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.
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 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.
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 :/
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
Robellus as they are colloquially referred to as.
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 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.
In Stockholm the physical infrastructure is rolled out by the municipality through Stokab  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.
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 :)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and games. I just read that some modern games have patches(!) of over 100GB. What the hell?
At least that has been my experience in the US.
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.
At least, that’s how I understood it.
Or is this something that you guys did totally independently?
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.
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).
You can probably translate it to English with DeepL.
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.
Last I heard they were discontinuing support for older Apple TVs, not all Apple TVs. Are they gone entirely in your region?
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.
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.
not so much these days
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.
I live in MA USA where my only option is Verizon DSL 3mbps down and 0.8mbps up for $74.57
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.
The kicker is that I wasn’t in some remote hard to access location, I was in the middle of San Francisco.
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 guess we got what we wanted but not quite the way we expected.
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.
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.
Efforts to complain about monopolies and price would be better directed at reducing copyright durations.
What is a tv channel if not a shuffled playlist of shows and movies with ads intermixed?
However the movie industry would rather have you pay $20 per month for it.
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?
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.
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.
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.
When governments grant monopolies the consumers get screwed. There's nothing new or mysterious about this.
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.)
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.
If you use some water, presumably it has to go somewhere.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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!)
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.).
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).
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.
Also exchanging pictures/selfies with the family/friends generates quite a bit of data if you do it on a daily basis.
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...
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.
ATT's revenue was $181B in 2019.
It makes a pretty fair return in a very large investment. They certainly work for their money.
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.
Those kinds of barriers to entry are a huge benefit to the awful incumbents we have to tolerate.
> 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.
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.