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Battle for the Internet (battleforthenet.com)
1275 points by anigbrowl on July 12, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 487 comments



Can someone please respond to the actual pro-repeal arguments (in a non-John-Oliver-smug way)? Everyone is focusing on "woe is the unfree internet!" which seems like a spoonfed, naive response with no content. And just having Google et. al. on one side isn't enough of a reason, given their motivations. The given reasons for the current FCC's actions appear to be:

1. The Title II Regs were designed during the Great Depression to address Ma Bell and don't match the internet now.

2. The FCC isn't the right vehicle for addressing anti-competitive behavior in this case; the FTC would be better.

3. The internet didn't need fixing in 2010 when the regs were passed.


> Can someone please respond to the actual pro-repeal arguments

Assume for a moment that we had effective competition for ISPs, and almost everyone in the country could select among three or more ISPs. In a world that looked like that, restricting how ISPs can structure their networks is both unnecessary and potentially harmful, given the historical precedents of law tending to encode outdated assumptions about technology. (As a random example, some proposed versions of Network Neutrality rules I've seen would also stop CDNs from handing ISPs a box full of content or arranging fast links to their caching servers.) If we had effective competition for ISPs, any ISP engaging in any of the terrible behaviors NN advocates are genuinely concerned about would find themselves with an abrupt loss of customers.

The main problem is that we don't have effective competition for ISPs; many people have only one choice, or two choices where one is also incredibly terrible for other reasons.

Personally, I'd like to see some focus on regulations to break ISP monopolies, and in particular to ensure that there's an independent source of fiber to everyone's door, with a wide selection of ISPs willing to light up that fiber. But until we have that, we need Network Neutrality to stop abuses by the current ISP monopolies.


This is absolutely the best answer. Competition would fix this more effectively than net neutrality regs, but competition in ISPs is typically blocked by state-enforced monopoly laws or by the technical and economic challenge of deploying an ISP.

Wired ISPs are what is often termed a natural monopoly.

One solution would be to open up a lot more wireless spectrum to ISP use and license it to many upstarts. This would allow wireless alternatives to last-mile wired connectivity such as what would amount to neighborhood-scale WiFi. That would dramatically reduce cost of entry for the ISP business.

Until or unless we can find a way to open the ISP business to a lot more competition, net neutrality regulations are absolutely essential to preserve the Internet as a medium for open innovation.


> natural monopoly

I don't think so. Here in Germany I can choose my provider for power and natural gas provider freely although there is only one line for each to my house. For the last mile, we have mandatory must-route rules which work quite well.


You're agreeing with the parent. There is only line line for each to your house, meaning, whatever entity owns and maintains that line is a natural monopoly. The mandatory must-route rules are what bring competition back into the picture. That is the system I think we would all prefer ... except, of course, Comcast and AT&T.

Agitating for the net neutrality rules to be preserved is what we do because we don't think we have the political power to get real competition like you have.


Wireless would help, but not very much. You can get a whole lot more bandwidth through a fiber network than you can through air, because you can double your bandwidth by laying another fiber next to the first - or put in 20 more fibers, or a thousand. Those don't interfere with each other, whereas free space radiators do.


Wireless could help with the literal last mile. The cost of deploying broadband becomes exponentially higher as you near the edge due to the sheer number of links.

Hundreds of megabits with one mile range is easy now and is faster than many cable plans. Gigabit is on the horizon and probably achievable within 5-10 years, especially with enough spectrum. The problem is that current available bands are a poor choice for this. Some bands dedicated to last mile ISP service that have better range and less interference would really help.


Natural monopoly? In what way does that make sense. Where google put down fiber people suddenly had one more choice. When Chattanooga put down fiber people suddenly had one more choice. In areas with multiple cable ISPs, multiple companies are laying their lines down. That's it, there is no natural monopoly, there are only monopolies granted by governments.


Google has deemed Fiber a failed experiment. It's great for consumers that got it, but if not even a corporation with a giant war chest and the right kind of incentives can make it happen on a scale that goes further than selected neighborhoods in a few cities, then it's clearly not suitable as a model for the rest of the country.

Chattanooga is one of very few cities. Personally, I think it's a great model, because crucial infrastructure that needs to be shared among competitors is exactly the kind of investment that should be built and owned by taxpayers, i.e. governments or their arms-length subsidiaries. It's good for everyone except Comcast & Co. who want their overcharged rent extraction to continue forever, and call it a free market.

Now imagine what kind of outrage it would be if people said, you know, let's make a one-time investment on a country-wide scale financed with some extra taxes so that we can get reasonable broadband prices for everyone for the indefinite future and invest in society instead of guaranteeing the profit margins of local monopolists.

You're right in that the ISP monopolies are granted by governments - on the one hand, by having due process in place to make sure people and companies can't just dig up streets or add new cables whenever they just feel like it (which would be a mess, and America had it before, and it wasn't pretty), and on the other hand, by resigning to inaction to do the right thing, which is to provide important infrastructure without respect for currently rent-seeking incumbents who already made more than good on their original investments. People always complain about the former, when the sensible way to solve this issue is to de-stigmatize the latter.


Preserving the gains we've made with telecommunications is critical for our future as a civilization, but this still bothers me. The lobbying efforts by ISPs will keep it a monopoly, and the best we can expect is for the government to sanction that monopoly?


I wouldn't be so fatalistic. While I personally find some of the ideological currents behind Trump abhorrent, his rise does prove that a huge grassroots movement focused on a specific goal can generate results.


That's an encouraging thought, but here are two problems with it (sorry):

1. In my understanding many Trump supporters were reacting to their own suffering since the end of the 20th-century manufacturing boom in America. I'm skeptical that a movement of similar impact could succeed organically without its supporters having to suffer a fair amount first. As my middle-school history teacher would say: "Real change only happens when people die."

2. This currently does not resemble a "grassroots" movement at all. It has a snazzy website, the major players are plastering calls to action across their homepages, etc. It's basically the content owners battling it out with the infrastructure owners, and even though I understand the risks (and am a content owner myself) I'm not terribly encouraged to join up.

One small reassurance: At least the content owners aren't the same as the infrastructure owners.


The first point is pretty valid. The second I don't buy. Pretty much everyone but the ISPs has aligned interests toward net neutrality.


You could say that internet access makes it possible for anyone to be a content owner, so I guess I agree in a way.


Alongside competition you also need a level of transparency. The consumer needs to be able to get proper information about what they are buying. There's laws around that already, but they often need to be accompanied by regulations that define what that means for a particular industry (I'm being a bit vague here because I'm not American, so I don't know the precise issues in the US).

Before Joan Citizen signs up for on a 24 month contract with Super-Cheap-ISP, she needs to know that they throttle Netflix (because that way they keep their bandwidth requirements down and their prices low). That might be exactly the tradeoff she wants, but she needs to be able make an informed decision.


Or that there will be extra charges midway through the contract. And the charges have no description besides "fees and services."


But where are the people actually advocating for more competition amongst ISPs? Google Fiber couldn't even break into the market in silicon valley and nobody seems to care. Instead people seem to have been sold on the impression that we can regulate our way into better service, which is ridiculous.

Until we actually do something about getting last mile competition, last mile connectivity will continue to stagnate and we will continue playing these inane cat and mouse games with what an ISP should be allowed to do with their networks.


> But until we have that, we need Network Neutrality

"We have X, which is bad, so we need Y to counteract X, though Y is also bad" is how these things proliferate. Net Neutrality is - as you state above - a lipstick on a pig to hide the fact that ISPs are granted local monopolies in the US.


I'm not an expert on net neutrality, but just looking at your claims, the obvious rebuttals are:

> 1. The Title II Regs were designed during the Great Depression to address Ma Bell and don't match the internet now.

The point in time and original intent that something was created for has little bearing on its current suitability. Hammers with handles were invented in the Stone Age to break wood and stones. They still work just fine for putting in nails today.

If the Title II Regs effectively accomplish the high level goals of network neutrality, then it's irrelevant what original goals it had.

> 2. The FCC isn't the right vehicle for addressing anti-competitive behavior in this case; the FTC would be better.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. Is there any ongoing plan to have the FTC regulate this? Who is driving that? Is the argument that if the FTC does not do this, then having the FCC do it is worse than doing nothing?

Politics is always a game of compromise and incremental improvement. There are no perfect laws.

> 3. The internet didn't need fixing in 2010 when the regs were passed.

I'm not sure what this is even claiming. Is the idea that the law was passed to early so should be repealed now? We started agreeing to nonproliferation treaties before we had multi-state nuclear wars. Should we have waited until after that before doing those?

Isn't prevention better than cure?


Re #3: the "new" laws passed in 2010 maintained the FCC's responsibility to enforce neutrality in the face of a court decision that would have otherwise have revoked it. The responsibility existed before the 2010 laws.

If it wasn't broke in 2010, keeping the "new" laws on the books constitutes "not fixing it".


> Politics is always a game of compromise and incremental improvement. There are no perfect laws.

Amen.


> Isn't prevention better than cure?

Agreed. Technology moves way too fast, by the time we get a cure to the problem, businesses will have moved on to a new way to screw everyone.

The problems we should prevent aren't exactly rocket science to figure out.


>Isn't prevention better than cure?

No. There is very rarely an example of a regulation being passed in the fast moving field of technology that has no poor side effects. Unless there is a glaring problem, it is reckless to pass regulations for what-if scenarios.


> Isn't prevention better than cure?

I can easily think of opposition rebuttals to this:

1. It's a solution in search of a problem.

2. It's a premature optimization.

3. The cure could be worse than the disease.

etc...


Those aren't rebuttals, they're platitudes.


Welcome to politics.


> premature optimization

Yes. I feel like Net Neutrality is trying to solve a mostly hypothetical issue.


... then why are ISPs working so hard to get rid of it?


So they can increase their ability to control a captive audience?


> The Title II Regs were designed during the Great Depression to address Ma Bell and don't match the internet now.

This is simply false. The regulations under Title II that would apply to broadband were designed by the FCC in a short period of time leading up to the reclassification order, and are a further evolution of boradband policies that have come out of the FCC in case-by-case actions and earlier orders under Title I since the late 00s.

The statutory authority on which those regs are based is earlier (but newer than Title I), but the whole reason the statute grants the FCC fairly broad regulatory authority within specified parameters (for both Title I and Title II, with different parameters) rather than specifying detailed treatment is to allow the details to be adapted to changing market conditions and technology landscape.

> The FCC isn't the right vehicle for addressing anti-competitive behavior in this case; the FTC would be better.

Neutrality opponents also oppose FTC regulation, and some of them (notably AT&T) won a Ninth Circuit ruling prohibiting the FTC from regulating common carriers like telcos even when performing non-common-carrier functions.

> 3. The internet didn't need fixing in 2010 when the regs were passed.

The regs passed in 2010 were different than the ones being discussed, and in any case the internet did need fixing then; monopoly ISPs blocking of particular protocols and applications was a thing that was happening then, and the FCC attempt to deal with that through case-by-case action without general regs was stopped by the courts.


Could someone make a pro-repeal argument that doesn't boil down to caring more about which bureaucrat enforces the rules than the rules themselves?

Seriously, the whole FTC vs FCC thing is deeply confusing to me. I mean, WTF? I've never seen the public care so much about a battle over jurisdiction between two federal agencies. For this reason, I suspect it's all a bullshit red herring tactic -- the FCC is stripped of power to enforce net neutrality because "the FTC should do it", but then FTC's hands are also tied. Suddenly you can deregulate without actually making a substantive argument for deregulation.


I'll jump in and take the hate.

Reddit is framing the issue like this: Net neutrality ensures that the free market—not big cable—picks the winners and losers

This seems like double-think to me. The net neutrality regulations actually prevent me from negotiating an agreement that models my priorities. It forces me to accept everything one-size-fits-all, explicitly preventing a differentiated market from developing in the commodity of bandwidth.

There are a couple of examples where I think this is relevant.

1) I imagine a hospital that performs surgery via telepresence. This seems a pretty clear area where I would really want the opportunity to pay more, to ensure that the connection between the surgeon and his robot never even suffers the slightest amount of jitter. This is life-and-death, and I can't see why people would object to a right to pay more for higher-priority for this traffic.

2) A few years ago I recall reading about a cell phone provider who wanted to provide a very basic service level that would allow free use of Facebook and a couple of other apps, but going outside of that narrow box would cost much more. Providing to poor people a way that they can participate in the online community seems like a positive, even if what they get is rather hobbled. The idea that we would say to them, "no, you're not allowed to save your money by buying a lower level of service; if you can't afford the whole enchilada, you can't have anything" seems awfully unfair.


> This seems like double-think to me. The net neutrality regulations actually prevent me from negotiating an agreement that models my priorities. It forces me to accept everything one-size-fits-all, explicitly preventing a differentiated market from developing in the commodity of bandwidth.

There are downstream effects on consumers and websites which lead to the same problem eating away at our democracy: the people with money get disproportionate representation.

#2: This is a slippery slope that prevents the market from adjusting to provide a cheaper/lower-quality service. If people cannot pay $5/m for internet access, the answer isn't to give them access to a monopolized walled garden that extracts value from their mere presence - the answer is to offer a lower level of service for $1/m.

#1: Same as above. The ISP and hospital are absolutely free to pay for higher qualities of service. This isn't new - 10 years ago I could buy business-level DSL with stable latency.

I think you're confusing tiered access to the internet versus tiered access to specific websites.

Assuming you have 10mbit internet access for $N/month:

* Paying +$20/m for 100mbit internet: OK

* Paying +$20/m for 100mbit access to "Top 100 websites": Not OK

* Receiving 10mbit access to Youtube and 1mbit access to Vimeo: Not OK (neither is receiving 100mbit youtube/10mbit vimeo)


Can't reply to 794CD01 so I'm doing it here

Well people don't have to purchase Ferraris, there are cheaper alternatives like purchasing a used car. So, false equivalence.

There's no equivalent to the internet, as far as I understand. You can get a level of service, and if you want a faster or more stable connection you can pay more.

The fear around losing Net Neutrality is the fear of losing unfettered access to the internet at large. The fear that an ISP isn't going to offer a "general internet" plan but instead charge the consumer extra for access to various services like music streaming, video streaming, VOIP, or other media. Or even conflict of interest. BigCo may offer their own video streaming, or charge the consumer an extra $20 for the Netflix/Hulu package, an extra $10 for Youtube and Vimeo, and access to any other sites, or sites not paid for, are throttled.

It gives the ISPs more power over what we can or cannot see, what sites we can or cannot go to. When so much of modern day society is on the internet, this is frankly worrying.


It sounds like you're saying or at least working towards the real problem is that there is no competition among ISPs, rather than "the ... problem eating away at our democracy: ... people with money get disproportionate representation."

At least I hope you are, since that's my point.


Totally. However, letting these monopolies prioritize traffic is simply at odds with the idea of ISP competition.

Net neutrality means any provider must offer equal service within the network. That simple axiom is what lets a new ISP enter a city and offer service to just one building - because Comcast (for example) is required to give that new ISP equal pricing and priority.

Without net neutrality, Comcast can abuse leverage it's monopoly to kill competition... they aren't going to give new ISP customers equal priority. yThe competition would literally have to build a duplicate network connecting every residential home all the way to a "friendly" ISP willing to peer. Impossible without an incredible amount of capital and labor.

The death of net neutrality is quite literally the death of competition in this space. Ma Bell back from the dead.


You're still treating second order effects instead of root causes. Ma Bell wasn't forced to provide equal treatment to its customers. It was broken up.


This is a war, we're fighting multiple fronts simultaneously... the root cause arguably lies with corporate campaign financing reform, which is dead in the water under this administration/Congress.


Why do the ISP's even care then? To get that extra $10 or $20, they will with 100% certainty raise everyone's prices then instead of just the high consumers. I absolutely hate the idea of having to pay extra for bandwidth-intensive sites but let's not be under the illusion that we aren't already paying for it, including someone's grandma who only emails and very light browsing, so she's subsidizing my use of Youtube and Netflix already today.


> Why do the ISP's even care then? To get that extra $10 or $20, they will with 100% certainty raise everyone's prices then instead of just the high consumers

Holy cow, you're right! It's almost like they've got monopolistic pricing power or something!

> I absolutely hate the idea of having to pay extra for bandwidth-intensive sites but let's not be under the illusion that we aren't already paying for it, including someone's grandma who only emails and very light browsing, so she's subsidizing my use of Youtube and Netflix already today.

