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Streaming Is Laying Bare How Big ISPs and Big Tech Work Together Against Users (eff.org)
272 points by torgian on Aug 24, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 128 comments

I live in a country in which all internet is divided by a vertically-integrated duopoly.

One of the companies (let's call is "Bell") owns a national fibre network, the last mile of copper or fiber to the home, ISP service, mobile phone service, and several national content networks. It receives significant subsidies from the federal government for providing national backbone service, fixed wireless service in rural areas from its extensive network of towers, and content production on its networks. The other duopolist is similar, but started in the cable TV business instead of the telephone business.

These duopolists are required by law to allow third-party ISPs to use their backhauls and last-miles in exchange for some of the government subsidies. They do this grudgingly, using loopholes like providing twisted copper pairs to the third-party offices even when fibre passes outside their door. Regulations allow (and there is plenty of admission of, and lawsuits over) deep packet inspection to allow "traffic shaping" based on content and connection. At one point the cable company was successfully sued because they throttled all encrypted traffic on the assumption that it was VPN streaming pirated video content in competition with their own service., causing gaming to be useless for half the country.

I understand these are first-world problems. I own shared of some of these companies, and they pay good dividends. It doesn't mean they are not unethical.

> I understand these are first-world problems.

They are. Second (and some of the third) world countries often have much better internet, both in terms of competition, prices, and overall quality, than US and Europe, in my experience.

I have the same impression and don't understand why. Maybe it's because it's such an important part of the infrastructure that having slow internet is not the biggest concern.

I have my bunch of anecdotes from the time I lived in Berlin, one of the best was how on my building I had access to 500mbps fiber and a friend living on a building one block from me had to register on a wait list, wait for more than 3 months to get a 50 mbps ADSL, this was the only provider still accepting new customers at the time for his address. And this was happening just 3km from city center.

Comms infrastructure is often greenfield in emerging-markets so there’s no legacy systems getting in the way, and the companies doing the deployment have the incentive to deploy the then-latest-and-greatest. But in 20-30 years’ time they’ll be having the same problems we have :)

Another issue is a lack of the kind of regulations (or their enforcement) that comms companies really dislike: things like regs about how to correctly bury cables and land-use rights or how to share overhead cable line poles - and most importantly: minimum service requirements. It’s easy to focus your entire org on a flashy new FTTP set-up in one single rich urban city when you’re not legally required to also keep a 75+ year-old unprofitable rural copper system running.

(No, I’m not a libertarian - and I’m happy to pay more for my service with the understanding that I’m subsidising a system that keeps isolated and vulnerable people connected.)

Certain types of corruption at the local level also play a part - which ordinarily would lead to worse outcomes overall, but in my case, at least, I’d love it if the suits that run BT’s OpenReach could be bribed to stop propping up copper :/

Even as a percentage of median income?

> One of the companies (let's call is "Bell") owns a national fibre network, the last mile of copper or fiber to the home, ISP service, mobile phone service, and several national content networks. It receives significant subsidies from the federal government for providing national backbone service, fixed wireless service in rural areas from its extensive network of towers, and content production on its networks.

Sounds like Deutsche Telekom. There were instances of those assholes ripping fibre out of the ground so they could put copper lines back in. When DSL was becoming more and more prominent in our area during the early-mid 2000s Telekom always BS'd their way around giving my family more than that trash-tier ISDN hookup. In the end my father had enough and went to 1&1 for internet access which also wasn't that easy since Telekom had (and IIRC still has) control over the "last mile" from the roadside box to the customer.

> The other duopolist is similar, but started in the cable TV business instead of the telephone business. > At one point the cable company was successfully sued because they throttled all encrypted traffic

Sounds like Kabel Deutschland (now after its acquisition called "Vodafone Kabel Deutschland") which had its run-ins with net neutrality

Sounds nearly indistinguishable from AT&T and Comcast in the states.

I'm assuming he's Canadian and the other company is Rogers.

Don't forget Telus (on the mobile data side of things).

Robellus as they are colloquially referred to as.

s/\ as//2

yeah, gee, it sure does doesn't it...

Could also be Telstra and Optus in Australia.

Yeah we have similar things here in The Netherlands. Vodafone acquired one of the major cable internet providers (Ziggo), and are giving benefits to people who are customers of both; effectively a discount on the bills + a free cable tv package, which includes HBO Go.

The good thing is that it’s not expensive (I’d argue that they are giving a deal that’s cheaper than anything else out there), but they do make it nearly impossible for eg ADSL providers to compete.

