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Ajit Pai is right (stratechery.com)
211 points by OberstKrueger 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 295 comments



This person misses the entire point of the argument for Net Neutrality - Yes it can be convenient if you know ALL of the apps and or services you'd like to use, however the entire internet being visible means putting small companies you have not yet heard of on nearly equal footing - giving them the chance to compete against the giants of commerce and sometimes (yes, sometimes it happens) WIN!

The beauty of the internet has been the ability for new things to pop up and create a real impact on the world economy starting with just a website.

If the rules Ajit Pai wants in place were to be in place when Amazon got started its likely Wal-Mart could have paid to simply make them disappear for most internet providers by "buying" the right to e-commerce traffic.

That's not a world I want to live in - and its not one you should want to live in either if you believe in dreaming and creating something larger than yourself


I feel like there isn’t much ‘clash’ (debate term) between what you’re saying and Ben Thompson’s article.

Ben isn’t attacking the concept of Net Neutrality, he’s instead attacking Title II classification. Ben puts forward a few arguments.

First, he starts off with an offensive piece of matter, that regulatory burden from the 2015 Title II classification has a cost, and that cost is felt innovators who want to enter the market and by everyone who’s deprived of those potential services.

This directly removes small businesses chance to WIN — the ‘entire point of net neutrality’ as you put it.

Secondly, Ben attacks the notion that things in our pre-2015 status quo were bad enough to warrant Title II classification and the regulatory harms he outlined. He does this by showing that no significant harm existed before 2015, and by showing that the regulation has no solvency.

Ben shows three examples of net neutrality issues resolving themselves in the free market before these regulations were in place, showing that these harms were already in check. Then, even better than just a listicle of past cases, he gives you a mechanism that disincentives companies from violating net neutrality. Because of their fixed costs, they’re not in the market of alienating users.

Small businesses still don’t have the chance to WIN — the ‘entire point of net neutrality’ — in 2015 regulation because more harm is caused by zero rating, which isn’t affected by the 2015 classification.

You make a claim that ‘the rules Ajit Pai wants in place’ would allow Walmart to buy out Amazon at the ISP level.

Again, this is an example of something that the status quo wouldn’t have allowed to happened. You’re ‘postulating about future harms and foregone opportunities’ and then creating policy, but we already have a robust system to stop this behavior. FCC complaints like Vonage & Madison River solve, anti-trust solves, and our media ready-and-willing to raise a ruckus solves again.

I should also add that Ajit Pai isn’t proposing rules, he’s proposing removing rules, and going back to pre-2015 internet days. If the worst example you can come up with is a hypothetical Amazon vs Walmart, instead of a literal example, even though we lived in that world for 25 years, I think that speaks volumes.


Pre-2015 rules were overturned by the courts in 2014. That’s why reclassification happened...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._...

Apologies to those that have seen my comments 10x in this thread. It’s amazing how uninformed some people are about how this all came about.

The FCC didn’t want to use Title II. It had a much lighter touch NN schema but Verizon destroyed it. The courts said the only way to do it is under Title II. If you hate heavy handed regulation, blame Verizon not the FCC. The funny thing is that all these additional rules the FCC has exempted ISPs from, it probably isn’t allowed to. But who is going to sue over that? Is Verizon going to shoot itself in the foot again?


No, the solution isn't Title II, but a new law. Title II is terrible, and should be opposed both by NN supporters AND opponents.


Title II isn't terrible and all the arguments that it is (including this one) rest not on the actual regulations adopted under Title II in 2015, but on either vague handwaves, regulations that could in principle be adopted under Title II but have not, or naive assumption that regulations nearly identical to other Title II markets would be adopted for broadband with the FCC ignoring market differences.

This article also ignores the problem with regulation under Title I in that it fails to recognize that the courts have both subsequently struck down both the case-by-case enforcement of neutrality principles under Title I and the ability of the FCC to adopt meaningful general regulation aimed at neutrality without Title II reclassification. Yes, one can argue that either the 2010 Title I regs or the pre-2010 case-by-case approach were sufficient, and that if they were continued, Title II would be unnecessary (it's not clear to me that that is accurate, but it's a defensible position in either case.) But the courts ruled against the case-by-case Title I actions in 2010, and the 2010 Title I regs in 2014. So, whether what the FCC was doing previously under it's understanding of Title I was sufficient is irrelevant to present policy options. Title II is, literally, all that's left for the FCC without abandoning net neutrality entirely.

Yes, it might be argued that a properly crafted new, internet-specific neutrality statute would be better than Title II. Great. Get one passed through Congress, and then we can discuss the FCC acting based on it. But in the world we live in, there is only Title II or surrender.


Would a law be better than Title II? Sure. Let me know when congress gets around to that. I'm not holding my breath.

Until then, Title II seems like the only realistic option.


Exactly!


Perfect is the enemy of good.

I'm sure there's a utopian piece of legislation which would be specifically tailored to ISP regulation. Unfortunately it doesn't exist.

Why remove Title II prior to getting that magical piece of legislation finished? Because it is PROFITABLE $$$$.

It has nothing to do with an intellectual argument about the merits of Title II vs. other regulatory control mechanisms. If it was, we'd be debating drafts of that piece of legislation, not the FCC's actions in implementing it.


Yes! Where’s the law? The money behind these moves doesn’t want NN. If a law is passed, this move by Pai is unnecessary. Sadly, it is likely any law that is proposed is weak and full of loopholes. But it will have a spectacular Orwellian title.


You can't compare the OP's point, that a tiered internet service would hurt small businesses doing business OVER the internet, to potential "new innovators" in the ISP space being burdened by regulations. That's an absurd false equivalence.

(I'm also lost as to how a company that had the ability or tenacity to compete with Comcast / Verizon would look at basic regulation requirements / legal costs and give up? That's a weird glitch with the libertarian worldview that I could never figure out; how a John Galt-like figure could be an unstoppable titan of industry but also be completely ruined by simple regulations.)

Also, why in "pre-2015 internet days" did we have zero competition / innovation in the ISP space? If you apply the same argument there, that pre-2015 wasn't any different so Title II isn't a big deal, then why can't we just keep it?


> Also, why in "pre-2015 internet days" did we have zero competition / innovation in the ISP space?

Because the Bush FCC repealed line-sharing requirements when they moved dial-up and from Title II to Title I back in 2005.

This means entrance into the ISP space is prohibitively expensive as you must build your network to get any client (huge initial/capital costs), which combined with the power of the incumbents mean no investor will be foolish enough to front the tens or hundreds of millions required to even step into the field.

Which is why most of the attempted competition is from public spaces (municipal broadband) which incumbent telcos and conservative organisations[0] heavily lobby against.

> If you apply the same argument there, that pre-2015 wasn't any different so Title II isn't a big deal, then why can't we just keep it?

Because the reclassification was the result of courts deciding the FCC could not actually enforce its net neutrality regulations under Title I in 2015. "pre-2015" was literally struck down by court order after Verizon sued the FCC.

[0] ALEC is one of the leading opponents to municipal broadband though by no means the only one, and "red" states lead the way in restricting or banning it


Last mile sharing was nice. You could get DSL from SWB, Earthlink, or whomever.


I don't have an opinion about what you and the parent are arguing, but could I talk you out of using the "false equivalence" phrasing? I find it creates more heat than light.

"False equivalency" (sic) was coined when a pundit complained about Jon Stewart's speech at the famous rally. Jon said that people who disagree have many of the same hopes and fears, and the pundit wanted to get back to being polarized. So he's misrepresenting Jon's statement as "all sides are the same" and then refuting it with "no, my side is better".

So for "false equivalence" to make sense as a refutation, the original claim would have to be "these things are equal in every way", so that we can just say "false!", but why would someone ever make that claim? Nobody ever says "this is a true equivalence", so we shouldn't expect "this is a false equivalence" to be a useful refutation.

But please don't let me stop you from pushing back on crappy arguments. It's great to point out ways that a purported similarity doesn't hold up! Just watch out for the loaded term.

(Likewise, "you can't compare" is sort of nonsensical -- all pairs of things can be compared, and they're almost always different in some way, which is why they have different names! Usually people just mean "those things are actually pretty different in the ways that matter here", but it sounds like they're saying "I forbid you to compare them" or "Those things have nothing in common whatsoever!")


We’ll just ignore the fact that every data communications expert refers to data services from the telco as “telecommunications”...When cable companies sell phone service over coax, there is no twisting of facts that can define that as anything but “Telecommuncations”, and they are therefore subject to Title II, and incumbents need to lease their last mile to competitors, just like the phone company. Period.


Thank you for offering this rebuttal and clarification. Reading through the comments I was starting to wonder if I had read a different article than everyone else, or if the regulatory, misnamed "net neutrality", propaganda machine was really just that strong. But you caught the nuances and explained the consequences of this regulation exactly right.


> if you believe in dreaming and creating something larger than yourself

Even if people don't give two shits about making themselves or the world a better place, most people do care about convenience, lower prices and whizbang new things, three things that would almost be guaranteed to disappear without NN. I can't even begin to imagine what the world would look like without NN, mostly because every website/webservice was small at one point. Try to imagine a world without Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, etc, etc, etc. And those are just the high profile ones that come to mind first. Need we even point out how things like the FCC comments page would probably be "too slow to use" without NN in place? What if you had to pay a "power user" surcharge every time you Googled a solution to a technical problem and it popped up on Stack?


There's even bigger problem that many people aren't talking about than net neutrality.

Look what Telus in Canada did[1] when employees were organizing a labor strike. There won't be anything to prevent this action anymore. Imagine if this would be used for affecting public for political gain.

Internet is the last place where we can still find both sides to every story. Once those protections are gone, it won't be any better then traditional media.

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/telus-cuts-subscriber-access-t...


I’m a weekly listener of Ben Thompson’s (the author) podcast, exponent, and it’s bizarre that he’s making this argument. Many of the last few episodes have made the point that over-burdensome regulation on Facebook would have the affect of harming small businesses’ abilities to advertise themselves along side large incumbents. It’s strange to see him make what appears to be the opposite argument here. Your point is well made and well taken!


But he's making the same argument that you say he was making on his podcast. Regulation has a cost.

The article literally states: "To believe that Chairman Pai is right is not to be against net neutrality; rather, it is to believe that the FCC’s 2015 approach was mistaken."

The FCC doesn't have the authority to regulate ISP's as the law is written. To get around this in 2015 they "reclassified" ISP's from information services to telecommunications services. This allowed them expansive authority over ISP's. It also applies a bunch of archaic rules that were meant for ma-bell and in no way apply to modern internet services.

If network neutrality is important to you then call your congressmen and tell them to pass a law that actually codifies it.

If you think your ISP is being a bad actor, then send a report to the FTC. You know the agency that's tasked with preventing and punishing anti-competitive behavior....


>To get around this in 2015 they "reclassified" ISP's from information services to telecommunications services.

telecommunication: Any transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, writings, images and sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems (CS). [1]

It sure sounds like ISP's should in fact be classified as telecommunications services to me.

[1] https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-s/oth/02/02/S02020000244501P... - Article 1.3


The FCC is exempting the ISPs from those archaic rules. Who is going to challenge the FCC on that?

So this guy is arguing that NN is bad under Title II so we should pass a different law to regulate it? So new regulations without a long history of case law? And that’s less burdensome?


Yes exactly. Then we have a properly written law to address the issue, not shoehorn in the issue into an old unrelated law. And that is much less burdensome.

The FCC is right now exempting the ISPs, but that could change under a new administration, and that should be greatly feared.


Want to know how these things are done normally when actual legislative reform is contemplated?

First you draft a bill. Then you have a bunch of people debate the bill. Then you have the bill have a section which describes how it comes into force, listing deadlines, target dates for various provisions, etc. That way you can phase the Title II -> Legislation transfer smoothly.