This is not a well-formed argument against NN.

ISPs today, and under NN rules, can charge by the GB. Why should it matter if the GB's are coming from Youtube or Netflx or newstartup.com? Just charge by the GB.


This is a great point. It allows ISPs to pick the winners when they get the power to shape traffic; if you think governments picking winners and losers is bad, a monopoly doing the same should raise similar hackles.

Charging by the GB is one of the fairest schemes because if it was about usage (i.e. the non-stop-Youtube-watching-bogeyman), then charging by the GB would let them get a fair share.


Not all gigabytes are them same. If you're watching youtube in the middle of the night chances are it doesn't 'cost' much. You're essentially using spare capacity for both Google and your ISP. On the other hand if you're torrenting things from obscure networks at peak times then there's a lot more infrastructure considerations involved.

That net neutrality means that you can't use the network even though it would be available bothers me from a hacker perspective. In that sense it seem much better if there were no "speeds" or "GB" at all and you or the services pay for priority. (which probably isn't how it would play out)


I think our trouble is that we are expecting competitive behaviors from our ISPs when in reality, the only reason we get any price breaks or attempted differentiation is because one part of the de facto duopoly (say cable provider) tries feebly to attract the customer pool from the other part of the duopoly (say the phone company); I am talking about the case where AT&T might try to attract Spectrum customers by offering a price break for a year.

In such a scenario, I would prefer to be billed by the GB, which in my mind is a honest and transparent mechanism for usage. Loss of net neutrality, in addition to all of the other evils that have been mentioned elsewhere in this growing thread, puts yet another power lever in the hands of the duopoly and away from the consumer hands. Why do I think this is bad? Because I have no confidence that once the ISP duopoly has control of traffic prioritization, they have any incentive to dangle it in front of the consumers when it is likely more lucrative to cut a deal with a content provider to force feed the consumer ad-based content vs. paid ad-free content.


I get why people would be concerned and think that net neutrality is there best bet. But the fear is that net neutrality will stand in the way of making the Internet better. The Internet is pretty old in technology terms. Net neutrality seems to also prevent many scenarios that would be good for the Internet.

Since you can't favor certain services that mean you can't favor them even if it's warranted. Say you are charged per GB and one video startup only have servers in another country, while the other is using a caching service at a local data center. It would 'cost' a lot more for the Internet in terms of infrastructure to get that data from the other country. But your ISP still have to charge you the same in GB for each service.

Since you can't favor certain service you also can't faster connection for only some data. Say you are paying for a 10 Mbit connection and buy a game for download. Even though you only need a fast connection for a certain amount of time/data and you've already paid something, there's no way to for the provider to buy high speed data to you. Instead you permanently have to get a faster connection just to have a good experience with service you are already paying for.

Not differentiating different traffic and/or paying per GB enforces this old notion of having your own connection to the Internet. Today there's Internet everywhere, there's few reasons why you should be able to access your services or ISP from other connections. If an ISP can't discount, or even bill, some traffic it's harder to share the connection that already exists with other parties.

As long as there's a monopoly/duopoly they will always charge you, but instead of charging you directly for Netflix traffic they charge you for a faster connection or data overages.


>Since you can't favor certain service you also can't faster connection for only some data. Say you are paying for a 10 Mbit connection and buy a game for download. Even though you only need a fast connection for a certain amount of time/data and you've already paid something, there's no way to for the provider to buy high speed data to you. Instead you permanently have to get a faster connection just to have a good experience with service you are already paying for.

The ISP can't choose for you which services/end-points get favored.

You could get a 10 Mbit/s flat and 100 Mbit/s volume with some User interface to choose "Everything to the flat, [super awesome online shop for games] to the volume"


I just don't see the ISPs as the progressive force that will advance the Internet. They are entrenched, they have a captive customer base, and they have their profits to grow: Internet advancement will IMO be priority last. I don't see holding net neutrality hostage for the scenarios you mention. Consider your upgrade scenario: most companies, without robbing the consumers of net neutrality, already have instant upgrades to bandwidth.


Do you think it's free for YouTube or Netflix to upload their content? Is bandwidth free for you when you host a VM on AWS? If you read about the economics of the internet backbone [1], while slightly old (2004), you can get a more informed view.

Netflix or YouTube, via their commercial internet providers (or the one used by AWS in Netflix's case) have to pay for the packets they exchange with other backbone providers, one way or another. If they sent too many bytes per second, the backbones providers would adjust their prices accordingly. Those 'backbone providers' have no way of enforcing non net-neutral behavior, they would simply be avoided by everyone else. But consumer-facing ISP would want to abuse their unique position between the consumers and the other ISPs and either take the consumers hostage, or the companies that are trying to reach those customers.

Big tech are starting to take measures to prevent themselves from being taken hostage that way (i.e. Google Fiber), but how do we know 20 years from now these companies wouldn't want to engage in the same behavior as the current consumer-facing ISPs want today. Title II classification would ensure this net neutrality stays.

> someone's grandma who only emails and very light browsing, so she's subsidizing my use of Youtube and Netflix already today.

If this was a big problem, providers could provide non-unlimited internet, where you pay per Gb/s used. But if those Gb come from me watching 4k videos, or someone's grandma downloading the entire Wikipedia pages for offline consumption shouldn't matter, they should all come at the same speed, untethered, for everyone.

[1] http://www.netinst.org/ECONOMICS_OF_THE_INTERNET_BACKBONE.pd...


I think you're confusing tiered access to the internet versus tiered access to specific websites.

No, that was exactly my example. In #1, there's a remote surgeon connecting to the robotic surgeon service at the hospital. The hospital should be able to ensure that anyone connecting to their service (i.e., accessing their remotesurgery.stelegius.com endpoint) gets priority over other traffic.

In #2, the example is that the user gets access to Facebook, but not to hackernews (unless they pay extra).


I think the example is contrived, not every average joe is going to connect to 'remotesurgery.stelegius.com' and perform a surgery. So if a hospital wants a stable , high bandwidth , high QoS connection for 'remotesurgery.stelegius.com' they can do that today with any ISP (think MPLS back hauls). Now the doctors that want to connect to 'remotesurgery.stelegius.com' and perform surgery can also do that by getting the same high QoS service that sometimes can even directly connect these two set of end points.


What's the point of having more money if you can't spend it on better goods and services? We don't have car neutrality laws to prevent rich people from paying more for Ferraris.


I don't think your comparison is correct.

> Assuming you have 10mbit internet access for $N/month:

> * Paying +$20/m for 100mbit internet: OK

> * Paying +$20/m for 100mbit access to "Top 100 websites": Not OK

In your car comparison, it would be like :

Assuming you pay for a VW Golf $10000

* Paying +$200k for a Ferrari: OK

* Paying +$200k for a Lamborghini: OK

* Paying +$200k for a Ferrari but +$200k for an equivalent Lamborghini but with an added +$300k of fee just because the container ship company moving the car from Italy to the U.S. asked an extra $300k simply because the container is filled with Lamborghini instead of Ferrari: Not OK

Container companies would never do this because Lamborghini would simply put its containers on the container boat of a concurrent company, because there's competition. But for consumer-facing ISPs, there's plenty of documentation that shows that in many areas around the country, some ISPs have a monopoly, and so for many users, they cannot go to another ISP if they aren't satisfied with their only choice.


In other words, the problem is not that people are allowed to pay different prices for different products, but rather the lack of a competitive marketplace? Now we're getting somewhere!


I think the net neutrality case would be more like getting a $10k discount when you opt in to buying a Prius that goes half speed when you try to drive to any large store other than Walmart. And imagine that there was a law saying that in your city, you were only allowed to drive cars made by Toyota.

That's more like how the internet is in the USA: there are local monopolies restricting who you can go to for internet service, and now your ISP also wants to restrict what websites I go to (or with what speed). That's why this strikes as so objectionable.


Not only that, but many of those local ISPs monopolies have been going on for decades, so even opening the market up to competition gives them an unfair advantage since they have had decades to invest monopoly revenue in their infrastructure.


In other words, you should probably be focusing on repealing the stupid law that requires you to drive a Toyota?


Yes, but don't tear off the band-aid until the wound has healed.


Net neutrality laws apply to the road, not the car.

It doesn't matter if you have a Ferrari or a Corolla - the streets don't care. Everyone can use the street and must follow the same laws.

If you have a Ferrari (gigabit internet), you bought the ability to accelerate quicker and go faster... But the same laws apply.

Biased internet is paying to have every light green and kick people off the road...


Not really. Richer people can use toll roads while the poor might take a longer route that doesn't cost money. The poor might follow laws that the rich break because they can afford to pay the fines. But I think this is approaching the limits of the analogy's usefulness.


Again, the analogy is the road not the car.

Anyone can use toll roads - it doesn't matter what car you drive, where you came from, or where you're going, the price is the same for everyone. Price per mile, flat rate, whatever - if it's non-discriminatory, it's neutral!

Non-neutrality is when a toll road charges more because of the car you drive, where you came from, what you're carrying, or where you're headed - or letting certain people jump the queue based on those criteria.

It's not OK to give a discount to BMW drivers because they drive a BMW. If BMW drivers are the only ones that can afford the price - that's OK. But if a Corolla driver comes along and pays the price, they better get exactly the same service.

(The analogy does break down at vehicle weight - cars can be long/short and heavy/light, packets are only long/short)


What you're decribing plainly doesn't happen. That's part of why people buy fancier cars in the first place - to be treated better by those who judge them on it.

But that's also the part I don't really care about. I was objecting specifically to the original point that rich people shouldn't be able to buy better treatment.


> rich people shouldn't be able to buy better treatment.

couples together several axis of debate, rich people can buy better treatment in some areas but clearly not others.


Do rich people pay more to get priority access to water and electricity during high usage periods? I'm not talking about just paying higher rates (i.e. poorer people will ration their usage while rich people will just pay more and no care). I'm talking about "rolling brown-outs" or "water usage rationing" scenarios. Do rich people get to pay more to not have to ration usage during those periods?


This is a good question, and it also touches on the question of "gouging".

Imagine some natural disaster, and everyone is being evacuated. The local convenience store is selling out of ice, as folks try to pack up enough food and stuff for their time away.

It comes down to the last bag of ice, and we've got two customers. A frat boy got in line first, wanting that ice to keep his beer cold. He takes the ice for $2 and leaves, happy.

The last guy is diabetic. He'd have willingly paid ten or even a hundred times that amount to keep his insulin fresh. But because the convenience store wants to keep pricing fair for everyone, the guy who REALLY needs the stuff wasn't able to signal the greater value he puts on the ice, and so the system fails him.

The ability to use pricing to communicate value, including the ability to substitute other goods or downstream value of goods incorporating a resource, is crucial to the functioning of the market. And the most obvious problem with socialism is that it attempts to forgo this information, making the decisions by fiat or by guess, when it's impossible to centralize the knowledge that pricing derives through an emergent distributed calculation.

Read more in Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society": http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html


> and so the system fails him.

At least in the USA, this is a solved problem.

The federal, state, and/or local government step in and provide disaster relief, including access to ice and/or medications.

And the diabetic gets to live without parting with his life savings for a cup of ice.

> through an emergent distributed calculation.

Diabetics are not electrons in a calculator.

There's a general pattern to both the argument you're making here and the argument you made about remote surgery. You're dreaming up a completely non-existent and totally hypothetical possible harm that the status quo already has exception handling mechanisms for, and providing it as a reason for ignoring much more systemic and plausible harms.


You're dreaming up a completely non-existent and totally hypothetical

Yes, my examples were only intended as illustrations. But isn't that also the case with the topic under discussion, net neutrality? I mean, it is not the case that any carrier has unfairly shaped traffic to the extent that they're determining winners and losers, and innovation with new products becomes impossible. This fear is totally hypothetical as well.

the status quo already has exception handling mechanisms for, and providing it as a reason for ignoring much more systemic and plausible harms

I think you're falling victim to fundamental attribution error. It seems like you're damning your opponent for a particular problem, while excusing the same problems for your own team:

The federal, state, and/or local government step in and provide disaster relief, including access to ice and/or medications.

Yes, but the official channels have been frequently shown not to work. Consider Hurricane Katrina. The FEMA help was ... not so helpful, and much of the initial response was actually courtesy of WalMart. I recall one store manager, trying to help people in critical need of medication actually taking a bulldozer and knocking down a wall of the store to get at it.

The government contingencies didn't work. The private sector doesn't always work out either, but much of the time it does a better job. It's silly to pretend that the private sector cannot do it, and the government can be depended on with complete confidence.

But my example of ice in a disaster was all just one example to show the thought process. There are of course examples in plenty other places.

Regarding my example of remote surgery data transmission, the responses from other folks here regarding QoS protocols was pretty constructive. However, I'm left with the view that none of us fully understands how Net Neutrality affects (or doesn't affect) its usage.


> But isn't that also the case with the topic under discussion, net neutrality? I mean, it is not the case that any carrier has unfairly shaped traffic

TFA: "Censorship by ISPs is a serious problem. Comcast has throttled Netflix, AT&T blocked FaceTime, Time Warner Cable throttled the popular game League of Legends, and Verizon admitted it will introduce fast lanes for sites that pay-and slow lanes for everyone else-if the FCC lifts the rules. This hurts consumers and businesses large and small."

> to the extent that they're determining winners and losers

The saga goes something like this: NN has been the assumed default since at least the late 90's. ISPs recently started to seriously test that presumption. FCC stepped in, and here we are. The NN rule started in 2015, but has been the default behavior of ISPs for decades.

ISPs have been chomping at the bit to take advantage of their monopoly for decades. Comcast and Verizon are blatantly gearing up for this play, including via huge acquisitions.

The "wait until they really screw you" argument is an uncompelling call to non-action.

> This fear is totally hypothetical as well.

Again, no, it's not. ISPs are coming out and saying publicly "yes, we will do this".

> ...Hurricane Katrina... The government contingencies didn't work.

Counter-point: the literally thousands of well-handled hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

> The private sector doesn't always work out either, but much of the time it does a better job.

The private for-profit sector doesn't provide systematic disaster relief, anecdotes of charity whipped into a frenzy by mega-corp's PR firms aside. For-profit FEMA just Does. Not. Exist.

Here's a catalog of various forms of actual disaster relief provided after Katrina: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina_disaster_rel...

Read -- actually read -- the overview of that article. Even when the government abjectly fails at disaster relief it still does several orders of magnitude more than private for-profit enterprises.

Katrina was a failure of early warning and evacuation protocols, not a failure of disaster response mechanisms.

Which makes sense -- aside from price gouging, there's no profit to be made on emergency response.


So, the diabetic guy goes to McDonalds and they are out of ice as well. He explains his predicament to the manager who says, "Sure, we will sell you a bag of ice when our machine has made more." But, then there is a nice big competitive market for ice. So, your tear jerker story about ice is probably a poor choice for comparison.


and you get access to the common carrier of cars around your city: the road. Maybe you'd prefer if ferrari paid to have dedicated ferrari lanes that went to dedicated ferrari restaurants


If they didn't interfere with my own usage of normal roads and restaurants, I might be a little jealous but otherwise wouldn't mind. If your real objection is that they would interfere, you should base your argument on that instead of saying that rich people shouldn't be able to pay more money to get better things, which is in total opposition to basically the entirety of modern American society.


That's not a valid comparison. Different websites can and already charge different amounts of money for their services. However, we do not have Premium Luxury Highways where rich people can drive their Ferraris at 100 MPH while regular plebs sit in traffic all day.


Texas State Highway 130 - You can pay the toll, drive your Farrari at 100 mph and have only a small chance of being pulled over. You can drive at 95 mph on one stretch and have zero chance of being pulled over.

From Wikipedia: "The highway is noted for having a speed limit of at least 80 mph (130 km/h) along its tolled section. The 41-mile (66 km) section of the toll road between Mustang Ridge and Seguin has a posted speed limit of 85 mph (137 km/h), the highest posted speed limit in the United States."


Toll highways and carpool lanes basically are what you describe. Yes, people hire strangers to sit in their car to use the carpool lane.


Toll highways are the exception, not the norm.

They are also a little different because they are part of the network - your isp deals with peering with other ISPs, and some ISPs do charge more... That price is reflected in what the consumer and end host pay for service.


Those Ferraris drive on the same public roads that everyone else drives on. They can pay the same fees to race on private roads.


