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Sprint Will Sell a $12 Wireless Plan that Only Connects to Facebook or Twitter (wsj.com)
297 points by 01Michael10 on July 30, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments



A preview of a world without net neutrality. In the future, your $60 internet connection includes "access to 500 premium websites!" The rest of the Internet isn't necessary to the "average" consumer. Like with cable television...

Or maybe I'm wrong about the corporate vision.


No, you're absolutely right. And in that vision, not only would the user pay for the "premium" websites, but the sites themselves would have to pay to get on the premium list.

This is basically the old AOL or CIX model.


Yes. And that's a model that the market rejected in favor of the "dumb pipe" internet service model in the 1990s.


Unfortunately many users don't seem to give a shit these days. As long as they get their new shiny toys.


Users care, but they don't have a choice when the only affordable option at their house is the monopoly over the cable access.


You're totally right. And what scares me the most about this is the "reverse auction" logic that they'll use against net neutrality:

Say a broadbank link today costs $100/mo for 50Mbit. That will remain. It may even get better. They'll say "Look! We used to charge $100/mo for 50Mbit, and now we give you 100Mbit for the same price! We're innovating!"

Meanwhile on the other end, they'll offer the $20 package with 500 Premium Websites, and the $10 package with Facebook & Twitter & Google, but not DuckDuckGo. Or whatever.

And then, as you'd expect, millions will sign up for the cheap packages (because when it comes down to it, most people make a decision based on price and that's it). And the cable cos will still say: "We're still offering totally neutral 100Mbit internet - just like the good 'ol days! We're good guys! It's not our fault that people want the value packages. The free market has spoken."

And then the new players wonder why they can't get any traction until they too pay up to be part of the "value" packages, and the nightmare is real.


Do you mean to say that Facebook and Twitter have paid to get in to this value package? Or is Sprint offering the package on its own? There have been similar facebook deals in India. There was one in which facebook could be accessed via a special URL for free (0.facebook.com). There are packs available for WhatsApp now.


Facebook and Twitter must invest in the deal in one way or other.

Facebook's free access in India and some other countries is part of their internet.org project (or the team that deals with that). In that model, Facebook has a partnership with the local telecoms. The telecom opens access to that domain for every customer and Facebook pays the telecom for the data access.


Maybe humanity will only win if some people are limited to just Twitter and Facebook?


Net neutrality is less of a hot topic in the wireless world compared to wired.

In wired world, the carriers were granted monopoly to dig the trenches, and the fact that they now abuse that monopoly without giving access to other players is what riles people.

Wireless world is fairly fragmented - carriers are separate from equipment companies, which are separate from tower operators. Anybody can buy up some equipment and tower space and just start offering mobile voice+broadband. Or start on MVNO to piggyback existing infrastructure and expand from there.


> Net neutrality is less of a hot topic in the wireless world compared to wired.

That's actually not all that true. While both the 2010 Open Internet Order and the more recent NPRM for a new version have provided looser rules for mobile broadband, (fixed wireless has the same rules as fixed wired broadband), its been on the FCC radar, and a number of big players pushing for more full neutrality than the current NPRM offers for fixed broadband have also been advocating for the same treatment for mobile broadband as fixed rather than two separate models.

> In wired world, the carriers were granted monopoly to dig the trenches, and the fact that they now abuse that monopoly without giving access to other players is what riles people.

In the wireless world, companies rely on exclusive monopoly licenses to spectrum, so its an ongoing -- not merely historical -- monopoly on which they rely.


In wired world, the carriers were granted monopoly to dig the trenches... In the wireless world, companies rely on exclusive monopoly licenses to spectrum

There are two different scopes of monopoly here. My house is bathed in the waves of at least four different cellular networks; that's not really a monopoly.


It is, because only one of those carriers can use each frequency band, and only those carriers can provide service at all.


So basically every company is a "monopoly" because only they can use their property. And AFAIK any company could have bought spectrum (e.g. cable companies bought spectrum).


Not any company owns "property" that permeates my house via RF, and not any company can afford a $4bil spectrum auction.


I wonder which costs more, the spectrum or the towers.


Good point on spectrum, but it's artificial scarcity set by the government policy (or lack thereof).


> Good point on spectrum, but it's artificial scarcity set by the government policy

No, its not. The particular mechanism for managing scarcity may be a policy choice, but the scarcity is pretty fundamental.


The scarcity isn't artificial. High powered broadcasts on the same chunk of spectrum directly interfere with each other.

That is why you can't have two FM radio stations on 106.7.


> High powered broadcasts... FM radio stations on 106.7

are not even close to comparable. Cellphone towers do not use frequencies and powers that travel nearly as far as those employed by radio stations.

>The scarcity isn't artificial.

Nope, it's artificial.

The next generation of base stations performs beamforming for physics-based channel sharing in addition to CDMA ("algorithm-based" channel sharing). Beamforming effectively allows you to employ a sizable number of "virtual antennas", each aimed separately at individual receivers. With multiple base stations it's an even more effective strategy because you can create signals that constructively interfere at a point rather than along a line. Everyone gets their own spatially-localized signal and can transmit their own spatially-localized signal because the same trick works in reverse for reception.

So no, there isn't fundamental spectrum scarcity. Perhaps there are too few beamforming base stations installed, but that's a problem to be solved through investment in new technology, not by allowing carriers to impose business models that de-commoditize bandwidth.


None of those systems are interference free in practice, the amount of which increases with the number of users. Spectrum is still scarce but these methods may make it more efficient to use, especially if channel use is coordinated.

Also beamforming doesn't work as well from the mobile station because you don't have multiple, sufficiently separated antennas.


> beamforming doesn't work as well from the mobile station

Beamforming gives roughly the same advantage to TX and RX. While I'm sure mobile stations will eventually take advantage of it for power conservation purposes, very large advantages still stand to be gained even from a one-sided implementation at the base stations which can have multiple sufficiently separated antennas.

Radio astronomy provides a very good example of this: from Earth, stars look like point radiators, yet VLBI astronomy still yields an insanely powerful RX advantage once you get up to effective apertures the size of Earth.


That can help you make more efficient use of bandwidth and TX power, but doesn't come anywhere near making a free-for-all spectrum workable.

The carrying capacity for wireless customers (and carriers) could increase to above where it is now, but not the point where frequency coordination is unnecessary.


> but doesn't come anywhere near making a free-for-all spectrum workable

Why not? The ISM bands haven't become unusable even in densely packed residences with large numbers of Netflix-streaming cable cutters. Yes, cell phone towers have a longer range (which puts them at a small constant factor disadvantage), but they are also professionally maintained and can therefore make use of directional antennas and beamforming which gives them a constant factor advantage proportional to investment.

We have the technology to provide service to any reasonable density of people. It's a matter of cost, not scarcity. As opposed to, say, healthcare, this is a problem that markets should be very good at solving.


> The next generation of base stations > Perhaps there are too few beamforming base stations installed

That is the key points. In the near future it'll be artificial but it hasn't been until those exist in sufficient quantities and with sufficient QoS. Simply because it is technically possible for them to get away with less spectrum doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of installed base stations don't function that way at present and that the technology wasn't available to get that performance until super recently.

That is like saying everyone could buy an autonomous cars and so human driver error is no longer an issue.


Of course hastily lifting the restrictions would be a bad idea. The correct approach would be to lift regulations at a pace fast enough that telcos could keep up with decreased regulatory protection through vigorous investment in new hardware. Sticking with spectrum auctions until the old equipment falls apart or telecom companies replace it out of the goodness of their hearts is a terrible idea.


At which point we are back to the scarcity not being artificial. Just because it is the rate of telecom investment in your view doesn't make it "artificial".