I’m not sure how to feel about this. I consider the root problem the monopoly the cable providers have, as its by far the fastest way to driver internet compared to ADSL. As such, I’ve put my hopes on fiber optical arriving soon, which exposes a much larger market on which multiple providers can compete.

Incredibly annoying by the way that HBO Go is not available for Apple TV, so it’s pretty much worthless to me and I just end up torrenting anything of HBO I want to watch. Not sure about the legality about it, but it sure as hell is a better experience.

> I’ve put my hopes on fiber optical arriving soon, which exposes a much larger market on which multiple providers can compete

I live in Lithuania which has a pretty good fiber rollout, and has fair rules for consumers on common access to physical infrastructure by different providers.

In reality though it means you still only have one choice on who your internet provider is. It's not worth it for multiple providers to wire up an apartment or neighbourhood when there is already an existing provider there.

I live in Sweden where there is a national plan for rolling out broadband internet throughout the country until 2025 [0].

In Stockholm the physical infrastructure is rolled out by the municipality through Stokab [1] exactly to avoid this issue, the physical infrastructure, which is the most expensive and least competitive part of the deal, is public while leasing it out and providing access to the last mile customers is done through private companies. It seems to work pretty well so far.

[0] https://www.government.se/496173/contentassets/afe9f1cfeaac4...

[1] https://www.stokab.se/Documents/Stockholms%20Stokab%20-%20A%...

Yeah this is pretty much how VDSL works in the UK. The infrastructure is owned by one company, but you can have different any internet provider. I'm not sure I'd say it works well though, as in the UK I'd pay 3x the price for 1/20 the speed :-)

"It's not worth it for multiple providers to wire up an apartment or neighbourhood"

That's not how it is in Russia. In a city not far from Moscow we have 2-4 providers in an apartment building (FTTx). Just checked my bill -- $5 for 60 Mbit/s and $7 for IPTV with ~80 channels included. Hurray to free market :)

"It's not worth it for multiple providers to wire up an apartment or neighbourhood when there is already an existing provider there."

Except that it is kinda worth it if they'd think for a moment just how many folk would instantly switch to any competition that arrived in an area that's been consistently screwed over by the only provider there… All they'd have to do is offer honest services at a fair price and they'd steal a massive chunk of the area's subscriber base.

Imagine the cost of providing fiber is $50/month, and Company A has wired up a town and charges customers $100/month.

You're the CEO of Company B, and you have two choices:

You can wire up the same town, charge $60/month, Company A will drop their prices to match, and you get to make a profit of $10/month from half the town.

Or you can wire up a different town, and charge $100/month - giving you a profit of $50/month from the entire town.

Which one would you do first?

It's actually more like "Company A will drop prices to $40/mo in your coverage area as soon as you start your build-out". Company A has already sunk cost into the infrastructure so they can afford to do this and remain cash-flow positive. As soon as you go out of business they know they can just raise the price again.

For this reason, "overbuilders" tend to target high-income areas where additional bundled services increase the ARPU (annual revenue per user) beyond the base service. There's also usually a higher "take rate" (subscribers per total homes served) in high-income areas. The up-front capital investment required to build out telecom services is absolutely staggering -- we're talking billions for even a small area of a city.

This is why we need municipal competition, we have a last-mile cartel where they have agreed to not compete and just extract rent in the US.

You'll almost nothing a month, as the price races to the bottom - it'll likely be worse than $10 a month

I think the issue here is there isn't much profit to be made though. This isn't the US where you pay $100/mo for slow DSL with a ridiculous datacap.... I pay €19/mo for FTTH at 1gbit up/down and no data limits.

My apartment building has 20 properties, so if a competitor came in offering the same for €15/mo and managed to convert half of the properties that would be... €150/mo revenue. How long would it take to even pay back the GPON hardware they need to install in the building?

My provider hasn't attempted to screw us over at all yet (been with them for 4 years), but I am concerned that they are our only choice, so if they wanted to double prices we'd probably pay.

> I consider the root problem the monopoly the cable providers have, as its by far the fastest way to driver internet compared to ADSL. As such, I’ve put my hopes on fiber optical arriving soon, which exposes a much larger market on which multiple providers can compete.

Not that this a grave KPN - the ex-state phone and copper network company - dug entirely for itself. There were a lot of fiber companies and rollouts happening over the last decades, but KPN all bought them out and stopped the rollout, to prevent competition with its aging copper network.