That isn't what's happening here. There is no discussion about amending legislation, nor has the FCC discussed implementing non-Title II forms of Open Internet Style regulation.

Because they can't.


That’s a red herring.

Then pass the law. Title II is the only solution until then per the courts. If the ISPs are exempt from the archaic rules, then there’s literally nothing but imaginary future harm. As where we’ve seen real abuses by ISPs. Pai is not acting in the public interest.


His arguments are the same. Regulation causes burdens. Government regulating enforcing their version of net neutrality is a burden on the market.


Just landed on the podcast's page:

http://exponent.fm/

only to find the top page fold is a giant ad for wordpress.com What is up with that?


I've been following Ben Thompson for a few years. His comments are usually insightful on both his blog and podcast.

He has a different advertising model. He has one advertised at a time. His last advertiser MailChimp sponsored the podcast for an entire year.

He also has a decently popular paid email newsletter. The only time he spoke about the number of subscribers was about two years ago and he had a little over 2000 then paying $100 a night.

He's worked at Microsoft and Apple.


> If the rules Ajit Pai wants in place were to be in place when Amazon got started its likely Wal-Mart could have paid to simply make them disappear for most internet providers by "buying" the right to e-commerce traffic.

Isn't this covered by anti-trust laws?


only if walmart and ISPs are a monopoly, which by very technical legal arguments, they're not.

having to pay off ISPs to the tune of millions for network access to e-commerce customers, prevents Amazon from ever getting started selling books in the 90s


>only if walmart and ISPs are a monopoly

This is false. Under US antitrust law, /monopolistic behavior/ (that is, behavior that tends to create monopolies), e.g. predatory pricing and very large mergers, is what's generally regulated. It's not actually illegal to be a monopoly per se, and you don't have to be a monopoly to fall afoul of antitrust law.


right but typically the company has to be close to a monopoly for the federal gov't to scrutinize their actions. and the bureaucratic/legal bar for monopoly has been contorted quite far from the common sense one, especially in the case of ISPs.


WRT antitrust, what’s generally regulated these days is nothing, nada, zilch.


I wonder if immigration hardliners feel the same way about lack of enforcement at the border.


They sure do, but that doesn't make it any more true.

"Assuming that the estimates are correct, got aways have fallen significantly since 2006. In that year, Border Patrol estimated over 600,000 aliens successfully crossed the border and evaded USBP. By 2011, that number had evened out to just under 100,000, where it has remained until today."

https://cis.org/Huennekens/Enforcement-Estimates-DHS

Plus hardliners are very much disputing that some refugees are fleeing from real danger.


> only if ... ISPs are a monopoly,

This is already the case.

Google's inability to push fiber everywhere shows the market is demonstrably closed. It's so cost ineffective due to corruption and in-place infrastructure, that it's an effective monopoly. This is why I have between 0-2 providers to choose from, depending on where I go in the US.


the technicalities I was referring to is that the federal anti-trust laws have been interpreted (contorted) to disregard regional monopolies. If Verizon, ATT & Comcast each own 30% of the national market, non-overlapping regions, even if customers in those regions have zero choice of broadband provider, the ISPs are not technically a monopoly in terms of regulations that can be applied.

Another problem is that anti-trust law does not really regard for speed/quality/cost of service for internet. If your home is served for internet by Comcast at 50 Mbps or ATT DSL at 1Mbps or expensive high-latency satellite at 3 Mbps, well that's not a monopoly even though Comcast is really your only choice for what is socially considered a normal internet speed.


it seems like that's reasonable. It shouldn't be up to the federal government to regulate regional monopolies, it should be up to the state governments.


> only if walmart and ISPs are a monopoly, which by very technical legal arguments, they're not.

And if the regulatory climate of the US was to enforce this sort of regs, which it isn't.


When Amazon first got started, Walmart wouldn't have had to buy ecommerce traffic - everyone back then was spending millions of dollars to appear on AOL and Yahoo.

Even now, the ISPs aren't the companies that businesses have to worry about. Most small internet based businesses are far more beholden to Facebook, Google, Amazon, or Apple for their livelihood.


>Isn't this covered by anti-trust laws?

have you seen any enforcement of anti trust laws lately?


No. Why would you think it is? Could you point to post-1980 precedent?


It doesn't follow that because there haven't been any large trust-busting actions since 1980's that the laws don't still cover the behavior.


Hope I don't immediately get downvoted for this comment.

Wouldn't the right "fix" for the issue be encouraging more competition and figuring out why we only have 1 or 2 providers . That way we won't need an extra govt rule to protect neutrality and the market will solve this issue on its own?

I live in a mid size indian city and we have about 8-10 providers ( not sure if they are just subcontractors or what).


> Wouldn't the right "fix" for the issue be encouraging more competition and figuring out why we only have 1 or 2 providers

This is a USA-based response.

The answer largely comes down to how much infrastructure is required to move a new provider in and how there's little incentive to do so. If you want to look at real world examples of how providers get choked out, look at the Google Fiber deployment in Nashville.

Google pays contractors to move lines on poles so they can install their lines. The contractors are usually the same contractors that move lines for other companies, but they all require every other company to make adjustments to their own poles before Google can. There are thousands of poles and the incumbent providers have been intentionally dragging their feet to complete their end of the deal. What happened? Nashville passed "One Touch Make Ready." This let Google just do all of the moving in one go, but it was recently shot down due to a lawsuit from the incumbent ISPs.

The current incumbent providers in many areas will fight tooth and nail to prevent anyone from moving in "the easy way," which means the only way to let a competitor move in is through building out expensive networks on their own dollar. Since the margins aren't that great, nobody is incentivized to actually go through with tearing up streets or building new systems for delivery.


We have only one or two providers because it is very costly to hang wire on poles all over town (or trench it under the street). Typically the only provider able to foot that bill is whatever company has been in the business of hanging wire around town for decades : either the phone company or the cable company. So in fact there are actually no new providers typically, just the old providers we had 30 years ago using their old wires for IP packets.

If you have 10 providers most likely they are not actually providing the physical service, just the routing of your traffic from whoever does own the wire onto the backbone. The UK has this model for example : the phone company owns all the wires (to a first approximation) but other providers market service and deploy routers in switching services. The phone company changes a row in a database to hook your house's DSL traffic up to whoever's backbone router.

The US does not have this model for Internet service : whoever owns the wire also owns the routing.

Under the 1996 telco act there was such a model (ILECs and so on) but it isn't common today I assume because the law changed or the telcos were allowed to complete with the ILECs once Internet service demand became sufficiently high to justify their entering the market.


So ppl in US are stuck with comcast for eternity ? Also curious what's stopping them from charging $500/month for internet.


> Wouldn't the right "fix" for the issue be encouraging more competition and figuring out why we only have 1 or 2 providers.

Because when ISPs got moved from Title II to Title I in 2005, it ended line-sharing requirements, which means entry into the market is extremely difficult (since you need to build your own physical network from scratch) and incumbents are free to grow as they please and "lobby"[0] against essentially their only threat: local public efforts (municipal broadband).

[0] nice wholesome word for plain corruption


Sorry, I don't remember this magical time pre-2005 where there were line-sharing requirements on cable networks and I could get more than one cable provider over the same line.


We can do both, you know? Net neutrality rules now, since we have practicality zero competition. We figure out what's happening with competition; typically it's awful legislation (that these ISPs lobbied for) that's at the local level, and high costs. The local legislation is being, slowly, pushed back. Google helped a bit in trying to get competition going.

We can drop the net neutrality legislature when it's clear that there is competition across the country. But not now. We need it. These companies are too entrenched to be trusted in any way shape or form.


Yes, that's exactly the solution. Its not more regulation, its actually less. Get rid of the barriers to entry.


that's a good and totally fair point, but which should come first?


Maybe net neutrality 'rule' that expires in X yrs ? Review why comcast is the only game in town.


Isn't Pai just advocating going back to the pre-2015 regulatory structure? Was the internet really so bad prior to 2015?


He's very specifically advocating going back to the structure between 2005 and 2015. And there were lots of issues despite likely way less emboldened ISPs: https://np.reddit.com/r/KeepOurNetFree/comments/7ej1nd/fcc_u...

The 2015 move was actually because the FCC had been repeatedly challenged by bolder and bolder ISPs over its rules, and the courts ultimately stated that the FCC didn't have the authority to stop ISP shenanigans and enforce its Neutrality rules under Title I in 2014, hence the reclassification under Title II.

So yes, the internet was quickly getting worse prior to 2015, and it was not a "steady state" as it had started from much more stringent regulations (than the 2015 regime) back in 2005, things had progressively gotten worse over a decade before coming to a head.


> He's very specifically advocating going back to the structure between 2005 and 2015.

The courts struck down the 2005-2010 structure in 2010, and the 2010-2014 structure in 2014. 2014-2015 was unregulated, but all actors knew that the FCC was going to come out with some new neutrality regulation, so no big player was going to put effort into exploiting the unregulated state and build an unsustainable business model around it.

It is impossible to return to any of the three states of neutrality enforcement that existed between 2005 and 2015. And Ajit Pai knows that, so if he's calling for that it is intensely dishonest.


In this very subthread, we have seasoned HNers, all of whom I've agreed with over the years of reading comments from all 3 of you. I believe you all have a sound grasp of logic, and I think there is some common ground you could all agree on. It does worry me that you all aren't having a productive discussion, and are seemingly talking past each other.

If such reasonable and knowledgeable people (as evidenced by HN history) are unwilling to drill down and establish an agreed set of fact and principles, what hope do we have at a national level?


Could you elaborate on who you mean, and what facts you think are unclear?

Also your account is 46 days old, so I'm unsure what you know about seasoned HNers.

Sorry if I'm incorrect, but I read your comment as trying to seed distrust, as if the issue isn't clear and no side is right.

This is incorrect.


So, you think that the age of my account specifically indicates how long I've been on HN? That is come serious lack of logic. I guess I could drag my old laptop out, and retrieve my downvote-able credentials, and come after you. I would prefer to discuss issues, but I guess you should be on the lookout...

Once Ajit Pai gets Congress or the Supreme Court to undo the legal effect of the decisions which struck down the 2005-2010 and 2010-2014 regulatory structures, then he can talk about returning to them. Otherwise, he's just saying let's not enforce neutrality, and hope people will believe the results will be just like when we were enforcing neutrality using tools that the courts have since taken away from the FCC, specifically pointing to Title II as the viable alternative.


https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-vio...

That argument is akin to saying "let's strip the regulations because ___ wasn't so bad before."

Should it be terrible in order for us to realize when regulations are in our best interest? Should we go back to cars without seatbelts because at one point it wasn't so bad? Should we de-regulate smoking because it wasn't really so bad in the 40's?


I readily acknowledge I'm attacking your metaphor and not your argument here, but I'm curious about your perspective because I don't understand it.

You really think that if the government decided to stop regulating car safety tomorrow that car manufactures would STOP putting seatbelts and safety features in cars?

You realize that seatbelts were invented by the industry right? You know all those cool new driver assist saftey features that are poping up in cars? Those don't exist because they were regulated into existence. They are there because the market wants them people want them and will pay money for them so the industry is responding to it.

Regulations are for addressing tragedies of the commons, externalities, and market failures. Your smoking metaphor is a GOOD example because there are externalities that can't be addressed by the market. But this belief that companies whole purpose isn't to give it's customers what they want (yes so they can make a profit) is bonkers to me.

Now if you want to talk about how a lot of ISP's have a quasi-monopoly, then hell yes let's have that discussion. I'm right there with you, and those companies have done a lot to try and prevent creative solutions to the last mile problem(municipal fiber). Those are the sorts of things the FCC should be working to straiten out.


> Those are the sorts of things the FCC should be working to straiten out.