There are real limits on their rate of capex.


If someone wants to post articles on the technology behind beamforming, I'll be in the new queue upvoting.


There has been some lively discussion of Artemis pCell technology on HN in the past.


Do you have a link to read more information about this?


> Net neutrality is less of a hot topic in the wireless world compared to wired.

Really? Unless you can participate in the multi-billion dollar spectrum auction, you can't use any of those towers or disparate device providers. The right to use a large block of spectrum in a given geographic area is a monopoly of sorts for that carrier. Given the capital and scale needed to enter the market, it's no wonder we have so few wireless carriers to choose from.


It would be very expensive for me to start a chip fabrication plant, but that doesn't make the industry a monopoly. Just one that requires a lot of capital to enter.


Capital that you'll never get as the market is far too risky for any sane investor, and far too much money for an individual to have spare. Semiconductor manufacture isn't a monopoly now as there's more than one player, but you're fooling yourself if you believe it's something more than an oligarchy.


You mean oligopoly?


Yes.


> Anybody can buy up some equipment and tower space and just start offering mobile voice+broadband.

That's surprising to me. How can the FCC charging billions for mobile spectrum licences? [1] It would seem to me that there are government-granted monopolies for both wired and wireless.

[1] http://www.networkworld.com/article/2307154/network-security...


Isn't the regulation pretty similar in the wireless world? Wired providers get monopolies to dig trenches, but don't wireless providers get monopolies (or oligopolies) to use certain parts of the wireless spectrum? I'm pretty sure anybody can't just buy equipment and start broadcasting.


It is regulated by the FCC and some frequencies can be used by anybody in the US (but they might not be suitable for a cellphone company) http://transition.fcc.gov/oet/spectrum/table/fcctable.pdf ...


Tower space yes, frequency no.


I'm fine with that. At least they do not label it as Internet. The customers will decide and I expect their vision will collide with the corporate one. It is also a chance for other companies to offer better packages with undiscriminated access.


I'm not entirely convinced that the majority of internet users would really miss the rest of the internet if all but the 500 (or 1,000) top websites disappeared. I could see a world where if we left it up to the consumers, the majority of the long-tail Internet would stagnate and disappear because so few are paying for the packages that include those sites.

It's not a perfect analogy, but I'd compare it to broadcast media. The barrier to entry for creating a new TV channel is absurdly high compared to that of creating a website. Imagine a world where suddenly creating a website meant negotiating with Internet providers to get included in the standard packages. It's just a huge step back, but the majority of consumers might not notice the difference. (At least not right away.)


The average customer may not understand that when he buys the Twitter package, that she/he is not be able to open external resources on any Twitter feed. Watching the Youtube video your friend posted with a Tweet - not possible. This limitation will make such a package unattractive.

Another reason for why these offers will fail is status. If you bought such a package, you better not tell your peers, because it lowers your status among them. Well, your peers will know it anyway, because you cannot just open this Youtube video they posted on their Facebook timeline. This is a bigger issue with Sprint's targeted customer: poor people and kids.

It would be a good strategy, if Sprint compensates these offerings by also offering an instant access choice. If a customer with a Facebook package opens an external resource, she/he shall see a page where she/he can buy 24h Internet access for less than $2.

---

If providers stop offering "undiscriminated" Internet access, others will fill this gap with new "Real Internet Access".


You're right -- they can't limit this service to ONLY Facebook or Twitter and expect it to succeed. They'd need to give you a big enough slice of the internet that most external links will work. Or, at the very least, they would need to provide a means for gaining access (i.e. watch this ad, or pay for temporary access, or buy this cheap add-on package).

My point wasn't that the Internet would suddenly become a set of pre-packaged channels. It's just that, if you leave it up to the average internet subscriber, I can see a future where the desires of many price-conscious consumers ultimately how Internet service gets structured. I suspect my parents, for instance, would be willing to trade reduced Internet access for much lower prices.

Sure, plenty of people would still go for the "Real Internet Access" option, but for a ton of consumers the Internet would cease being as open as it is today, and I'm not so sure they wouldn't be totally okay with that, if it meant paying a lot less.


Yes they would. This is an utterly classic failure to understand averages. The idea that people visit a dozen or so websites regularly doesn't remotely imply that those are the only websites they visit, or even that those are the most valuable websites for them.

I can live without any of my most visited websites - they are not business important. But my business web site? The local calendaring etc? My mobile plan loses all value if I can't use those on the go.


Those sites usually have links to less popular sites.


Don't give them any ideas. Now they're just going to not sell you an "internet" package at all, just "pinternet" packages to evade the FCC's rules and regulations on what the internet is supposed to be.


The FCC will not oppose Sprint having dropped any Internet access package. Sprint is free to do that.

Net Neutrality is not about how a company forms their products for their customers. It is only about (backbone) providers trying to extort money from companies which happen to send traffic through the pipes of those providers, because their customers asked for that traffic. Providers, offering QoS based access is not a matter of Net Neutrality.


And they don't need to worry about torrents and piracy and all that hassle. Can see that appealing greatly to big media companies and the politicians they're in with.


Of course net neutrality is a must but at least with TV I get about 50 free over-the-air DTV channels so I don't need cable...


Nothing really stops "us" from making radio based meshnets, either. Besides spectrum regulation hogging all the good stuff.


I want to see someone create an algorithm that automatically arranges fixed point-to-point wireless connections, with a weekly re-aim window to account for new/dropped subscribers and to route heavy traffic sources and sinks.

It would automatically avoid interference by ensuring that links are never overlapping (eg: receiving an unintended sender's signal), but ensuring links are either parallel or perpendicular.


Wow. Never thought that we'd make a return to the days of Prodigy.

At least AOL had internet access!


Now it all makes sense. This HN crowd views the world as paying $20/mth for Xgb of data. But, the companies fighting against becoming dumb pipes much prefer to charge $5/mth for a base data plan, plus the $12 unlimited social package, plus the $10 for 40 hours of music package, etc.

From a business perspective it's brilliant: selling benefits, as opposed to a commodity (bandwidth). Ie. The price charged for the good sold no longer has relation to the cost of the good.

Now just imagine if we bought other commodities the same way. Would you buy gas by distance, e.g. 'enough gas to drive from LA to NY for $50†' -- a great deal if you drive a Hummer, but pretty bad for a Prius.

†The actual cost would be much more, but you get the point.


> * But, the companies fighting against becoming dumb pipes much prefer to charge $5/mth for a base data plan, plus the $12 unlimited social package, plus the $10 for 40 hours of music package, etc.*

I work at an ISP. You hit the nail very squarely on the head, these conversations are happening every day.

I believe we're soon going to introduce a "NetFlix" package where all netflix data will not count towards your usage cap. (Of course, the entire Netflix catalog is already locally cached inside our network anyway)


So this raises two questions I hadn't thought of before. (1) Doesn't this totally wreck the ISP argument for charging Netflix extra? (2) What's to prevent me from setting up the same sort of caching in my house and effectively breaking the Netflix DRM?


This came up on HN not too long ago - I imagine it's how they do the caching:

https://www.netflix.com/openconnect/hardware

To answer 1, I would guess this kills the argument for a wired connection, but not necessarily wireless since there are greater bandwidth restrictions. That's just a guess though, since my perception of how far wireless tech has come might be off.


2) as colinsidoti says, our ISP has the hardware from Netflix (& others). We plug it in, tell them the public IP address and forget about it from there.

1) Remember their argument is not logical. And it's a secret that we have local caches in our network, so nobody is allowed to know that anyway.


Do they understand that if they do this it is just as easy for a company like Youtube to cut off complete access to them?

Try to put my site in a package = no access for any of your customers.


