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AT&T to cut off some customers' service in piracy crackdown (axios.com)
181 points by threatofrain 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments



The podcast Reply-All had a good episode about why this is problematic earlier this year.

https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/118

Excerpt:

ALEX: So finally, I find this website that is called the Center for Copyright information.

PJ: And what’s that?

ALEX: It’s a website that is run by both the entertainment industry and the ISPs, they’re working together. And the deal is, if you feel that you have wrongly received a DMCA notice, you can go to this website, pay $35, and you can appeal it. And if you’re successful, then they will tell your ISP they were wrong, and they retract it, and you shouldn’t have any strikes on your account.

PJ: You found internet court.

ALEX: Yeah, I found internet court.

PJ: So are you taking this case to internet court?

ALEX: I sent them an email and said, hey this person Cayden was wrongfully accused.

PJ: And what did they say?

ALEX: They didn’t say anything, they never got back to me!

PJ: (laughs) Got it.

ALEX: So basically what I found was a completely unaccountable system that was frustratingly opaque. It was maddening. So I decided to try something else.


> It’s a website that is run by both the entertainment industry and the ISPs, they’re working together

The entertainment industry wants takedowns eagerly enforced. The ISPs don't want to do work. Ignoring complaints is the predictable outcome. (As is AT&T becoming stricter about copyright enforcement after buying a content company.)


Anymore, the ISPs and the entertainment industry are the same entities.

AT&T owns WarnerMedia, formerly Time Warner, which owns cable networks, movie & music studios. Most of the entertainment Americans consume are owned or produced by AT&T or a subsidiary.


Which is why the next multi-billion dollar company is a simple ISP, the one charging $$ for delivering IP packets. Unfortunately, it is not sexy enough for VCs to fund.

I doubt it. Google couldn't break into this market with all of their money, influence, and incentive. I see nothing to suggest any other company could.

Regulatory capture has turned the internet into a de facto monopoly. There won't be any new players because they can be sued or acquired long before they become a threat. Our only hope is for regulations that prevent ISPs and media companies from being under the same umbrella.


I don't know about most of the entertainment. Now that Disney owns Fox Studios they're the other major creator of film and music.

AT&T has ownership stakes an a lot of companies which end up working on projects with Fox, Sony, NBC, etc. They also co-own several distribution channels with said companies.

So they absolutely have some control/influence over a sizeable portion of the media that we consume, even the segments they don't technically "own".


Don't forget NBC /Universal/Comcast.

> pay $35

And make a quick buck on the side too!


That's a bargain compared to being on the wrong end of a federal copyright lawsuit.

Considering that the 'process' doesn't work (assumming the folks above are correct about being ignored), what makes you think you won't end up on the wrong end of a federal copyright lawsuit even after your $35 donation?

Could actually be a way to identify the pirates with money to waste, ie, the most sue-worthy.

Joel Embiid puts in the work, trust me.

It's cheaper than most court fees (whether those fees should exist is a different story).

But courts actually... do stuff.

And have some level of accountability.

You know what else is cheaper than court fees AND this ISP 'court' thing? Giving me $25. It's about as effective as this ISP 'court' thing too, maybe more since I promise that I will at least tell you "thank you."

Then get sued for fraudulently taking people's money without fulfilling the advertised service.

Nah, the TOS probably has text buried in it that absolves them from any responsibilities.

And if not, there's always binding arbitration!

Neither of those can apply when the service itself was never actually provided.

"self regulation"

I don't think many people yet realize that this is what people are arguing for every time they say it's okay for a private company to not do business with whoever they dislike.

“...a completely unaccountable system that was frustratingly opaque.”

Oh, you mean they actually discovered “internet arbitration.” No appeals, no real incentive to be impartial, and a good way to take a lot of peoples’ money.


This is a horrible idea. by engaging in this system you volunteer your identity information which up to this point the ISP has not provided to the copyright holder

> you can go to this website, pay $35, and you can appeal it.

If you get ignored but you paid, does it mean you're open to make it a small claim case with binding result? Or would that only recover your money (after a fee of $50 or so...)