1) I imagine a hospital that performs surgery via telepresence. This seems a pretty clear area where I would really want the opportunity to pay more, to ensure that the connection between the surgeon and his robot never even suffers the slightest amount of jitter. This is life-and-death, and I can't see why people would object to a right to pay more for higher-priority for this traffic.

This is false. Net neutrality doesn't prevent the provisioning and purchase of high QoS connections. More specifically, the relevant position of net neutrality is that a content provider cannot collude with an internet service provider to pay for blanket privilege of their connections over other connections.

Example: If User A and User B are both paying subscribers to BIGISP, at the same service level, it's downright insane that User B's traffic should be degraded over User A's, just because User A is streaming Netflix (who has a paying deal with BIGISP). Another viewpoint: allowing this sort of collusion means that small entrants in the content provider space will have a much harder time making inroads because they simply lack the capital to make these sort of deals. Probably THE greatest innovations of the internet is that it has reduced the marginal cost of distribution of many kinds of media and services to near-zero. So now we want to throw that all away...? For what, exactly? That's the question that needs a strong, well-reasoned answer.


Your #1 is about QoS, not net neutrality. You want to prioritize the remote surgery protocol above all others...net neutrality allows that. If, instead of protocol, you prioritize by source/destination, how can you ensure that the remote surgery protocol isn't disrupted by the transmission of high-resolution X-ray scans between the two hospitals? We already allow (and even encourage) ISPs to prioritize real-time protocols above those that aren't. VoIP is the oft-cited example because late packets are useless packets. Remote surgery can be handled the same way.

Would you really want your hospital to prioritize remote surgery from one hospital over another? When patients are choosing their remote surgery doctor, do you want them to have to worry about finding one at the top-priority hospital instead of one at a lower priority? What if the surgery is the result of an emergency and the doctor is on vacation? By using protocol as the prioritization instead of source/destination, that doctor can find a local hospital from which to perform the operation and doesn't have to worry about having a lower priority during the surgery.


> You want to prioritize the remote surgery protocol above all others...net neutrality allows that. If, instead of protocol, you prioritize by source/destination

Yes, I absolutely want the ability to prioritize remote-control packets between the hospital and the doctor actually performing the surgery, not any random other packets that happen to look similar. Such a priority channel could be set up on the fly, such as via software-defined networking.


You're argument is absolutely sound: where possible, producers should be able to differentiate products to better suit the consumer demand. However, you overlook the unfortunate fact that there are signicant barriers to entry for ISPs, which means that it is effectively impossible for new producers with the current ones such as AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, etc. What results is an oligopoly which has significant anti-trust issues and largely causes suboptimal results for the consumer (consider the absurdly high prices Americans pay for shitty Internet service). Open the doors to a new marketplace of service for these ISPs and all hell will break loose. Add to this the political leanings of these companies and it's hard to imagine a worse outcome.


> 1) I imagine a hospital that performs surgery via telepresence. This seems a pretty clear area where I would really want the opportunity to pay more, to ensure that the connection between the surgeon and his robot never even suffers the slightest amount of jitter. This is life-and-death, and I can't see why people would object to a right to pay more for higher-priority for this traffic.

Just how would that work across multiple ISPs? The application begs for a circuit.


The example is a bit contrived. That doesn't change that there are a number of scenarios where you want to be able to have granularity. You don't necessarily want to pay 24/7 for low latency for video calls, bandwidth to stream a VR movie or software updates to run at night.

The ISP game isn't exactly fair as is. The average person have to get a fast connection just so they can get decent access to the services they are already paying for or that is monetizing them.


For what it's worth, it prevents you from negotiating an agreement that you were not going to win anyways. ISPs are an oligopoly in their present state. If they weren't, then it might make sense to deregulate, but since they are, it doesn't.

(1) No, this is fundamentally misunderstanding what happens when monopolistic assholes get to interact with people who are making life-or-death decisions. In those cases the monopolistic assholes always overcharge the crap out of the person who wants, more than to have more money, to be alive. You know how we keep getting news reports about why healthcare costs are higher in the US than anywhere else and it's a problem? It's invariably because there's monopolistic assholes involved -- and congrats, they just got higher due to abandoning net neutrality rules which prevent this from even being a thing.

(2) That cell phone provider was probably lying their pants off to you about the marginal cost of going from "you can use a couple apps" to "you can request the whole internet, but your bandwidth will be limited." It's very likely to be negative; you'd seem to have to build out more infrastructure to limit peoples' traffic destinations than you'd do to limit their bandwidth. (Think of the fact that Facebook is all-HTTPS these days, for example, so it's not like you're sniffing those packets without MITMing the whole connection.)

To address your earlier point, it's not really double-think. The point is, in the presence of the oligopoly the ISPs are basically Internet countries, with a strange but unelected oligarchic government at the top. We have somewhat more freedom than most to emigrate, but that's about the biggest difference. Net neutrality is an externally imposed free-trade deal among all of them. They are expressing that no, they would instead really like to charge taxes and inspect imports like makeshift customs officers, at their own anti-transparent discretion. They don't want the free-trade deal. It is indeed a valid response to say "well, tough, you're going to have this free-trade deal because the benefits of free trade for everyone in terms of innovation and public good outweigh the benefits those taxes on imports and exports will bring to your shareholders."


To quickly address this:

For number one: net neutrality doesn't stop that from happening. You can pay more for a quality of service connection. Net neutrality doesn't regulate quality of service. It's the idea that what traffic goes over those pipes should not in any way be denied from going over those pipes, essentially. It's so that Facebook for instance can't pay ISPs to ban all Mastodan traffic or effectively filter it from showing up on say a search for social networks. It's so that the ISPs can't favor one service over another so they can extract fees from competitors.

Has nothing at all to do with quality of service Of a connection.

2) I don't believe those plans were being floated in the United Statss but developing nations. How does policy in this area they would be implemented in West Africa or India have anything to do with net neutrality in the United States


On 2) this happens already in some places, Facebook.0 is that and in some countries it is free for mobile users on particular carriers.

There has been significant fights against it in other countries, I believe India specifically. The reasons are clear as to why if you think about it a bit.

Putting aside how you feel about Facebook, how does the next Facebook happen in these countries? How are you meant to compete against free if you are trying to bring up a new service? Even if your service is better in every way you just don't stand a chance.

If you believe value is created by innovation, then you need to enforce that the opportunity is the same for everyone, otherwise you are creating an environment where new things just can't bubble up.

This doesn't even get into the side of things that the "internet" then becomes what Facebook wants it to..


>How are you meant to compete against free if you are trying to bring up a new service?

This is an especially ironic remark considering what site we are on.


1) I imagine a hospital that performs surgery via telepresence

Allow for businesses to apply for exemptions to the rule, specifically for one endpoint to another endpoint.

If the number of exemptions gets to be unwieldy, then perhaps it would indicate it's time to revisit the law. Until then, there's been plenty of proof of, what I believe to be, abuse.

2) cell phone provider who wanted to provide a very basic service level that would allow free use of Facebook and a couple of other apps, but going outside of that narrow box would cost much more.

Laudable, for the moment, but Facebook "and a couple of other apps" can easily be abused; they're for-profit companies rather than for-public services. If the company wants to provide free bandwidth, I don't think it's right or fair to limit to whatever sites they choose.


So we start from bad thing X, ISP monopolies; we patch that with bad thing Y, net neutrality; and then we fix THAT with bad thing Z, exemptions for businesses. And then we get the tax code :)


I mean... you're not wrong...


I totally agree but the rub is that I don't understand the FCC's previous action or the implications of the latest foray by Congress. Most of what I read or hear has that "john oliverish" smugness and non-specificity that a previous poster mentioned and you can't really learn anything from that unless ignorance is bliss to someone.

I'll be seriously disappointed though if I end up having to pay for Internet like we do for Cable channel packages today. I'll be seething with rage most likely. So if Net Neutrality keeps that at bay, and still allows ISP's to profit from the top 100 bandwidth consuming websites, I'll be happy. Like many others though, I have little actual clue as to what is going on due FUD, political natures, grandstanding, and the ignorance of the media themselves.


> Net neutrality ensures that the free market—not big cable—picks the winners and losers

There isn't a free market. Near-zero interest rates have flooded the Valley with VC capital in an incredibly inefficient arrangement, and it's distorted the market. The market is thus dominated by a few grotesquely large conglomerates that stifle competition. "Net neutrality" does nothing to restore that competition and provide an actually free market. If net neutrality really provided advantages to smaller Internet players, then why are all the large conglomerates backing it to the hilt? This is a fight between the big cable providers and the big Silicon Valley firms -- Facebook, Google, Netflix. A large cartel is what wins either side of this fight, not the "free market."


People used to say that same thing about MySpace and Yahoo! on Slashdot back in the day.

Turns out reigning in mono/duopolies whose monopoly status depends on utility-like land grabs is a hell of a lot more important than reigning in much more vulnerable software companies.


> surgery via telepresence

A point to point connection with guaranteed latency the entire way doesn't sound like a connection to the internet to me.


> This is life-and-death, and I can't see why people would object to a right to pay more for higher-priority for this traffic.

Ah yes, imagine the free-market possibilities where your ISP can now bill your insurance provider $10,000 per procedure to ensure the ultrafast, jitter-free connection while the telemedic is operating on you.


For (1), net neutrality laws wouldn't stop you from getting a high-quality connection, they would be what stops your ISP from saying, "You can purchase a low-latency, low-jitter connection for $300/month. Wait, you want to use it for surgery? I meant $3,000/month."


"I imagine a hospital that performs surgery via telepresence. This seems a pretty clear area where I would really want the opportunity to pay more, to ensure that the connection between the surgeon and his robot never even suffers the slightest amount of jitter."

This is a common objection, but it's entirely irrelevant to net neutrality (and in fact, net neutrality actually helps here).

Even small hospitals (certainly ones which can afford a robosurgeon) already pay for dedicated Internet connections (often redundant across two or more different providers) to avoid this type of problem. Such connections have guaranteed minimum performance characteristics and are not subject to any kind of throttling on the ISP's part. This is true of most businesses with physical locations.

Net neutrality is more about preventing the selective throttling of services as they come across non-dedicated (e.g. residential) Internet connections. This is where ISPs typically engage in such selective throttling, since they tend to sell maximum instead of minimum performance characteristics (for example: a residential plan might include "up to" 15 Mbps at any given time, while a commercial plan might instead include "at least" 5 Mbps at all times). That maximum is shared between all other residential customers in a given geographic area (e.g. a neighborhood), so selective throttling is employed as a way to keep up the illusion that each residence has its own high-speed Internet.

Put simply: net neutrality does not actually negatively impact businesses (and especially not hospitals), since their Internet plans are not subject to selective throttling. Ensuring that you have enough bandwidth to run your telepresence robot without jitter (beyond making sure that you've purchased a plan with the right bandwidth minimums) is the responsibility of the hospital's own network administrator or equivalent (namely: by prioritizing the robosurgeon's traffic over other less-critical traffic).

Net neutrality does not prevent anyone from choosing to pay for more bandwidth. It only prevents ISPs from being the ones to decide how users allocate the bandwidth for which they pay. Thus, net neutrality would benefit the hospital in this case, since the hospital can decide for itself which traffic should be prioritized within the constraints of its available Internet bandwidth.

--

"cell phone provider who wanted to provide a very basic service level that would allow free use of Facebook and a couple of other apps"

The usual problem is when a provider wants to offer Facebook specifically (which is anticompetitive, since it gives Facebook an unfair advantage over, say, Twitter or reddit).

The specific case of which I'm aware was when Facebook itself wanted to offer the sort of plan you're describing, with (unsurprisingly) Facebook being the free site, all under the banner of "but think of the poor people!". If that's not monopolistic, I don't know what is.

The much better approach - if one really does actually care about poor people (I've yet to be convinced that any ISP attempting to justify such practices is actually honest about its motivations here) - would be to just provide slow-speed Internet connections with some high-speed exceptions for specific types of traffic (like audio/video). This is how T-Mobile's non-unlimited plans work, and while net neutrality purists usually object to it, I personally see no problem with it as long as all audio/video providers are treated freely and equally.


> Seriously, the whole FTC vs FCC thing is deeply confusing to me.

It's also deeply disingenuous, as the anti-neutrality camp doesn't want the FTC to actually act for neutrality, either, and some of the people pushing it also have been in favor the lawsuit (focussed on FTC internet privacy regulations) which (successfully through the Ninth Circuit panel Decision, though it's up for en banco review) resulted in the ruling that the FTC can't regulate many ISP (those that are also Title II common carriers in at other aspect of their business, such as traditional telcos), whether or not the function the FTC is regulating is one for which they are a common carrier.


I've read that the FTC vs. FCC distinction is important because the FTC has a strong history of trustbusting, e.g. AT&T in 1984. Your comment is an interesting political ramification that certainly weakens the above argument.


> Could someone make a pro-repeal argument that doesn't boil down to caring more about which bureaucrat enforces the rules than the rules themselves?

If you believe there's capacity for new entrants to the ISP space, e.g. from satellites [1], then the incumbents' present-day margins are a short-term cost for that long-term gain. If you believe the ISP field is more or less locked, then all the innovation will happen downstream. It would thus make sense to restrict the ISPs' margins in favor of Google, Facebook et al.

I'm in that useless place where I see good points on both sides. ISPs need to be able to make money to encourage new entrants. But they shouldn't be able to do so in a way that discourages new entrants downstream. Net neutrality appears to strike that balance. Turning ISPs into utilities does not.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musks-next-mission-interne...


I think history shows that the distinction is important; some agencies are well-adapted to handling these issues, while others are not. I'm still undecided, but I've read that the FCC's action in 2010 was a political power grab by friends of the administration (e.g. Google). On the other hand, the FTC has a strong history of trust-busting, e.g. AT&T in 1984, making it the stronger contender for actually handling net neutrality in essence. Whether or not that's true (see other comments), I'm not sure.


> Could someone make a pro-repeal argument that doesn't boil down to caring more about which bureaucrat enforces the rules than the rules themselves?

Net neutrality is the idea that there should be a specific QoS setting required by law. This locks in something that seems sensible based on current protocol usage.

How is traffic shaping used by ISPs? It's used to allow more value to be delivered to customers using the same size pipe. It's used to gracefully degrade some less obvious aspects of the internet in favor of keeping others uninterrupted.

What do ISPs actually do? Sellers of residential bandwidth are in a business that is actually much more like finance than like a typical technology business. ISPs invest in bandwidth contracts and then they arbitrage the bandwidth based on actual demand.

If an ISP expects demand for bandwidth to be strong for 5 years, it may negotiate a 5 year contract with its upstream provider. Risk is being taken, and profits are made when the ISP can re-sell bandwidth for a profit. The service being provided is that the ISP removes the need for consumers to make long-term projections about bandwidth, and removes the need for consumers to buy more bandwidth than they actually need.

Now think a bit more precisely about what the actual service an ISP provides is. It's an acceptable connection to the hosts that customers wish to access. If the ISP de-prioritizes youtube.com a bit so that its own VOIP offering can remain crystal clear during heavy usage, that should be completely up to the ISP.

If consumers don't appreciate 10ms more lag when accessing youtube, or similar minor degradations, they can switch to another ISP.

Now, why does Google support net neutrality? Google wishes to prevent ISPs from offering improved quality services for the "short head" of most popular content. Imagine if you could get ad-free, instant 4K streaming of the top 10000 videos on youtube directly from your ISP. This is where Google makes most of its money from youtube. Google can build a CDN near you, but it can't prioritize the last mile traffic shaping experience in a way that prevents ISPs from exploring business models like the one I've just described.

Google can't prevent it without laws like net neutrality, that is. Google wishes to lock in (by law) QoS that supports its own business model. What happens when you load a typical website? Lots of pixel traffic flies back and forth to Google/Doubleclick and market price ads are sold and delivered before you realize what happened. Google's massive profit infrastructure depends on local ISPs sticking only to bandwidth arbitrage.

In effect, net neutrality is a regulation very similar to financial regulations. It defines the characteristics of a residential bandwidth circuit, preventing ISPs from defining it their own way. Google wants this because the alternatives threaten Google's cash cow.

The problem is, many ISPs invested heavily in last mile buildout with the expectation that they could compete with Google by offering additional value delivered based on locality. All content providers are in the business of creating bits which must be carried across space, and there are some kinds of content where local offers a big advantage. Many of these are yet to be discovered, as local circuit quality has been fairly poor since the origin of the internet. Net neutrality makes it far less likely that any of these will be explored.