I like Netflix's approach: very publicly blame Verizon's network http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/netflix-refuses-t...


They're talking to the companies in question.

i.e. they won't offer a "Netflix" package with Netflix's agreement.


EDIT: Above - should be

they won't offer a "Netflix" package WITHOUT Netflix's agreement.


If companies get into such deals with the isp's they should be blamed. What if tomorrow Google forbids any ISP from creating a Google pack or say Facebook? That would help the cause of net neutrality. Can we have companies supporting the cause oppose such packs?


I actually don't know how the companies feel about it, I am not part of the discussions being had, I just hear about them after the fact.

I know we're under very strict conditions that we're not even allowed to say we even have local caches, much less who we have caches for.


Does the bandwidth a customer uses actually relate to your costs in any significant way, especially when measured as bytes per month?


No. The regulatory body here in Canada, the CRTC, ruled that internet can not be sold from one ISP to another based on usage, only based on speed.

So we have a however many Gbit link, and we pay $x/month for that whether we saturate it the entire time, or it sits idle.


If you took a Prius C and drove really conservatively, I think you're only off by a factor of 2 or so.

I think a better analogy might be something like water or electricity. Imagine separate line items on your electric bill for the refrigerator, the TV, the lights, etc. You bought a game console, that's $50/month extra for the game console electrical package.


I like your example better, because the energy utilities are quite similar to communications with active monopolies in some regions, a regulated environment, and huge infrastructure investments.

With energy the infrastructure is regulated, with regulated rates. While the provider of the actual electricity is competitive without duplicating the infrastructure. This makes so much sense, it should be clear to treat telecommunications the same way.


Another example I thought was effective was to compare it to the postal service, and to get political about the picking and choosing. Imagine, for example, if the postal service delivered the Washington Post normally, but charged extra for National Review. (Reverse or substitute them for people with different political leanings.)

I used this when talking to my father recently, who leans fairly right and has been posting some links using the party line "free market" and "less regulation" arguments against net neutrality, and it seemed to make an impression.


> arguments against net neutrality, and it seemed to make an impression.

I'm politically right of center and would like to point out that a non-trivial number of my philosophical peers used to assume "net neutrality" had more to do with a reincarnation of the fairness doctrine than data transit (I'm not even kidding). I'd like to believe that's changing, slowly, but it would take some convincing for me to accept that most of those who argue in favor of free market solutions have any understanding that this is a data ownership--rather than political--issue.

Besides, the issues have become so complex thanks to lobbying efforts by these monopolies that I think your analogy is probably the best approach to help educate the public at large as to the dangers that might arise if this sort of nonsense takes hold further (and sadly, I fear it will--I was afraid of this the day the cable companies were allowed to become ISPs).


I think the postal service isn't the best analogy. Take the case where ISP's want to put high bandwidth content providers (e.g.) in the slow lane.

I see this as the USPS equivalent of charging you by the size and weight of the package (which they do, unless you are using a flat rate envelope). The flat rate envelope being the equivalent of some "package" internet deal a la the OP.


It's more like wanting to charge Amazon more money per package because they generate so much delivery work for USPS.


Ah yes, makes sense.


I think it's a sure sign of dysfunction any time a company is trying to discourage use of their product.

A healthy company in a healthy market loves additional demand. Imagine if there's some new kind of fruit that everyone wants to buy. The local supermarkets are flooded. Are they going to say, "this fruit is too popular and causing too much strain on our infrastructure, so we demand additional compensation from the fruit growers"? Hell no. They're going to say, "This is awesome! We're making so much cash! Hire more workers! Build out the stores! Buy more magic fruit!"

Many ISPs have managed to set up their product offerings such that they don't want additional use of their product. That's a major screwup on their part, and one they should fix.

It's interesting to look at cellular carriers, which started out this way but have mostly overcome it. For example, AT&T started out offering "unlimited" plans to iPhone users, and inevitably iPhone users used "too much" and this caused trouble. Now they only offer metered plans, and the attitude is different. Oh, you want to stream video constantly and use dozens of GB per month? Come right this way, we have a plan just for you, and you'll get a nice bulk discount. Contrast with Clear, who I used for a little bit as a home connection. They advertise "unlimited" and say it's suitable for replacing a home broadband connection, but if you actually try to use it that way, they throttle you into the ground and tell you to stop being abusive.

Techies as a whole seem to be really resistant to metered pricing for internet connections, but I think standardizing on that approach would solve a whole bunch of problems.


This was actually discussed in yesterdays Washington Post. Electricity providers/generators weren't always competitive:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/07/29...


Except that electricity is fungible. Electricity encoded with data is not.


Broadband data connections to the internet are more or less fungible.

That's essentially what the whole net neutrality debate is about. Should internet connections be fungible, or should it be possible for connections to be qualitatively different, not merely faster, slower, cheaper, more expensive?


If the provider has a monopoly, that doesn't really matter.


From a MBA logic point of view, I'm sure its brilliant but to me its pure evil. I'd literally move if I had to find an ISP that didn't do this.


At the end of the day, the companies that invest the money to build the very expensive infrastructure that all those little bits run around on aren't going to be content to being "dumb pipes." Ownership of the platform gives you tremendous leverage (ask Apple or Facebook or Microsoft), and the ISP's own the platform. Without them, the internet is just a bunch of software not talking to each other.


No. That is what ISPs are without networks like Level3.

The internet, on a B2B level, would work fine without these ISPs. The problem is these ISPs + natural monopolies on spectrum + governments + barriers to entry create national networks are abusing that power in the B2C space.

Please don't claim "The Internet" is purely a B2C entity.

EDIT: I'm amused by the downvote. Given I know this is true [e.g. My day job B2B work purely transits non-B2C ISPs like Sprint or Verizon]. ;)


Building the consumer facing networks is a lot harder and more expensive than building the core network. Level 3's capex is a fraction of that of companies like VZN or ATT.


1) That is what you said originally. You can change the argument if you like, that's cool.

2) Smaller companies are able to provider better service in rural areas or towns than VZN/ATT. It is the effects of capex on their stock price, not the fundamental economics.

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/a-city...

Ya, they may not run it to single residential homes. That doesn't change the fact they can do it to something like an apartment complex or buisness park cheaper than VZN or ATT just fine.

And it isn't just them, there are dozens of these companies that are profitable and do this.

You are fundamentally wrong.


What about the hundreds of billions of dollars -- might be approaching a trillion since the 60s (+) -- that federal and state governments have contributed to telecommunications infrastructure?

(+): I can't quickly find a coherent dollar amount for any time period, but it is significantly large and a few quick estimates put some investment programs in the hundreds of billions of dollars.


Those hundreds of billions numbers are total bullshit. They calculate it by counting all the telecoms profits over X percent and including tax deductions.

As far as I can tell, there is approaching zero dollars of actual transfers of cash.

The only thing I can even find that subsidizes them is faster depreciation allowances.

There is also the USF, but that is paid for by taxes on telecoms and is used to build rural networks.


OK, you've convinced me. Let's end all subsidies, tax discounts, and grants to telecommunications companies.


So the USF enhances network effects, which is a great influencer of value.

Just how much more valuable is a social device/service/product that can access 100% of the population instead of just 80% or 90%?

Not all transfers of value are in cash form. I reside in a "condoland" that used to be a railway switching yard. The railway didn't pay for the land, they just sat on it for a century and sold it for $$$ to a developer. A riskfree windfall to a private company at my expense then and my expense now.

The infrastructure build allowances for telecoms are not any different.

For these reasons, I'm skeptical of anything that governments tender away except on a lease basis, whether it be land, spectrum, infrastructure corridors, etc.