So now the result is Ziggo - the merger of all the ex-state cable companies - has a virtual monopoly on fast internet, as xDSL/copper hasn't kept up with DOCSIS/cable by a long shot, and KPN controls all the FtH but has a dismal coverage percentage.

So the situation below the ground is not better than in Germany. We call the former monopolist with the violet T the "World champion in cramming data on a bell wire". Here its also just the choice between rather slow xDSL via ancient Copper, mostly older DOCSIS with abysmal upload speeds by Vodafone (Which bought out all Cable companies and is slowly rolling out D3.1) or some vey specialized construction when you are living in a rural area.

For my Parents, I built a 7 GHz Microwave Link to a neighboring Town with goodish network access. Luckily, there is direct LoS and we get 18-25MBit of the 30 through.

I am astonished tho, as I always had the impression that your mobile network is pretty good. In fact, as I work about 300m away from the dutch border, we regularly use VodafoneNL as Benchmark Network for our RF Products, as there atleast we get full 4G and not only 3G as on the german Vodafone Network.

Mobile data is not a flat fee per month, they all have data caps above which you either start to pay extra or get a throughput comparable to POTS modem speeds. So it's not a viable replacement for the wired Internet connection everyone has at home.

The "problem" everywhere is streaming. 4G/5G would be a decent replacement for basically everything else. But streaming breaks every data cap, sadly.

Oh, and games. I just read that some modern games have patches(!) of over 100GB. What the hell?

pings/latency/spikes on 4g/5g are not quite as good as general broadband either.

At least that has been my experience in the US.

Some countries have a flat fee, with unlimited volume per month.

On mobile networks the situation is quite good. Vodafone, KPN and T-mobile have 3 separate networks and are heavily competing which each other.

Except for the availability of fiber, the broadband situation is fine, especially in cities. You have 40-500 Mbps down from Ziggo, and 40-100 Mbps from KPN. No data limits. Newly built and revitalized neighborhoods usually have FtH.

For the the consumer result of the duopoly is ok for consumers for now, but I fear for the effects in 5-15 years. You already see Ziggo growing bolder and more expensive as their lead increases.

Where I live, a medium-sized city in the US, there is NO fiber option. One cable broadband provider is the only choice.

I live in a rural part of Drenthe. One of the most sparsely populated regions of the Netherlands. I have Gigabit internet through a small ISP, over the fiber that is owned by our local coop, for just 50 euro/month.

The crazy thing is that the rural areas all seem to have fiber whilst the towns are stuck with Ziggo.

It’s policy, the towns already have Ziggo so they already have fast internet. Rural areas typically don’t have that yet.

At least, that’s how I understood it.

I think the policy is that they’re first adding fiber to these regions, as people living in larger cities / more populated areas typically already have access to fast cable internet.

Or is this something that you guys did totally independently?

It’s totally independent. The local government is backing the loan though. But they knew they had to after they realized their mistake of giving commercial parties a permit to lay fiber in the village centras, without connecting the outside area. Now thanks to us all houses are connected to fiber, even if they don’t use it. People who do use it pay 11 euro/month to help pay back the loan.

There are many more projects like this throughout the country. But this doesn’t work in areas where people are not seeing (or don’t care) how this will benefit their environment.

Maybe Covid will help a lot of these projects achieve their threshold.

That’s great to hear, I love these kind of community projects.

Do you have a website or some more information about it? I would love to be able to use it as a reference to see if I can convince my local homeowners alliance to invest in this (I don’t have great hopes though, too many old people).

These are the rules and regulations for our coop: https://www.sterkmiddendrenthe.nl/cooperatie/statuten/

You can probably translate it to English with DeepL.

Assuming you haven't rooted your Apple TV, how does piracy help with the lack of an Apple TV app (aside from bypassing paying for the content, which is independent of Apple TV)?

To watch on your computer, HBO works fine.

To watch on your Apple TV, you have to stream from a computer z whether you use AirPlay (supported) or piracy.

Wait, HBO Go isn't available on Apple TV?

Last I heard they were discontinuing support for older Apple TVs, not all Apple TVs. Are they gone entirely in your region?

I live in the Netherlands as well and I have had diner for many years. Your comment makes it seem as if there is no fiber in the Netherlands yet.

Living in Rotterdam it does appear that way. Lots of announcements over the years but no actual fiber availability

Good for you. If you live in the Randstad or most cities, FtH is nonexistent outside of recently build suburbs [1]

[1] https://www.kpnnetwerk.nl/netwerkkaart

The rest of your point still stands but, plz, do your research. Vodafone did not acquire Ziggo. VodafoneZiggo is a joint-venture where Liberty Global (owner of Ziggo) and Vodafone Group are both 50% owners.