I'm in full agreement with you. I don't think anybody wants these companies to maintain their regional monopolies. From my point of view, removing NN is like gifting the ISPs the chance to further reward themselves for maintaining their monopoly. Make a few extra bucks while the rest of us work very, very hard to try and get rid of their monopolies. That doesn't make sense to me. I'd rather put NN into place now, force them to do the right thing in terms of traffic, AND work to dismantle this awful monopoly that they have.

Let's not pretend that forcing NN on them is like giving up on competition, because it's not. Even with them handling traffic in the most neutral way possible, we still have: shitty infrastructure, high prices, data caps, hidden fees, awful speeds, shitty customer service, predatory advertising, over-billing, etc. It's not like NN is gonna stay and suddenly everyone is okay with only having one viable ISP as an option.


>removing NN is like gifting the ISPs the chance to further reward themselves for maintaining their monopoly

This is one of those things that seems to stick in the craw of some, as if when you "stick it to the man" you'll benefit some how. Notice how you used the word "force?" That is authoritarianism by definition. I think all technical people can agree that the goal is for our ISPs to behave in a way that conforms with the principles of net neutrality. Where we differ is how to reach that end. I am one that does not believe the end justifies the means, and that patience is a virtue.


Yes, the government forces companies to do things. How awful. Here are some of the many awful things the government forces companies to do:

- ADA

- Non-discrimination

- Antitrust

- Health regulations

How authoritarian! I'm glad that the spooky A-word is scaring you into letting ISPs continue their money-grubbing practices. I'm done with that business. I hope NN sticks around and their lobbying efforts go down the drain (AKA into politician's pockets apparently).


If that is the extent of your understanding of authoritarianism vs. liberty, that's your prerogative. I believe there is more nuance involved than your comment indicates. If your goal is to create more trump voters, you are off to a good start.


Oh my! Now I'm curious. How does whatever I said create more trump voters?


"Should it be terrible in order for us to realize when regulations are in our best interest?"

Generally, yes. In the USA, regulation should be the absolute last resort. And even then, Americans might wish to trade "terrible" for freedom and liberty.


No, the argument is worse than that because it is intentionally inaccurate. The re-framing it aims to perform is misleading and distracts from the issue.


> No, the argument is worse than that because it is intentionally inaccurate.

Seems on the nose to me shrug


It's inaccurate because regulations for neutrality under bases that have since been closed off by the courts were in place in the time period referenced. The current regulations were put into place to replace those regulations with ones grounded in what the courts had pointed to as the remaining available basis for net neutrality regulations.

So, it's “lets strip new regulations because in the past, things were okay with old regulations that cannot be revived.”


Likely because you haven't read any of the links to cases or explanations in the thread about the history of the issue. See the following summary or check any of the synopses in the thread about the historical background:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._v....

You aren't going back in time. The FCC will not have the tools it did prior to Title II enactment to enforce NN. This is WHY Title II classification is in place.


> Likely because you haven't read any of the links to cases or explanations in the thread about the history of the issue.

I have, so that's not compelling. I'm interpreting the statement in the proper context, at a practical level. We're a little far removed from the statement, so look at it again:

That argument is akin to saying "let's strip the regulations because ___ wasn't so bad before."

That's correct in context. Of course you have to start with some new (Ajit's plan isn't just remove Title II) and some pre-existing conditions. The consequences he posits are unrealistic because technical capability is different (but he won't address that). There's not much to say when opposition spokesholes starts taking a purposefully phrased metaphor literally as a premise. SMH


No, it isn't correct in context.

There's an implicit premise that it's alright to strip regulations to return to the prior state because you will return to the prior state. But in this case you won't return to the prior state (see the regulatory history I pointed you to), which is where the problem is.

If we were going back to the defacto 2015 internet, no one would care. But we aren't doing that. Pretending that we are by framing the issue as a rollback is intentionally deceitful by people who know better.


Title II goes back to 1934[0], and it is what allowed Ma Bell to stagnate for 50 years, thwarting any innovation and competition in the space (which is why we had to break it up in the '80s).

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Act_of_1934#Str...


No he isn't. Internet was fine in 2015 because the FCC was working fairly hard to prevent ISPs from shitting it up.

Please read the following: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._v....

As a side note. I can't help but feel like this comment is insincere - if it isn't, I apologize.

Understanding enough about the issue to believe Pai's attempt is a rollback indicates that a poster would have read or skimmed some of the voluminious NN-related material. In every comments section, this 'rollback' argument is trotted out. In every comments section it is soundly refuted with evidence, as it is low-effort FUD.

So why does it keep popping up?


Because it is a rollback

"The FCC will vote on Dec. 12 whether to roll back 2015 rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or throttling content, or from selling “fast lanes” so major companies can get speedier access to consumers. Net neutrality activists say such rules are necessary to prevent the internet from being walled off, where access is restricted by ISPs or where certain sites have an unfair advantage over others."[1]

Today, certain sites already have an unfair advantage over others due to peering and PNIs. Can my startup afford to put a CDN box and colo @ Verizon? Of course not. So my startup is already at a disadvantage to Google, Amazon, Facebook etc.

The end result is that Netflix will have to renegotiate their peering rates. How does this affect the consumer? The short answer is it doesn't.

[1] http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/fcc-ajit-pai-net-neutrality...


No, it isn't. Removing Title II classification does not get us back to the rules that governed the internet in 2015. The FCC issued the Open Internet Order in 2010.

Verizon sued them within a month.

In 2014, Verizon won the case, in part, but the court explicitly recognized that the ISPs represented a serious threat to the internet, as it was, and indicated the FCC had other options for regulating.

Within a month following the case, there were widespread public consultations. A month later the FCC said they would act. Shortly thereafter, the FCC went with the only option that remained: Title II classification.

The pre-Title II internet had net neutrality. We're moving into a segment of time where that is gone.

The rollback of Title II classification does not also roll back the limitations on the FCC imposed by the courts.

So no, it isn't a rollback.

Stop spreading FUD.


You're saying yourself that it is a rollback. It's just not a rollback to pre-Verizon vs. FCC. It's a rollback to pre-Title II, post-Verizon vs. FCC.


No, I'm not. And no it isn't - to say so is intentionally misleading.

The common use of the term rollback is to imply that a server or other system is reset to a previous stored state. We cannot get back to the previous state. Therefore this isn't a rollback.

It is a repeal, and not one that puts us back in 2015.

There is no going back home.


FUD is the correct call, sometimes.

http://clutchofthedeadhand.com/fud/


I think the issue is that it was trending that way. Comcast was purposely slowing certain traffic that competed with their own product. Many that remember trying to use Netflix around 2014, remember the 5pm nightmare. This lead to the discussion about the difference between bandwidth and content. It's fair to charge for more bandwidth usage. It's not fair to charge based on _what_ is flowing through "the tubes".


That's in theory, but I explained it here[1] why it won't be the same.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15799811


Why should the society pay for your dream to have a chance to be reality?

Startups with few heads have taken down companies that had employed hundreds gainfully for life, only to be folded into another behemoth with all the evil intentions. Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook where they decided to look into messages for profiling comes to mind. Countless examples of startups being open to being bought only to leave the customers hanging dry for options.

Do you agree to keep cost of shipping same no matter the size of your account (shipping one container vs. shipping thousands a month) so that some dreamer logistics graduate can compete? Would you pay to keep it fair? How about a pharma grad and keeping things equal against big pharma? Should you be taxed to pay for FDA approval process of every drug that a pharma student comes up with?

I am for Net Neutrality because doing otherwise turns paying customers into a product, and that goes against the contract. As an ISP customer, I am not willing to be made inaccessible by someone that I want to talk to, specifically when I am paying for that access.

At this point I am more concerned about Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/Google's ability to discriminate against people, than Comcast/TimeWarner/Verizon/AT&T's ability to discriminate against my packets. The later is hypothetical, the former is an everyday reality.

Freedom of expression is more important than cost imposed on buying the paper to write your expressions on. Net Neutrality is fighting over ability to write what you want on the paper you bought without the paper manufacturer consenting to your writing. Doesn't happen with paper, doesn't happen with packets. But the ability to show your writing on the paper to other people, their ability to read what you have written is being undermined, tampered with without repercussions, daily, every second of the day by Facebook/Twitter/Google/Reddit.

Net Neutrality is not the fight of the day, the battle cry is Freedom of Expression, fight against censorship imposed by Facebook/Google/Twitter/Reddit/YouTube.


EDIT: deleted


20 years ago it was a different world. The Internet was new. ISPs were new and there were more of them, with many being local and regional businesses. Technology for deep packet inspection and micro-prioritization of IP flows was non-existent or very inconvenient to deploy.

Today ISPs have already deployed technology to allow them to micro-prioritize and inspect all Internet traffic and are chomping at the bit to use it, and significantly more money is on the line. Today if ISPs are allowed to use this technology to pick winners and tax Internet companies they will do it.

My real long term concern is that this could lead to the effective blocking of peer-to-peer network capability on the consumer Internet. It would no longer even be possible for an edge to reach another edge with good performance.


Walmart couldn't have done this 20 years ago because they didn't realise how big or important the web could be at that time. Very few people did.


https://web.archive.org/web/19961229070003/http://walmart.co...

This is what Walmart.com looked like in 96.


Can that be real? With a link to "aolsucks.com" right on the front page?


They were originally only on wal-mart.com, and have held that domain since 1991. walmart.com was held by "World At Large" until later, looks like 2001-ish. Walmart's branding still used the hyphen (as "Wal-Mart") until 2008.

This is the actual Walmart website in 1996, although there's nothing there to be sold.

https://web.archive.org/web/19961231122316/http://www3.wal-m...


And you've entirely missed the point that there is always sacrifice; you glimpsed the green pastures on the other side and are convinced the only bad in this world is on your side of the fence, somewhere distant over the horizon. You're asking for an umbrella on a clear day, for the fear that its raining somewhere in this world and the water would be your end.


prior to the rule change in 2014 did we have such a problem? I recall the days of my choices in a highly regulated environment of being ISDN or T1. Provided I could even get either at my home.

The issue I have is one of perception. People are magically convinced that NN will grant them all sorts of benefits but no one seems to agree with what they are. I can almost guarantee one thing, continue as is and the rate broad band deployment will keep decreasing which it has been been sine 14. why even put up new higher speeds when you are limited in how you can sell access? where is the incentive? the real outcome is you will get what is legislated and no more.

what if an upstart wants to sell a service that requires a higher level of bandwidth and latency than is normally available. would you even be able to get providers under the current rules?

plus once they do regulate what the ISPs can do they will certainly regulate what they cannot. What if they decide in the name of "piracy" to forbid ISPs from passing some traffic. With the powers being handed to them it will be nearly impossible to prevent it.

plus I am a firm believer that unlimited is not warranted unless I pay for it. why should anyone invest money in delivering me content or access if they cannot sell it at rates the want? Surely if they are overpriced someone will step up and undercut them.

you want proof of that, go look at what happened to the long distance market, airfares, or other services, that long all had high prices and lack of service.

NN sounds good but it only sounds good because we only see possibly benefits and all other cases are ignored.


I recall the days of dial-up & DSL internet, where I had multiple national ISPs to choose from, as well as several local ISPs... all of which operated over phone lines... which meant they were covered by Title II.

This notion that everything was unregulated until two years ago is counterfactual.


Right! And the ISPs were subject to NN regulations that the courts deemed unenforceable in 2014. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._...


>which operated over phone lines... which meant they were covered by Title II.

Do you have a source on this??

I've seen this claim made a few times in this thread and have been unable to find anything to back it up. I was under the impression that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 dictated that all ISP's were information services and exempted them from common-carrier and the like.

The phone services themselves were of course under title II but I've not found anything that indicates the ISP's that created a network on top of the phone network were.