Net Neutrality is the perfect propaganda name. There is no need for net neutrality because ISPs want to make customers happy, and if they fail to do so, another ISP will.

Imagine if we'd had net neutrality in the origin of the internet, ISPs today would be forced to allocate significant priority to Gopher and FTP traffic.

The last thing the internet needs is non-technical people creating regulation for it. I'm deeply disappointed that Google has let its own corporate interest drive its propaganda campaign for net neutrality. I have much more positive sentiment for Google than I do for Comcast, but I want Comcast to have a shot at doing something innovative.


"Net neutrality is the idea that there should be a specific QoS setting required by law."

That's not correct. Net neutrality is the idea that the ISP should not be enforcing QoS settings. Instead, that should be left to each customer to decide for one's own allocated bandwidth.

The fact that ISPs choose to oversell their residential bandwidth is the ISPs' problem alone. Punishing the customer (or third parties which which the customer does business) for the ISP's poor business decisions is nonsensical.

"If the ISP de-prioritizes youtube.com a bit so that its own VOIP offering can remain crystal clear during heavy usage, that should be completely up to the ISP."

No, it absolutely should not. The customer - and the customer alone - is the one who ought to decide how said customer's bandwidth is allocated.

"There is no need for net neutrality because ISPs want to make customers happy, and if they fail to do so, another ISP will."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

No.

ISPs - especially in the United States - couldn't care less if the customer is happy. The customer will pay no matter what, because the customer has very few (if any) choices.

"The last thing the internet needs is non-technical people creating regulation for it."

Indeed. Too bad the vast majority of the technical people are in favor of net neutrality.


> that should be left to each customer to decide for one's own allocated bandwidth

Bandwidth cannot be conceptualized without a notion of time, which is the essence of QoS. Traffic shaping over time.

I'd argue that consumers choose their QoS when choosing a residential circuit instead of a business class circuit. Business class circuits offer dedicated bandwidth, and residential circuits offer shared bandwidth and are priced accordingly.

> ISPs choose to oversell their residential bandwidth is the ISPs' problem alone

This is not a problem it is the definition of residential bandwidth as compared with dedicated circuit bandwidth which is typically sold to business customers at a higher price. In a business class circuit the traffic typically uses the full capability of the circuit up to the hardware/connection limits.

> customer alone - is the one who ought to decide

I agree circuits like this should be sold, but they would not sell for the same price as residential bandwidth. The only way residential circuits can be sold at a profit is by ISPs doing the arbitrage differently because they are not agreeing to provide a specific amount of peak/average bandwidth 24/7 as they do in a business class contract.

> customer has very few (if any) choices

What better way to identify areas where ISPs are abusing their market power than by observing the QoS settings they use? I'd prefer to let ISPs operate unhindered and then have regulators attack the ones that are specifically abusing their last mile monopolies.

> Too bad the vast majority of the technical people are in favor of net neutrality

This is indeed too bad. It stems from the last mile monopolies, which are a legacy of a heavily regulated telecom space. Note that POTS circuits had a minimum latency requirement and are still lower latency for long distance real time audio than many internet circuits using voip codecs.

I think the name "net neutrality" was wisely chosen and has made many people believe that ISPs do not have an incentive to deliver generally neutral services.

Residential bandwidth needs to be the mass market option without regulatory impediments. It's hard to predict how net neutrality will harm the internet, but over time the harm will be substantial.


"This is not a problem it is the definition of residential bandwidth"

Which is a problem. If an ISP chooses to oversell its bandwidth for a given segment of its residential customer-base, then it's already in the business of deceiving its customers. If the ISPs didn't do this (or at the very least provided some minimum guaranteed bandwidth, with or without a maximum "burst" speed similar to what's happening now for residential customers), then they wouldn't be in a situation where they feel it necessary to be the ones imposing QoS settings upon their customers.

> I agree circuits like this should be sold

It doesn't even have to be a different kind of circuit. Just because the ISP chooses to oversell its bandwidth allocations doesn't mean it has to dictate each residential customer's QoS settings.

If we have a neighborhood of 10 households, each with a 100Mbps plan, all sharing a single 100Mbps pipe, then the question of how the ISP needs to divide this bandwidth at peak hours is simple: divide evenly between the households. Then, each household can decide what to do with the resulting 10Mbps pipe. At non-peak, when maybe two houses are using the Internet heavily, they can then each decide what to do with their respective 50Mbps (or probably a bit less, since there will surely be some mild Internet use in the less-active households).

That means ISPs don't get to force their residential customers to make room for the ISP's own over-the-Internet products, though. What customer would possibly prefer Hulu and Vonage over the ISP's own half-baked shoddy TV and VoIP solutions? The customers obviously don't know what they want!

"I'd prefer to let ISPs operate unhindered and then have regulators attack the ones that are specifically abusing their last mile monopolies."

The fact that ISPs have last mile monopolies in the first place is exactly why they should be regulated like any other public utility. I'd much prefer that actually happen than pretend that the not-actually-free market will magically fix anything (if the last 30 years are anything to go by: it won't).

"has made many people believe that ISPs do not have an incentive to deliver generally neutral services."

Because they don't. Not unless net neutrality is enforced (and even then).

Without net neutrality, ISPs have every incentive to squeeze every last penny out of their customers while not actually improving anything. We as a society have witnessed this for decades. In rural parts (and even quite a few urban parts) of America, this is still an ongoing struggle, and one which I've personally and repeatedly witnessed and experienced firsthand.


> Which is a problem. If an ISP chooses to oversell its bandwidth for a given segment of its residential customer-base, then it's already in the business of deceiving its customers. If the ISPs didn't do this (or at the very least provided some minimum guaranteed bandwidth, with or without a maximum "burst" speed similar to what's happening now for residential customers), then they wouldn't be in a situation where they feel it necessary to be the ones imposing QoS settings upon their customers.

It seems that you oppose the existence of residential bandwidth plans and would prefer that ISPs only offer dedicated bandwidth plans. There is nothing wrong with believing this, but doing so would drastically reduce the value of the last mile circuitry for consumers.

My home internet (cable modem) costs $90/month and I get upwards of 120 Mbps (close to OC3 bandwidth) downstream bandwidth. Upstream is about 50 Mbps. A similarly broadband dedicated circuit would cost thousands per month. I'm certainly not under the impression that I am getting (or should be getting) a dedicated bandwidth level of quality with this cable modem, and I think it's fairly ridiculous to expect that ISPs could offer dedicated bandwidth for the sorts of prices that residential consumers are used to paying.


"It seems that you oppose the existence of residential bandwidth plans and would prefer that ISPs only offer dedicated bandwidth plans"

Not necessarily. Like I said above, even having a certain amount of dedicated bandwidth (even as low as, say, 5Mbps) plus a burst to, say, 100+Mbps during non-peak times would be a lot better than the current situation of no guarantees at all. The exact numbers should be easy to calculate: Min = Total / NumHouses, Burst = Total.

All this is still tangential to my main point, though: of that slice of bandwidth the customer can access during peak hours, the customer - and only the customer - is the only person who should be able to decide how that slice is allocated. If my neighborhood's Internet is really busy and I'm left with 1Mbps, then I should have full control over that 1Mbps. Cable company wants to reserve some of my 1Mbps for its half-baked VoIP offering? Boo hoo; my Counterstrike takes priority.

"for the sorts of prices that residential consumers are used to paying."

Cable companies are already overcharging for Internet plans. They can do this because they have all the benefits of a public utility (namely: the local monopolies) without any of the regulation.

So no, I don't believe for one second that the cable companies can't afford to provide at least some guaranteed minimum bandwidth. They just choose not to because they can get away with it.


Only the worst performing ISPs don't already provide what you are suggesting.


And those are the same ones that have been lobbying to kill net neutrality. Gee, I wonder why?


> If consumers don't appreciate 10ms more lag when accessing youtube, or similar minor degradations, they can switch to another ISP.

Except they often don't have other ISPs to choose from. The selection is extremely limited here in the US.


If you include cable, DSL, and wireless providers most non-rural consumers likely have 2 or three to choose from.

If there is need for antitrust action then an ISP behaving in a non-neutral way would seemingly provide the perfect evidence that intervention was needed.


For technical reasons, fixed wireless and DSL are un-competitive with cable for most people. Wireless suffers severely from limited capacity due do a shared transmission medium. Cable has this problem as well but less so because coax supports much greater bandwidth and it is easier to split a cable node than to build more wireless stations. DSL suffers from limited bandwidth and spotty coverage due to loop length limits. In practice few people are able to get DSL service at speeds exceeding 20 Mbps. That leaves cable as sole practical option even for many people in urban areas.


At this point, DSL and wireless are a joke compared to cable. I live in Silicon Valley. Theoretically I have several options, but Comcast is literally 4 times faster than the fastest DSL option, and 8 times faster than any wireless option.


I don't understand your focus on Google - they're not at all visibly associated with battleforthenet.com, nor have I seen them releasing any kind of public statement on the issue (at least this time around). Look at today's doodle ffs, it's celebrating a costume designer's 79th birthday.


Google has gotten out of the fray a bit, perhaps because it feels the battle is lost. But Google did a big disservice to the tech community by promoting net neutrality zealously a few years ago.


youtube didn't happen after Comcast built high speed internet.

Customers demanded better internet and paid more for it, to access youtube, pandora, facetime, facebook, twitter, flicker, netflix and MMOGs.

Comcast invested in faster CO side equipment because there was customer demand for faster internet. The coaxial cable was still the same, customer still paid for modem in the house and paid for upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0 modems. Investments here by Comcast are same as any internet giant invests in a data center equipment, there was no new digging of last mile by Comcast, it was same as what it had been for last 25 years, laying coaxial cable when homes get built. And Comcast did charge more for faster speeds. Customers paid for faster access to the web. Just like content providers upgrade from Pentium to i7 on servers, Comcast upgrades were cost of doing business and it did pass that cost to customers in terms of more money charged for higher speeds.

>All content providers are in the business of creating bits which must be carried across space, and there are some kinds of content where local offers a big advantage. Many of these are yet to be discovered, as local circuit quality has been fairly poor since the origin of the internet. Net neutrality makes it far less likely that any of these will be explored.

CDNs are working just fine on existing internet. Google or Netflix or Amazon moving content closer is not prohibited by concept of Net Neutrality. The request to the local/geo-graphically server originates from the site/app html-js-DNS/code based on geo-location of the end user. This is only limited by Comcast CDN build out and offering made available for sale. Comcast doesn't want to do that, they want to peek inside packets and be arbitrator of what happens based on contents of the packet, regardless of what the browser or server wanted the packet to do.

Comcast being allowed to do deep packet inspection is like opening up letters going to bank to see if it is for car payments and then delaying the envelop if bank doesn't pay the postal services extra fees. It doesn't matter if the customer selected overnight delivery, as long as bank doesn't pay postal service, checks don't arrive on time.

I firmly believe that people think of their ISP bill as something they pay for youtube, gmail, maps, photos, amazon, pandora, school/college/work websites. It is ISPs who should be thankful to content owners for making their product offering something that customers want. The canvas company wants to be able to charge more if a successful painting gets painted on it, after it has already sold the canvas, would that be OK?

The individual user at home bought certain amount of data transfer per second, and may be agreed to upper limit on total data transferred per month, the content provider paid their ISP bill to do the same e.g. Amazon AWS data transfer rates. Now, the individual's ISP like Comcast wants to hold their users hostage and seek additional payout from content providers for doing the things that they already took payments from their customers.

CDNs are different and fair. CDNs are micro sized data centers spread across the land that content owners can lease space/power/cooling/compute/storage/network from. Net neutrality opponents want people to get confused about CDNs and deep packet inspection. CDN does not require deep packet inspection. Comcast wants you to think that this is unsolved problem that they can solve if only people allow them to look inside their mail and read contents. No, thank you.

Can you imagine if gasoline companies asked for paybacks from car companies? Why can you imagine if tcp/ip companies ask for payback from online video companies?

You buy gasoline and you can use it as you wish, in a Ford, Toyota or a Craftsman lawn mower. You buy tcp/ip and UDP capacity and you use it as you wish on youtube, netflix or yahoo mail.

Can you imagine if same gasoline slowed itself down if it figured out that it was being used in a Hyundai and offered 91 octane if found to be used in a BMW? Costing you the same at the pump, but works differently by figuring out where it is being used, a Hyundai vs a BMW? Does the gas company has right to know which car I will be using the gas into? Can it reduce the value its product has to the purchaser, the person pumping gas, unless the car manufacturer pays it to unlock the full potential of the gas?

One can't do it with gasoline but can do few things with tcp/ip packets. Just because it is possible to open up an envelope mailed to the bank and hold bank hostage for additional postage, doesn't mean postal service should open up the mail. Just because it is possible to open up tcp/ip packet and see if it is headed for youtube vs vimeo, doesn't mean ISP should do it. It is not ethical, it is not legal. Find the shortest path to the destination and forward it on, post or packet.

Youtube Red is available for $9. Ad-supported Youtube itself is free. Comcast charges $70 for 100 Mbps connection. $40 for VOIP phone.

Average Comcast bill is $120 a month. Comcast has a goose that lays a golden egg every day, they are out to slice it open for reasons beyond me. Comcast share holders should take company executives at task for risking their investment over opposition to net neutrality. Ask Comcast to cut costs. They are throwing dirt in your eyes over "boogeyman of Net Neutrality keeping the stock from soaring" while throwing money to the wind. Comcast should reduce costs and make itself more profitable. Comcast should introduce innovative products that customers want and will pay for like its VOIP and home security product line. A more fine grained CDN deployment would be great product idea. Comcast engaging in political debate bating against its own customers wishes will only empower activism against the company. The Comcast executives are burning the brand value in a bonfire right in front of the share holders, such destruction of share holder value shouldn't be tolerated.

If Television sets manufacturers created "Information Service" that plays short funny video clips instead of ads by deep inspection of HDMI signal, or a centralize service tracking ad start-stop times publishing it over internet, would that be OK Comcast? You are jealous of google and facebook's ad revenue. What if Samsung decides to cut in on your ad revenue on MSNBC? Samsung TVs won't show ads on MSNBC because they don't pay Samsung, it plays CNN ads just fine because Time Warner paid the ransom to Samsung.


You are arguing both that Comcast invested heavily in infrastructure to support demand for increased bandwidth, and also that Comcast's investors are getting way above market returns on that investment given the amount of risk that existed at the time it was made.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/17/business/betting-speed-pur...

Comcast made a big bet in 2003 that many other companies did not make. Demand for broadband has been strong, but it was far from a given at the time Comcast made the investment that it would result in strong returns well into 2017.

It's easy to look back with full knowledge of how things played out and determine that Comcast was unsophisticated in its financial and business planning.

Comcast has grown because it has provided a "neutral enough" internet for its customers. There is absolutely no reason to believe it would begin to act differently now. If anything, Comcast's strong profit margins increase the chances that other companies will enter into competition for the business.

I'd rather have Google invest money and brainpower into creating things like Webm than to pay lawyers and PR specialists to promote net neutrality.

The sorts of packet inspection techniques you describe can be thwarted by encryption, and are no different than what is being done within Google to monetize user behavior/preferences to the nth degree.

You argue that Comcast wants to charge content providers for preferred access. I'm sure they'd like to, but this is the case for financial, not technical reasons:

The following is the most important point: Once a service (like Youtube) becomes popular enough, the traffic pattern of packets going to that service begin to resemble the traffic pattern of the internet itself, making arbitrage impossible. So the economics that once worked for ISPs to arbitrage based on upstream vs downstream bandwidth no longer work because upstream circuits are largely priced based on broad data access patterns which are heavily influenced by major content providers.

So the profit margin on residential bandwidth starts to approach $0 as 100% of the content consumption matches the exact characteristics of the upstream provider's pricing model, since upstream providers also do arbitrage, but with much less aggressive hedges and less leverage.

Consider it this way, you can start a competitor to the post office that is cheaper for some small list of addresses. Maybe you could profitably deliver all first class mail for 25 cents within a single zip code. But if you try to offer a similar service to all zip codes, you will likely face nearly identical constraints to the post office and you will not be able to undercut prices.

For ISPs, the more predictable customer demand gets, the more likely the arbitrage has already been done upstream, and the closer the residential circuit becomes to a dedicated circuit.