FYI the downvotes are for the phrasing. If you had written "Small correction:" instead of "plz, do your research" it would have gone the other way.

I'm still shocked that AT&T's acquisition of Warner Bros and HBO was approved. I think a fair rule would be that if you're a company that wants to be a "natural monopoly" like AT&T, you shouldn't be allowed to enter other verticals like content production or advertising.

(Disclosure, my mom works for AT&T.)

For better, or for worse, content is the new strategy at AT&T. The physical layer of the internet is a margins game and it's getting harder and harder for large organizations to compete. I'm not for it either, but it is understandable that AT&T would want to be more like Disney than the reverse.

> The physical layer of the internet is a margins game and it's getting harder and harder for large organizations to compete

This is only true because AT&T arbitrarily decided it so.

AT&T could easily make more money by offering a better internet service. They just willingly gave away their market to Comcast, and have decided it was easier to compete against Comcast in content than compete against Comcast in infrastructure.

in the 60s the DOJ stopped the 3rd largest grocery chain in LA from buying the 6th-largest

not so much these days

People don't realize that antitrust did not originally apply only to the largest few companies in a market. Sure, it was used to break up Standard Oil and Ma Bell, notorious monopolies that openly used their monopoly powers to charge sky-high prices. But it was also used against companies large and small that were engaging in practices judged "anti-competitive". E.g., "Brown Shoe Co. v. United States (1962) invalidated a merger between two shoe producers and retailers because it would have created a market share of 5 percent that might have tended to “lessen competition substantially in the retail sale of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes in the overwhelming majority” of the relevant markets." 5%! Pretty amazing that a few retailers now control a huge percentage of all retail sales. To be fair, Amazon and Wal-Mart have mostly grown organically, but still.


It's to be fair, since Comcast is allowed to own content.

Natural monopolies are supposed to be broken up. Naturalness is a justification for government intervention, as it means AT&T lacks the power, naturally, to resist forming a monopoly.

Let me give you an example of expensive.

At home in Texas I pay $70 for 1gbps internet. It actually performs at around 890-920mbps both up and down. Perhaps that is expensive compared to other countries, but I am happy with the price and the customer service/response is fantastic.

I am currently in Kuwait (modern first-world nation) where the pricing tiers in my location are $30 for 1.5mbps, $50 for 3mbps, or $90 for 6mbps.

Let me give you an example of expensive.

I live in MA USA where my only option is Verizon DSL 3mbps down and 0.8mbps up for $74.57

Until I moved west in 2017, I lived 4 miles from Madison, WI (one exit south of the beltline) and the best I could do was a WISP that was $62/month for 2 Mbps down and 250Kbps up

Is this a rental building, or why is there no cable offering? Rural?

That's impossible.

In my country, our anti-ISP media claims that we have the most expensive internet in the world, but 10/5Mbps FTTH (in most cases with free upgrades to 20/2Mbps for the duration of COVID-19 WFH guidance mandated by the government) is quite commonly available at < $20-$25/month, and where it isn't, 10/1Mbps ADSL is available for $25-$30/month (including POTS voice service).

Thus, it is impossible that you, in the country of ~$20 1Gbps service, have worse and more expensive service.


A year ago I was paying $60/mo for 20/3 “broadband” from AT&T. This was with a two year contract and a discount that eventually expired.

The kicker is that I wasn’t in some remote hard to access location, I was in the middle of San Francisco.

And in some cases it costs more to get the premium package from the same provider than it does to get the base package from a competitor.

I recall a few years ago I was trying to figure out how to balance our home traffic across dsl, cable, and wireless, and it just proved way too hard to get all of the plates spinning.

It shouldn't be this hard these days, and it would give more leverage to competition (after all, I can downgrade you and upgrade my other provider)

I moved from suburban GA to suburban CA recently and my plan/price stayed the same but my service went from 75/25Mbps to 1/1Gbps.

The article conflates mobile and home internet. It correctly claims that most people don't have a significant choice for home internet, but doesn't say that for mobile because it's obviously not true - there's at least three major carriers plus over a dozen resellers. But then the article complains about zero rating, which as it concedes only applies to mobile, and tries to argue it's a result of lack of competition.

The trend is within the next year that at least in major metropolitan areas, wireless 5G providers will compete for home Internet. It's a dumb way to solve the problem, that becomes the smart way to solve it once the regulatory/protective measures around the last mile overwhelm the other inefficiencies.