In 1996, "ISP" usually meant a third-party information service that used the phone company's lines. In the mid-2000s, the FCC reclassified DSL and cable lines as information services. That probably wasn't what Congress intended in 1996, but the Supreme Court ruled that the law was ambiguous.[1] That all but eliminated competition, so now "ISP" usually means a company that operates its own last-mile infrastructure, and talking about how things used to be gets confusing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Cable_%26_Telecommuni...


If we could actually get back to that model, having last-mile networking be a regulated title 2 neutral telecommunications entity (even municipal fiber, just maybe) and "ISP" be whatever service we connected to reach the wider internet, that'd be amazing.

ISPs could go back to being "information services", zero-rate, throttle, fast-lane, and generally do whatever they want, new ISPs could easily compete by popping up and connecting to the neutral backbone, and customers would have the ability to easily switch providers (just not the backbone).

IIUC, this is pretty much how the electrical utilities in Texas work, one local monopoly "distribution company" and a plethora of generating companies that consumers are free to choose from.


> prior to the rule change in 2014 did we have such a problem?

Cable ISPs were only moved from Title II (common carriers) to Title I in 2002, and dial-up and DSL in 2005.

And yes there were problems, here's a list of related issues and breaches: https://np.reddit.com/r/KeepOurNetFree/comments/7ej1nd/fcc_u...

Not to mention the move absolutely destroyed DSL competition (as its opponents had predicted) as it ended line-sharing requirements.

Furthermore, the FCC had Net Neutrality rules in place until 2014, when the courts decided it didn't have the power to enforce these under Title I.


Thank you, this is a great summary of many important points on this topic.


> prior to the rule change in 2014 did we have such a problem?

No, we didn't, mostly because ISPs didn't have the technical capability or demonstrate the intent to violate net neutrality. We didn't need rules to stop people from doing something they were simply incapable of doing.

Once they got that ability, and showed signs they would use it, we needed the rules.

The better question here is why are ISPs lobbying so hard for the right to do something they are also promising they would never do? Companies don't fight to overturn regulations they have no interest in violating. Or, at the least, if they do they tend to make a better argument for why that's happening.


Consider also that the major ISPs are more desperate for new income now than they have ever been. Especially the cable TV providers.

I would have a hard time believing that they are NOT looking to compete directly with us (actual information services); considering the massive advantages they are technically capable of providing their own hypothetical services while they own the pipes. I imagine they won't do a very good job of it, considering how easily they can throttle, manipulate packets of, introduce latency to, and just plain break competition (or anything they don't like). Or they'll just take the easy route and tax both ends and sell your personal information to advertisers.

Dystopian future, here we come!

The only silver lining I can imagine is that we may get LAN parties back. I miss LAN parties. Everything else about this very likely version of the future is pretty depressing.

Maybe next the water companies will lobby not to be utilities anymore and provide clean, and mostly clean water. $20 premium for water guaranteed not to cause brain-damage.


Come to think of it, will there be anything stopping ISPs from literally injecting their own ads into our applications as they move along the pipe? I can see SSL offering some protection, unless they get to pick and choose who can use SSL (which they will be able to). That's a troubling thought.


This is mostly very good, but it wasn't a lack of technical capability that kept the ISPs in line. It was the continued threat of having net neutrality legislation updated to apply to them (or worse, for them, having internet access regulated completely as a public service).


> mostly because ISPs didn't have the technical capability

The major UK ISPs have been deploying deep-packet inspection since well, well before 2014. And this is in a jurisdiction subject, at least for now, to the EU's NN rules.

They use that to throttle 'bulk' traffic such as P2P in the evenings.


The "rule change" in 2014 mostly served to codify as regulation the de facto practice in the US and in response to a US Federal court ruling that through out the previous FCC position on network neutrality.

Prior to 2014, ISPs in the US frequently tested the boundaries of what they could or could not block, with Netflix seeing routine "slowdowns", with the resulting penalty being typically not much more than a slap on the wrist.

The "benefits" you dismiss are the environment the Internet has thrived within since since commercialization of NSFnet in the early 1990s.


We’ve had NN since beginning. People don’t want the internet to become cable TV.

There is nothing magical about it. People know what the ISPs want to do and they prefer the pipes remain pipes and not become toll filters. There’s a lot of money for the ISPs in this rent seeking. Hence the never ending push to undermine NN.


> Surely if they are overpriced someone will step up and undercut them.

Then where are the real competitors to Comcast and Time Warner/Spectrum the consistently most hated companies in the US? Why does the US pay so much more for so much worse service than most everywhere?

Through extensive lobbying and regulators unwilling/unable to enforce the terms of infrastructure handouts the existing players are in pretty plum positions where they're able to drop prices a lot whenever a competitor starts to come in and thus starve them out. Look at how Comcast was magically able to provide double speeds for the same price as soon as Google Fiber started to move in in (iirc) Arizona.


1. Where is the incentive to keep growing?

Probably the huge tax payouts that they get to keep growing and then keep the same fiber rolled out with tax money dark to falsely create a narrative that there isn't enough pipe.

2. What if they forbid some traffic?

Yeah, enshrining that they can't is the WHOLE POINT of enforcing net neutrality.

3. Unlimited is not warranted unless it's being paid for.

It is being paid for. The US of A has some of the highest cost of internet for the lowest level of service in the developed world. You know that there are services in small farming towns in Romania (fantastic country, great food, great people) that have better access to internet than some cities in the US?

4. Prior to the rule change did we have this problem?

YES, it's why net neutrality was put in place in the first place. It's like you willfully chose to not do any research into the topic.

This whole idea that the market in any way helps the consumer is fallacious. The market helps businesses, which can, on the whole, help consumers when regulated by a sane government that has the interests of the people at heart. We're so far into regulatory capture at this point that we should be rioting. You cannot have a market with a natural barrier to entry or high startup costs that can in any way can be competitive without government intervention.


Did I miss some new proposal that Ajit Pai has put forward?

It is my understanding that "The rules Ajit Pai wants in place" were in place from sometime during the ninties or earlier, until 2015. That is, Ajit Pai merely wishes to undo a rule that was only in force from 2015 to the present.

Am I mistaken? Because I think the world you say you don't want to live in is the one we actually did live in for most of the history of the Internet, unless I'm missing something.


Verizon sued to destroy the prior regulatory scheme leaving Title II - per the courts - as the only workable regulatory scheme for NN.

Pai so happens to have been a Verizon lawyer. Surely no coincidence.

Edit: I’m not sure why I’m being downvoted: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._...


Mr. Pai's personal entanglements with Verizon aside, didn't the previous regulatory scheme only exist from 2010 on? Or was there prior regulation that the "FCC Open Internet Order of 2010" superceded? I'm asking because some comments seem to suggest the answer is "Yes, we already had this in another form before 2010" but there's scant mention of it on Wikipedia.


The fundamental flaw in your argument is that you're failing to ask one very important question. Why was the rule put in place in 2015?

Most regulations, like laws, are reactive in nature.

If our existing laws and regulations were good enough then why would we need to elect new law makers? Why would we even need them at all?

The fact is that people are constantly finding new and creative ways to exploit others and or ever evolving laws and regulations are a response to this exploitation.


Actually, I am asking that. Several other commentors have asserted that "the world changed" a few years before the rule passed, yet nobody has really explained in detail how. So far I've gotten a hypothetical about Wal-Mart paying ISPs to destroy Amazon, which didn't actually happen. (Though I haven't read other responses yet, so maybe there's something more here I just have missed.)

But, let's take a closer look at what you just said here. You are correct that many laws and regulations are reactive in nature. That doesn’t automatically justify them. As a matter of fact, it is often the case that the most reactive laws and regulations can be some of the worst, as has constantly been demonstrated from September 11, 2001 to the present day. I mean, there is a real problem with terrorism, but that real problem doesn't automatically justify banning travel from 8 majority-Muslim countries, does it?

At least in the terrorism example, I have some understanding of how terrorism exploits people, and that makes it possible to debate how to use the government to protect people from that exploitation (or to protect other people from exploitation by the government, in the name of protecting people from explotation). Individual acts of terrorism have been clearly identified and publicized, so it is possible to have a coherent public policy discussion. But in the net neutrality case, everyone either discusses:

1. Hypotheticals, like Wal-Mart paying Comcast to destroy Amazon 2. Court cases that... actually were resolved in court under anti-trust law 3. Assertions that new censorship will take place like we've never seen before, even though we'd be going back to the pre-2015 status quo.

Despite sounding flippant about it, I don't actually mean to. People here are pretty smart, so if they're all worked up about it, I must be the one missing something. I would just like someone to coherently explain what that is.


The example that immediately come to mind involves Netflix and Comcast. I believe it was these shenanigans that prompted the rule changes in 2015.

This article gives a good overview of the strategy Comcast employed.

https://qz.com/256586/the-inside-story-of-how-netflix-came-t...


The reason FCC made change in 2015, because in 2014 court ruled that with prior classification, FCC had no authority to enforce anything unless they reclassify the Internet.

Before the ruling, the companies were still respecting what FCC said (here are some cases that happened between 2002 (when FCC reclassified Internet as a telecommunication service) and 2015[1]), now the cat is out of the bag.

Also note that 2015 change essentially brought back what was changed in 2002.

[1] https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-vio...


So in all of the cases listed in your citation, was it the FCC that censured them in order to get the corrective behavior?

I'm cherrypicking here, but as an avid Bittorrent user, I remember there being significant debate with the community about the extent and methods that Comcast was using to "throttle" Bittorrent. (And I can honestly say that I was never impacted by them.) And I say this as someone who despises Comcast (regretfully, I'm stuck with them even today).

In any case, it doesn't pop out at me that many of those violations were actually mitigated by the FCC. E.g. Google Wallet got blocked, but Isis(sic)/Softcard was just terrible. By the time it was dying, carriers were letting Google Wallet through and then Apple Pay paved the way for Android Pay.

And actually a few of them (like zero-rating in the case of MetroPCS), aren't negative in my mind. I get the "startups can't compete" thing, but particularly mobile data cabs are still necessary today, and I'm okay with innovative, pro-consumer pricing models that get mobile internet into the hands of more people (which is intuitively going to happen when non-incumbents are the ones doing the innovating).


Net neutrality doesn't prevent data caps, all it does is stating that ISP has no business prioritizing/blocking one site over the other.

Essentially makes ISP just provide access to the Internet, and how you going to use it is all up to you.

From the examples you gave, how do you feel about blocking VoIP, tethering (even though they already had data caps, why do they care how I'm going to use the data allocated to me?) how do you feel about telus blocking access to site that was about labor strike by their employees, what if that would be used for political gains (blocking sites company doesn't agree with?)

As for bittorrent, question. If a company is offering internet connection with specific parameters and they then fail to deliver on that promise that's in my opinion a false advertising.

If they have so many consumers that they can't guarantee the speeds they provided it means they oversold, and they should be advertising it as a lower speed than they actually did.

As for MetroPCS I'm not sure what the zero rating thing is, I guess you're talking about them blocking all streaming except youtube. That's once again a false advertising. They do that so they could say they offer "unlimited" plans, even though they didn't.

As a consumer I want companies to be honest with me, what they are providing so I can know ahead when I make decision. Saying something is "Unlimited*" is misleading, because it's not really. The FCC also introduced "food labels" for ISPs which reduced their ability to lie to customers.


The world changed because the courts struck down the ability of the FCC to enforce net neutrality principles through case-by-case actions in 2010, and struck down the Title I net neutrality regulations that were adopted in 2010 in 2014. The US has had the FCC pursuing net neutrality enforcement for most of the time since 2004, but the tools have changed because of court rulings, which have left Title II the only tool left.


What most forget is that making them title II was a rollback in itself back to pre-2002, 2005 internet.