Someone (an attorney general, perhaps?) might be able to make a fraud case against them. Or, a class could pull together to pool damages, if a court approves the class (which I suspect it would).

Small claims courts are typically limited to actual damages; you're not going to get a heavy "punishment" fine added on top. So, yeah, you'll get your $35 back, minus filing costs.


Literal definition of extortion there.

I’m sure many of us believe in following and enforcing laws (even flawed laws like 150yr copyright), but are still made uneasy by this development. I think the source of that discomfort is - what happens if your service is cut in error. Do you trust ATT to have a fair, easy appeals process?

Competition in the form of space internet can’t come soon enough, not to enable pirates, but to ensure normal people have reasonable service levels and alternatives to unfair decisions.


> I’m sure many of us believe in following and enforcing laws (even flawed laws like 150yr copyright)

FWIW, many of us don't believe in following or enforcing unjust laws.


References to 150-year copyrights is (deliberate or not) pure obfuscation. We're talking about downloading the latest box office hits†, not century-old texts bound by unjust extensions to copyright.

Edit: in most but obviously not all cases


The story doesn't have any such details. Please remember that the most famous such case, the prosecution of Aaron Swartz until he committed suicide, was for downloading academic papers from JSTOR, presumably including many century-old texts, and that the current best system for obtaining academic papers you're legally allowed to get — Sci-hub — is on the receiving end of a series of lawsuits from companies who didn't even write the texts being copied in the first place and never paid their authors.

The prosecution of Aaron Swartz, a farcical tragedy, has nothing to do with this story.

It has everything to do with the story because it shows that most copyright claims are done in absolute bad faith and consumers are given no real tools to defend themselves.

Right now for the majority of people who get a DMCA, there is nothing they can do. There is no functional appeals process, there is no office in charge of handling bad DMCAs. Shy of actually going to court with a lawyer and attempting a suit, if a company files a bogus DMCA then you are boned.

That is an abortion of free speech and property rights, and the Swartz case is a perfect example of that. Most of the papers Swartz obtained were supposed to belong to the public, and yet he was sued into oblivion for DOING NOTHING ILLEGAL. He had no counterclaim short of going to full court with lawyers, something entirely out of his grasp and reach, and because he felt he had no alternatives to having his life ruined, he committed suicide.

It's not a farcical tragedy, it's a flipping shame for the human race.

edit - language


Whatever else we might disagree on, let's be clear that I agree with you about Swartz.

Without defending AT&T:

Schwartz was prosecuted by a US Attorney. If anything he is a poster boy of over reach of government.


Government officials seemingly beholden to corporations.

The corporation in question (JSTOR, a nonprofit) indicated their desire to drop the case several months before Aaron's suicide.

At has at least 2 things to do: it involves copyrights, and it shows that copyright enforcement (and strict at that) is not just about "the latest hits" (like with movie/music piracy for example).

According to the media companies it is just important to cover those century-old texts as the latest Star Wars movie.

People are exactly as guilty (and should feel exactly as guilty) download one as downloading the other.


Personally I can't feel guilty about it. Copyright was a compromise. A limited privilege of exclusive rights to encourage the creation of new works after which they would fall into the public domain and everyone would have full access to them.

Companies have gone back on their end of that bargain and now we have perpetual copyrights and new works will never enter the public domain. Deal broken, I feel no need to uphold my end by respecting the rights they were granted.


Sure. But it's not intellectually honest to justify downloading terabytes of the latest Hollywood blockbusters on the grounds that it's unfair that those downloads are treated the same as century-old texts. You're smuggling in an irrelevant grievance.

> what happens if your service is cut in error. Do you trust ATT to have a fair, easy appeals process?

This is where many of the arguments against government regulation break down. If you take government out of the picture, you're still left dealing with massive institutions and bureaucratic regulations. The main difference is that those institutions are even less accountable to the average person than the government, and they have obvious interests in tilting every table to advantage themselves.

Dealing with a corporate bureaucracy is dealing with a regulatory body that's been totally captured by that corporation.


> This is where many of the arguments against government regulation break down. If you take government out of the picture, you're still left dealing with massive institutions and bureaucratic regulations.