That's some serious voodoo economics. If connecting rural consumers generated network benefits that outweighed the cost of connecting them, then telecoms would do it without any government programs. As it is, all USF does is shift money from certain telecom customers to other telecom customers, in a way that almost certainly generates a net deadweight loss.

> For these reasons, I'm skeptical of anything that governments tender away except on a lease basis, whether it be land, spectrum, infrastructure corridors, etc.

It's impossible to talk about all of the things local governments have done in one breath, but by and large, it's hard to argue that their efforts have been a net benefit for the telecom companies. Read a typical cable franchise agreement. There's no handouts of land or rights of way, just random money grabs for public services (public access TV, etc), and requirements to build out to unprofitable low-income or low-density areas.


And without the people on the internet the internet is nothing. I fail to see what your point is?

Most of the network that you use was not built by them. Your tax dollars your grandparents (or parents) paid is what built it. They just maintain it, not that that is cheap.


What part of Sprint's (or Verizon's, etc) wireless network was built with tax dollars?


Pretty much all of it, be it in government handouts or tax rebates.


This is absolutely incorrect. The cellular companies spend tens of billions a year in building their networks.


Those networks rely on publicly owned airwaves, so the public has the right to put whatever conditions they want on those licenses.

That said, I really hate our spectrum auction system. Going forward, I would prefer use restricted unlicensed bands... I think Europe's model is better than ours too.


Sure, but let's not forget that the wireless carriers paid billions of dollars for that spectrum, and once they purchased those airwaves, they became private. As for spectrum auctions, they are the solution favored by economists for dealing with scarce public resources. The idea of creating property rights in spectrum and auctioning them was proposed by none other than Ronald Coase: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bfffd9fa-e9e2-11de-ae43-00144.... Obviously the current spectrum auctions fall short of the ideal--it should be possible to use purchased spectrum for any use not just specified uses, but they're much better than what we had before.

I favor using unlicensed bands for a lot of things,[1] but for cellular, dedicated bands auctioned to the highest bidder are probably the way to go.

[1] Specifically this: http://werbach.com/research/supercommons.html.


Appreciate the the response, the Werbach paper looks interesting. My point was just that wireless communications do rely on public assets in a significant way.

Wouldn't unlicensed bands that are dedicated to cellular vastly improve coverage for customers? Rather than the auction, tax payer money could be invested into building the network infrastructure and the carriers could lease access at cost (similar to many other utilities today). I can think of a number of advantages:

  * Cell providers compete more on price.
  * All devices are portable to other providers.
  * All hardware uses just one radio.
  * Above items then result in better device battery life.
From the perspective of a cellular customers and a business reliant on consistent internet connectivity, this would be a boon... From a carriers perspective, they benefit from the existing inefficiencies and besides, it would deeply cut into their monopoly profits .


> My point was just that wireless communications do rely on public assets in a significant way.

The whole point of auctions is to take a public asset, compensate the public through the auction process, then make it private and let the market manage it. At that point, it's no longer public.

> From a carriers perspective, they benefit from the existing inefficiencies and besides, it would deeply cut into their monopoly profits .

The cellular carriers aren't monopolies. At three or four major carriers, there's much more competition in that space than in, say, the search engine space or the consumer operating system space, or in the mobile operating system space. Moreover, those profits are what motivate companies like AT&T and Verizon to spend tens of billions of dollars a year investing in infrastructure that becomes rapidly obsolete.

Look at our other public infrastructure. It's decrepit. Amtrak still has lots of cars built in the 1970's. Our power companies are running century-old coal fired power plants. You think there's the public will to spend tens of billions of tax dollars each year upgrading cellular infrastructure to keep pace with technology? Once public wireless infrastructure was built, it'd be a fight to just get enough funding to merely maintain it, the same sort of fight we're having with rail infrastructure, water infrastructure, etc. E.g. many rail routes are slower today than they were in the 1960's, because the infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate.

There's an article on the front page today that gives you an idea of how well our "other utilities" work: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/swim-swam-swum ("Grzybowski sampled again, and the C.F.U. count in the river exceeded 24,196, the highest possible measurement. 'Pretty much raw sewage,' he reported.")


Of course, but the money funnelled into them makes up for it. They even turn profits, so they can be spending that much money!


Verizon's quarterly profits are a fraction of those of Google, which is a single Internet company. If you had to pick a place to be on the value chain and profitability was your only metric, infrastructure is a bad place to be.


Let's make Google just a dumb index.


My worry isn't that service providers are finding ways to package and sell limited internet access, and that this violates net neutrality. Ideally I wish there were something preventing this, but if you're paying only for Facebook access, you know what you're getting, and it's just not the same as paying for a standard broadband connection.

My worry is that, if the majority of consumers start paying to access only the sites they care about, we'll end up in a situation where the Internet looks more like broadcast media than like the world wide web.

Imagine if the barrier to entry for creating a website were such that you had to negotiate with content and service providers to get your site featured in the right packages. Looking to start up a new e-commerce site? Get included in Comcast's "shopping channel" package. Want to start a sports commentary blog? Make sure you're in AT&T's "unlimited sports" package or you'll be missing out on your biggest traffic source.

My fear is that the majority of consumers won't really notice a difference, at least not right away. They'll be able to get access to all their usual websites, and if it comes at a heavy discount from the full "Internet" package, they won't really get upset if they can't access a particular website. Especially if every service already comes with the top 500-1,000 websites in their language. My mom definitely wouldn't notice any difference, and many of my less techy friends might not either. So if you left it up to the consumer, you might end up right back where you started with pre-packaged TV subscriptions, leaving the majority of the long-tail Internet to stagnate.


I think you're understating what an impact this would have. What has made the web so amazing is the low cost of reaching users allows entrepreneurs to try new things with lower risk. This has lead to high rates of innovation in the tech sector. This change would stifle innovation by increasing the barriers to entry for new web services.

Many of the companies we've grown to love today might not have been able to get started in a world without net neutrality. Your next start-up might not have access to Sprint, or AT&T or Comcast subscribers without paying those carriers.


Plus, what about all the services that every major site relies on?

Example: Stripe.com, on Alexa's rankings, is #1,331 in the US. Does that mean every site that uses Stripe is broken, even if you pay for access to the main site?


I can't believe this story is not getting more traction on HN. My submission was like the fourth one...

$12 for access to one app/website? How is this even any kind of deal? I pay $32 for the whole Internet on a T-Mobile plan that is unlimited (OK capped at 5GB).

Worse, it's no deal for the poor who now will be conditioned that Facebook is the "Internet".

EDIT: This submission has made the HN front page but then the url and title was changed. Go figure...


I think this might be something that we continue to deal with. If people just want to use Facebook on their phone, then that's what the carriers will give them. Just because the tech community thinks that is dumb; if 10 million "poor" people want that service, they'll get it.


My concern is, in 10 years, a generation of people will think this is how it has always been.


And the only way it should be.


I hardy think it is only the "tech" community that will realize this plan is "dumb".

Just because someone is poor doesn't mean they are an idiot... The real fear is other carriers will adopt this idea and then jack up the prices on normal data plans which will railroad poorer people into these types of plans.


Journalists have been blaming Google for removing their articles from search results due to the "Right to be Forgotten". Horrible display of ignorance.

It is tempting to overestimate the public's technical understanding. The prevailing mindset is: Out of site is out of mind, and any problems with a website is the fault of the website.

My fear is that communicating information about background forces and decisions to the public will be ineffective. It already doesn't work well in other areas of politics.


And there's the crux of it. It's balancing consumer protection with providing the best service and experience. My example: If I'm on a crowded train on my way to meet someone and I want to look up the location on maps, but service is congested because people are browsing FB or HN; I would like priority to my request. I'm not saying this is right, but I do see some justification to "tiering" different services and if customers start demanding it (maybe it starts with poor people and Facebook), the carriers will be more than happy to deliver.