It won't be cheap enough for a couple of years, I think, but agreed. Tech solving thorny political problems is always my favorite.

Here in LA, Verizon's 5G Home Wireless plan is $50/month if you already have a Verizon mobile plan that is $30/month or more. It includes a year of Disney+, and the first three months free. That's very competitive in the LA market.

Resellers aren't going to change the performance of the underlying network.

But they often have different practices around what data gets billed, prioritized, etc, so they count as competition when discussing those features.

That's one problem. The other problem is that the fragmentation of streaming (HBO has 3 streaming services now ?!?) will make the pirate bay popular again.

The article is just two months old, but already outdated! HBO has discontinued HBO Go and renamed HBO Now.


I wish I could find that viral image passed around for decades demanding the ideal à la carte cable tv - just want a handful of good channels not 1000 channels of crap.

I guess we got what we wanted but not quite the way we expected.

People want high quality content that takes risks, but don’t want to pay for it.

I find it a lot cheaper to just pay the $2 to $20 to rent/buy the media from the various vendors since I consume so little of it.

The situation is vastly improved from my childhood when you had to deal with one company having control of delivering all the media into your home, and it was on a schedule you couldn’t control and with ads.

Now I just tap a few buttons and it’s on.

$2 to $20 sounds reasonable. But the trend now is to have 20 services with different content, each costing $2 to $20. Will you subscribe to them all?

It means $2 - 20 per title.

Streaming services are a bargain compared to that.

Netflix really did give everyone daft pricing expectations while it burnt venture capital to price itself artificially cheaply.

I didn't watch Netflix last month and I was still charged for it. Streaming services are only a bargain if you watch a lot of TV. If you watch <5hours/month/service than the value proposition begins to become questionable.

No, I won’t. But people who find value in it can, and it’s still leaps better than the previous normal of not being able to watch anything at anytime, anywhere.

Efforts to complain about monopolies and price would be better directed at reducing copyright durations.

Still waiting for a streaming provider to pick up on the basic music streaming concepts of favorites, playlists, and shuffle play.

What is a tv channel if not a shuffled playlist of shows and movies with ads intermixed?

That would work... if one channel would cost 10 cents/month.

However the movie industry would rather have you pay $20 per month for it.

Processing the payment costs 30 cents. How the heck would such a service not operate at a loss?

If only there were organizations that would charge a fee once a month for all content providers on their delivery service and distribute to companies providing content a share of what they charged based on the number of customers...

I'm sure large volume sellers don't pay 30 cents per transaction.

Also, if you think a bit no one's going to order just one channel. You could also charge for a year in advance if it's that cheap.

Why do you care about Hollywood's profits anyway?

The EFF continues to conflate zero-rating and "sponsored data". Both can be anti-competitive, but in different ways.

Zero-rating is an ISP not charging for data from a particular source. Sponsored data is someone other than the user paying the ISP's charge for user's data from a particular source (usually data from the entity paying for it). (In cases like HBO and AT&T, where the company paying for the data and the ISP are part of the same company or subsidiaries of the same company, I'd count that as a form of disguised zero rating rather than sponsored data).

The case for regulating zero-rating is much stronger than the case for regulating sponsored data.

Note that a company could in effect do sponsored data without even having an arrangement with an ISP. E.g., a company could keep track on its end of how much data from them each customer used each month, map that to ISPs based on IP address, and then give each customer a discount on their monthly bill based on that ISPs rates and that customers use.

Let's call this "manual sponsored data".

It's hard to make a case that manual sponsored data is automatically bad, of even usually bad. Companies are usually allowed to bundle products from other companies or provide discounts on products from other companies that go well with theirs.

In particular, its hard to make a case that even if someone does do manual sponsored data in a way that is bad, we need separate regulation for it instead of letting it be dealt with under antitrust just like you do for other third-party bundling arrangements.

But if manual sponsored data is allowed, it is then hard to make the case that it is bad to allow ISPs to facilitate it by offering a service where they track the usage for you, and then bill you for your customer's data usage instead of billing the customer.

Zero-rating, on the other hand, because it is the ISP itself choosing what to zero-rate, and because the ISP is providing last mile infrastructure for which there is very little competition in most areas, is much more likely to be anti-competitive.

It could still also be dealt with by antitrust, but because it is already taking place under highly constrained competition you can make a decent argument that it is worth specialized regulation.

Conflating the two just makes it much less likely that such regulation will happen.

Both are bad. They hide the real cost from the user.