This is only true of uncompetitive markets. If Target refused to sell you clothes because someone made a false copyright infringement claim against you, you would laugh in their face and go shop at any of a thousand other stores. And for exactly that reason they don't even attempt to do things like that.

Moreover, in many cases the regulations are what make markets uncompetitive. Providing internet service to urban areas is highly lucrative and has relatively low costs -- if you could pull $40/month from each of a hundred people just for wiring a single high rise, companies would be lining up left and right to do that. But you aren't allowed to do that without also providing service to an area covering hundreds of square miles, including random farmhouses that are ten miles apart from one another. A competent government would instead solve that problem through direct subsidies to providers who expand into rural areas (or leave it to the market to figure out how to connect sparse farmhouses with some kind of medium-speed directional wireless or similar), and then there would be more competition. But we haven't got that.

Moreover, even when there are actual natural monopolies (like roads or rural internet) that can justify government involvement, what works best in those cases is often for the government to just provide the thing directly rather than trying to regulate some independent private entity with a 96% chance of capturing the regulators.


> "This is only true of uncompetitive markets. If Target refused to sell you clothes because someone made a false copyright infringement claim against you, you would laugh in their face and go shop at any of a thousand other stores. And for exactly that reason they don't even attempt to do things like that."

what you say would be true of (increasingly rare) mom-and-pop shops, but the relationship you use is highly asymmetric and favorable to the large bureaucratic organization, no matter the competitive dynamics of the market. target would be the one laughing in your face, not the customer.

the false dichotomy of preferring one bureaucracy over another because one is private and the other public is silly (in case it's unclear, you should prefer neither).

the rest of what you said is reasonable however. direct provision, direct subsidies, or removal of regulatory barriers in rural access would be better than the convoluted compromise we have now.


> target would be the one laughing in your face, not the customer.

Target has a thousand competitors selling substantially identical products for similar prices. Walmart, Amazon, eBay, Kmart, Costco, Staples, J.C. Penney etc. They have no market power.

By contrast, if you can't get internet from Comcast you basically have to move to another state.


and yet, target can mark up their products higher on average than the competitors you named (e.g., http://blogs.marketwatch.com/great-columnist/2012/10/15/reta...). so they really have no market power? why do you think target spends so much on branding?

really understanding a firm's market power and the competitive dynamics of it's market requires a bit more depth than noting that products are similar.

(there are also different forms of market power, but i'll leave that for another day)


> and yet, target can mark up their products higher on average than the competitors you named

Costco and Amazon have lower unit margins because they charge annually for memberships or Prime. Walmart has lower nominal markups because they don't use promotions, so all their nominal markups are their actual markups rather than regularly getting eroded by promotions.

When it all shakes out, the thing that costs ~$15 at Target costs ~$15 at Walmart.

> why do you think target spends so much on branding?

That's what companies with no market power do. They can't significantly raise prices so they push to drive sales volume.

> really understanding a firm's market power and the competitive dynamics of it's market requires a bit more depth than noting that products are similar.

On the other hand, when they're independently selling the same product for the same price...

https://www.target.com/p/lego-minecraft-the-zombie-cave-2114...

https://www.walmart.com/ip/LEGO-Minecraft-The-Zombie-Cave-21...

https://www.amazon.com/LEGO-Minecraft-Zombie-21141-Building/...


the misconceptions you hold about marketing and unit economics are hard to work through here given the limited time and space.

i'll just note that branding is first and foremost about pricing power. lower cost forms of marketing are employed to encourage volume.


Branding isn't pricing power. If you see a McDonald's, you know what's in there. It may not be a premium product, but it's consistent, and consistency is worth something.

Buying a branded product is really buying two separate products. One is the commodity and the other is certification of the commodity by the brand. People might pay more for a product certified to be a known quantity than one that isn't, but that isn't the same as market power because certification can be a commodity too. Some random hole in the wall can't compete with McDonald's on being known and consistent, but Burger King and Wendy's can, which is sufficient to keep their prices in check.

Charging more because you're providing something some competitors don't have is not market power when some different competitors do have it.


> Moreover, in many cases the regulations are what make markets uncompetitive.