You mean Title II was a means of imposing rules from pre-2002, right?

I mean, ISPs were never considered "common carriers" before 2015, right? I'm trying to get the details straight.



[flagged]


I find the government regulating the ISPs to stop them from killing competing businesses is not increasing my dependence on the government. I do depend on the government to stop corporations from forcing me to depend on their products while stopping competitors from entering the market. [1]

Isn't a free market with competition what everyone wants?

1: http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/06/technology/verizon_blocks_go...


That is funny, because the pre-2015 rules were only put in place in 2005, downgrading from a much more stringent regulatory environment than the post-2015 one.

And by funny I mean nonsensical.

Furthermore the 2015 move was undertaken because since 2005 the FCC had been enforcing Net Neutrality rules under Title I, but Verizon ultimately sued and in 2014 the courts decided the FCC did not have the authority to enforce these rules under Title I.


Really? It was my understanding that this was part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Am I mistaken?


Likely confused rather than mistaken. The Telecommunications Act set up the various titles and regulatory regimes, but the FCC decides which regime applies to whom, and until 2002 (Cable) and 2005 (dial-up and DSL) ISPs were classified as Title II, which is where the FCC put them back in 2015.

And the reason the FCC moved them back to Title II is that in 2014 the courts ruled the FCC's long-standing Net Neutrality rules could not actually be enforced under Title I.


Couldn't something similar be said of companies?

Companies what regulations repealed: to increase the company's power while pretending to protect you, but in fact increasing your dependence of said company.

Why do you have more faith in companies than a government? Do you honestly believe that market forces can sway mega corporations?


Why do you have more faith in companies than a government

It seems like companies have been much more on the side of the angels than the government this past year.

They have been a much louder voice for equality and civil liberties.


Because I always have a choice with companies: they cannot be monopolies unless helped by governments. Startups and competitors will swiftly punish any bad player in a free market, thus compelling players to behave.

The proof is all around me: everything good comes from companies: cars, computers, my house, my heating furnace, restaurant food, hotels, etc.

Everything crappy and bad is related one way or another with govts: bureaucracy, dmv, borders, postal service, state hospitals, state schools.


First Title II doesn't make the government start offering Internet service, it is similar to FDA preventing companies to include poison in our food to cut cost (and you can be sure that especially the public companies would do that if they could. This happens when individual people are not liable and #1 goal of a public company is to improve earnings every quarter).

I have an exercise for you right now.

Let say you are pissed at your current ISP and don't want to use them anymore, who would you switch to? If you have 1 extra choice of high speed internet, congratulations you're one of very small percentage of people. If you don't have other choices (like me) perhaps now you see the problem.


The lack of choice in ISP marked is due to heavy govt regulation. They then added more regulation to fix the problem they created.

Which is my original point: keep increasing that power...


It's not.

I don't know how old you are, but I remember it was very different ~20 years ago.

Previously Internet was classified as a telecommunication service, and was following the same regulations. Any company could easily enter the market and provide a service. Until FCC deregulated it in 2002 and 2005.

First was reclassification from telecommunication service to information service, the second was removing requirement to lease the infrastructure to others at reasonable price.

Now in order to enter the market each company will need to lay its own infrastructure, but it is even worse than that. If a company wants to run its own fiber cables (like Google Fiber was doing) they need to get incumbent ISPs to move their wires to make space. And those incumbent ISPs purposefully are delaying the process.

In Nashville Google managed to convince city to pass a legislation which would not require incumbent ISPs action, and moving existing wires could be done while lying the new ones (it's done by the same technicians that incumbent ISP would sent anyway). And of course the city was sued by incumbent ISPs.

This shows how fucked this situation really is, because even Google is giving up on their Google Fiber project, and if they can't who else can enter.

Oh and nice bonus, is that Title II requires pole sharing, once it is repealed that requirement won't apply as well. That means any new ISP entering the area will have to deal with constructing new poles or new wells which is even more expensive.

So in short if this is repealed we will be in even more fucked up situation right now.

Oh yeah, also Ajit wants to make sure that individual states won't be able to impose their rules overriding it.


You forgot the part where the government paid for the incumbent's infrastructure that they no longer have to share.


How many water pipes do you have running to your house? How many electricity lines?

Do you want 5 different ones of each, so you can have market choices? What if there's a really good 6th contender, you mind digging up your yard once again so you can get their service?

Oh, you only have one of each, but still have a choice between providers? That's a great "natural free market", I must hear more about how it came to be. Do please tell.

You need community owned, or privately owned but regulated last mile access, so that multiple ISPs can access you as a customer, for there to be a working market. That means government involvement.

I might also add a constant fact: You are the government.


> they cannot be monopolies unless helped by governments.

So natural monopolies aren't a thing? How did Google, Microsoft, US Steel and Standard Oil benefit or receive government support?


Yes, damned that FDA and NHTSA for not letting me drink my raw milk while driving in a car without airbags. Clearly a power grab.


I used to drink raw milk as a child. It was delicious. I like making my own choices. I do not need to be protected from myself.


Congratulations. The other 99% of people do need to be protected. Remember, more than 90% of 30,000 of them kill themselves or others in car crashes each year due to driver error, in the US.

That number used to be much higher before safety standards were implemented. So while you can argue about specific standards and regulations, on the whole it's clear society has benefited greatly from them.


[citation needed]


Do you seriously need a citation for that idea? Why do you think govts exist? Why do all those smart politicians take those fairly crappy paid govt jobs? From the goodness of their hearts?!


The thing you missed is that internet providers started to realize they may be able to squeeze more money out of both consumers and large corporates a few years back and that began to change their thoughts about how to make more money with a largely unregulated industry and Net Neutrality was put in place to preserve the internet's ability to innovate.

Let's not forget Ajit Pai was just a few years ago a corporate attorney working for ... wait for it ... a large ISP - And its very likely he will be again when his term at the FCC ends


How did they "realize" that, suddenly a couple years ago? I am not doubting you, I am genuinely confused.

I mean, human greed is a constant, and the rules didn’t change from 1996-2015, yet during the same period you said that Wal-Mart would have paid to destroyed Amazon, Amazon became one of the most wealthy and powerful companies in the world. So... it must be something more than the rules, right? Greedy companies were just unimaginative with their greed until a few years ago?

To put it another way: If Wal-Mart simply didn’t realize some trick in those days, what information would the Walton family need to take with them in their time machine to destroy Amazon from 1996-2015?


The rules did change between 1996 and 2015. The FCC reclassified DSL and cable ISPs as information services in the mid-2000s, ending line-sharing rules that enabled competition and common carrier rules that were more stringent than the net neutrality rules that replaced them. In 2014, the courts ruled that the FCC couldn't continue enforcing net neutrality under the post-2005 classification.


Ok, so this is a pretty useful answer that's starting to clear things up a bit for me. Let me see if I’ve got this straight.

Sometime in the 2000s, ISPs were classified as Title I entities. Then in 2010, there was an "open internet order" that tried to enforce Net Neutrality in some new way, which the DC courts shot down when Verizon (represented by Mr. Pai) sued over it, saying that Title I didn’t give FCC the authority to regulate in the way that it was trying to in 2010. So then they reclassified ISPs as common carriers e.g. under Title II, so they could impose the same rules that existed in 2010.

So, what I'm still confused about:

1. Prior to 2015, were ISPs ever actually considered common carriers?

2. Did any regulation or legislation exist prior to the "FCC Open Internet Order 2010" that served the same explicitly stated purpose (FCC chairmen saying similar, nice sounding things without actually having the force of law doesn't count)?


Well, there were regulations in place, but due to a technicality, they no longer officially applied once home internet started arriving over cable/dsl/fiber as a networked service instead of dial-up.

Lots of people pointed this technicality out, and wanted to update the regulations to account for it. The ISPs, naturally, weren't too keen on that, so they spent a lot of money on lobbyists to say "everything is fine, if you add more regulation you will break the internet". Thing is, they couldn't really do this on the one hand while simultaneously selling the Waltons the keys to the e-commerce kingdom. They had to adhere to the norms established by regulations, mostly.

But 20 years later, they can pretend that there never were any regulations, and that these norms magically enforce themselves, so why regulate?


> If Wal-Mart simply didn’t realize some trick in those days, what information would the Walton family need to take with them in their time machine to destroy Amazon from 1996-2015

That this internet thing will really take off.


Forget Wal-Mart, tell that to Sears.


> what information would the Walton family need to take with them in their time machine to destroy Amazon from 1996-2015

Amazon was massively in the red (investment liabilities) until they had enough extra capital to start the 2004ish AWS initiative. Having dealt with AMZ techs in the 90s, I certainly didn't think they would do any better than Pets.com did.


and the rules didn’t change from 1996-2015

They did change, read through this thread again. Many comments detail how the regulations changed in 2005 and then why they did again in 2015 (hint: Verizon, the same ISP Pai worked for at that time).


I recall that L3 was shaking down netflix in that that time period. This is what I was able to find quickly...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/netflix-agrees-to-pay-comcast-t...

Sorry for the paywall. there are many sites that refer to the episode, but they may not all be qualified as journalism.


He wants to undo a rule from 2015 that forces broadband ISPs to be regulated the same way that dial-up ISPs were in the 90s.

The rule from 2015 made broadband ISPs regulated under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. ISPs that operate over phone lines already were regulated under Title II.

The notion that internet providers were unregulated in the 90s is outright false.


> It is my understanding that "The rules Ajit Pai wants in place" were in place from sometime during the ninties or earlier, until 2015.

No. I mean, I guess the complete absence of general broadband rules prior to 2004 might be what Pai wants to return to; but 2004-2010 had a pro-neutrality approach at FCC that he courts stopped in 2010, and 2010-2014 had an approach that the courts stopped in 2014, pointing to Title II as he available basis for the sort of regulation that the FCC had pursued. 2015 saw the FCC follow the court’s guidance and base regulations in Title II.

Most of the history of the commercially-significant, publicly-used internet have been under FCC neutrality enforcement, for which the only viable basis in the wake of 2010 and 2014 court decisions is Title II, which Pai wishes to abandon.


You're right that the rules have only been in place since 2015, but you're wrong that we live the the same world we always have. The world has changed, and the rules should change along with it.


Once you have clarified 'regulations', the parties involved will take advantage of them. This change is a clarification the other way that would explicitly allow activities that in the past were not encouraged.


Okay, how did it change?


The world that was going away, and as such, we needed to enact the rules to preserve it.

If one wants things to stay the way they were back then, they would want these rules to stay in place, to ensure that. Without these rules, there is absolutely nothing to stop that from going away. In fact, Comcast has already started planning for paid prioritization lanes.

If the ISPs had no intention of violating NN, they would not be lobbying so hard for the repeal of NN.


2015 is a misleading goalpost. The problems that were tied up in the courts and led to a FINAL decision in 2015, started a decade earlier.


Ajit Pai isn't right, but here's why it doesn't even matter: he's ignoring the will of the people.

Under his chairmanship the FCC has (1)intentionally made it more difficult to comment on proceedings, (2) ignored the blatant and illegal automated responses that flooded the comment system without the knowledge of the people whose names were used, (3) tried to suppress participation by faking a DDOS, (4) obstructed investigations into both #2 and #3, (5) used debunked claims with debunked data to justify a rules change, and (6) come right out said that comments would be ignored because they didn't contradict the debunked data.

They are lying, and the ISP-backed pundits that write articles like this are lying too.

The one and only remedy to Net Neutrality is robust competition, but we waved bye-bye to that long ago. ISPs have government-granted monopolies (or duopolies), and they are vertically integrated.

We need the protection of NN, it's the only thing keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive in this country.