These days, suppose 90% of internet users follow a sine wave data usage pattern day after day that is divided between Netflix, Youtube, and a handful of other hosts. Video is massively more bandwidth intensive than other stuff so video content providers dominate. This means a lot less profit from bandwidth price arbitrage, which is why ISPs are toying with the idea of charging content providers for access (it's also a bit silly because the moment youtube goes down people would call in saying their cable modem was broken).

I don't think it's a bad thing for Google to help pay for the ISP's upstream bandwidth costs, since whatever contracts the ISP buys are largely serving the purpose of piping content from Google to consumers. It may or may not be extortion for Comcast to try to do this, but that should be up to regulators to decide after the fact. If this happened, by the way, it would likely accelerate Google's slow-as-molasses last mile effort and result in much more competition for residential ISPs.

ISPs provide a very helpful non-google intermediary for the small bit of our internet behavior that is not being captured and stored by Google. I think it is better to have a variety of firms, each with its own core specialty, fighting over this market than for regulators to simply follow Google's advice and hamstring ISPs into lower profit margins.

In an ideal world all internet connections would be unconstrained by QoS considerations. But if you think back to dated last mile tech like T1 lines, the financial arrangement is leasing the piece of copper wire and paying for a 24/7 circuit that can saturate that copper's bandwidth in both directions. For this reason, a T1 cost 10x the price of a residential connection supporting the same average bandwidth. If you are running a data center, this contract is important, you can't afford to deal with congestion and reduced bandwidth that is beyond your control. But for residential customers it is a desirable and worthwhile tradeoff that does not benefit from regulation whatsoever.


>You are arguing both that Comcast invested heavily in infrastructure to support demand for increased bandwidth

I did not say that. My point was that Comcast kept pace with innovations in silicon and networking. Like AWS and GCP or Azure keep upgrading servers from Pentium to i7. They had to keep pace with technology advances and demands. Sometimes their investments were to lower costs, more customers supported by same dollar investment at upgrade time.

Comcast can try to increase profits as much as they like, the regulators and people are not interested in making google and facebook pay because they have more money.

Berkshire Hethaway doesn't own NASDAQ money because they are making a killing. There are plenty of startups that fail, Comcast is not subsidizing those startups. Plenty of startups that make it big, Comcast doesn't get to add their tax on that success.


> Plenty of startups that make it big, Comcast doesn't get to add their tax on that success

That's one way of looking at it. Note that I do not think Comcast would successfully turn off youtube for any customers without creating a major uproar.

On the other hand, suppose I invent a game that mirrors the contents of every user's hard drive to every other user constantly, utilizing 99% of available upstream and downstream bandwidth. Suppose this game goes viral and becomes the next Youtube.

How should ISPs deal with it? Should they be required by law to allow it?

I think it's reasonable for ISPs to create a definition of residential bandwidth that prevents against unexpected bandwidth utilization trends. I want unfettered bandwidth, but I realize that there is additional cost associated with provisioning it.


>Should they be required by law to allow it?

They allow or disallow it? The question itself doesn't make sense. If the users want to use capacity they bought and Comcast sold, is the user's right. Comcast didn't foresee the demand is error of their actuaries. A insurance company pays up even if their actuaries make an error. Comcast doesn't get to externalize their costs, they could try, but we as customers have no obligation to honor it. I would claim that video demand has actually made the equation very simple for them with higher build out but lower risk of it not being utilized. The demand is very predictable and not "unexpected". And, monthly quotas (1TB per month) on top of bandwidth limits (150 Mbps) the risk is quite reduced. If someone with 250 Mbps ran at 99% capacity, 1TB quota would be over in less than 11 hours.

It's not as if Comcast sends you a check every time there is a network congestion and you don't get top speed that you are paying for. There is no consequence of congestion for Comcast but they are using it as a reason to get ransom from content owners. They are setting up the conversation such that they have less and less reason to remove congestion, more the congestion, more the end user suffer, more the case for google and netflix to open up their wallet.

$70 a month is same as cable bill and for cable Comcast has to pay channel operators. On internet, Comcast doesn't even have to pay to youtube or netflix. I mean internet service is pure profit compared to cable which runs on same infrastructure. They charge to take traffic at exchanges, one 100 byte URL in browser results in 2GB of data transferred from Netflix. It is a request that Comcast customer is making, trying to use the bandwidth and quota that the customer purchased, but Comcast makes money at exchange because they take on that 2GB of traffic. So they are already compensated for taking this traffic on both ends, by customer and at the exchange. Now on top of that they want to pry open the communication channels and charge more to the two parties talking. That's triple Comcast tax.

Comcast runs their cable programming on their tcp/ip network as well, so they are provisioned enough for now. If net neutrality goes away what promises youtube/netflix has that Comcast won't prioritize their xfinity platform over netflix?

The customers are using the capacity that they wanted and bought, Comcast sold that capacity, they must deliver. They are having no problem delivering so far. Networking gear (merchant silicone switches and OpenCompute switches) are dirt cheap, gone are the days of buying expensive gear from Cisco and BigIP. Cheaper networking hardware is making it easy to operate and upgrade for Comcast. Same goes for cable boxes, DVRs. Seen the disk prices lately? A raspberry pi can be effective cable box. Their unit costs have gone down significantly. They are benefiting from Cloud platforms like everyone else. Netflix uses AWS, Amazon uses AWS, Comcast uses AWS.

Look at hosting bandwidth costs, look at CDN bandwidth costs, content providers are paying for their side of it fairly. Comcast has a large share of CDN and can get even bigger there.

I think content providers should pick a month and ban entire Comcast network for a month together. Users will switch to shitty stuff that phone companies are selling but at least Comcast will learn a lesson. What do you think would people chose to watch xfinity or would they switch to telco ISP?


I think you are misunderstanding what a residential type of circuit is (compared to a business class circuit). A residential circuit is shared bandwidth and is sold with the necessary caveats to allow the ISP to apply its arbitrage strategy.

ISPs compete on the basis of their ability to provide residential bandwidth at competitive prices:

Suppose one ISP offers 1 Mbps up and down for $99 per month and another ISP offers 10Mbps down and 0.25 Mbps up. Both of these plans may cost the same to provide. Similarly, a 0.5 Mbps dedicated bandwidth circuit may cost 2x or 3x the cost of the residential circuit to provide.

Individual ISPs determine what markup to apply and how to price the bandwidth (with or without contracts, etc.). You are arguing that all circuits should be dedicated bandwidth circuits. There is nothing wrong with that argument, but it reduces the value of every piece of copper or fiber in the system because it prevents it from being maximally utilized.

Also, keep in mind that if a law were passed requiring all circuits to be dedicated bandwidth circuits, ISPs would have no incentive to preemptively upgrade hardware. Notice that customers do not demand symmetric dedicated bandwidth circuits. For most residential customers, only a minimum amount of upstream bandwidth is needed (for ACKs and the occasional upload) because most of the data is flowing to the customer and being watched on a screen.

T-Mobile's "Binge-on" service is a brilliant way of applying QoS to consumer demand to extract more value from the network, yet it was criticized as non-neutral. It's amazing the level of misunderstanding that is attached to net neutrality!


Clear Straw-man.

When did I say I am asking for dedicated circuit?

I actually granted that congestion could and would happen. I pointed out what happens if someone decides to saturate the line... would last only few hours each month before quota being hit.

What you are granting Comcast doesn't make sense technically, financially, legally or ethically. Don't open my packets other than headers for destination. Don't look inside the data of my packets. Don't offer intermediate certificates posing as proxy for end site. All those things are fine within a corporation's privately owned network. Comcast is similar to post office, they are not allowed to see inside my mail to see if it goes to bank or to insurance company, just the address on the envelope can be used. It is none of Comcast's business whom I talk to and what I talk about and how much I talk. As long as I am under quota and under bandwidth limit, they must carry the traffic.

In the catastrophic event they can stop traffic to certain IP address segments to keep voice lines and emergency sites accessible. They can work that out with regulators like for 911 service. But they can't use that as a way to extract payments from content providers. Complete stopping is preferred over degraded service. Comcast would have to come up with justification why they stopped the traffic, degraded is just a play to get ransom payment.


I'd say that if you don't want your packets inspected, use encryption and only trust specific certificate authorities.

A regular HTTP GET is meant to be cacheable and meant not to be considered private. If you want private, use SSL and do not encode information in URLs that can be abused by intermediaries.

I realize you consider the attempt to charge upstream providers a fee to ensure high quality throughput extortion, but the fact is, some services utilize 99% of bandwidth.

Take the typical residential ISP, 99% of the upstream bandwidth it purchases likely moves traffic from youtube, youporn, etc. In the remaining 1% are gmail, HN, VOIP, etc.

The natural move would be for the ISP to adjust QoS to favor minimal streaming quality that will prevent customers from defecting to another ISP.

But content providers compete on the basis of content variety, quality, etc., and so their incentive is to maximize quality. If you are 1% more likely to click on an ad after watching porn at 4K, then it's potentially worth it to youporn to serve only 4K quality video since bandwidth is cheaper at scale and highly predictable.

But an ISP is operating at smaller scale. For last mile circuits, bandwidth cost is bound by hardware investments, and so a disproportionate amount of the cost of Youporn's added 1% chance you'll click is borne by the ISP.

So how can the ISP align its own incentives with youporn? Simple, by threatening a QoS that will reduce network load in exchange for a fee that helps share the cost of the additional bits.

So it's not extortion any more than Uber surge pricing is extortion. It helps increase the efficiency of the market process going on by aligning incentives where previously they were less aligned. Strong market incentive exists for ISPs not to overplay their hand, and to date as far as I know this hasn't been a problem.

I agree that last mile monopolies are bad, but the solution isn't to entrench them with top-down regs that hide the problem.


it's because doing "the right thing" the wrong way, as is many people's wont, leaves it open to just this sort of trivally easy meddling in the future. see also: ACA battles


Sorry, but I think you're being naive if you think that the people complaining most loudly about an "FCC power grab" are attempting to achieve anything other than deregulation.


same poster, new throwaway - call me naive all you want, but bear witness to the fact that they did it the wrong way, and people are now fucking with it. I didn't make a moral proclamation, so I'm not sure why you'd think signalling a virtue would be a response. If you set up regulation in a way that can be easily repealed on a power switch, you fucked up, regardless of how you perceive the morality of the situation


> If you set up regulation in a way that can be easily repealed on a power switch

I've been sending emails like the one I sent today for more than a decade.

The FCC power grab complaint is rhetoric. If the FTC had enforced, we'd be talking about claims of an FTC power grab. If Congress had stepped up to the plate, we'd be hearing about how we need to "repeal and replace Obamanet".

If you think diddling with jurisdictional setup means I won't be sending these emails for another decade, you're naive. That's not how democracy works.


So, it seems like you're advocating doing "the wrong thing the right way"?


>Could someone make a pro-repeal argument

There is no repeal. Either we do nothing, and nothing changes, or we start applying Title II rules to ISPs that were never there before.

As in any debate, the onus is on proponents of NN to explain how a rule change is a good thing, since they are arguing against the status quo.


> There is no repeal.

The whole discussion is about repeal of regs the FCC already adopted.


> Either we do nothing, and nothing changes

The entire premise of NN advocacy that things will change. Read the original site.


I did. FTFA, "In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC)."

What they leave out is the rules never took effect. That's a lie by omission. Trump put in a new FCC head that blocked the rule changes before they took effect.


I have no idea how that sentence is relevant. You're overly concerned about procedure and ignore the substantive concerns.

To repeat myself, the entire premise of NN advocacy that things will change, for consumers and businesses. Not that some procedural fact will or won't change. Not that some rule will or won't be implemented. But that ISPs will change their behavior and that will hurt consumers and businesses. Here's where the site makes this claim:

> But if some companies can pay our ISPs to have their content load faster, startups and small businesses that can't pay those fees won't be able to compete. You will kill the open marketplace that has enabled millions of small businesses and created the 5 most valuable companies in America-just to further enrich a few much less valuable cable giants famous for sky-high prices and abysmal customer service.

> Internet providers will be able to impose a private tax on every sector of the American economy.

> Moreover, under Chairman Pai's plan, ISPs will be able to make it more difficult to access political speech that they don't like. They'll be able to charge fees for website delivery that would make it harder for blogs, nonprofits, artists, and others who can't pay up to have their voices heard.

edit: also, this debate has been waging a hell of a lot longer than 2015.


"or we start applying Title II rules to ISPs that were never there before."

The rules have been there since 1934. Opponents of net neutrality want to pretend that Internet providers are somehow not included in those rules.


> 1. The Title II Regs were designed during the Great Depression to address Ma Bell and don't match the internet now.

How so? As far as I can tell, 99% of Americans are still in the same situation as our Great Depression-era counterparts. The only difference is that the situation is now duplicated across a phone line and a cable line, instead of just the phone line alone.

> 3. The internet didn't need fixing in 2010

The internet itself may not need fixing -- but internet service providers certainly need fixing, both back in 2010 and now still today.

Every major US ISP (including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and many others) have all breached Net Neutrality. There have been numerous violations over the past decade -- a small portion of which is documented at https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-vio...


The FCC does not have the power to create law/regulation out of thin air.

Congress should act.

Ajit Pai is not against net neutrality, but rather against the power grab from the FCC.

None of the complaints addresses this.

https://www.wired.com/2017/05/congress-not-fcc-can-fix-net-n...


Ajit [0]worked for Verizon he is most certainly against net neutrality, he speifically said the actions in 2015 have prevented ISP investment in broadband and internet services. [1]. Ajit also specifically made multiple statements about the actions in 2015 and how they had a negative impact on the US economy. [2]. I find this akin to the repeal of dodd-frank. as I overheard some hedge-fund acquaintances "It is rip-off city" again.

My opinion: How does this benefit the consumer? in what way? I fail to see how a government organization created to help the consumer is doing so, this appears to help the 'pocket wing' specifically moving money to again a smaller handful of individuals and the populace continues to be parochial about the entire issue.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajit_Varadaraj_Pai [1] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/06/isps-across-country-te... [2] https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/201...


[0-2] How does this show that he is against net neutrality?


did you read [2] ?

here is a snippet of the case he makes for why net neutrality is bad and his argument for why it is presently having a negative impact on the economy as a whole.

From Ajit: and reference 2 above.

"

Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake. Most importantly, I said that Title II regulation would reduce investment in broadband infrastructure. It’s basic economics: The more heavily you regulate somethin g, the less of it you’re likely to get. Now, when you talk about less infrastructure investment, many people’s eyes glaze over. But it’s important to explain in plain terms what the consequences are. Reduced investment means fewer Americans will have h igh-speed Internet access. It means fewer American will have jobs. And it means less competition for consumers. So what happened after the Commission adopted Title II? Sure enough, infrastructure investment declined. Among our nation’s 12 largest Inter net service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6% percent, or $3.6 billion, between 2014 and 2016, the first two years of the Title II era. This decline is extremely unusual. It is the first time that such investment has declined outside of a recession in the Internet era."


He's arguing that Title II regulation is bad, not net neutrality as a concept.

I agree that Title II is the wrong way to go about ensuring or helping ensure net neutrality.


if providers can redefine internet service from 'dumb pipe' to 'pay as you go services' and extract more money, then sure, they may invest more as they see a greater return.

it seems less clear that allowing such a redefinition is in the public interest. dont we already have a parallel infrastructure that works on that model? one thats declining because its so much less useful?


What power grab by the FCC? The telecommunications act may well be outdated, but it seems quite clear that ISPs fit under the Title 2 definitions. ISTM the FCC under Wheeler was doing its job.


Okay, if downvotes is what I get then here's an answer.

No, ISPs do not fit under Title II and it's not the way to go to ensure net neutrality. Even congress agrees that Title II was never meant for broadband.

Power grab? The above. It was never meant for broadband.

Quote from the EFF: > But Congress has never given the FCC any authority to regulate the Internet for the purpose of ensuring net neutrality.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/09/net-neutrality-fcc-per...


I will likely just regurgitate the article I linked. Read it and ask questions if any remain.


I never said that the route the FCC took to get to Title 2 classification made any sense or that the FCC's previous actions were justifiable. But the final outcome seemed fairly good.


One argument I've heard made against net neutrality generally is a neoclassical/liberal economic one.