Regulation is necessary to prevent monopolies, and monopolies by definition make markets uncompetitive. Antitrust regulation protects capitalism from itself. Unfortunately the Antitrust division of the Justice Department has not been doing its job for several decades.


Antitrust enforcement is a completely different type of regulation than most others because the number one problem with most regulations is that they harm small businesses and add fixed costs that promote business consolidation. By contrast, antitrust by its nature applies only to very large businesses and does not have that problem.

But if AT&T unfairly cuts you off from the internet, you could just go to a competitor!

> But if AT&T unfairly cuts you off from the internet, you could just go to a competitor!

If we pretend geographic monopolies don't exist, maybe


I detect the sarcasm there.

and you're right! you can totally bail and go to the competition... like HughesNet. They're just the same, right?

(also more sarcasm)


Not in many areas

Yep. We need government, because without government nobody would save us from the abuses of copyright law, enforced by the government! And let's not forget, there is no competition - because the ISP has a legal monopoly, also enforced by the government.

Yep, government regulation sounds great. /s


> Yep. We need government, because without government nobody would save us from the abuses of copyright law, enforced by the government!

That's an entirely different issue from what I was commenting on.

> And let's not forget, there is no competition - because the ISP has a legal monopoly, also enforced by the government.

You're forgetting that ISPs are natural monopolies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_monopoly:

>> "A natural monopoly is a monopoly in an industry in which high infrastructural costs and other barriers to entry relative to the size of the market give the largest supplier in an industry, often the first supplier in a market, an overwhelming advantage over potential competitors. This frequently occurs in industries where capital costs predominate, creating economies of scale that are large in relation to the size of the market; examples include public utilities such as water services and electricity.[1] Natural monopolies were discussed as a potential source of market failure by John Stuart Mill, who advocated government regulation to make them serve the public good."

> Yep, government regulation sounds great. /s

You're right, it does sound great; especially when you remove the blinders of misunderstanding. Admittedly, it's not entirely without it's own problems, but those problems are best solved without re-introducing the problems that regulation successfully mitigates.


Please do educate me as to how the government enforces a geographic monopoly.

Despite popular belief, ISPs are not geographical monopolies at all. When they are monopolies, they are purely artificially formed ones, like in the US.

This story is very specifically about a corporation enforcing those laws.

As you hint at, this is also a space where the FCC considers dial up and cell phone service (AFAIK) to be competitors when it comes to regulatory requirements. I got some copyright notices from a roommate's habits and Comcast was the only high speed ISP that was available at my house. Given that my work involves regular working from home, this was highly concerning.

At least they (Comcast) just send you an email now and don't inject their notices into the HTML of the websites you're visiting like they were doing a few years ago. It was basically a MITM attack, done by the ISP.

They've done this to me warning I was near the 1TB limit on data usage earlier this year. It felt pretty disgusting.

AT&T is not going to be too eager to cut your service. They want your $50 - $150/month (or more) if they can get it.

FTA: The bottom line: Very few copyright infringers ever get booted from their broadband provider, pointing to the severity of these cases and the number of steps at which the customer is told they are violating copyright before they are cut off from AT&T's service. Copyright infringers are often illegally pirating hundreds of hours of stolen content, not a song or two from their favorite band.


They might feel it's worth it to lose that money in the short term if they can make an example out of pirates and try to establish account termination for unproven allegations of infringement as an industry standard practice. Long term it isn't smart but there are media industry mouthpieces claiming they will be losing $52 billion to internet piracy by 2022. How many DSL customers will they be willing to drop if they think it'll help stop the billions their parent companies are "losing" annually.

A lot more incentive now that they're the copyright owner for many TimeWarner productions. It just all becomes part of the big math problem.

It's in AT&T's interest to cut off 'unlimited' users who use a large proportion of their network bandwidth.

Using copyright claims to do that sounds like a smart plan.


I wonder when this will spread to other industries? Say someone doesn't pay their newspaper bill. Maybe contact their water company and ask them to shut off their water, to encourage them to pay. It's worth a try, right?

I get why content rights owners go to the ISP to get at the ISP's customers who are doing things they don't like. I don't get why ISPs play along. It's extra work, and it makes the customer hate the ISP for being the bearer of bad news.