There is no reason that can't be done by just selling them bandwidth, regardless. Facebook isn't a massive bandwidth cost.


Picture yourself as a parent of a 12 year old getting their first cell phone.

I would probably not buy my child this just out of principle of not supporting anything anti-net-neutraility, but I can certainly see why this plan would make sense for people that aren't poor or stupid.


I agree. I have said elsewhere in this thread it is the ideal kids phone. They get to stay in contact with their friends on Facebook and Twitter. They have limited text and voice connectivity to reach out to their parents in an emergency. Plus the limited internet connection serves as a form of parental control. If you help them setup privacy settings before hand, they can't really get into too much trouble on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is pretty good about keeping out adult content and the adult content on Twitter generally links offsite.

The funny thing is that if this was marketed as a kid's phone from the start, Sprint probably wouldn't see the same type of net neutrality backlash that they will likely see from this.


It's not at all the ideal "kids phone". Crippling the access kids have to the Internet, through parental control and the like, is part of the reason why so many kids have so little interest in porgramming.


Awesome deal if the one app is my VPN endpoint


Would it be possible to create a facebook app that acts as a proxy / vpn?

(As in, Facebook doesn't have a policy against it)

It would essentially channel all traffic through facebook servers and back out to the internet.


I wonder what happens now.

If i only have 'facebook' access, can I use their app? Their app has the browser built in right. So i could potentially just have a link in my profile to a pinboard/bookmark-like service, and see if it allows me full access.

Not really something I'd bother with but for people that want the cheapest rate possible it might be an interesting workaround


IP-over-Facebook Status

I very much suspect Facebook will end up playing whack-a-mole with crazy schemes to tunnel the internet over different parts of its service.


> $12 for access to one app/website? How is this even any kind of deal? I pay $32 for the whole Internet on a T-Mobile plan that is unlimited (OK capped at 5GB).

I pay $10, also with T-Mobile, however, I only get 3GB of data. I want to note this, because I think 3 GB/month would satisfy a lot of people's needs: I tether daily on my commute, and have never breached 3GB¹. Most of the rest of my time (and, I suspect, most people's) is at work or home, both of which data is covered by WiFi.

I also want to point out that T-Mobile isn't exactly clean either: they're currently heavily promoting that you get "free" data to certain music providers (e.g., Pandora), which also very anti-net-neutral in my opinion.

¹Also, should I actually use that much, T-mobile just slows data down to 2G speeds.


It's even cheaper - you can get calls+text+3G for $25 at republic wireless - which has same coverage areas as sprint. And once you add calls+text to the sprint plans it will not be much cheaper than $25 , surely.


This is the plan I have and it works great. Also republic wireless has the coverage areas as sprint because they use the sprint network.


Yeah; Republic Wireless is a great deal. I have the $10 dollar plan. Unlimited calls + texting; internet on Wifi only.


It's a non-story because Facebook launched 0.facebook.com four and a half years ago http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/16/facebook-launches-zero-a-te... so this is a story only to the effect that a US carrier now signed up for a variant of it.


Facebook now needs to proxy the real Internet and profit from it...


"For that same price, they could choose instead to connect only with Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest—or for $10 more, enjoy unlimited use of all four. Another $5 gets them unlimited streaming of a music app of their choice."

This is pretty horrifying.

Although if this gets more people connected to the internet(at least in some limited capacity) then that's probably a net good for civilization; ability to reach more people in a disaster, more people get educated(at least in a roundabout way).

I think we'll likely see more services like this as most internet users probably spend their time on only a handful of websites anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if FB started buying up some of the larger content holders(BuzzFeed, etc.) so as to consolidate the content under one umbrella without having to worry about copyright issues.

I'm just saying, for instance, how would this handle YouTube embeds? YouTube just wouldn't work in this scenario? I assume FB will launch their own video network as well. I assume these types of deals are quite lucrative for both FB and the carriers.


What I find horrifying is that this has a good chance of sucking in enough people so as to set a precedent that it's acceptable, despite the on-going Netflix shenanigans which have been doing a pretty good job of raising awareness for Net Neutrality. I don't think most people understand the connection between the two.

"What does having Facebook on my phone for only 12$ have to do with my Netflix being slow at home?"


Every unencrypted byte your last mile provider can see gives them power over you. Here's the only way to fix this: VPNs for everyone. Every single byte encrypted. Your last mile provider becomes a dumb pipe to your real ISP, who actually has competition and therefore an incentive to give you good service.

Anything less is unworkable in the long run; it's a race back to the cable subscription model and the only question is how long it takes to get there.


Until the wireless provider starts terminating SSL themselves and requiring devices on its platform to carry their certificate.


As far as I know, the application connections for Facebook and Twitter are done via HTTPS APIs.


The payloads are encrypted, but the DNS lookups aren't encrypted, and neither are the IP headers with the IPs of Facebook and Twitter servers in them. That's how Sprint can distinguish Facebook and Twitter traffic from other traffic, and that's what a VPN would fix.


I guess I don't see what encryption has to do with the topic at hand then, since they'd ostensibly only allow access to a known set of addresses with this plan.


If everyone used VPNs as a matter of course, it would prevent the oligopoly last-mile ISPs like Sprint and Verizon from having the power to implement anti-net-neutrality plans like this in the first place. It would be a much healthier state for the industry as a whole.


> If everyone used VPNs as a matter of course, it would prevent the oligopoly last-mile ISPs like Sprint and Verizon from having the power to implement anti-net-neutrality plans like this in the first place.

How? To use a VPN you have to be able to connect to your VPN server. If you have a service plan that only allows connections to IP addresses that belong to Twitter and Facebook, I don't see how you are going to use your VPN to connect elsewhere.


The point being made is that if everyone connected to the internet through their own personal VPN, either by educating everyone to do so, or some default system built into the infrastructure, then there would be no such thing as limiting you to a certain websites, because your ISP would never know what websites you, or anyone, was browsing. The only thing an ISP could see is bandwidth to/from your IP address, nothing else.

I think it's a pointless argument though. It's too late to set a system like that up now. The average consumer does not know what a VPN is, does not want to learn what a VPN is, and does not want extra steps in setting anything up on their phone or home internet. And what's the other option? Call AT&T and convince them to pipe everyone's internet to a random VPN not owned by AT&T before sending the traffic out elsewhere? It can never happen.


That's kinda his point.. If everyone used VPNs, then nobody would use this plan, and Sprint would never have even thought it up.


They don't need to see exactly what you are doing on Facebook, they just need to know you are going to Facebook so they can make Facebook pay for the traffic (in addition to you paying for the traffic, and Facebook paying their own data provider for the traffic). This is what a VPN solves but regular HTTPS/SSL does not.

How Facebook pays for the traffic (to your ISP, not theirs) is somewhat irrelevant (maybe they are a willing participant and sponsoring it), but ultimately as long as the last-mile ISPs know where the traffic is going to/from they know the two parties they can double dip from.


They can still block non FB/Twitter IP ranges. IP headers aren't encrypted unless you are going over a VPN.


This is pure evil. and exactly why we need Net Neutrality.

http://willchatham.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/net.png

They really want to make this real. :|


I made this five years ago.

It's rather fascinating to see it inch ever closer to reality.


Fascinating? I'd use terrifying personally.


I meant fascinating in a morbid way.

It was also interesting to see in the WCIT leaks a submission by Ofcom that's surprisingly like my creation here.

Edit: http://i.imgur.com/roimIHy.jpg

And yes, this was a regulatory agency submitting this to the IT-bloody-U. Not even a telco.