To put it into practical terms, consider the "free data" plans prevalent in much of the developing world. You get free data to access a limited set of services who have agreements with your mobile ISP. FB pay (presumably) the ISP to be The (or part of the) restricted set of internet services provided to the consumer at subsidized (by FB) rates. Many people cannot afford the "real" internet access at full rates. But FB is willing to subsidize partial access for their own reasons^. The individuals who choose these plans (assuming competition^), are better off with cheap restricted access then none, or the more expensive full access.

^I don't agree with this reasoning. Adequate competition does not exist in ISP markets and FB's reasons for participating in walled gardens are anti-competitive, especially when it comes to new/small services that cannot negotiate with ISPs.


such "free data" thing is popular in some developed countries as well, e.g. Australia. It is just business promotion, has nothing to do with net neutrality. With or without net neutrality, new/smaller services can not complete in that front - how many of them can show their names in super bowl? should super bowl be ads free to make it more new/small services friendly?


I think it's a pretty core net neutrality issue. The ISP uses its position as ISP to be selective/opinionated about what internet services their users are accessing. USe FB? OK that's free. Want Friendster? You have to pay extra for Friendster or we don't support Friendster. Net neutrality means ISPs must be neutral about which services users access.


what is the motivation for ISP to do that? if it is because FB signed deal with the ISP and covering the costs for those traffic out of its own pocket, what is the problem here? Friendster should offer something to match such deal and bring in real competition. Why there should be a law that stops companies for giving out freebies?

if some ISPs provide unmetered access to service A, the only thing that really matters is whether service B can get the same deal by paying the same $ - clearly this is not net neutrality issue.


"The Title II Regs were designed during the Great Depression to address Ma Bell and don't match the internet now."

In what ways do they not "match the internet now"? The Communications Act of 1934 (in my opinion as someone who is very much not a lawyer) seems to have been intended to regulate all telecommunications, even if it has language specifically addressing AT&T's then-monopoly on a specific form of telecommunications. Its various amendments appear to be consistent with that intent.

If these repeal supporters can cite specific reasons why Internet providers shouldn't qualify as common carriers (and thus be subject to Title II) just like how telephone network providers are classified as such, then we have a proper discussion on our hands. Else, it really just reeks of more whining on the part of cable companies and their ilk: "no no no, we're totally different from this other subcategory of 'telecommunications' because reasons".

Personally, I ain't buying it.

"The FCC isn't the right vehicle for addressing anti-competitive behavior in this case; the FTC would be better."

The FTC isn't the (only) right vehicle for enforcing the terms of the Communications Act of 1934; the FCC would be better.

The FTC should by all means be involved here, don't get me wrong (ISP's behaviors are definitely characteristic of coercive monopolies), but that doesn't mean the FCC gets to stick its fingers in its ears saying "LALALALALA Title II doesn't apply" when it very obviously does.

"The internet didn't need fixing in 2010 when the regs were passed."

Depends on who you ask. If you're an ISP, then no, it didn't need fixing. If you're pretty much anyone else, then yes, it very much did (and still does; Title II is still insufficient in really addressing the abuses of modern-day ISPs, in particular because the Comm. Act doesn't really do much about price gouging AFAICT; this is - like we've both suggested - the purview of the FTC).


Thanks for asking this question, it makes me realize how blindly I've been on the 'save net neutrality' bandwagon. I tried understanding these reasons (you provided) and it turns out I don't know anything. For starters,

1. What is the title II Regs? I did a quick google search and I came up with this: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-pai-fcc-internet-... Why doesn't the regulation match the internet now? All of the articles I find seems to handwave the actual reasoning. "And they argued that the only way for the government to prevent this outcome was to adopt an old regulatory framework called Title II—originally designed in the 1930s for the Ma Bell telephone monopoly—and apply it to thousands of Internet service providers, big and small. In other words, they wanted lawyers and bureaucrats to govern the Internet rather than engineers, technologists and businesses." - HOW?

2. For those who didn't know what Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is and how they are different: http://roslynlayton.com/fcc-vs-ftc-which-will-do-a-better-jo...


The valid arguments I read from industry groups like WISPA cite significant uncertainty in what Title II regulations would actually look like in practice. Given that WISPA is basically a trade group of small ISPs, some mom-and-pop scale, burden of any new regulation is a significant concern. My personal opinion strays from this, since the incumbent ISPs that WISPA membership generally competes with stand to benefit even more from the tact of deregulation (and presumably make further progress in driving more of them out of business).


> The valid arguments I read from industry groups like WISPA cite significant uncertainty in what Title II regulations would actually look like in practice.

The reclassification wasn't abstract; the actual regulations under Title II were included in the order with the reclassification.

Any uncertainty about future regulations is unresolved by rescinding the reclassification now, since anything that could have been done under regulation with the reclassification can still be done in the future (it might take reclassifying again, but since that can be done in the same action as the concrete regulation, that's immaterial.)


Quoted below is an except from a listserv discussion with a WISPA committee member working to draft that org's FCC filing. I'm sharing this, to fill in details on the assertion of "uncertainty in regulation" that is being bandied about, i.e. that the assertion isn't devoid of substance. But again, I don't share this view myself, believing that the absence of any Title II regs at all bodes worse than the burdens they or may not impose.

------

The Commission asked what the definition of ‘reasonable network management’ should be. The original (2010) version called for “reasonable network management” and defined it as:

"A network management practice is reasonable if it is appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service."

In the Title II order this was changed to:

“a practice that has a primarily technical management justification, but does not include other business practices.”

What does “other business practices" mean? From an engineering standpoint I can design and build a network that never requires ’network management'. We used to have that network - it was called ‘circuit switched’ and it was an engineering marvel. What I can’t do is build that network today and deliver broadband at competitive prices without some degree of oversubscription. The level of oversubscription is ultimately a management (and economic) decision. If all network management practices are then ‘business practices’ it becomes very difficult to decide what network management can be justified as ‘primarily technical’.



I don't get why I see arguments like 'Oh, why would it matter, its not neutral anyway' or 'it won't change anything' and no one tries to explain why allowing an end of net neutrality would be bad. I would say the reason why net neutrality is important is the following:

'On paper' the end of net neutrality will mean that big companies like google or facebook (which, according to the website, do not support net neutrality [why would they, right?]) will pay the ISPs for priority connection to their service, and ISPs will be able to create 2 payment plans for their customers - throttled network and high-speed, super unthrottled network for some premium money. And some people are fine with that - 'it's their service' or 'i only use email so i don't care' or other things like that.

But we are living in a capitalism world and things aren't that nice. If it is not illegal to slow down connections 'just because', I bet in some (probably short) time companies will start abusing it to protect their markets and their profits. I'd expect under the table payments, so the company F or B will be favored by a given ISP, and you can forget about startups trying to shake up the giants.


Something that is not mentioned often is the combined effect of losing net neutrality and the recent decision to let the ISPs sell your advertising data.

It's a two pronged attack on the internet. The ISPs data collection is going to be more valuable than Facebook or Google simply because they have everything and most importantly the ISPs can verify physical identities.

So internet ad revenue is being attacked from one angle and then they are extorting money for packet delivery on the other.


"It's a two pronged attack on the internet. The ISPs data collection is going to be more valuable than Facebook or Google simply because they have everything and most importantly the ISPs can verify physical identities."

Third prong: lawmakers advocating "closing the VPN loophole".

Because terrorism.


Another reason for all web developers to encrypt their websites.


That helps, but not entirely. The metadata of which sites you're visiting is still valuable advertising information - especially when browsing through a phone (geolocation).


This doesn't help - just a set of domains (and page count + times of connection) you connected to last month is a very precise and valuable identifier of who you are and what your interests are.


Would it be possible to connect to Internet w/o ISPs?


Also, ISPs could make pay both the companies providing a service and the customers of those companies. Just so that they can get in contact in the first place.

To companies: "You want your customers to have faster access to your services right ? Or we could cut you off."

To customers: "You want to access those services faster don't you ?"

Seems like a classic mafia move.


How's this different from priority shipping for example?


The USPS doesn't also own the roads, rivers and skies they transport your package through, and can't blockade people from moving the package themselves, or with another service.


My guess is monopoly (approximately). ISP choice for the vast majority of US people is practically nil - you either have a cable provider (Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, etc.) or a phone provider (Verizon, AT&T). With priority shipping, if you don't like Amazon's non-subtle nudges to you to pay for Prime, you just move on to Walmart.com, Rakuten, or an eBay vendor. Treating ISP as a utility company was the right model and the current FCC is not doing consumers a service by killing this model.


It'd be like if Amazon owned the only road to your house and said Amazon couriers get to use the left lane at 65mph and everyone else delivering packages from Walmart or Target use the right lane at 30mph, unless both you and Walmart pay extra to use the fast lane.


If Amazon owned the road, I would be fine with that. If a company owns a mall, I'm fine with them letting companies that pay them more have a bigger shop, and those paying them less have a smaller shop.

I'm also fine with them giving their own products preferential treatment. (This actually happens here - all mall companies have their own products, very visibly exposed.)


In priority shipping, only one side pays the fee. If the post office or UPS said "oh you want it there faster, pay X" to both sender and receiver, and both were required to pay for it to be faster, then it would be the same.


So the burden of the cost is on the sending party?

In reality the cost is really distributed. The sender hands over the money to the shipping company, but that money comes from the receiver.

And the infrastructure is supported by the community at large.


So when I pay for gigabit internet, and netflix pays their "streaming priority" charge, I get netflix content at gigabit speed.

But when I pay for gigabit internet, and some random startup doesn't pay the ISPs "streaming priority" charge, I get them at some rate limited amount less than what I pay for (gigabit).

That is the problem. The consumer gets screwed, startups get screwed, and the ISPs profit from both consumer and businesses.


How do you debug your slow internet connection? What tools let you know you're getting what you're paying for?


One way to explain it is to ask if your phone company (which is your ISP) should be allowed to block Skype/Facetime. After all, if you're skyping (or facetiming), then you're not paying them for a phone call! (Or should Skype be allowed pay your phone company to block Facetime (or vice versa)). Surely it's in the phone company's interest to not help their compeditor. (If your internet is from your cable TV provider, ask if they should be allowed block Netflix).

Examples like that are easy to show the downsides of net neutrality.


I like thinking of it like other utilities, such as water and electricity. Imagine if your electric company could block power to one of your devices because it's a competing device. Or if it could stop you from using water for drinking to promote some drink they have.

The data going through should be just as blind as water through pipes or electricity through cables.


Probably worth pointing out that this already occurs now for very large companies who have to pay for upgraded uplink connections or data centers inside the networks (Netflix et al). Also part of why the bigger companies aren't pushing too hard, they have to pay this stuff under the current rules so new rules won't help them much.


Some of the issue was that ISPs refused to upgrade their peering connections even when the other party offered to pay for both ends of the upgrade. They wanted to double dip, and anything short of that they refused.


Yes, and this is extremely corrosive to free market operation of the internet. Customers lose visibility into what sites cost (in time and money) because the cost of the deals that the ISP force onto companies are hidden on both sides of the transaction. Customers can't really make good market choices among sites or ISPs cleanly with these kinds of deals going on, so the market becomes much less efficient at delivering value to the economy.


Consumer choice between ISPs solves most of these problems.


How do you propose to enable that?


Hindsight is 20/20, but I suspect that the breakup of Ma Bell in 1984 should have been along service lines, not geographic lines. One company should have been given control of the physical wires, and that's all they do---they have have the right-of-ways to run cable and maintain the physical structure. And they have a mandate to provide service to any company that wants to provide a service (route data), and the other company provides the service, but they aren't in a monopolistic position.

What's the natural monopoly here? The physical infrastructure. What isn't? The service---phone, television, data. Could this still be done? Yes, but I suspect the politics would be worse today than in 1984.


It's a hard problem that states and localities should sort out. High fixed costs, regional monopolies, etc. I get it.

I'm just saying that almost this entire, complex discussion can be reduced to that crucial point.


> big companies like google or facebook (which, according to the website, do not support net neutrality [why would they, right?])

It doesn't quite say that. It says[1] that they didn't sign up to the event on the 12th. However, news outlets are reporting otherwise.[2][3] The Internet Association, which they founded, launched its petition site[4] on Monday. Microsoft is now also a member. Apple, for whatever reason, is not.

Google also has its own 'Take Action' page[5] but I'm not sure how old it is. Mark Zuckerberg has publicly stated support for net neutrality.[6] But both companies have been criticized[7][8] in the past for using a self-serving interpretation of the term. And, as the recent EU ruling against Google reminds us, telcos are not the only internet gatekeepers we need to worry about.[9]

[1] https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12/#participants

[2] https://www.recode.net/2017/7/8/15938164/net-neutrality-day-...

[3] http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/12/google-amazon-protest-against...

[4] http://iadayofaction.org

[5] https://www.google.com/takeaction/action/freeandopen/index.h...

[6] https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10102033678947881

[7] https://www.facebook.com/notes/access-now/open-letter-to-mar...

[8] https://scroll.in/article/717663/double-standards-facebook-a...

[9] https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/eu-google-antitr... (this article was written a year ago by someone who gets funding from various telcos and Microsoft: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Scott_Cleland )


As a tidbit about Google: Take Action actually emailed me today about it. I opted in a long time ago, but they definitely sent out a very pro NN email. An excerpt from that email:

> Today, Google is joining other Internet companies, innovative startups, and millions of internet users around the country to defend these common-sense protections that keep the internet free and open.

> Net neutrality ensures that both new and established services, whether offered by an established internet company like Google, a broadband provider, or a small start-up, have the same ability to reach users on an equal playing field.


KK, thx for clarification. I'll allow myself to not edit the original post, but I promise I'll stop bashing Facebook and Google in my head.


> we are living in a capitalism world

Far from it. Far far far faaaaaaaaaar from it!


To what extent would we need more capitalism? Currently, you have companies literally able to shut down countries (see examples of cigarette giants suing countries), and companies like Comcast being so anti-competition that they sue towns trying to set up faster internet fiber lines. That's not even involving the massive influence companies have with government officials in legal means via lobbying. Companies aren't charitable, and yet they give millions upon millions to politicians... And then of course there is the hilarious trends of a politician passing laws and then somehow, repeatedly, getting cushy jobs with big oil / Comcast / etc after they exit government work.

The point I'm getting at is companies have far more power and far more sway than any one person, Government worker or private citizen, so at what point does a world become capitalist? Do we have to shut down government and literally be run by Comcast before we consider it a capitalist world?


Companies shutting down other countries and bribes are not a part of capitalism. These acts are dick-moves that can happen in a socialist or communist system also.


So if it doesn't matter which system we live in because corruption can happen in any system, why not quit masking the real issue by making it about capitalism? The real problem here is corruption and lack of accountability. That's equally likely in whatever system we choose.


The difference is, a working Government works for the people. Note I said a working Government. A company has no loyalty, no core incentive to work for anyone but themselves. They have no reason to be nice, and not do "dick moves" as you put it.

We can't expect companies to have morals, they should operate within the law. Governments must keep them in check, keep the laws safe for humanity.

To me, I extend this to anything that "matters". Ie, I believe in reformed health care because health care is too important to me to be handled by corruption. Insurance companies are not aligned with the peoples incentives. Just like how Cable is not aligned with my incentives either. They want to squash competition, stifle innovation, and fundamentally change an equal playing field of access and bandwidth.


And by that you mean that we live in what, communism? IMO what I can see 'around' is the capitalism at it's worst, with cash aggregation by top players. And who has the money has the power, as it was since the beginning of time.


It is possible to be far from a free market economy and still not be completely communist


And it is possible to be far from a free market economy and still be capitalist, because Capitalism and "free market economy" aren't synonymous.

Let me cite Wikipedia since it's good enough here: "Capitalism is an economic system and an ideology based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism)


The ISPs are not operating in "competitive markets", so they are not operating in capitalist markets.


This is the core issue. ISPs rarely compete, so they have little incentive to make their customer's lives better.

IMO fixing this should be the central push for the "save the internet" folks.


The system is Capitalism and the markets exist within it. It makes no sense to claim that some of those markets aren't capitalist for lacking competition. In other words, while competitive markets are a characteristic of Capitalism, not every market within the system needs to have strong competition, especially because another characteristic of Capitalism is that successful competitors tend to crush smaller ones and form monopolies.

The ISP market is no anomaly but just another facet of Capitalism.


> Characteristics central to capitalism

The word "central" here implies that this definition, or summary, does not define capitalism per se.


I didn't mean that it has to be either capitalism or communism. What I meant is that IMO what we have right now is still a form of modern capitalism, albeit I agree that it became kind of twisted in comparison to the capitalism from the beginning of the 20th century.