In this particular case, the answer is rather obvious--the ISP is a content rights owner. Vertical integration FTW!

How is it different from when Time Warner media business and Time Warner Cable (ISP) were the same company?

I don't think they're saying it is?

The DMCA forces ISPs to play along to some extent. It means ISPs have to have a process that includes termination for repeat offenders. The specifics are pretty vague and AT&T is being very aggressive but believe me ISPs don't want to have to play internet police for media conglomerates. They have to spend substantial amounts of time and money handling massive volumes of DMCA notices without compensation and risk pissing off and losing customers over unproven allegations of illegal activity. It's not a good position to be in.

The ISPs are common carries, so they have to play along with the rights owners.

A better analogy would be getting USPS to stop coming to your house when the content creators find out you've been mailing pressed DVDs from your house.

The difference of course is that you could switch to UPS or FedEx. For 72% of the country, you can't switch ISPs.


I believe the obligation to play along with rights holders comes from the DMCA's safe harbor provision, (which limits an ISP's liability for copyright infringement that occurs over their network provided they cooperate with takedown notices), not from the property of being common carriers. Especially since FCC has ruled cable internet providers are no longer Title II services.

> Say someone doesn't pay their newspaper bill. Maybe contact their water company and ask them to shut off their water, to encourage them to pay. It's worth a try, right?

I can do better than that.

Where I live in the US, if you don't pay your water bill, the government can take your home in a forced forfeiture. They put it up for auction to pay for the water bill. If that water bill is for $800 and the home has $300,000 of equity, doesn't matter, they'll steal it just the same.

The benefit of having a lot of guns behind you and the legal right to use deadly force to steal property.


It's taken a while to sort out in the industry, but I think the finding against Cox last year has ISPs running scared. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/02/cox-must-pay-8m-...

Edit: I thought there was something more recent, and sure enough there's a new lawsuit from August this year. https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2018/08/sensing-blood-in-wat...


But remember, it would impinge AT&T's corporate "free speech" to have their service be a dumb pipe like any other utility. Corporations should always be free to do whatever at the expense of flesh and blood humans.

Some of you might be wondering why "a little over a dozen" people being booted from their ISP is newsworthy. This is figuratively the beginning of a very, very slippery slope.

It is a very bad precedent to cut people off a needed service to live today, and it needs to be stopped immediately.

The problem is ISPs and content providers, or both, are prioritizing their needs over other industries.

Say someone does pirate something, and the cost of that is a few hundred or even thousands of dollars that they wouldn't have bought anyways in most cases or couldn't afford. Well they also use the internet to purchase products, pay bills, and the internet is part of daily life now. Cutting someone off from the network utility because of even large amounts of digital goods being pirated is the wrong approach as it has collateral damage to other products/industries, survival of the person and possibly their family and more.

Should the person pay a fine? Yes. Should they lose their internet? No, unless ISPs and content providers, or if they are one in the same, are more important than every other industry. ISPs/content providers aren't more important than every other industry and ISPs are more of a utility that needs to be always available, other methods are needed, cutting someone off from a needed service to live is cruel and unusual punishment.


Also awkward is that this ISP is competing on content.

> Last week, HBO went dark for the first time ever after a carriage dispute with Dish. Critics of the merger, include the DOJ, alleged that AT&T may have intentionally failed to come to an agreement with Dish, in an effort to steal Dish's Pay-TV subscribers.


it's a feature, not a bug.

Especially considering that there is more than likely no other option for service in the area because of the ISP totally not being a monopoly, totally not.

Assuming I'm parsing the sarcasm correctly, they can't sign on for any other ISP? So you get a choice of one depending on where you happen to live?

I'm used to what's called local loop unbundling in the UK and Europe - which is the removal of the last mile monopoly, and all ISPs simply putting a DSLAM in exchanges. Initially this was localised, and there were smaller local players, but they're now effectively all nationwide.


50 million US homes have only one 25Mbps Internet provider or none at all https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/06/50-mi...

Yep. I'm in the 'none' category. On a good day I can get 22Mbps down / 1.5 up. On a bad day it doesn't work at all.