>We need the protection of NN, it's the only thing keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive in this country

Maybe in startup land, but this is blatantly untrue. The entrepreneurial spirit is doing just fine, it's just that people are starting unsexy sustainable small businesses and not SV-style startups. Losing NN isn't going to be an existential crisis for a lot of businesses like that, although it would most likely still be painful.

No disagreements on your larger points regarding the FCC and NN. It's disgusting that there's so much widespread dislike among the populace for the ISP-centric direction everything is going.


The major issue with this "robust competition" (which I would tend to agree with) What do you do when one entity (perhaps unfairly, or with taxpayer's dollars) already been given one heck of an upper-hand? What if they've lobbied to make it impossible for you to dig in the ground and run your "tubes" along side theirs?

Has Comcast proven that they're open to "robust competition"? If I could somehow find another way to pipe data into someone's home, do you think Comcast would _not_ try to find some way to litigate against it? For an industry that started as a community shared antenna, what do you think they'd do to another group that tried to do basically the same thing? (read the result of Aereo court case for the answer)


that's what I meant when I said we "waved bye-bye" to competition. We lost control, now Title II is the only way to get it back.


> The one and only remedy to Net Neutrality is robust competition

Are you saying NN is a bad thing that needs to be healed by competition? Because that is exactly what the article is arguing. More regulation generally burdens potential start-ups, creates barriers to market entry, and disproportionately favors large incumbents? That is even when the regulation is supposed to limit harm caused by large incumbents, such as post-Great Recession banking regulation that only had the effect of destroying nearly all small/regional banks and causing a massive consolidation into what were supposedly already "too-big-to-fail" banks - making them only much bigger.

If we really believe that competition is good, then we should oppose arbitrary regulatory limitations and allow market competition to create alternatives to the theoretical harms we fear from undoing the re-classification of ISPs to Title II companies. That is only if we actually think competition provides better products and services for consumers than heavy-handed regulation.


I'm saying in another world it would work, but there is no robust competition and there can't be. Not in Comcast Stadium.

An open patch of grass is not automatically a level playing field.

Even the mighty Google couldn't break into the game with their fiber offering. AT&T shut them down with regulatory capture.


Ajit Pai isn't right, but here's why it doesn't even matter: he's ignoring the will of the people.

This is not ipso facto a bad thing.

The will of the people is sometimes evil and wrong. I can list hundreds of examples where going with the majority sentiment was wrong.


> There is no evidence of systemic abuse by ISPs governed under Title I, which means there are not immediate benefits to regulation, only theoretical ones

False. They've tried in the past I believe. There was something with AT&T and iPhone users around 2010 (IIRC it was about Facetime)? There were more.

Also the thing about Portugal and Euros. Yeah that graphic has been circulating for a while now, it predates this discussion. It's an illustrative graphic, not like a screen shot. Kinda like when you post a MFW picture but it's not actually your face when.

Also, as a side note, what's stratechery.com? I've seen it posted a lot. I read the wiki, but idk why I should care about this guy's opinion.


Redditor Lists All The Times ISP's Have Illegally Broken Net Neutrality Laws https://www.reddit.com/r/bestof/comments/7elqw7/redditor_lis...

Edit: added title


The article discusses this stuff.

That said: guess what? The wireless carrier world currently has exemptions from net neutrality. It's the wired world where these rules apply.


Are you suggesting that the desired effect is that the wired world becomes more like the wireless?

I suppose it depends on your geographic location, but I suspect many North Americans would say: no thanks.


> Are you suggesting that the desired effect is that the wired world becomes more like the wireless?

not at all... parent is merely pointing out that NetNeut doesn't apply to wireless.


And in fact Title II also provides a huge out for wired providers to ignore NN.

NN supporters really should read up on Title II, because they would be opposed to it.


Yes, and we want to do everything we can to keep the wired world from being as shitty as the wireless world.


Absolutely right. There is a reddit thread which links to a fairly large list of incidents from before and during the Title II regulations which clearly shows attempts and successful implementation of "fast lanes".


There has been plenty of documented abuse. It's a big reason why there was a push for Title II in the first place.

And, besides that, why would that matter? If there's no abuse, then the regulation should not be causing any burden. If ISPs don't want to do things like paid prioritization, and other uncompetitive things, then why are they pushing to remove the regulation?


So true. Title II was pushed for to resolve known issues and concerns. It didn't occur in a vacuum by people that were out to just have a little fun.


If it’s no longer illegal, would it even be called abuse?

Verizon sued to destroy the prior weak regulatory scheme. That’s why Title II was the remedy.

Edit: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._...


Yeah, and there was the thing where Comcast slowed down Netflix until they bent over and signed a deal with them.

In the UK, Virgin Media have a deal with Twitter and don't charge for internet traffic to Twitter. Three do the same with Netflix and a bunch of others. Net neutrality is already breaking.


Others include netflix which is why netflix started fast.com as a way of measuring speed to netflix. By making fast.com faster the ISPs would be making netflix faster which was what they were avoiding. Smart move by netflix.

https://fast.com/


I found this list https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-vio...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VERIZON: During oral arguments in Verizon v. FCC in 2013, judges asked whether the phone giant would favor some preferred services, content or sites over others if the court overruled the agency's existing open internet rules. Verizon counsel Helgi Walker had this to say: "I'm authorized to state from my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements." Walker's admission might have gone unnoticed had she not repeated it on at least five separate occasions during arguments.


Every single item in this list was rectified prior to 2015. This is effectively showing title 1 is sufficient to address these harms.


Except that at least two of these resulted in Comcast and then Verizon suing and getting to continue doing each of them because the courts said they couldn't regulate against those practices unless they became Common Carriers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications_Inc._v....


They were rectified under the FCC's Net Neutrality rules.

Verizon sued and in 2014 the Courts ruled the FCC did not have the regulatory power to enforce these rules under Title I.


Thanks, I was trying to find a good list but somehow couldn't.


> AT&T, SPRINT and VERIZON: From 2011–2013, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon blocked Google Wallet

Just curious why this is a net neutrality issue? Carriers have a say whether or not they can block things on the Google Play app store.

I believe this specific issue was the carrier's controlled the Secure Element in the phone, and wanted to license access to Google. No idea how this is a Net Neutrality issue.


> Carriers have a say whether or not they can block things on the Google Play app store.

Why do you believe this is okay?


Quote me where I said it was okay.

I was stating a well-known fact, it stemmed from a time Google was trying to convince carriers to sell Android phones. It has little to do with net neutrality and I think it conflates the issue to something it isn't


Okay, so you don't agree with it. And it may not be a facet of net neutrality, but it certainly is analogous. I've paid for a general purpose computing device, and I've paid for a connection to the Internet. Why should anyone besides me choose what I can run on that device? Blocking apps because they compete with services a provider sells translates pretty clearly across to blocking websites because they compete with services a provider sells.


Arg. I feel like articles like this are calling me stupid with some statements. Like this doozy:

"T-Mobile treats all data the same, some data just doesn’t cost money"

I guess I'm too stupid to understand what "same" means. Or:

"Zero-rating [...] Customers loved it"

That's not enough. The argument is about small providers conforming to T-Mobile. What customers think is irrelevant I'm afraid. Then the author goes on to explain how it lowered prices. It's like arguing the FDA shouldn't regulate food at all, customers love unhealthy food, and the prices are lower on unhealthy food, so everything's perfect right?

I will say I somewhat agree on the earlier part of the article. I don't generally prefer premature regulations. But instead of asking "why do we need these when ISPs are mostly self-regulating?" since that cat is out of the bag we should be asking "why do we need to repeal these if they aren't harming the situation?" Of course the latter question won't be answered truthfully. The real answer, "so we can violate net neutrality" (or the "spirit of" or whatever).

It's strange to see someone argue against being prematurely reactionary whilst arguing for being reactionary in the other direction for something already on the books. Want a different approach w/ the FTC or congress or something? Then do that first, and then repeal the rules. Otherwise, leave well enough alone unless, as I suspect, the true motive is that the rules are preventing things ISPs want to do.


Exactly. This is like listening to Trump talk about Obamacare. Oh, he agrees with the principles — more than the next guy! — but we’ve taken a massive step in the wrong direction and need to repeal it.

I lost track of all the slimy rhetorical techniques in this article. FUD about the “cost of regulations” by talking about restaurants in SF. Saying that T-Mobile’s rise was good for competition, so I guess zero-rating is a good thing after all (without arguing that it was specifically zero-rating that led to T-Mobile’s rise). Saying the “only future we have to fear” is one where these regulations stay... really?? Just because he has a hand-wavy argument they might be bad, or at least unnecessary?

Oh, let’s not forget, the argument that regulations as written don’t eliminate all possible ways to violate the spirit of the law, so they don’t do any good at all. Law can be updated. If there was a legal loophole that let people murder each other, would we say the laws against murder are pointless?

Zero-rating is not aligned with net neutrality, even if it’s currently allowed by a loophole, and if it benefits some customer or some company in some way. Hemming and hawing about it is just kicking up smoke.

The author wants to drive a wedge between the positions of “net neutrality” and “ISPs are telecommunication carriers,” and I don’t see it. Or he wants them to be neutral carriers but not have it be legally enforced. Or first repeal the current enforcement, and then talk about enforcing it some other way. Slimy, slimy, slimy.


I forgot another: I think at one point the author attributes the uproar over net neutrality to “the media.”


> "Zero-rating [...] Customers loved it"

Which is also disingeneous because it's obviously a rhetorical trick to get uninformed customers to form an opinion.

If customers correctly compared the zero-rating offer with a hypothetical package at the same price with ten times the traffic included, but not limited to a bunch of selected services, I very much doubt that many people would still prefer the zero rating.

The suggestion that the ISP is giving you traffic for free is simply a lie to get people on their side.


"T-Mobile treats all data the same, some data just doesn’t cost money"

I guess I'm too stupid to understand what "same" means.

It made sense to me, but maybe I'm the one misunderstanding. Let's try a hypothetical parallel:

PhoneCo sells you 1000 minutes of phone service, meaning that you can make 1000 minutes of calls without additional charge. But as a "perk" (to encourage you to convince your friends to switch PhoneCo), calls to other PhoneCo customers don't count toward this limit. You can still make calls to anyone you want, but the minutes don't always count against your total. I think it's clear what is meant by saying that "PhoneCo treats all calls the same, some calls just don't cost money".

Now assume we have DataCo, which sells you the right to download 1000 GB of data, but has a special arrangement with some partner companies such that data going back and forth to those companies does not count toward your limit. Again, you can still connect to any web site or data service you want, but for some subset of sites the data usage doesn't count toward your limit (presumably because those companies are paying something on your behalf).

Is it unreasonable to say that "DataCo treats all data the same, some data just doesn’t cost money"? Does it at least have a clear meaning? This is separate from the argument as to whether this is a good idea to allow, but I don't have much problem with the phrasing.


> But as a "perk"

And there's where you went off "same". It's abusing the term "same". I of course understand the author, but he is mincing words.

So yes, it is unreasonable to say that in response to "Does DataCo treat all data the same"...or at least you have realized that latter part ("some data just doesn't cost money") must always be present as a caveat. What it leads to, inevitably, is prioritizing the data on cost alone. Users are incentivized NOT to use the non-free side.

It's like someone saying "have you ever done THING" and the response being "I have never done THING, except for that one time". Just say it isn't the same then, otherwise it comes off as weaseling.


Rather than disagreeing about "same", we might be disagreeing about "treat". To me, treating all data/calls the same means that there is no difference in speed or reliability. I don't see it as automatically meaning that they are all billed the same. In some contexts this can be misleading, but I didn't think it was within the Stratechery article. I'm much more bothered by "unlimited" meaning anything but unlimited, and like the author, more concerned about the lack of a viable competitive landscape for broadband than with differential billing.


> It is worth noting, by the way, that BitTorrent users were free-loaders, using massively more bandwidth than the vast majority of Comcast’s customers.