If capitalism is getting to the form that Standard Oil followed at the turn of the last century, perhaps it is disingenuous to continue calling it capitalism?


Or maybe Standard Oil was a forefather of modern capitalism? Maybe that was a pure form of it? I'd say the idea that the state does not intervene in the market is heartwarming, but if the state doesn't protect it's people the market will abuse them. Anyway I'm sure that there is some economic forum, where this discussion would be more appropriate :)


Or more generally, those who have a say in resource allocation, have the power.

Therefore, this is a blatant power grab by the ISPs - suddenly they get to decide how to allocate a resource, however artificial that resource may be.


If your internet browser were a hearing aid, the information coming in would be sound - whether that's your husband or wife asking you to do the dishes, a ring at your doorbell, or even an advertisement on the radio.

now imagine if that hearing aid wasn't neutral in how it handled sound. imagine if, when the advertisement played on the radio, it would be louder than all other sounds around. at that time, you might miss an important call, maybe your wife just said "I love you", or perhaps there's a fire in the other room that you are now not aware of, because clorox wipes demanded your full attention.

without net neutrality, we lose the ability to chose our own inputs. our provider, our hearing aid, gets to choose for us. this could mean slower video downloads for some, if they're using a competitor's streaming service for instance, but it could also mean the loss of vital information that the provider is not aware even exists.

By rejecting Title II recommendations, the FCC will introduce a whole new set of prioritization problems, where consumers no longer have the ability to decide which information is most important to them. and, if the provider goes so far as to block access to some information entirely, which it very well could without Title II protections, consumers would be at risk of missing vital information - like a fire in the house or their husband saying "I love you"


Now also imagine most people in the US only have one choice of hearing aid manufacturer. Also, that manufacturer happens to produce some of the radio programs whose volume the hearing aid manipulates.


Poor analogy.

Hearing aids do discriminate and are quite programmable to be adjusted to the needs of the user usually by an audiologist who works with the patient to understand what sounds they want to hear (and it changes over time)


That makes it a better analogy. Hearing aid users get to choose how loud sounds are based on what they want to hear; people who make noise don't make that decision for them. A hearing aid user who tunes their device to make adverts quieter is the equivalent of a web user who installs an ad blocker. That's exactly how the web should be - users should choose what's a priority to them, not the suppliers of the service. Just as advertisers should never be allowed to make their adverts sound louder to hearing aid users.


That may be but I thought it was an excellent analogy. I don't think he is really concerned with imparting information about how hearing aids actually work, it is just a device.


Then you don't really understand how analogies work. And he isn't imparting any useful information just talking points.

https://literarydevices.net/analogy/


Wow there's very little need to be an asshole.


Then imagine that the audiologist is being paid to force the patient into hearing advertisements rather than working with the patient to understand what sounds they want to hear. Does that fix the analogy?


Seriously? You think you receive every single packet or that there isn't any filtering done for technical purpose done at your computer? It's the same principal. You are bad at analogies.


I fully support the net neutrality argument, it seems like a no brainer to me. However I find it interesting that companies like Netflix and Amazon who heavily differentiate in which devices you can have which video quality[1] will then argue that ISPs shouldn't be able to differentiate which services should have which transport quality.

The situation seems completely analogous to me. I'm paying my ISP for a connection and it thinks it should be able to restrict which services I use on top of it. I'm paying a content provider for some shows/movies and it thinks it should be able to restrict which device I use to view them.

The argument for regulation also seems the same. ISPs don't have effective competition because physical infrastructure is a natural monopoly. Content providers also don't have effective competition because content access is also a natural monopoly because of network effects (right now there are 2-3 relevant players worldwide).

[1] Both of them heavily restrict which devices can access 4K content. Both of them make it very hard to have HD from non-standard devices. Netflix even makes it hard to get 1080p on anything that isn't the absolute mainstream (impossible on Linux for example).


I think there is a huge difference here. First of all, the restriction on 4K has a lot more to do with technical limitations than anything else. Very few devices can actually handle 4K. While your laptops screen might be able to handle it, your browser might not be able to decode h.265 at all, and might not be fast enough to decode h.264 at 4K resolutions.

As someone who works on a video streaming service for similar type of content. I see this policy as a help to consumers more than restrictions, simply because they ensure they only allow 4K where they are fairly certain it works.

Secondly, if Netflix doesn't provide you the service you need, you can switch to Amazon, or Hulu or any of a number of providers. If your ISP doesn't provide you a service without restrictions, plenty of people have no recourse. It isn't unusual for natural monopoly industries to be more heavily regulated.


>I think there is a huge difference here. First of all, the restriction on 4K has a lot more to do with technical limitations than anything else. Very few devices can actually handle 4K. While your laptops screen might be able to handle it, your browser might not be able to decode h.265 at all, and might not be fast enough to decode h.264 at 4K resolutions.

The exact same setup (Chrome on this Linux laptop) works just fine with 4K youtube streams. Yet both Netflix and Amazon have restrictions for 4K where it basically only works with closed set-top box type devices. There's no reasonable technical motivation for the restriction.

>Secondly, if Netflix doesn't provide you the service you need, you can switch to Amazon, or Hulu or any of a number of providers.

There isn't "any number of providers". For relevant content my two options right now are Netflix and Prime Video, there is no third.

>If your ISP doesn't provide you a service without restrictions, plenty of people have no recourse. It isn't unusual for natural monopoly industries to be more heavily regulated.

While I only have 2 choices, and those are the same two worldwide, I easily have 3 good ISP choices and those are local to each market, so worldwide there are hundreds or thousands. That's exactly my point. Worldwide the neutrality in content access is probably more important as it is a much more consolidated industry.


> I easily have 3 good ISP choices and those are local to each market, so worldwide there are hundreds or thousands. That's exactly my point.

I think your missing the point. You already have Net Neutrality (by your own admission) so that seems like a solved issue for you.

But the Americans don't have what you have -- almost nobody in the US can claim to "easily have 3 good ISP choices". Most Americans have 1.5-ish ISP choices or less (usually a shitty-but-usable monopoly cable provider, and occasionally a shitty monopoly DSL provider that is often so slow it not really competitive).

The Americans are simply trying to create regulation that would allow them to have a situation closer to the ones most Europeans already have.


>I think your missing the point. You already have Net Neutrality (by your own admission) so that seems like a solved issue for you.

Having a choice of ISPs isn't net neutrality. All the ISPs I have access to will sell differentiated access to their networks absent net neutrality rules. Europe has some (generally weak) net neutrality because it has legislated it like the US should too.

But my point isn't that we shouldn't fight for net neutrality. It's that Netflix/Amazon say that ISPs shouldn't be able to play favorites over streaming services (and I agree) while they play favorites over devices (and I disagree and say it's hypocrisy).


> Having a choice of ISPs isn't net neutrality.

Right. A choice of ISPs (in my opinion) is actually better than net neutrality, for the things that matter most.

> while (Netflix/Amazon) play favorites over devices (and I disagree and say it's hypocrisy)

How do you draw that distinction?

Is it "playing favorites over devices" that I can't sign into Xbox Live from my PlayStation? Or that Apple won't let me watch my iPad-purchased movies on an Android device? Or that Spotify won't let me listen to music in iTunes? Is it playing favorites that Comcast can stream the Hallmark Channel, but Hulu TV can't? Or that Nintendo won't let me play my Wii U games on my Gaming PC?

I agree that you have a valid criticism of those video services. But your comparison of it to Net Neutrality feels forced. I don't think it's relevant to the discussion of Net Neutrality -- it's seems like a clear case of comparing Apples and Oranges.

If "Netflix is a hypocrite because they don't support 4K on my Linux laptop", then your basically upset with the entire tech industry, where every product has a list of platforms they've chosen to support, and a list they do not support.


>Right. A choice of ISPs (in my opinion) is actually better than net neutrality, for the things that matter most.

They're orthogonal, you can have net neutrality without choice of ISPs and vice versa. I also think net neutrality is much more important than choice of ISPs because ISP monopolies are unstable over the long term. Technology advances fast enough that today's monopoly will not hold once new access technologies are deployed. My ISP has already felt the heat from LTE providers to upgrade me to fiber for example. And Elon Musk is working on high-speed satellite internet for everyone. Over the long term ISP monopolies crumble. Content monopolies are much more long lasting because they have the copyright law hammer and net neutrality is a freedom of speech issue. Of the three topics ISP choice is by far the least important even if it's the one that currently inconveniences Americans the most.

>I agree that you have a valid criticism of those video services. But your comparison of it to Net Neutrality feels forced. I don't think it's relevant to the discussion of Net Neutrality -- it's seems like a clear case of comparing Apples and Oranges.

I'm not discussing net neutrality at all. As far as I'm concerned that discussion is a no brainer. I'm saying that Netflix is complaining that ISPs are using their monopoly in one area (internet access) to condition another market (streaming services) while at the same time using their monopoly in one area (streamings services) to condition another market (playback devices). If that's not an apples to apples comparison about business practices I don't know what is.

>If "Netflix is a hypocrite because they don't support 4K on my Linux laptop", then your basically upset with the entire tech industry, where every product has a list of platforms they've chosen to support, and a list they do not support.

This and your other comparisons are disingenuous. I'm not saying Netflix needs to write a custom app for every platform under the Sun. I'm saying they shouldn't be allowed to actively disallow platforms that would otherwise work fine if they didn't arbitrarily restrict them. That's how Youtube works for example. Anything that can work with it's webpage gets to stream video and anyone can implement an app that works with their API.

Google Search's interface is a standards compliant web page. Do you think it would be ok for them to implement software to make it so their web page only worked on some browsers, didn't work for FreeBSD users and only provided low quality results to Linux users? Because this is exactly what Netflix does today.


> This and your other comparisons are disingenuous. I'm not saying Netflix needs to write a custom app for every platform under the Sun. I'm saying they shouldn't be allowed to actively disallow platforms that would otherwise work fine if they didn't arbitrarily restrict them. That's how Youtube works for example.

It's not disingenuous though, it's the exact same problem you've described.

You cite YouTube as an alternative, but YouTube specifically has done the exact same thing you criticize Netflix for -- YouTube is also arbitrarily blocking some players from accessing it's videos (Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, 2nd Gen Apple TV devices, and a handful of other STB devices).

These players all already exist, have had fully-working YouTube access for many years, some were even sold with the explicit promise of YouTube access on the box but YouTube has arbitrarily decided to restrict the API those platforms use, so they're dead now.

> Do you think it would be ok for (Google) to implement software to make it so their web app only worked on some browsers, wouldn't work for FreeBSD users and only provided low quality results to Linux users?

No, but that's exactly what YouTube does to a bunch of other platforms today. In fact, it's worse than Netflix. At least Netflix still sends your platform 1080p, Google just killed YouTube off entirely (no video playback at all) for a handful of platforms.

---

That's why I use them as examples, because they specifically mimic the behavior you cited. If "Netflix has a monopoly of their 4K content" and is "using it to condition another market" then every tech product is guilty of the same thing. YouTube is using their monopoly (of their videos) to condition playback devices too (to force you to dispose of working Smart TVs and buy new ones). Nintendo is using their monopoly (over their games) to condition consoles (make you buy a Wii U / Switch / 3DS). Apple is using their monopoly (over OSX and iOS apps) to condition other markets (laptops, phones and tablets). And so on.


>YouTube is also arbitrarily blocking some players from accessing it's videos (Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, 2nd Gen Apple TV devices, and a handful of other STB devices).

Do you have a source for this? I'm not aware of any devices that are blocked on the web interface and I suspect the API access going away is only for technical reasons.

Edit: As I suspected Google deprecated the v2 API and the v3 one can still be used just fine. The fact that "smart" TVs are pieces of junk that don't have software updates breaks their youtube support. This would only be a counterexample if Youtube API v3 was actively denying service to specific devices which it isn't.

>In fact, it's worse than Netflix. At least Netflix still sends your platform 1080p, Google just killed YouTube off entirely (no video playback at all) for a handful of platforms.

There is no 1080p Netflix for Linux and as far as I know any platform can stream the Youtube HTML5 player in 4K. Don't know about the API.

>Nintendo is using their monopoly (over their games) to condition consoles (make you buy a Wii U / Switch / 3DS). Apple is using their monopoly (over iOS apps) to condition another market (phones and tablets). And so on.

These are not reasonable examples in my view because they are not cases where someone is actively preventing something that would work otherwise. They've just built software that only works on a specific platform. When Nintendo writes an HTML5 game and then blocks the Xbox browser it will be comparable. And I'll be here to argue they shouldn't be allowed to do that either.

>Again, I don't claim this is "good", and I agree with your root complaint (Netflix should support 4K on Linux).

That's not my complaint. My complaint is that Netflix has actively disabled 4K on Linux (and on most platforms actually). I don't think they should start supporting anything. I think they shouldn't be allowed to actively block platforms.

>But I don't believe your particular comparison is fair -- if you claim this is a monopoly behavior, then by your definition every tech product is using their "monopoly" (over their own product) to push into another market (of whatever devices they choose to support).

This is wrong in two ways. First is that most services are not monopolies. There are plenty of fart apps so the fact that your particular one doesn't support Android is not relevant. A monopoly "over their own product" is not really a thing. Netflix and Amazon however do have a relevant monopoly over streaming services. There are no more than 2 or 3 in the world and network effects makes this stable over time. Second the fact that a given platform is not actively supported is not the issue. The issue is that there is an active blocking of platforms by Netflix/Amazon on purpose. This is actually highly uncommon behavior. Most companies will welcome the fact that more platforms work with their service.


> Do you have a source for this? (YouTube blocking old devices)

Yes : https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6098135?p=yt_devic...

> When Nintendo writes an HTML5 game and then blocks the Xbox browser it will be comparable.

So, you mean like this - https://html5gamedevelopment.com/2013-03-nintendo-web-framew...

I think your getting hung up on the particular method an API exists, which doesn't sit well with me. There's nothing magical about HTML that makes it more special than JSON. YouTube cutting access to devices API seems no different to me than Netflix not allowing Linux to get 4K video. In both cases, they're using their own tech to prevent something that would work if they touched nothing.

> These are not reasonable examples in my view because they are not cases where someone is actively preventing something that would work otherwise.

I mean, OSX works great on X86/X64 hardware if you hack out the mac-specific checks. You could run OSX on many Linux boxes ... if Apple didn't put work into preventing it. (The Hackintosh scene is living proof of this)

> Netflix and Amazon however do have a relevant monopoly over streaming services. There are no more than 2 or 3 in the world and network effects makes this stable over time

There are over a dozen streaming services. Your conveniently leaving out Hulu, YouTube, SlingTV, PlayStation Vue, Acorn TV, DirectTV NOW, and a bunch of others.

They might not have the specific show you like. But just like your "fart app" scenario, these services have plenty of shows so the fact that your particular favorite one isn't on that service isn't relevant, right?


> Yes : https://support.google.com...

See my edit. From what I've read they just discontinued the v2 API and replaced it with the v3.

> So, you mean like this - https://html5gamedevelopment.com/2013-03-nintendo-web-framew....

If they're providing those games on the web and blocking certain browsers then that's wrong as well. As far as I can tell that's just a device specific framework that happens to use web technologies.

> I think your getting hung up on the particular method an API exists, which doesn't sit well with me. There's nothing magical about HTML that makes it more special than JSON. YouTube cutting access to devices API seems no different to me than Netflix not allowing Linux to get 4K video. In both cases, they're using their own tech to prevent something that would work if they touched nothing.

I'm not making that distinction. I think cutting access to APIs is the same as cutting access to the Web page. And if Google did indeed do that they're also wrong to do it. Note that I don't think the same applies to discontinuing service completely. If Netflix decides to stop providing 4K content completely then that's fine. It's the arbitrary restriction between platform that I take offense to.

>I mean, OSX works great on X86/X64 hardware if you hack out the mac-specific checks. You could run OSX on many Linux boxes ... if Apple didn't put work into preventing it. (The Hackintosh scene is living proof of this)

Yep, and I also fully support the right for people to buy OSX and do it whatever they want including putting it onto different hardware. Even if Apple only sells OSX bundled with hardware these days I fully support the right of customers to buy that hardware, discard it, and install the same software on other hardware they also own.

>There are over a dozen streaming services. Your conveniently leaving out Hulu, YouTube, SlingTV, PlayStation Vue, Acorn TV, DirectTV NOW, and a bunch of others.