DSL (with a single provider) is my only option for wired internet at home. Satellite and cellular are both available, but with higher prices and sever data caps.

I have an office 1.5 miles away that also has a cable line that can do ~120Mbps down and ~5 up, but the cable lines end about a mile from my house.


Yeah the US does not have local loop unbundling. We need to have it, as it's maybe a good way to start fixing the problem.

It did exist in some form after the 1996 Telecommunications Act so it happened somewhat with DSL providers, but the laws were narrow, didn't address other issues that arise as a result of the law, and didn't include cable/fiber/etc


Interesting, thanks. Despite much complaint at the state of UK broadband, particularly speed variance from distance to exchange or cabinet, LLU has always included whatever came next from ADSL+ through to the current fibre (mostly FTTC) that's almost complete apart from some rural areas. FTTH is still pretty rare sadly.

So any speed differences between ISPs are mostly down to the quality or not of the ISP's network. Which means roughly Talktalk bad, A&A good, but the sync speed should be the same. :)


For much of the US the situation is something like this:

You have ISP #1, who have relatively modern infrastructure and bandwidth.

You may or may not have ISP #2, who have antiquated infrastructure they don't maintain that delivers bandwidth circa 2005.

You probably also have ISP #3, who use alternate delivery technologies (wimax, satellite, etc) to deliver low bandwidth at exorbitant prices.


That's my current experience. Comcast is very fast and low latency. The next best is DSL that maxes out at 2 Mbps. After that my only choice would be some form of wireless.

So if Comcast decides not to sell me service, I'm screwed. They could charge as much as they want and to a point I'd just have to suck it up and pay. I assume the reason it isn't multiple times more expensive is because there is some regulation from the PUC capping what they can charge.


In the US, most homes only have 1 option for wired broadband internet with decent latency. And even then, the upload sucks. Phone line DSL is not decent internet, so unless the phone provider offers fiber, which they very rarely do, you’re at the whim of the company that provides cable television.

Doesn't work that way in the US. I have a choice of two ISPs where I live. AT&T and Comcast.

Some have more. Some have less. I've never lived somewhere that had only one choice though, so I'm not sure how common it is.


There are large swaths of the United States where people have just one choice for internet service.

Soon we will probably have an Internet Citizen Rating, similar to Credit Ratings, or China's Social Credit system.

Facebook Trust Score

and I bet those "over a dozen" people are also their highest in terms of bandwidth use.

Smart pirates use vpns anyways.


ISP sees high amounts of traffic over a public VPN and kicks you off their network for suspicious activity. You go to appeal it in one of their 'courts' and since there aren't really any rules the burden of proof is on you.

You really were pirating so such positive proof doesn't really exist and you're off the internet for good.


There are perfectly legitimate reasons for 'consuming' a large amount of bandwidth. For example, I help seed a number of Linux distro ISOs over bittorrent, and once got a letter from my absolute shit of an ISP (Frontier, if you are reading this, it's you).

Plenty of legitimate usage, I'm talking about the fact that masking your traffic with a VPN isn't really protection when these 'courts' can demand you prove you weren't pirating content in order to restore your service.

So getting away with piracy by way of plausible deniability is much harder.


They’re not real courts so no they can’t demand you to prove anything. I don’t know where you’re coming from but it’s nothing but unsubstantiated fear.

Forget the term courts. An ISP is within their rights to refuse to do business with you on the suspicion that you are a suspected pirate. If you then decide to go through their process they are also within their rights to continue not doing business with you until you voluntarily turn over evidence that you were in-fact not pirating content.

And since, for me at least, if I got my internet shut off I would pretty much have to move that's plenty of coercive power.


Reminds me of when Comcast throttled bittorrent across the board.

VPN + YouTube

A slippery slope many have already considered acceptable, if it involves political (albeit hateful) speech.

If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere with a choice of ISPs please vote with your dollars and choose an independent ISP.

Or, start your own: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16160394


> The bottom line: Very few copyright infringers ever get booted from their broadband provider, pointing to the severity of these cases and the number of steps at which the customer is told they are violating copyright before they are cut off from AT&T's service. Copyright infringers are often illegally pirating hundreds of hours of stolen content, not a song or two from their favorite band.