My god. They must be stopped.


No, not them. Not as much as Internet.org and everyone associated with it and Facebook Zero and even Wikipedia Zero should be prosecuted with extreme prejudice. Not necessarily in a judicial court, but definitely crucified in the court of public opinion.


"the court of public opinion" I don't think that court cares. It usually doesn't.


How does this even work though? Most of the things that are interesting on twitter or pinterest are links to other sites. They really lost their value if you can't even click through the links.


"They really lost their value if you can't even click through the links"

To the user, certainly. On the other hand, Sprint still has the $12.


This is Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe most of the interesting content to you and me are links, but we aren't most people. Many (most?) people want to see uploaded pictures, write brief messages to each other, and catch up on people's statuses. That is probably the market they're targeting.


They also follow Buzzfeed, and click on the interesting sounding headlines.


You see a warning page prior to being redirected to an outside URL.


"For only $0.99 you can view the rest of the internet for 12 hours. Click yes to approve."


Maybe the plan gives you 100MB of real data so you get a taste of external links.



Which is why I made it. Five years ago. As a warning.

Yet here we are with this having been in the WCIT leaks if people didn't have enough of a warning: http://i.imgur.com/roimIHy.jpg

The stuff on the right was created by a regulatory agency acting as part of the ITU. The I. T. U. And yet it took John Oliver for the average person to start at least mildly caring.


$5 a month for news is less than I pay for a subscription to The New York Times, but it's included for free with your hypothetical evil plan.


Just to clarify, TELCO's great value bundles may not include premium subscriptions to our peering partners. Unless otherwise indicated what we have partnered to provide is a prioritised connection to our peering partner to deliver to you and your family value content quota-free at an affordable price :)

If you'd like to upgrade your NY Times beyond our $5 News package and access premium content you can do so from the TELCO portal and additional charges will be on your TELCO bill for a convenient single-stop experience! Additionally, we're currently running a bundle on newspaper experiences where if you bundle both New York Times premium content and another premium news experience where we've partnered with in our Atlantic news offerings so you can get three for the cost of just $10 and three months at half price!

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Your advertising is misleading :)


Hypothetical?


I find it interesting to see the reaction of HN crowds.

Services like this is common in 3rd-world country: they charge you for a very small monthly fee to connect to a select web services as opposed to the "all of the internet".

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Watsapp, BBM + E-mail only.

The services might grow or reduce depending on the popularity of the web services.


It goes without saying that the HN audience of startup founders who want to "disrupt" Instagram/WhatsApp/BBM/etc. are opposed to this.


Nothing to do with diruption. The sites I browse most frequently (by an order of magnitude) are HN and Reddit. Neither of these are useful on such a plan, since the entire purpose is linking the internet at large.

However if such plans become popular, we could potentially lose (or pay lots to preserve) the ability to frequent such sites.


I don't know how anyone can say that net-neutraility does not preclude innovation.

What if I was an up and coming social media site? If all the tweens in the world were on this cell plan (which I imagine is a core demographic of this) how in the world would I be able to gain marketshare?

It's so damn clear. It's sad that society doesn't care.


Sprint isn’t being paid by any of the apps, but Mr. Draper didn’t rule it out in the future. “It’s definitely possible,” he said. “But we have not gone down that path yet.”

Sprint is collecting users to be sold to the highest bidder.

"Hi Startup, what to be included in our $10 plan? That will cost you X dollars."

Goodbye open internet. Never thought it would actually die in my lifetime. They should start calling this movement ISP 2.0 :(


Pay to play. That's how it worked in every industry so far,internet was a "freak" that need to be locked up according to some. Unfortunatly this model will be the future of the ISP business...


This is very common in 3rd world countries. Where facebook, and twitter will be free. The idea is that facebook and twitter get members who'll always be able to connect for free. And those social media platforms encourage people to go out on the rest of the web and incur large fees from the cellular service (or pay for a data plan).


Without a neutral net, the "rest of the web" will offer a very different menu of services than today's web.

In developing countries, those deals were initiated by Facebook and Twitter. Vodafone declined this option, http://www.cellular-news.com/story/Operators/64337.php

"That the company has been approached by Facebook to do so was revealed by the Group's CEO, Vittorio Colao who was speaking at a Vodafone shareholders meeting in New York.

He said that he had been directly approached by Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg but declined to their proposal saying that it didn't make sense.

"There is no reason why I should give my network capacity for free." he stated."


I'm surprised Facebook and Twitter weren't willing to front (some) of the cost just to get their user counts up and first-mover advantage. Crudely, each Twitter user is worth $100 to the company. Double that for Facebook.

But I guess free is better, if they can get it. They'll consider paying in subsequent iterations.


Apparently some telcos have been burned by their Facebook data deal.

http://adage.com/article/digital/twitter-facebook-rate-telec...

"Yet the future of the deals remains unclear, particularly after Facebook has soured several operators on the arrangements. Multiple people with knowledge of the partnerships said Facebook cut the deals for subsidized data without paying a cent, often strong-arming carriers into adopting its conditions and footing the data bills.

... Three carriers with sizable global reach -- Vodafone, Telefónica and Singtel -- have staunchly resisted Facebook's advances. Several others, analysts said, are showing rising concerns over the bottom line benefits of zero-rating deals.

... Communicating zero-rating deals to subscribers proved more difficult than imagined, the former employee said. The packages free up data on Twitter, but not other websites, a source of frustration and confusion to users."


I'm an open advocate of net neutrality. I'm just stating this isn't a new practice, and the large tech companies are very happy to shit on your net neutrality freedom provided it pads their bottom line.


Quick someone make a web proxy via Facebook/Twitter messenger proxy. Set it up as a SaaS, surf the web with only the Sprint $12 plan and sell as many subscriptions before Sprint notices the unusual pattern in their bandwidth usage!


oh yes. So much possibilities.


This is why we desperately need net neutrality laws.


Net neutrality is about the desire of ISPs to get paid from both ends of a connection. ISPs want to get money from consumers for getting access to content producers and service providers and from the latter in turn for their content being made available to consumers. The current system is that ISPs are just being paid by consumers for access to what's put online by content and service providers. Content and service providers get access to consumers for free right now. This plan by sprint limits access to consumers of this kind of connection to a single service that the consumer opts into. It seems relevant, but I'm not sure. Would net neutrality regulation prohibit something like this?


Yes, because net neutrality is mainly about selling only "the Internet" and giving equal access to all websites to all customers.

You are hearing more about the connection-throttling issues Netflix has with Verizon currently, but it ultimately falls under net neutrality too, as Verizon is trying to de-prioritize connections to Netflix.


If it doesn't prevent this, it's not proper net neutrality.



Why? What is wrong with offering this service to people who like it?

The only thing worse than comcast determining what kind of internet you have is letting the FCC determine what kind of internet you have.


What's wrong with selling rotten food to people that want it? What's wrong with selling unsafe cars?

"The market" will offer the good stuff and people can choose, right?


I'm pretty sure one of the hallmarks of freedom in the 20th century was the repeal of a constitutional amendment forbidding people to buy 'rotten' grain.

Nothing is wrong with rotten food, it's some of my favourite, everything from alcohol, cheese, bread, etc. I bet you probably eat something that's rotten, and would oppose the government mandating that all food be 'fresh'.

As for unsafe cars I don't see why auto wreckers should be prevented from selling cars, or charities should be prevented from being gifted 'clunkers'.

The only thing that could be wrong with any of those things is being deceptive about the quality of the good, eg, passing off a rebuilt car as new, unpasturized milk as pasturized, etc.