The manual thing would never work because the rates I pay as a user are astronomically higher than the rates that would get paid for sponsored data. That’s half the reason the huge companies like it. It costs very little to sponsor data where I’d normally pay inflated rates, so it’s “good value” for me. The problem with that is you need to be a huge business to have a chance of negotiating those deals, so it disadvantages anyone who wants to compete as a startup.

Both are bad and should be illegal imo. Let users pay for their data. There’s no reason to obfuscate the costs.

> manual sponsored data

Ha! Clever. I like this angle. I agree I would have no problem with that.

> But if manual sponsored data is allowed, it is then hard to make the case that it is bad to allow ISPs to facilitate it by offering a service where they track the usage for you

Let me take a stab at it.

In the case of manual sponsored data, companies are refunding you the rate ISP's are charging you for data. It's a neutral effect on the market. And further, any company no matter how large or how small can do it without the ISP's consent. BUT, when a company goes directly to the ISP, the ISP can charge them a different rate than the ISP would normally charge the customer.

ISPs use bandwidth limits as a price discrimination tool, so they charge artificially high rates, but with direct communication between the ISP and the company, the deals offered can be strategic. The ISP can give the company a sweetheart deal as a means to manipulate the market. Then, as with classic zero rating, they simply clamp down on bandwidth limits as in zero rating so they remain a useful price discriminator.

That's the difference.

"Manual Sponsored Data" negates the ISP's ability to manipulate the market. "Sponsored Data" gives them the exact same powers as "Zero Rating" does. I've never thought to categorize these activities separately for this reason.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the ISP monopolies in the US all/mostly the result of government monopoly protection/non-compete agreements with cities?

When governments grant monopolies the consumers get screwed. There's nothing new or mysterious about this.

You are correct - but also note government in this case also includes city, county, and state governments, not just the federal government.

If you ignore the cases in which a town has granted a monopoly to any given provider, we also have many cases where the ISPs own the poles the lines are on, or own the underground cable channels. They are not required to provide a way to buy or rent space on the poles or in the underground channels.

You end up in a situation where any upstart competitor has to duplicate the entire infrastructure in order to begin competing. It's one of the reasons the ISPs have been super freaked out by the high bandwidth microwave links (AirFiber for instance), because it significantly reduces the cost of establishing baseline service.

I'm fairly envious of the European countries that forbid ISPs or cell providers from owning (or at least having a monopoly on) the infrastructure (such as poles, cell towers, underground channels, etc.)

AT&T fiber customer here, I didn't even know I had HBO* until I got a paper mailing from them. I would never have purchased it otherwise as I find their pricing out of line with their content; pretty much what I think of every offering other than Disney+

Yeah, no app on my LG C9 but I can stream perfectly fine from my Verizon connected phone with the AT&T app and it looks and sounds great.

If anything the HBO debacle isn't a Net Neutrality issue but more of how bad a management team can fuck up a product launch. It is a product people know exist but don't know exactly what it is or how you get it and the confusion multiplied by too many names.

fwiw, my neighbor has three kids and between him and his wife they stream everything under the sun. Neither he nor I have ever seen cap issues so these might be regional or softly enforced.

also, be careful what you wish for, all utilities are metered and there is no guarantee a final construct for internet being a utility does not inflict that along with all sorts of associated fees to insure access beyond those we have now.

Sewage isn't normally metered, but yes.

In my experience, sewage is billed based on water usage, which makes sense to me.

If you use some water, presumably it has to go somewhere.

What if you're just watering your plants?

Here your max sewer bill is set based on the average water use of 3 winter months. If you go over that in the summer, we assume it’s mostly landing in the yard and not the sewer.

You usually can get a credit for la large water usage that doesn't go in the drain. Most commonly done for filling swimming pools.

Our sewage bill is determined by the lowest two months of water usage from Dec-Feb plus a base cost.

They’re separate in a lot of places

Not directly but the reason why you pay such a high water usage rate is because it's indirectly metering sewage usage. That's why you can arrange for bulk water delivery via fire hydrants for a cheaper usage rate for e.g. filling up a pool.

This is a little bit of my ignorance to public works and how much these companies invest in infrastructure. Please correct me.

But the way I understand it, the ISP pays for right of way access to the city/county/state to put in infrastructure to deliver internet access, right? They also pay for the labor/material cost to get the work done, right?

If we really want net neutrality and a stop to the pseudo monopolies, wouldn't the municipality have to buy the infrastructure from the private company?

> If we really want net neutrality and a stop to the pseudo monopolies, wouldn't the municipality have to buy the infrastructure from the private company?