Its far more likely AT&T cares now because they own content now instead of it somehow pointing to the "severity of these cases", a point the article itself makes several times before walking it back? Also nothing to back up the out-of-nowhere claim that infringers "often illegally pirate hundreds of hours"?


How does this differ from the deplatforming we've recently seen with Twitter, Apple app store, Gab from hosting providers, facebook, youtube, etc?

There are a lot of platforms to choose from, but my house is only physically connected by one high speed ISP.

I think you are oversimplifying here. The de-platforming often was sweeping across many websites and service providers. So there weren't really any choices left. And in the case of Gab.com they have had a lot of trouble getting running again at all. I think they were completely shutdown for a week or so.

Some of these accounts that were de-platformed completely erased followings that they had developed over years of working that were probably worth millions of dollars to them. To imply that you finding a different ISP is a greater inconvenience than what these businesses had to face is doubtful. Even if you had to completely move to a new home to get service it could be argued that it was still less of an inconvenience.


That is certainly an interesting question. When your position has become so odious that every provider on the Internet wants nothing to do with you, what is the solution?

In any case it is still much better to have multiple providers to possibly be rejected from, as opposed to a residential broadband subscriber who can be completely shut down by a single company. And Gab.com is not a person, so they can locate their service anywhere someone will allow them to host it. The virtual nature of that arrangement is very convenient, and the relative inconvenience of buying a whole new house (in a different city or state, perhaps, since you have to move far enough to find a different ISP) is off the charts by comparison. It seems disingenuous to even try to compare those.


You can still connect to a low speed ISP much in the same way that people banned from Twitter or YouTube can still use much smaller platforms with a lower reach.

My tax dollars helped pay for the infrastructure that the ISP is selling me service over. It's a little different from Twitter or Youtube, who are just a site on the Internet.

I kinda agree with both you and 'yantz'. I think there is government subsidy in both cases and I also agree with you that the government subsidy muddies the waters a bit.

I am someone who believes that private businesses should be free to discriminate with regards to whom they provide service but we are faced with varying degrees of subsidization and I'm not sure where you would draw the line. Another issue is that there is really no non-subsidized alternate choice of note to these corporations at this level in the United States. These large corporations lobby and help craft favorable legislation on a continual bases. There is a very complex and murky relationship between the large corporations in the United States and the various governing bodies.


Your tax dollars helped pay for the development of the Internet and many of the technologies that those sites and services use today.

Sure, the development of the technology, but not the actual services themselves. The difference with the local ISP is that my tax dollars actually helped pay for the physical plant. And through my gov't I give them actual physical right-of-way to lay cables and maintain them. This is a very important distinction that does not apply to a soft service on the 'net somewhere.

Now, if my tax dollars helped pay for Twitter's datacenter, then now we have something to talk about. And perhaps in the state where Twitter is, they got tax breaks which amount to effectively a subsidy from the citizenry. In that case I think it's time to take the case to court.


The physical plant was made a long time ago and was a one-time investment, like arpanet back in the day, or for example investigation made by universities using public grants that helped develop video codecs that are now in use by sites like youtube. So yes, it's the same.

The piracy issue is very similar to the recent Internet censorship we've seen. A very similar thing happened to the PirateBay (and it still happens to this day), who were persecuted off the internet initially by corporations leveraging politicians to push a website offline that was legal in their home country.

Now I'm not saying it's completely the same, but often it seems like the piracy takedowns set up the playbook to censoring things that often affect lots of peoples' lives.

I'm very vary of corporate censorship since it's an easy next step for politics and the government to start wielding it against the people. And that could be disastrous.


People actually are accused of doing something illegal by law.

Sorry, "illegal" versus "legal" in America is determined by the courts, not by private corporations.

Didn't you get the memo (2016)? Corporations now write the law, and they don't even prevent for impartiality.

Who are you saying is accused? AT&T or the customers? I don't believe there is any legal proceedings related to any of this?

I think OP's point was that if this bothers you and the recent de-platforming of people and websites does not, maybe you should rethink your position. But maybe I misread OP?