I don't think that's how a service agreement works. If I'm paying for a certain bandwidth and latency, I should get that (to within reasonably improbable outages) if I use it 100% of the time or 1% of the time. If the ISP can't keep up, they should be penalized for it or change the labels on the thing they're selling. You don't see a cloud storage provider saying "you get 100 Gb of storage, but only if you don't use 99 Gb of it."


There's also the reality that the problem is peak bandwidth, not total bytes moved. It turns out... BitTorrent users use less bandwidth during peak and bandwidth caps discourage people from pulling down data they might not use in advance and instead grabbing it just in time during peak bandwidth periods.


There's also the reality that there's miles and miles of taxpayer funded black fiber that they choose not to light up so that they can claim a bandwidth shortage.


Can you expand on this?


It's part of this whole thing which is a rabbit hole unto itself:

https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/6c5e97/e...

tldr version: There were very large subsidies paid to expand broadband as well as the Universal Service Fund. The companies actually built out broadband lines to a lot of areas with minimal coverage and then didn't build the last mile because it was expensive and provided "separate but equal" services such as WiMax, UVerse, or other less equitable services.


Paying customers are "free-loaders"? That's so nonsensical.


There's no free lunch. If you want to start metered home internet connections with overages akin to cellular data plans, keep pushing this argument.

The old bandwidth-based pricing model has been inadequate for a long time. Net non-neutrality may be the only way to save it, which doesn't mean it's necessarily a worthwhile tradeoff. I think I'd rather have non-discriminatory metered billing than unlimited access to NBC News and RT but $0.10/GB to ABC News and NPR.


Well, yeah, of course neutral metered billing would be better than non-neutral "flat" billing, precisely because there is no free lunch. On average, the price should be the same anyway. And you can implement protection of customers against surprising bills without actual flat rates (allow them to go over the limit, but the next month they have to chose to either get a hard cap, or buy a larger package, for example).


It would be more like a buffet... "all you can eat" and when you eat a lot they shout that it is unfair...


> Then you read about how San Francisco requires 14 permits that take 9 months to issue (plus a separate alcohol permit) and you wonder why anyone opens a restaurant at all (compounded by the fact that already-permitted restaurants have a vested interest in making the process more onerous over time). Multiply that burden by all of the restaurants that never get created and the cost is very large indeed.

so...either San Francisco has no restaurants at all, or this argument is complete garbage.

> This argument certainly applies to net neutrality in a far more profound way: the Internet has been the single most important driver of not just economic growth but overall consumer welfare for the last two decades.

Two decades where Comcast did not own Universal did not own NBC, Time Warner Cable did not own Warner, HBO, Turner, CNN, AT&T did not own them, and people watched TV on about 50 cable channels and not at all on the internet, rented DVDs/VHS from the video store and not at all on the internet. Cord cutting as a viable thing for not just movies but also TV has only begun in the last couple of years. [edit]: the conflicts of interest in modern ISPs, being that they now produce and own huge slices of the content itself that they serve, in fierce competition with just a few other giants, are orders of magnitude greater than they were even five years ago.

> Given that all of that dynamism has been achieved with minimal regulatory oversight, the default position of anyone concerned about future growth should be maintaining a light touch.

A hand-wavy "regulations! killing business!" argument. Regulations have a purpose and you will notice it every time you notice buildings having working fire exits and your dairy product at the supermarket not killing you.

> I’ll say it again — who can be against net neutrality?

Comcast, who has tried to block certain services already.


Great post - I normally enjoy Ben's stuff, but he's really reaching here and I'm wondering where his mind is drifting with his articles these days.


so...either San Francisco has no restaurants at all, or this argument is complete garbage.

Or maybe you only get rich people and already successful chains opening new restaurants. Maybe you don't get a lot of first-time small business owners and innovative concepts because the barriers to entry are too high.


Sure, except just about every example of companies doing the right thing had the flame of regulatory action and fines burning underneath them. If there was no risk of severe financial backlash, they'd keep pushing harder.

Not to mention the huge swaths of the US where there is either effectively or actually only one carrier. These companies don't act nationally - they will target their efforts to desperate areas where their customers will have no choice but to accept their terms. What incentive would they have to "innovate" or "improve service?" None.


> Again, zero-rating is not explicitly a net-neutrality issue: T-Mobile treats all data the same, some data just doesn’t cost money.

False. Some data is not capped, while other is. So data is not treated the same. Q.E.D. Net neutrality means - either don't cap it, or cap it all. No preferential treatment. India for instance explicitly bans zero rating as part of Net neutrality laws.

> There is evidence that pre-existing regulation and antitrust law, along with media pressure, are effective at policing bad behavior

There is also tons of evidence of existing anti-trust laws doing nothing to stop monopolistic abuse. Data caps you brought above is an example in itself (mostly in case of Comcast and the like). Despite complaints and bad PR, Comcast pushes data caps on users, because they are monopolists and users have little choice but to comply. Where was anti-trust law to stop that?


His restaurant example actually undercuts his argument: despite the "burdensome" licensing and safety requirements imposed by San Francisco, the city is flooded with restaurants.


> There is no evidence of systemic abuse by ISPs governed under Title I, which means there are not immediate benefits to regulation, only theoretical ones

No, there are many cases including blocking peer-to-peer, hijacking search queries, blocking video streaming, blocking mobile payment, blocking tethering, numerous cases of blocking voip and even blocking a union website they disliked.

https://www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-vio...


I don't want an ISP to push ANY apps that won't count against your data cap. How does that serve to promote competition? How is any company going to win over Facebook/Spotify/Youtube/etc. when every single ISP offers an internet plan that doesn't count data when used with those apps? That's outrageous, on top of the obvious fact that ISPs will tend to push their own services over others, or price-gouge apps to be promoted.

More importantly, I don't want this to be left up to good faith between ISPs, antitrust regulation, and the media. I'd rather take away their ability to be shitty right now as opposed to waiting until Comcast/Cox/Verizon/AT&T decide they've had enough and that they need to implement slow/fast lanes and whatever crappy things they want to do. It's not like they've ever proven to be kind and trustworthiness. Please. The fact that people are still trying to spin this around in their favor is pure insanity.

There's ABSOLUTELY NO chance that these companies are lobbying to get rid of net neutrality THIS HARD and be doing it for the good of anyone. Garbage companies, garbage intentions.


How is any company going to win over Amazon with Prime free shipping and 2 hour delivery?

Being a big incumbent comes with advantages in every market. Even with Net Neutrality and no zero rating, how are you going to come in and beat Netflix, Google, or Amazon with their thousands of edge servers and exclusive content?


Those issues are inherent to competition, not to the infrastructure. The ISPs shouldn't be deciding who gets to stay or go. Their infrastructure should be neutral, just as water pipes don't care if they're going to my house or to a giant industrial corporation that has a stronghold over the steel industry.

I think my example is bad. I'll try a slightly better one: My water pipes don't care if they go to my ABC brand dishwasher or another.


Why not? Why shouldn't the best usage of a limited resource be determined by who is willing to pay the most money?

Does this extend to other industries? Should we force Fedex/UPS to ship at one speed only?


Because I don't want an ISP to decide how much to charge one service or the other, which ones should be blocked or not blocked, and which services to promote or not promote. They have a monopoly, and a conflict of interest when it comes to services they own (partly or whole).

Plus, ISPs can and do charge similar to UPS/Fedex. If you want a higher level of service, faster speed, better hardware, etc. you can pay an ISP for a business package, fiber, etc. That's similar to UPS charging for Overnight Air, 2 day, etc. But UPS can't say "Oh you're Spotify, I'll charge you more to deliver your mail." And there's also the fact that UPS, Fedex, USPS, and DHL all compete with each other, whereas ISPs have literally agreed not to compete with each other and have set up regional monopolies.


See this is the problem with the pro NN side. It's littered with factual inaccuracies and outright lies. ISPs, in the US at least, have not agreed to not compete with each other and there's no regional monopolies. The majority of the country has 2 or more broadband providers plus a plethora of wireless and satellite options.


Oh! Here are some lies for you: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/28/cnbc-exclusive-cnbc-transcri...

> ROBERTS: FIRST OF ALL, BOTH IN VIDEO AND IN BROADBAND WE DON'T COMPETE WITH TIME WARNER. WE HAVE TO START WITH THAT VERY FUNDAMENTAL POINT. THEY'RE IN NY. WE'RE IN PHILADELPHIA. THEY'RE IN L.A., WE'RE IN SAN FRANCISCO. YOU CAN'T BUY A COMCAST IN NEW YORK, CAN'T BUY A TIME WARNER IN PHILADELPHIA. SO THERE'S NO REDUCTION IN COMPETITION.

Is that by chance? I wonder.

Here's a map of competition: https://consumerist.com/2014/03/07/heres-what-lack-of-broadb...

Here's the Department of Commerce's study on competition [PDF]: http://esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/competition-among-us-...

> The typical person also has the option of choosing between three mobile broadband service providers at 10 Mbps. At even higher speeds, however, the number of providers drops off dramatically. For example, only 37 percent of the population had a choice of two or more providers at speeds of 25 Mbps or greater; only 9 percent had three or more choices. Moreover, four out of ten Americans did not live where very-high-speed broadband service – 100 Mbps or greater – is available. Of those with access to broadband at this speed level, only 8 percent had access to two or more providers; 1 percent had access to three or more. Only 3 percent of the population had 1 Gbps or greater available; none had two or more ISPs at that speed.

And no, satellite and wireless do not count as competition in broadband. Sorry. Wireless is expensive, comes with very small data caps (unless you're lucky enough to be grandfathered into old data plans), and there are NN exceptions in wireless (e.g. TMobile). Satellite comes with low bandwidth, higher latency, and higher costs.

Plus, according to the study, YOU'RE the one with inaccuracies. "For example, only 37 percent of the population had a choice of two or more providers at speeds of 25 Mbps or greater" 37% of the population is not a majority. If you have updated stats, please link them.

The ideal here is to have 3+ for 98% of the country, with options such as: municipal broadband, Comcast, Google Fiber, and Grande/Sonic/other regional options.


From your own cite:

>At download speeds of 3 megabits per second (Mbps), which is the Federal Communications Commission’s current approximate standard for basic broadband service, 98 percent of the population had a choice of at least two mobile ISPs and 88 percent had two or more fixed ISPs available to them.

And you're doubling down on nonsense. There's no regional agreements not to compete and your quote isn't any proof of it.


> However, as multiple household members increasingly consume video streaming services music streaming, and online games, the adequate broadband speed bar has been raised. To understand just how slow 3 Mbps is, it takes about 2.25 hours to download a 6 gigabyte movie. The same movie would only take 16 minutes to download at 25 Mbps

The FCC later increased their definition: https://www.theverge.com/2015/1/29/7932653/fcc-changed-defin...

We both know 3 Mbps isn't enough these days, and it hasn't been enough for many years.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/09/comca...

The previous PDF I linked, from their FCC filing, discusses the reasons why they don't compete with each other.

Sorry, I'm still stuck at work.


Ok, I'm still not sure what your point is here. Even if we use a higher limit my statement that most Americans have at least two companies to choose from is accurate.


37% is not most, though. And the choice is still between two shitty companies, usually. Right now I have either Time Warner, I think Comcast (haven't checked but probably), and Google Fiber. That, to me, is still not ideal. As I said in my previous comment, the ideal would be two additional options for me: a smaller, regional-based ISP, and a municipal ISP. Prior to Google Fiber, there was no fiber at all here. I had to pay Time Warner $90 for 1/10th of what I get with Google right now.

Just two companies is not ideal because, as we have seen before, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon don't compete enough to improve their infrastructure. We've seen that just Google Fiber alone is enough to get the current ISPs to drop their prices, improve speeds, and get Fiber going: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/04/googl...

