's why we don't see things like $4.99/month youtube only data plans or $1.99/month email only plans. Sure you may think that all users should subsidize those running tor or bt nodes, but that's really more of an extreme position.

Also, it would probably be better for privacy if protocols like Tor and BT started to be more indistinguishable from regular residential traffic.


> In conclusion, net neutrality limits the ability of firms to offer long term deals. It's why we don't see things like $4.99/month youtube only data plans or $1.99/month email only plans. Sure you may think that all users should subsidize those running tor or bt nodes, but that's really more of an extreme position.

It's a good thing that we don't see $4.95/month Youtube-only plans. They would basically kill the internet.

I've never heard anyone say they're worried about google.com requests being redirected to bing. The problem isn't that an inferior service would pay to kill a superior and already-popular existing service. It's that a non-neutral internet would kill innovation and hurt small businesses and entrepreneurs. $4.95/month Youtube-only plans would make it all but impossible for anyone to ever create a competitor for Youtube. It's very hard as it is today, but not impossible - e.g. Musically, Vine for a while, even Snapchat to some extent. Open accessibility has been a critical component of what has enabled all the innovation on the internet.

Maybe it's appropriate to allow less-than-perfectly-neutral data transfer in some situations. You make a fair point about things like Tor and BitTorrent. But promoting highly targeted incumbent-only plans to consumers would be bad for everyone overall.


> "Neutral" just means using some QoS setting that someone thought was "fair".

No, it doesn't. The Open Internet Order doesn't dictate any particular "QoS setting".

> While the alarmists predict that all google.com requests would be redirected to bing

No, they don't, they predict that prioritization of ISP-preferred (either first-party or because of payment to the ISP, often for exclusive preference in a category) will result in degradation of service to competing services and squeeze out competition, particularly for services like internet telephony and video streaming, where ISPs are often first-party providers.

No one, or nearly so, has predicted redirection of the type you describe; that's a strawman.


> prioritization of ISP-preferred (either first-party or because of payment to the ISP, often for exclusive preference in a category) will result in degradation of service to competing services

Currently the payment to ISP is conveniently handled by the CDN industry. They pay the ISP for the privilege to place a server rack or two in the ISP's data centers, and then charge customers for speedier delivery of their content to the subscribers of that particular ISP.

So what is the change that's being protested here?


This is a great point.


By banning "throttling" it would not allow ISPs to prioritize VOIP over Tor packets, or to impose a bandwidth cap on BT traffic for a particular plan.

These regulations are a solution to a non-problem, and as is often the case with regulations, they appear to be just as likely to cause harm as to help.


> By banning "throttling" it would not allow ISPs to prioritize VOIP over Tor packets, or to impose a bandwidth cap on BT traffic for a particular plan.

It would probably prohibit the latter (or any other instance of capping any particular use outside), but provider- and content-neutral (content in terms of message, not protocol) prioritization would probably in some cases be acceptable under the exception for reasonable network management.

> These regulations are a solution to a non-problem

The anti-competitive behavior by ISPs that they exist to solve had several precedents encountered by FCC case-by-case both before and after they started drafting general rules.


Grandalf,

Thanks for this. I completely disagree with your conclusions, but this discussion is one of many public policy discussions where it's not a clear-cut thing. Having good arguments on both sides is the only way voters can stay educated and able to deal with proposed changes.

I'm not going to go into a rebuttal in-depth. In general I feel there are many areas where regulation is not needed -- but market/product definition is. It's far too easy for companies to create such a complex market that buyers don't know exactly what they're purchasing -- and don't have time to research all of it. Insurance is like this. We don't need ISPs heading down this same route. It's not in the interests of a free and open market.

Good stuff, though. Thanks.


Thanks! I think the Internet is one thing that has thrived in the absence of regulation, largely because of the absence of top-down control.

I'd be curious what unwanted scenarios you view as the most likely to occur in the absence of net neutrality.

In thinking about it a bit more, it would seem that unless VPN access were banned, users could work around nearly any port/protocol oriented non-neutrality simply by using a VPN.

But this also creates problems, because an ISP that prioritized all VPN traffic equal to known low-latency traffic would need much more bandwidth headroom to prevent degradation of service.

I think net neutrality is a very interesting issue, and argue against it largely to play devil's advocate, but also because this is a case where many of us have concrete experience and detailed knowledge of the thing being regulated, and so it is fun to attempt to argue against it based on technical points.

It would seem that if we're truly interested in a neutral internet we would also require upstream providers to purchase some percentage of extra "headroom" bandwidth, just as we require banks and insurance companies to hold reserve/underwriting capital.


AFAIK, QoS traffic-shaping is only vital during link saturation, which is never what a backbone should experience. The last paper I read about backbone traffic explained that they aim for less than 50% maximum utilization.


Great point. It would seem that with a stronger version of net neutrality this number would not simply be an aim, it would be a legal requirement.


Honestly I am not worried, I am pretty sure one or more carriers will attempt to capitalize on the restricted or limited offerings from other carriers to move the market in the right direction.

by offering bound services the carriers are only going to increase users appetite for more and they will have to open the gates as the carriers will not have access to exclusive content that requires a data connection. those that offer unfettered access will win subscribers to their cell service and those that do not will adapt or just take what they can get.

would I like to see a bit of pressure from the FCC, sure but I would like to see the market work. the carriers for the most part cannot deliver bandwidth reliably but this will push them to get better


This is fearmongering at its greatest.

He goes from "Companies can pay for competitive advantage" and cites a S1 which is not backed by evidence, and jumps to the conclusion that the free net is over.

Somebody had some column inches left to fill or a click quota left unfulfilled.


> This is fearmongering at its greatest.

That's some pretty extreme hyperbole.

> He goes from "Companies can pay for competitive advantage" and cites a S1 which is not backed by evidence, and jumps to the conclusion that the free net is over.

The IPO story was merely illustrative. He's basing his argument on what he sees happening in the market today and the changing regulatory climate.

> Somebody had some column inches left to fill or a click quota left unfulfilled.

He's not a journalist. He's a (very successful) VC and that is his blog.




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