Not too long ago, homosexuality was criminalized.

Accused or convicted?

The irony is that AT&T's agents have to pirate the content in order to track down the pirates. Pirate Party is the answer, and VPN in the interim.

"Don't violate the law over our network" is not an unreasonable expectation, and "we will shut off service to people that violate the law using our network" is not an unreasonable penalty. It's hard to imagine any business of any kind taking the position "feel free to violate the law over our network" or deciding that they just won't do anything about it if people do. Imagine a restaurant that could see you operating an illegal handgun market out of the corner booth and just decided that was fine as long as you tipped your server alright.

This is the most softball approach possible, they're giving you nine warnings before they just stop doing business with you, which is quite a bit nicer than them handing out your info specifically to enable the entertainment industry to take you to court for hundreds of thousands of dollars or reporting you to the FBI.


> Imagine a restaurant that could see you operating an illegal handgun market out of the corner booth and just decided that was fine as long as you tipped your server alright

Imagine a better analogy because telecom service providers have nothing to do with restaurants (or almost any other type of businesses, regulated utilities are pretty different!). It's more akin to a power company cutting off power to someone who they accuse of using the power that they paid for to make counterfeit handbags. It's quite possibly true, but as a regulated utility it should not be up to them to decide. As long as their services are being paid for they should not get to cut people off.

If AT&T was actually concerned with their network being abused they would go after spammers and robocallers, not someone who downloaded an HBO show. This is one of the concerns of telecoms being media companies.


The law in America is enforced by the courts, not by private corporations.

If you break the law in my restaurant I can ask you to leave.

And you won’t be able to do anything but ask because you are not a police officer. ISP isn’t a court and restaurant operators aren’t officers of the law.

I can stop serving you and refuse to take your money. Kind of like AT&T is doing...

You can for any reason, unless the reason is discrimination against a protected class. But do not pretend that it is for breaking the law, because it's only up to the court to determine whether I broke a law or not.

So if AT&T want to disconnect a customer for an arbitrary reason, fine: but they need to make it more clear initially, while considering their utility status.


They aren't enforcing the law. They're managing their risk as a business, by not doing business with people who could put them at legal risk. If they were "enforcing the law", they'd send you a fine for tens of thousands of dollars and throw you in jail if you didn't pay it.

If a gun store owner knew a guy was buying a gun to shoot up a school, wouldn't you want him to refuse to sell it? Wouldn't you want to hold the gun store responsible for knowingly enabling illegal activity?

(Note that I am using gun analogies in my comments because I feel the positions here are oddly tied to a specific issue, and hypocritical when applied to others. I'm aware these aren't really similar in severity by any means.)


You wrote "don't violate the law over our network". Who determines in this case whether the law is violated? If you changed your statement that this is a precaution to manage legal risk, then we get into an entirely different realm.

What if AT&T's risk management software scores that its customer is "likely" to commit a petty crime by analyzing his traffic? Turn him off as well?


They're not just any business, they're a regulated utility provider selling me service over infrastructure I helped pay for. The regular rules of business don't exactly apply.

The ISP is not creating the process by which the law is broken, only facilitating the transmission.

the ISP is like the roads that you take to get to the gun shop. Yes the gun shop should prevent you from buying a gun to kill someone.

The people who maintain the road to get you to the gun shop should not decide that you cannot use the road.


My local phone company continues to serve me no matter how many laws I break using their service. My postal service continues to server me no matter how many laws I break using their service. Internet service providers should just be declared common carriers, and be done with it. When democrats eventually regain control of the congress and executive, I'm guessing this is what will be done.

democrats are huge supporters of the media companies pushing for stronger enforcement of copyrights. Obama was deep in bed with the RIAA and MPAA. Several of his appointments were RIAA lawyers. Don't automatically expect them to lead the way in copyright reform.

I was thinking net neutrality, not copyright reform. I agree, copyright is a huge political mess.

> "Don't violate the law over our network" is not an unreasonable expectation, and "we will shut off service to people that violate the law using our network" is not an unreasonable penalty.

Monopolies playing judges and prosecutors is very unreasonable. They shouldn't be able to cut off customers by themselves at all, even non-paying.




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