But that's not enough. Google Fiber isn't ever going to spread enough to become widely available, and I think they stopped altogether, didn't they?

Maybe if Google Fiber was planning to roll out everywhere in the US, I'd be more okay with letting NN go but at this point, it's too risky IMO.

And I just want to make it clear that the ideal scenario is for competition to determine ISP policies and behavior, not legislation. But we're not getting competition any time soon, so I see legislation as a last resort.


> force Fedex/UPS to ship at one speed only?

Certainly not.

But we should prevent them from charging 10x the rate for Netflix discs and giving free shipping to Blockbuster.


Why not? If Fedex wants to be stupid and charge Netflix exorbitant fees while giving stuff to Blockbuster for free why should we stop them?


EDIT: deleted


Maybe in a vacuum it's a bad argument, but this is within the context of Comcast & Friends. Nor is it my only argument.

You're also misrepresenting it with your quote. I don't mistrust them because I don't like them. I mistrust them because of things these companies have done in the past. There's absolutely no good faith in their actions, as shown previously.


His restaurant examples of the burden of regulations aren't exactly swaying me here. Where are the examples of the burden the ISPs have had these last few years? It seems like knee-jerk anti-regulation without any concern for the specifics of the industry. In fact, these regulations should make it so burdensome to start new ISPs, but instead they have entirely separate legislation to prevent them.


this is a bit off-topic, but... ben makes a good point when he says regulations is about trade-offs, but the kind of knee-jerk "i hate regualations" sentiment in this article is a real turn off. case in point:

> "A classic example of this phenomenon is restaurants: who could possibly be against food safety? Then you read about how San Francisco requires 14 permits that take 9 months to issue (plus a separate alcohol permit) and you wonder why anyone opens a restaurant at all (compounded by the fact that already-permitted restaurants have a vested interest in making the process more onerous over time). Multiply that burden by all of the restaurants that never get created and the cost is very large indeed."

yes, regulatory capture sucks, but y'know, just kinda maybe, most of those restaurants that would have been created in a lax regluatory environment are exactly the ones you don't want? the kind that don't care about structural integrity or food safety or having a bathroom? he's focusing only on the costs, not the benefits, to justify his argument that regulations are bad. trade-offs have 2 sides: costs and benefits.

the problem isn't the 14 permits (which represent the things we want) but the 9 months it takes the bureaucracy to issue them. that 9 months, representing pure negative cash flow, is the onerous bit. make regulatory agencies issue/deny permits within 2 business days (so maybe it takes a month to get all your permits in place) and we won't see this kind of misplaced hate for regulations.


What worries me is that this is the easy to notice stuff that is brought up (AT&T blocking Skype, etc.) what is really pernicious are things like network "optimization" where there is a huge potential for abuse.

Want to influence the next election? Delay requests for a particular party's website by 10s each.

Want to promote your new streaming service? Make competing ones timeout on every 10th request.

Concerned about journalists writing bad articles about your company and your abusive practices? Make their site take twice as long to load.

ISPs are in a position of immense power and in the US there is inadequate competition for a pure market solution/consumer choice. This is something that needs government protection.


You wouldn't even have to be sneaky:

Get control of Comcast (for example) and simply block everything you don't want people to see. And block places where people would complain about it.

"The New York Times doesn't load for you? Too bad."

A handful of companies have a chokehold on the media environment. Net neutrality helps prevent them from exploiting it. And, right, maybe most wouldn't. But one of these companies deciding it wants to be a propaganda machine would create an enormous problem for the concept of an American democracy based upon an informed public. (Something we're already having troubles with...)


With you all the way until your last sentence, which seems to contradict the rest. When there is an immense concentration of power and concern about shady figures subtly influencing and corrupting things, the emphasis should be on diffusing that power out over a variety of diverse vessels instead of centralizing and condensing it further. Governmental apparatuses are just as, if not more, susceptible to corruption and influence than commercial ones, and I suspect the symbiotic relationship of regulatory capture and "government oversight" plays a major role in the interest in maintaining the status quo.

The best answer to our telco issues is to use government influence to make sure that the power is evenly dispersed among the people.

Babysitting the 5-6 major entrenched players is a stopgap at best and probably just a waste of time. Have to change the market circumstances so that the natural fluid, self-healing, and self-monitoring rhythm of the free market is in full swing.


So, I'm in agreement, but I'm not sure how to get from here to there. I think I'd rather a stopgap solution than one that would put me in a bad spot for the next decade+ while deep infrastructure issues are addressed.

What I really wish is that Internet was just another boring utility like electric or gas.


The new rules require transparency almost on a level with what the Title II regulations required.

Just as under Title II a company could not legally engage in these practices, under the new rules a company could not legally engage in these practices without publicly disclosing them.


Really the argument is what type of service do these companies provide? It should forever be just a "dumb data pipe". Many interests are attempting to bastardize this and call the Service something else to eek out more profit.

I as a consumer should simply be able to purchase "access". That is, I should be able to purchase a pre-defined pipe from my provider. I should be allowed to pass as much traffic in and out that pipe as much as possible to any destination without discrimination. If the ISP sells me a pipe @10Mbps then I should be able to fully utilize it (save for latency/jitter/loss to destinations, etc..). I am paying to pass _data_. It is akin to my power company, I am paying for electricty (say 200 Amp service). My ISP should only look at it as _data_ and nothing more. The moment they put their fingers into my _data_ they are not supplying me a service I paid for.


That's a pipe dream - there are no services built this way, not even the electric grid you referenced. If everyone in your neighborhood fully utilized their 200A service, guess what happens? Yeah, you all lose power.

ISPs are built the same way - resources are built out to provide service levels acceptable to most customers most of the time, but they can't be built so everyone gets all of their bandwidth all of the time and still be sold at consumer prices.


> In other words, it wasn’t a net neutrality issue at all: it was an early prototype of what is known as “zero-rating.”

I read and agree with most of what Ben writes but he is grossly wrong here. How is 'zero rating' not a net neutrality issue?

He justifies it by saying

1) It is common across the world and 2) It helped mobile carrier industry to be competitive.

On #1, some countries have banned 'zero rating'(e.g. India) under net neutrality laws.

On #2, it was not only zero rating which helped T-Mobile and the industry to be competitive. It was primarily because of BYOD and getting rid of contracts when buying a new phone.


"...it wasn’t a net neutrality issue at all: it was an early prototype of what is known as “zero-rating.”"

Zero-rating is a net neutrality issue. It gives preference to one service over others.


You post this when india just got the toughest laws on Net Neutrality in the world [1]. This guy is clearly fishing for clicks (outrageous headline!) and wants to invite the trolls to comment pages.

He's not right, he never has been, and never will be. And the idiots that upvoted this are also idiots.

[1]: https://redd.it/7g3aaq


The only argument here is "it might not be necessary, so it's not worth the costs." Can anyone think of any actual costs? Unfortunately there is no substance in the "THE COST OF REGULATION" section.


New ISPs will have to, from day one and on top of all other laws and regulations they need to follow, comply, and be able to demonstrate compliance, with net neutrality.

People with more of a network background will please chip in whether this is easy?

Also, more speculatory:

Free-you're-the-product services are dominant in large swaths of the internet. Free-and-you-don't-pay-for-the-bits-you're-still-the-product could be up-and-coming, but Net Neutrality regulation would kill it off as obviously evil. Who knows, it could be an essential stepping stone towards people being paid for all the data they feed tech companies. Maybe Net Neutrality will lock in free-you're-the-product indefinitely.


Obviously complying with net neutrality, unless the law is stupidly written, is trivial. Compliance simply means blindly passing on tcp/ip packets without looking at to whom and where they are going. The only way to fail to comply is if you actively stop a packet and say "hey there, pay a toll to go through". There is negative cost to compliance, failure to comply requires an extra layer of technology.


I really hate what seems to me a new trend of co-opting terms to muddy the waters and confuse the issues. This guy is not in support of NN. That's it.

Ideally we'd have so much ISP competition that NN wouldn't need be as necessary because the first company to propose splitting up the net would be laughed out of business.

But we've screwed that up, because there's hardly any ISP competition in America. NN makes sure they don't split up the net. Because we've seen before that they don't really care about the end consumer.


An article completly broken by it's fundamental assumption; a NN internet is some how more expensive than a non NN one.

What impossible regulatory burden is the FCC really applying to the poor ISPs? The reason NN has been the default for all these decades is it's more work to manually inspect packets to provide these artificial tiers of service and the ISP gravy train is way too good as it is to risk exposing their monopolies to consumer outrage.

The internet is a utility as much as electricity, and yet you don't see the power companies saying it's important for ~competition~ to charge variable rates for your power delivery (though, recent advances means this is possible so, once NN is killed expect Grid Neutrality to be next).

Sacrifice the internet for profit for all I care, just don't fucking try to say it's a good thing for consumers.


I find it alarming, and somewhat ironic, this article was removed from HN temporarily for it being repeatedly flagged. I don't fully agree with the article, but using a mechanism to prevent abuse to hide an opinion that you disagree with is akin to the forms of censorship net neutrality is meant to prevent.


Welcome to the HN echo chamber.


Yawn. Another libertarian who believes "The Market will Regulate itself." No matter how much proof you have to the contrary, you'll still have those claiming less regulations are better.

Companies exist to make money. "Social Good" they claim are facades. Because at the end of the day, if "Illegal_fine*percentage_caught < Illegal Gains", they're going to do it. And we have not much further to look than Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple/Facebook about that. And wouldn't ya know, those are the big players on the Internet, the least regulated thing across the world.


EDIT: deleted


Right now, they already do.

With NN gone, you could have Facebook not just paying to zero-rate traffic, but to actively "double-rate" or "elimi-nate" traffic to competitors.

Hard to get in if your traffic's killed weeks or months in. And it makes acquisition nice and cheap - "Well, nobody's using your services, I'll give you $50k".


This is already how it is de-facto. Anyone who has done web promotion knows that if Google decides you shouldn't get traffic anymore, you don't get traffic anymore. Platform control is at the center of every tech company's goal because it makes them the kingmakers, and if there's a killer new feature from an up-and-coming startup, they can and will shamelessly copy it into their platform and neuter the startup in the next release. Getting "Netscaped" is just routine business in tech now.


Yep. And its treated as a "Rights issue" with the respective companies whom do this. Of course, only the behemoths' rights are protected.

      "Google's not required to index your site."
      "Facebook isn't required to allow you to talk to people."
      "Microsoft doesn't have to allow your website to exist on Azure."
      "Amazon disagreed with your business plan as it competes with them. You're kicked off AWS."
Sure, they have the "right" to maintain their business. The problem is, when they run as Kingmaker, they should be held to a higher standard of law. We already have this jurisprudence, known as Tortuous Interference. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference . Lets start enforcing it, when they do things like "Interfere/Clone/Absorb" or "Embrace/Enhance/Extinguish".

Getting "Netscaped" should qualify under Tortious Interference, and should bring swift remedies. Because when the big players provide a stable interface and set of service, without discrimination, that levels the playing field for more players to get in and do cool things. With their Axe hanging over others heads, why bother playing the game?


Honestly I would have no issues with this if we actually had competition. My state forbids local municipalities from forming internet companies, so I am left with a single speed from cable company or a single speed, half of the cable companies, from ATT with data caps.

I can guarantee the cable company will all of a sudden charge more, for the same service, by tacking on tiered plans, while doing nothing to upgrade reliability, bandwidth, or really anything. Why would they? Where can one go, when ATT will do the exact same thing.

Ajit is wrong, based on the assumption that the free market will correct this issue.


Is this right given that ISPs have local monopolies?


Yeah, the whole comparison to T-Mobile is baseless.


Seriously, couple that with the fact that ISPs are now trying to own content as well.

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