Not necessarily. From a legal perspective, no. Laws could be passed mandating someone as long as it’s not unconstitutional.

Additionally, there are two different things you’re conflating here. First is the forcing of someone who is grated a limited monopoly to lease their infrastructure to competitors. The infrastructure doesn’t have to be public to mandate some kind of sharing. The company that seeds the investment still gets some form of limited exclusivity and gets to charge competitors a (regulated) fee for their use.

Net Neutrality is different. It’s stating that the service you provide must be neutral in nature. This doesn’t seem directly relevant to an investment in infrastructure. It’s just consumer protections because these companies are grated limited monopolies.

In my mind, any further public sale of spectrum, copper, fiber access should come with a neutrality clause. If any traffic they want to send over the new property must be neutral, then it could start to change things without help from our toothless FCC.

> In my mind, any further public sale of spectrum, copper, fiber access should come with a neutrality clause. If any traffic they want to send over the new property must be neutral, then it could start to change things without help from our toothless FCC.

Or take it a step further and include a requirement for infrastructure sharing at regulated rates. Selling exclusive access to the rights of way for an essential service is a type of regressive taxation. The government reduces the tax revenue needed, but the costs get passed along to the public at flat rates. The poorer you are, the higher the relative cost for that infrastructure.

It should be illegal to sell exclusive access to infrastructure related resources because it’s a system designed to benefit the wealthy more than anyone else.

OK I see what you're getting at.

But yea my concern has always been with the "existing" investment. So say I'm Comcast and I've invested $X millions into laying infrastructure, it seems "unfair" to me to just come commandeer that investment in the name of net neutrality.

Especially if you're going to expect me to further invest and/or maintain the existing.

So I understand your perspective around expansion (e.g., limited/time exclusivity or a usage fee).

But I still think the infrastructure cost (adding, maintaining, upgrading) is probably one of their larger costs? No?

Or install and maintain it's own infrastructure. With all the upgrading that's gone on for the last 25 years it probably would have been bad, but now progress is slowing and it seems more appropriate.

Sure, this is another thing, but I just keep going back to all the trouble Google Fiber had to make them stop.

Is this because ISP's can see DNS traffic? as it's in the clear over UDP...

If so, then perhaps DNS over HTTPS would make it impossible for an ISP to rate-limit certain services. Since all DNS requests would be encrypted too...

(apologies for all the acronyms!)

Traffic shaping can still occur as they see your data volumes and the networks your connecting to. Sure it might not be as specific to the streaming service, but it should be decently possible to identify other streaming services, and any ISP-owned one.

They can also do a reverse DNS lookup of the IP addresses that you are connecting to, since you can not hide that.

> Is this because ISP's can see DNS traffic? as it's in the clear over UDP...

Not necessarily.

It could very easily be done via IP address matching (think BGP communities that advertise specific subnets between one part of a network and another, as are typically used for optimal CDN routing etc.).

I recently switched from a 3G wireless router to a copper ADSL-like physical line (not fiber). To be honest, ... I don't notice a lot of difference. Some days it's better (less ping, more bandwidth) other days it's worse (remote desktop being barely usable). I'm using it for remote work / remote desktop, video conferences, and streaming (movies), but not gaming.

Whenever I get too frustrated I switch to my iPhone's hotspot. The service is always better, but maybe that's because the line is less contested then (unfortunately I have low data caps on my phones).

Ah... zero-rating. Somehow that also slipped through the cracks here in Europe. I was terribly surprised the union could even agree upon some form of net-neutrality.

For some time European citizens somehow made some good choices at the voting booths AND there must've been some strong business reason to introduce it. Without economic incentive it never would've passed.

There's "unlimited WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook" in data plans in some EU countries. Which is kinda nice, but probably only cements their monopoly.

Also kind of odd because messaging apps use a trivial amount of data unless you're doing video. But most people may not know that and then switch to them for "unlimited" and there you go.

There's this new pattern of communicating where you talk with multi-megabyte reaction gifs back'n'forth instead of writing two or three words. Unlimited data may prove useful in that scenario.

Also exchanging pictures/selfies with the family/friends generates quite a bit of data if you do it on a daily basis.

It is amazing what can be done with 20+ year old technology.

Not that odd: It increases the perceived value of a plan without costing the provider much in traffic.

I think they were simply trying to preempt political issues with it. Zero rating effectively gives them the ability to favor certain services over others while saying at the same time that they are committed to net neutrality.

It's odd - one of the selling points of my plan with Three in the UK is "Go Binge!" which doesn't count any data used for Netflix et al ... but I'm on an unlimited plan, so it seems rather pointless.