Most of those are not available to me at all, none of those carry the content Netflix and Amazon produce themselves.

>They might not have the specific show you like. But just like your "fart app" scenario, these services have plenty of shows so the fact that your particular favorite one isn't on that service isn't relevant, right?

You're ignoring the second part of the argument. The fart app may not work on my Android phone because it's an iOS app. The Netflix app doesn't work on my phone because Netflix has specifically forbidden it to work, even though it technically would work fine.

And if a fart app became a part of our civilization's shared culture you might have a case. Popular TV shows are not just interchangeable entertainment content. If net neutrality is about free speech I need to be able to access our culture to have something to say. When the same companies that want me to help them rile up the population to secure their access to the market are actively working against my ability to choose computing platforms I take offense. I find it even more appaling that Netflix will publicize their use of FreeBSD to run their infrastructure, benefitting from the hard work of the FreeBSD volunteer developers, while at the same time actively preventing FreeBSD users from accessing their service.


> There's no reasonable technical motivation for the restriction.

There may well be licensing restrictions on the content which preclude them sending 4K video to unDRM'd or unverifi{ed,able} clients.


So not technical and completely unreasonable for content that they own themselves. There's no reason Netflix can't just send me House of Cards in 4K or Amazon can't send me The Grand Tour in 4K. Increasingly those are the shows I actually do want to watch as the two streaming giants overhaul the content business, further consolidating the industry. So they can't really hide behind the licensing restriction argument.


> and completely unreasonable for content that they own themselves

Well, no, because why would they want their own 4K content to be easily ripped and uploaded to Usenet?


Oh come on, once the content is displayable it's piratable and they damn well know that. This is more a matter of restrictive terms and conditions they can enact due to their monopoly-like position.


Everybody wants to own the customer. It's true everywhere in the value chain, in every value chain. That's why they need you to install their app.


Streaming DRM'd video to a closed system (XBOX, PS4, set top box) is orders of magnitude less piratable than streaming video to an open system like Linux (DRM'd would be harder to pirate but I'm sure someone could lash up their own Chrome to dump the video after the unDRMing step.)

(How would you get the video content out of a DRM'd stream to an XBOX?)


Pirates are determined enough to break all the schemes and once one does the cat is out of the bag and everyone can access it without restrictions. Ultimately this makes the user experience of the pirate service better than the paid one. Netflix used to say, to convince license holders, that once it entered a market pirating went down because convenience went up. They're now falling in the same trap with their own content...


> everyone can access it without restrictions

Not really - getting content off Usenet/torrents isn't something your average person will be doing. And then you probably need to transcode it for a closed system like XBOX. etc.etc.

(And yeah, this is probably something everyone on here can do with their eyes closed - but HN is the top 0.0001% of computer users when it comes to competencies.)


That's why you should tell your friends about youtube-dl & vlc and other tools like that. It hardly gets any simpler than that, and it's as good an introduction to terminals/programming for non-techy friends as anything else I can think of.

https://rg3.github.io/youtube-dl/

(```youtube-dl -g ...``` rules!)


Either you engage in a cat and mouse game to circumvent the crypto, either you just rip straight from video out.


Exactly, even HDCP isn't that hard to work around.


Well if you can stream your desktop that's half the work done already. Vlc transcodes just about anything you can throw at it so there's the other half.


Isn't the point of HDCP to close the analog hole?


> Well, no, because why would they want their own 4K content to be easily ripped and uploaded to Usenet?

Sorry to break it to you: That's already happening with DRM.


> The exact same setup (Chrome on this Linux laptop) works just fine with 4K youtube streams. Yet both Netflix and Amazon have restrictions for 4K where it basically only works with closed set-top box type devices. There's no reasonable technical motivation for the restriction.

That doesn't mean it will do that smoothly with DRM on top of it. It also doesn't mean that most users have equally capable hardware, since it might not be accelerated in hardware. While pretty much any device today will do 1080p H.264 with hardware acceleration. Have you ever tried explaining these nuances to customers who says their movie playback is terrible, if so, I think you would reach the same conclusion as those providers. Youtube is free and doesn't really have the same issue as people don't expect to be able to contact Youtube support and complain about quality.

> While I only have 2 choices, and those are the same two worldwide, I easily have 3 good ISP choices and those are local to each market, so worldwide there are hundreds or thousands. That's exactly my point. Worldwide the neutrality in content access is probably more important as it is a much more consolidated industry.

Well, good for you. But not every ISP market is the same, not every country is the same. I wouldn't mind that somebody looked at how content licensing works, but me being able to access Wikipedia or any number of other websites, a lot of which might be discussing my ISP in negative terms is IMHO much more important than i get to see the entertainment i like.


>While pretty much any device today will do 1080p H.264 with hardware acceleration.

And yet Netflix won't give me even that.

>Have you ever tried explaining these nuances to customers who says their movie playback is terrible, if so, I think you would reach the same conclusion as those providers.

If that was the issue the help line should be able to enable this for me once I've specifically asked for it. They don't and I very seriously doubt that's even 10% of the reasoning.

> wouldn't mind that somebody looked at how content licensing works, but me being able to access Wikipedia or any number of other websites, a lot of which might be discussing my ISP in negative terms is IMHO much more important than i get to see the entertainment i like.

My point isn't that net neutrality isn't extremely important. My point is that having Amazon and Netflix fighting for net neutrality while being so blatently anti-consumer is hypocrisy.


> And yet Netflix won't give me even that.

Cancel Netflix then.


I'm considering it. But it means having no legal source for House of Cards. It's like saying "stop going to Wikipedia" if the problem is that lack of net neutrality means you don't have a decent connection to it.


You can buy House of Cards on DVD or Bluray ;)

It also gets broadcasted on TV here in Germany.


So my options are another technology that intentionally and arbitrarily only works on some devices or move to Germany?


You can rip DVDs to .mkv files using MakeMKV and play them on nearly every device.

I only know that this is legal in Germany though.


I don't even own a device that can read a DVD anymore but even if I did that's a 20+ year old technology that's only readable on Linux because someone broke the encryption specifically designed to disallow it. Hardly an example of how content providers support reasonable options for all users. Blu-ray is worse. I've never owned a device capable of reading it and the playback restrictions are even harsher.


> that's only readable on Linux because someone broke the encryption specifically designed to disallow it.

At least it's readable with FOSS (unlike Netflix). Even RMS approves it ;)

> Hardly an example of how content providers support reasonable options for all users.

Agreed! But they won't provide an easier option if we'll just accept DRM anyway.


>Agreed! But they won't provide an easier option if we'll just accept DRM anyway.

Oh sure I think we should break DRM any chance we get and fully support the DVD and Blu-ray reversing efforts. If there was someone breaking the Netflix DRM I'd support that too (and use it probably). But my argument is that just like we should regulate ISPs so they can't prioritize traffic we should regulate streaming services so they can't block platforms. In some jurisdictions we've gone the complete opposite way and started regulating that breaking DRM is illegal. That's the nail in the coffin of content being able to enter the public domain or having fair use exceptions.


One is a choice between produced entertainment content, and the other is free speech/ basic communication.


Can I ask where you live that you have 3! good ISP choices?


I'm in Portugal but it's probably common throughout Europe. In urban areas having at least 2 and often 3 providers that can give you a reasonably priced 50 or 100Mb/s connection is common these days. Rural areas are harder but it's actually improving a bit. I've recently been upgraded from a flakey 8Mb/s ADSL with <1Mb/s upload to 100Mb/s symmetrical over fiber in an agricultural area where previously there wasn't much competition between ISPs. I think the combination of LTE offerings and cheaper fiber technology may have tipped the scales making a simple fibre installation on existing telephone poles an attractive proposition for the ISP.


Yeah, in the US, you usually get a "choice" of: cable, dsl or dialup. Dsl can't usually do better then 5/1 (anywhere I've lived, at least). And the cable companies pretty much have split the country between themselves. Only 1 truly high speed isp is not a choice!


Where have you lived? I've had AT&T U-Verse (DSL) in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Greensboro, with speeds of 18/1.5 and 40/6.


I live in UK, city in the North East, and there's at least 5 major ISPs(BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, PlusNet) available here, plus there will be a plethora of smaller ones which are subleasing from the larger ones(so I can get broadband from the same company that I get electricity from, but they are most likely subleasing from BT)


Same in Norway as well. I can think of at least 5 ISPs offering at least 60Mb/s down, but there are probably smaller companies I haven't thought of.


Possibly Europe. I have tons of choices in Germany.


Bucharest and also 3 fairly solid choices.


lived in Australia for more than 10+ years, I can easily name 6-8 local ISPs there.


> First of all, the restriction on 4K has a lot more to do with technical limitations than anything else.

That argument may have worked in a world without HDCP and EME, but that's not the world we live in. The requirements for becoming part of HDCP cabal explicitly state that you must degrade the quality of non-HDCP streams[1]. This is not a natural limitation of the user's machine, it's an attempt to force users to use HDCP-compliant hardware and software so that they can view their content properly.

This is of course not directly relevant to the discussion of Net Neutrality, but GP's point is entirely valid given that Netflix uses HDCP and was one of the authors of EME.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-bandwidth_Digital_Content...


>The requirements for becoming part of HDCP cabal explicitly state that you must degrade the quality of non-HDCP streams[1].

Your source only seems to support that if you have a HDCP stream and a non-DHCP output you need to degrade the quality. Is there actually a requirement that if I try to view my 4K family video that I captured with my own camera on a non-HDCP 4K projector that the content needs to be degraded? That would be a whole other can of worms of anti-competition. Where not even the argument that you can vote with your wallet would work (flimsy as it originally is anyway).


Yeah, that was badly worded on my part. I meant that they have to degrade HDCP content if it's not being played through HDCP. Note that any combination of {graphics card,HDMI controller,OS,browser,monitor} may result in not being able to play HDCP content and thus your quality being degraded. The point stands that the reason for doing the degradation in that instance is because of DRM and not because of technical issues.

I personally am not sure how I feel about artificially removing the ability to access high-quality streams based on the current machine I'm accessing a site over (which is what GP was talking about) -- it feels user-hostile because if I want to download the stream then I can't download it in any quality available. But it's not as bad as full-blown DRM. My mentioning of DRM was to point out that not all auto-degradation is benign.


> That argument may have worked in a world without HDCP and EME, but that's not the world we live in.

My argument weren't with regards to DRM. Simply with regards to performance, since we are talking quite a few more bits than 1080p. Indeed HDCP and especially EME has been great for enabling better playback experiences in browsers. But that still doesn't help with support for H.265 and for the increased bitrates needed for 4K.


My point was that not all reasons for degrading of playback are benign. HDCP has those requirements specifically to coerce users into purchasing HDCP-compliant hardware in order to be able to restrict their viewing of media.

Whether or not you agree with DRM (I certainly don't), "technical limitations" is not a panacea for all of the shady things that the DRM cabal is doing. At some point you have to say flat-out that you have no problem with artificially limiting what content users can access, and removing their agency to view content they've rightfully purchased (or exercise their rights under copyright law such as public domain and fair use). While it might be "just" video and audio today, the future doesn't look bright from my perspective (not to mention that YouTube has shown to be a very strong platform for independent media).


Except if Netflix provides a bad experience, I can just switch to a different provider.

If my ISP throttles certain "services" - I literally have no other option beyond dial-up which I don't actually consider an option. The barrier to entry for a new ISP is a mountain. The barrier to entry to startup a new video service is minuscule in comparison. I could literally have a new video streaming service up in a week. Granted it wouldn't have nearly the features or content of something like a Netflix in a week, but creating a competitor wouldn't be hard if they started abusing their current market position.

The whole point here is ISPs should be the dumb pipes to carry our traffic. I don't want my ISP owning content (although that ship has sailed) anymore than I want GM to start owning public roads. "Oh, you drive a Ford? Sorry, you can't use the freeway, you'll need to take back roads."

In the same vein, if GM decided to just stop offering air conditioning in their cars, I'd go buy a Ford.

It's funny, the insanity of that in the real world would have people marching on capital hill with shotguns and pitchforks. Yet when it's "the internet" the general populace doesn't even see how badly they're being swindled.


>Except if Netflix provides a bad experience, I can just switch to a different provider.

In this market there are Netflix, Prime Video, and maybe Hulu across the whole planet. It's actually a much more consolidated market than ISPs. It just so happens that in the US the ISP situation is so dire you often only have 1 ISP per area. In Europe for example that's rare.

>The barrier to entry to startup a new video service is minuscule in comparison. I could literally have a new video streaming service up in a week. Granted it wouldn't have nearly the features or content of something like a Netflix in a week, but creating a competitor wouldn't be hard if they started abusing their current market position.

I'd argue the complete opposite. It's much easier to start a new and profitable ISP by installing a small amount of infrastructure in a dense area than to start a streaming service. When you start a new streaming service you have no content and thus can get no clients and thus can get no content licenses. It's a chicken and egg problem that leads to natural monopolies from network effects. When the content is now even being created by those same streaming services it's even worse. Good luck getting a content license from Netflix to be able to stream House of Cards.

But as I stated I fully agree with net neutrality and agree with you that it's a huge issue that the general population doesn't understand the full importance of. I just find it a hypocrisy that the same companies that want to build anti-consumer monopolies in other areas are fighting for net neutrality because it fits their interests.


I think what you'll find is that many, many people in the US live in cities like mine with regulated internet access that would make it practically impossible to "installing a small amount of infrastructure in a dense area".

If Google couldn't muscle their way into breaking Comcast's monopoly in my town, I don't see how some new upstart is going to do it.


Net neutrality won't fix that and that problem seems to be particularly serious in the US and not nearly as much everywhere else. We should fix all these issues, neutrality of networks, neutrality of devices and reasonable competition for ISPs. But saying that because the US has particularly bad competition between ISPs that the problem of the worldwide centralization in 2 or 3 streaming providers forcing lack of choice in devices isn't serious is the typical "the internet = the US" bubble.



Perfectly put. Quoting here as it's short enough:

@Pinboard Net neutrality is about making sure the cable monopolies can’t play favorites among the Internet monopolies


The distinction with the cable monopolies is that there are externalities to the production of internet capability, where that doesn't really exist with the content production in your example.

The natural monopoly argument exists much more strongly for the ISPs because, as part of the technology, they actually require physical installations of wires et. al. all across your neighborhood, city, etc. It would not be feasible to have 100s of these going up in your city -- you'd live in a "Brazil: The Movie"-like scenario of wires every which way. Also, a lot of these use old -- and often government-owned -- infrastructure, which are also not in infinite supply.

Conversely, in the content production-case, if Netflix doesn't want you to watch their content on a certain device, that has ZERO impact on how you can watch other people's content on your device. In fact, part of their reason for aggressviely pursuing their own content is that they can now distribute it globally and not be tied to all kinds of geographical licensing squabbles with traditional content providers.

So, you are right that Netflix has a natural monopoly on Netflix-owned content. But the ISPs have a natural monopoly over internet infrastructure, not just on the internet infrastructure they provide.


>So, you are right that Netflix has a natural monopoly on Netflix-owned content. But the ISPs have a natural monopoly over internet infrastructure, not just on the internet infrastructure they provide.

Netflix has more of a monopoly than just their own content. Network effects make it so that I won't be subscribing to 10 different streaming services so their monopoly grows naturally because customers want a single streaming provider and content providers need access to a big pool of viewers. That's actually much harder to break than the ISP monopoly because you can easily start a new ISP by building small amounts of infrastructure in a single dense area whereas you can't do the same for the content over those same wires because those people while geographically homogenous will be quite varied in terms of tastes. You can try to build a niche streaming service for a specific type of content but it has to be very appealing for people to be willing to have yet another subscription. But we don't need to conjecture it's evident from reality. There are hundreds of ISPs worldwide and only 2 or 3 relevant streaming providers.


For me, it comes down to ease of switching. Most Americans have a single broadband option but there are numerous competitors in each category of content provider, and the latter don't tend to require long contracts.


I sincerely wish people would get as upset about the regional monopolies ISP's have as they do about net neutrality. We have a serious problem the way things are now, and they just want to make it worse by grabbing even more power.


In a way these American ISPs are overplaying their hand. If the situation was one with more choice or even just less rent seeking we wouldn't have such a drastic "what could go wrong" case for net neutrality. So thanks from Europe where the situation isn't nearly as serious and we could end up much worse without this cautionary tale.

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