Plans like this would be perfect for my kids, a safe walled-garden until they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. I'm not sure why the FCC needs to prevent the market from offering services like this... I mean I could hack the phone to do the same thing but it would be nice to save on internet at the same time.

So yes, I trust the competitive market far more than the government to provide me with the goods and services I need at a fair and reasonable price. (Note that the current telco situ is about as far away from a competitive market as one can be, the solution is competition, not regulation)


This is passing of "Internet access" for access to a curated* selection of different domains. That's deception in my book, because it reinforces the perception that "The Internet" is Google and Facebook.

As for trusting the competitive market on this, I just have two words: natural monopolies.

* This word has completely lost its original meaning.


I think this is particularly scary to many not because it will be hated by the public, but because it may be embraced by the public.


£12 in UK buys 'unlimited' data, unlimited text and 250 minutes (of which I probably use 10)


I think what a lot of people are missing about this deal - net neutrality aside - is how silly it is from an advertising and marketing angle.

A significant amount of of Facebook's business model is based on advertising. Now, those links go where? Nowhere? Error pages?

All of those funny tweets containing links? Do those timeout?

Are the top 500 sites supposed to create closed-loop experiences?


Well this was more or less inevitable...

I think people are in some kind of serious denial about the drastic increase in bandwidth being demanded by customers.

I don't think Sprint's solution is healthy for the state of the internet, but I do think something will have to change.

I personally don't use any high bandwidth services. I don't watch Netflicks, or a lot of Youtube - and yet I'm stuck with higher and higher internet bills and I have to subsidize other people's use of the internet. Frankly, that's ridiculous.

Ultimately I think the system will have to revert to the $/Gb system we used to have. If we all reverted back to that, I think you'd see some very competitive pricing.

However the selective traffic stuff.. that's a bit scary. I don't think they should be allowed to look at our traffic in the first place. I understand you need to look at the packets to be able to route them, but anything past that just seems like it should be illegal.


I can't imagine Facebook is in favor since they wouldn't be able to get any mobile ad revenue


The ads would just go to storefronts hosted by Facebook, who get a larger cut of the revenue for hosting them.


I've got to say, I'm a little impressed by the reaction to this. T-Mobile doing the exact same thing, sans Twitter, and eventually with a handful of music streaming services didn't receive nearly as much outrage. Some people were even defending it.


AOL all over again.


This is how the Idiocracy future begins, I'm sure of it.


Unlike home Internet, real competition exists in this space, so something as stupid as this will go away rather quickly unless there's an actual demand for it.


This is it. The "TV channel" Internet we've all been warned about. This probably won't fly with European regulators. I desperately hope.


Maybe not so drastically as in US but I think it may also happen. If I recall correctly some T-Mobile plan in Poland has something like 'free Facebook'.


Has anyone tried using T-Mobile's $10 unlimited data plan + a Google Voice number + RedPhone + TextSecure? Does it work as good as normal phone service? (obviously there are areas of the country where it wouldn't work while traveling, mainly concerned about an area that has good Tmobile coverage.)

http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/mobile-internet.htm...

It would have only 1 GB of 4G, unlimited 3G, but I personally don't use much data anyways, 3 GB would be $10 extra per month.

I'd also like to add a VPN to that package, I've used PrivateTunnel in the past, does anyone have a better recommendation for a VPN service?

https://www.privatetunnel.com $12 for 50 GB, which would last me a long time on a mobile phone since I use WiFi most of the time.

Basically $11 per month for unlimited everything and it would be encrypted through multiple services.

Back on topic: I don't see anything wrong with Sprint offering this package. Nobody is forced to purchase it since there is sufficient alternatives from both Sprint and other service providers. I personally wouldn't use it and am not sure what people would do if they needed to Google something, but if people want it, let them buy it.

Unrelated again: Why was Twitter (TWTR) up 20% today?



Is this going to block adverts? That seems..insane. I mean sure Facebook are doing well with their mobile app ads (I'm guessing you get Google Play or something?) but are they just going to stop people clicking adverts that lead offsite or to an app you're not allowed?


It already exist in France since several years [1] and never had lot of traction. I wouldn't be so afraid has everyone else here.

[1] http://boutique.orange.fr/mobile/forfait-m6-mobile


And when people realize they can't watch any of the funny videos their friends link to, or view the 9gag links they post, or sign the change.org petitions they are hammered with?

Not everything you see on facebook is hosted at facebook.com, and people will very quickly realize that.


This is going to be awesome for cheap "phone home" drone projects. I wonder if the sims would work in a mobile hotspot (and just allow traffic to *.twitter.com) or some other programmatic access. I would pay $12/month for my dronrs to tweet.


I'm sure the point is for you to "engage with brands" via Twitter. If no human is looking at the ads, Twitter has no reason to subsidize your access.


Please Please Hacker News... LETS DO THIS:

Operation Boycot Sprint

=======================

Get yourself and everyone you know out of sprint. Is completly possible to keep your cellphone number so please do it; we must show how serious we are about net neutrality.


I guess serving up ads, giving away different deals, etc. specific to a user's Internet pipeline (i.e. firehose vs app/site-specific) will be reality as it's just another filter.


What's to stop them from having "Sprint Business Network". Set up your business website with Sprint hosting to allow the $12/mo members to access your site ... for free!


In case of Sprint this might be a very good thing for average society. I will never ever pay $40 for any data plan but I will happily pay $5 for only Google Maps. That way this new innovation will earn sprint and additional $5. Similarly my poor aunt who needs internet only for Facebook might end up saving $35 which can then go for her healthcare.

Sprint is clearly addressing a legitimate need in an innovative way and making money in the process.

I do not thing this comes under net neutrality issue. The difference between Sprint and Comcast is that Comcast has put cables in cities using public land and has got a virtual monopoly over the markets. They can screw us from front and behind and we have to suffer it silently.


So what happens with outlinks? My friends post tons of links to FB and twitter, seems like thats really where I derive most of the value from these services...


I think Twitter just found a new paid VPN offering!


brb, implementing TCP/IP tunneled over twitter


It is worth noting that this will be a good deal for a lot of consumers. That is the problem with not having strong net neutrality laws. We now need to educate people on why something like this would seem so attractive but will lead to bad things in the long term. It is a smart move by Sprint. If the first salvos in the war over net neutrality are like this and become incredibly popular, it will easy to use them as a precedent for less popular moves down the road.


What alternate reality do you live in? This is not a good deal for anyone!


There are a large percentage of people who use the internet primarily for social networking. For those people, a plan like this is a lot cheaper than a plan that allows them access to the whole internet. For less than $17 you can have a social media device that allows you to stay connected with family and friends and provides very limited voice and text connectivity for emergencies. This is the ideal type of plan for a teenager (with maybe the addition of unlimited texts) for less than half the price of most prepaid plans and a quarter of the price of most contract plans.


Ummmmm... It's great if someone only uses one or two social networks. Most young people use four or five different social networks at least so this plan would be useless. Any teen who had this plan would get beat up in school...

I get the whole internet for $32 a month that is unlimited (5GB cap) with unlimited texting. Come on dude...


Out of interest, would it be possible to create a facebook app that acts as a proxy server to the outside for this connection?


Oh, fantastic. Maybe we can also buy Walmart-sponsored cars that cost $200 and can only drive to and from Walmart.


I don't think it's a good idea. I want more than Facebook and Twitter.


Splinternet. Bad idea. It won't succeed.


RIP The Open Internet

1993 - 2014


We changed the url from http://www.droid-life.com/2014/07/30/12-a-month-for-facebook.... Better url suggestions welcome.


WTF? There was a reason I choose that url... It was a better article and had a better title. The url and title you changed it to was already submitted by someone else two hours before me but it never gained any traction.