> but I'm on an unlimited plan, so it seems rather pointless.

It makes sense if you read the smallprint. Your unlimited plan will have traffic controls that vary with how much you use.

For instance look at GiffGaff's current offers of £20 for 80GB and £25 for "always on" (in an unusual instance of a provider not disengenuously using the word unlimited). If you have the hotter option and go over 80GB you are throttled down to 0.3Mbps for the rest of the billing period (if you have the £20 option you instead start inviting expensive per-MB charges at your usually throughputs).

So what Three are saying is that your "unlimited" plan has traffic shaping based on how much you use (backdoor limits to "unlimited", though in the more common less honestly portrayed form) but that traffic to & from Netflix does not get added to the counters which affect those traffic shaping rules.

I've not read Three's relevant smallprint, hence using GG as my detailed example above because I have encountered their's recently, but I'm confident the above holds because that is how "unlimited" generally works in this context these days. Ah, memories of all the hoo-haa in the 00s & 10s when ISPs were scrabbling to find imaginative ways to kick off people who used too much of their "unlimited" resources workout breaking contract law...

in india, the recent internet boom due to reliance JIo and others like airtel have brought incredible change in a short amount of time but sadly, FUP remains. This is somehow seen as "part of the game" when it need not be. https://www.jio.com/fiber/en-in/plans here speeds range from 100 mbps to 1 gbps but with stupid stupid data caps. like seriously, what is the need for 1 gbps when you can only use high speed internet till 5 tb? same for smaller plans as well. stupid. https://www.airtel.in/broadband/delhi here the word "unlimited" is used but defined in FAQs as meaning "3 TB" of data.

We are living in the times of digital oligarchy. Guess we need to start a revolution to reach democracy.

>AT&T is already making money hand over fist on you,

AT&T doesn't make that much money. Their profit margin is consistently around 10% which is pretty much dead on average for the S&P 500. Half of what Apple does and about 1/3 of Facebook.

Amazon's profit margin is small, but only a fool would say they aren't making money hand over fist. Profit isn't the only measure of 'making money'.

ATT's revenue was $181B in 2019.

You could looks at return on capital, but AT&T isn’t that great in that measurement either.

It makes a pretty fair return in a very large investment. They certainly work for their money.

All the more impressive when they're also one of the better dividend stocks out there.

Wouldn’t it be better to measure $profit per customer. 10% margin doesn’t sound like much, but as you increase costs with anticompetitive measures like having the government sell you exclusive access to infrastructure related resources, that 10% increases in value.

Ex: I’d rather pay $100 to an ISP making 20% margin than $200 to an ISP making 10% margin.

>Ex: I’d rather pay $100 to an ISP making 20% margin than $200 to an ISP making 10% margin.

But you can't because it costs $180 to provide the service. If it could be provided cheaper they'd keep charging you $200 and pocket the extra profit.

If anticompetitive factors are at play that simultaneously increase costs while reducing competition then removing those means it would be cheaper. Spectrum auctions for mobile or exclusive rights of way for wireline are examples of this. The massive duopoly providers don’t care about the exorbitant cost of those because they just pass it along to the customer who has to accept it because there’s no competition.

Those kinds of barriers to entry are a huge benefit to the awful incumbents we have to tolerate.

In my opinion, there is really only one valid complaint in the article:

> We need more choices for our ISPs

If you fix this, e.g. by requiring all last-mile owners to offer the last-mile access at or below their (audited, sufficiently-profitable) input cost to their retail products, most of the remaining problems would sort themselves out, without having micro-managing of ISP features.

Unless you are going to start regulating OTTs in what features/value they can provide, I think it's unfair on (non-monopoly) ISPs to prevent them from providing innovative features because of "net neutrality should trump all" opinions.

There is two sides to this. The ISP basically becoming a monopoly (or duopoly in many cases). Your idea could have the effect of creating a third one. I think it would need to be something where all the ISPs have some sort of financial stake in making that company/gov org work correctly. That could however create more regulatory capture (which we already have).

The other side is the giant walled gardens these companies have created. To fix that would mean that each of the companies would have to want to be federated. I do not see that happening. These are the same companies that are heavily filtering everyone and they said the ISPs would do it. What is the point of having a 'freedom ISP' if the other end is not? We have to have the whole chain working.

This article is using a really unusual definition of "Big Tech", isn't it? Isn't AT&T alone the only bad actor here?

Here's hoping that Starlink will resolve some of these problems instead of just making them worse.


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