EDIT: My original title and url... $12 A Month For Facebook – Sprint Tramples Over Net Neutrality With New Prepaid Plan http://www.droid-life.com/2014/07/30/12-a-month-for-facebook...


The title was "Sprint Tramples Over Net Neutrality" and the article began, "Today, Sprint dispensed with all subtlety. Without any pretense of net neutrality whatsoever..." It should be obvious that that is far too tendentious for HN. We're looking for pieces without blatant spin. Readers can make up their own minds.

We changed to the WSJ article not because it was best, but because it was the handiest one that wasn't breathy with drama. That's why I asked for pointers to more substantive articles, if there are any.

As for the original submission not gaining traction, (a) that's fraught with randomness, and (b) traction doesn't prove goodness—if it did, linkbait (for example) wouldn't be a problem.


My point was the title and url you switched to were previously submitted hours before mine but drew no interest. It was my title and url submission that caught fire with the HN crowd.

Spin? Come on... The article was right on. I know people like to pretend everything has two sides but in this case...NOPE. This Sprint plan is totally bad for consumers and the future of the Internet itself. Any one who thinks otherwise is a troll or just an idiot.


[deleted]


Correct, you can't intelligently justify how these Sprint plans could be good for anyone (except for the carrier itself). Well maybe if you are like 12 years old and new to this Internet thing and it's history...


Thank you for putting in the time to cut the noise.


Yeah that's some nice moderating right there.


Wouldn't it have been better to use the original source [e.g. http://newsroom.sprint.com/news-releases/virgin-mobile-usa-l... ] if you were going to moderate the URL choice?

I'd rank the urls as :

1) Original Source

2) Droid Life

3) WSJ

Personally.


We shy away from corpspeak press releases.

There are probably other substantive articles on this story out there. If any of you finds one, we'd be happy to change it. No one is attached to the WSJ article; it's just better than the one that preceded it, which was obviously (at least for this site) sub-par. I'm surprised this is controversial.


Fair enough. Just the WSJ article is less complete but I can't find a truly neutral one that is as complete as the biased ones.


Too bad the deal doesn't include Wikipedia :(


Your view of the universe is ass backwards. What makes Wikipedia and Facebook and Twitter more worthy than a million other websites that may consume less bandwidth even if you summed them up?

Why is Wikipedia more special than Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive?

OpenStreetMap? Hudong or Baike? Github? Debian/Ubuntu? Representing Wikipedia as the only free source of all human knowledge is about on the same level as a monopoly on free exchange of ideas. If not today, then at some point, or in some subject areas.

It's disgusting. Wikipedia Zero may have good intentions, but in practice it is vile.


Basically, even by playing favorites you're contributing to the problem. All information should be agnostic with regards to availability - right?


This is another demonstration of why "net neutrality" is morally wrong (and therefore not needed). Think about what a law to stop this service means; a "net neutrality" law. It means forcefully stopping someone from offering this service. And forcefully stopping someone else from buying this service. Both of them want to do it by choice, because it benefits them, in their view.

To stop them from doing that, on any non-fundamental basis like an alternate opinion about the value of long term effects, is morally depraved.


Nope. It is people like you that are morally wrong in enabling oligopoly power and calling it completely consensual.

If you have 4 choices, all of them bad, is that really a consensual transaction? No. It isn't.

There is a finite amount of wireless companies capable of operating in a region due to the natural monopoly of the fact two parties interfere with each other when using the same band.


There's a clear moral difference between four bad options reached voluntarily, and one good option reached by forcing people. Who really believes that the way to achieve the best outcome, in society, is to forcefully tell people what they have to do?

Forcing people to do things against their will can never result in a better outcome than respecting people's rights. And in this age, anyone can educate themselves about why.


Alright. I'll buy up all the land surrounding where you live and deny you access to the world. It'll be purely a voluntary transaction between me, your neighbors, and the city. You weren't consulted but based on your moral belief structure you believe that is acceptable so you shouldn't complain when I wall you in and don't let you leave.

No? You don't like that? Well, it was a purely voluntary transaction on par with what you suggested.

Natural monopolies exist in the real world. Pretend they don't at your peril.


I didn't say that any voluntary transaction is legitimate. Rights can be a complex issue, but your example was solved long ago in several ways, such as with easements.

You won't be able to disprove the legitimacy of the concept of rights with a trite example, it would require a more serious discussion than we'll have here.


Two groups of cell towers using the same piece of spectrum interfere with each other in the same way as those walls.

The fact you don't understand what the walls scenario is identical to what you are stating is okay is depressing.

It is only when anyone is able to produce a good and distribute it, given sufficient capital, that your mental model is appropriate. No one can simultaneously control the same spectrum in the same geographic area without creating interference with each other.

Retail stores? Sure, what you are saying makes sense.

Things with natural monopolies? Not so much.


Sometimes "forcing" people is the best thing to do. That's how you solve social dilemmas: situation when allowing every agent involved to run free cause terrible outcomes even if it's temporary profitable for most/all involved (or sum of utilities is the highest for some time).

You ignoring this principle and claiming moral high ground makes you appear as a troll hence all the downvotes you are collecting.


You have two bad choices here. You can either admit your philosophy has holes, or you can explain how the labor movement resulted in a worse outcome than respecting employers' rights.


The problem is he isn't willing to admit the holes in his philosophy exist.


  "Both of them want to do it by choice, because it benefits them, in their view."
Both parties? How did you arrive at that conclusion? I'm not offered a 100mbit connection in my location. Does that mean that I don't want it? Does that mean that my 20mbit connection is what I want and that I see the lack of choice as a benefit?

It benefits the provider, certainly, but the consumer may have no choice if they want these services. Their bill just went up, but there's little they can do about it.


Your wanting a 100mbit connection doesn't obligate someone to offer it to you. "Choice" doesn't mean choosing among anything imaginable, that may or may not exist. Choice only applies to what exists.

So yes, in the context of what's available (without forcing people to make what you want), both parties are choosing from among what exists.


  "both parties are choosing from among what exists."
No, one party is dictating what exists, the other is choosing. You need to re-read your last post. You say that:

  ""Both of them want to do it by choice, **because it benefits them**, in their view."" 
And you are wrong. One party, the consumer, has no real choice. You act as though this is just a great deal for both sides, which is nonsense.


Suppose I want to get rid of a few barrels of carcinogens. And suppose your neighbor would happily store them in his shed for $50 and a carton of Marlboros. How dare anybody stop us free adults from transacting morally uplifting business! After all, he has plenty of room right next to his fine collection of dangerously decayed explosives.

But yet we do prevent that. Regulation is about optimizing a large basket of outcomes. Focus purely on a single case and of course you won't be able to understand why that case suffers.


> But yet we do prevent that. Regulation is about optimizing a large basket of outcomes.

Or, looked at a different way, regulation is about internalizing externalities -- often including present internalization of expected future externalities -- in order to enable decisions made based on optimizing the utilities of the individual participants to be more in line with optimizing global outcomes.


Not all voluntary transactions are good. But all good transactions are voluntary. I replied more about that here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8111095

Regulation that violates rights cannot have a positive outcome. That principle is cognizant of a wider range of cases than one of trying to optimize narrow outcomes (like a 'neutral' internet); the unseen consequences of rights-violations always overwhelm any narrow benefit.


> Regulation that violates rights

In my philosophy, corporations have no inherent rights, only those privileges society chooses to bestow upon them, and can choose to revoke at any time for any reason. So it is literally impossible to violate Sprint's rights.

You must find some other way to reach your desired outcome, because framing it in terms of "rights" leads to the inevitable question of what rights a person or entity might have. And you will never get everyone to agree on that.


Well, it's an awful thing for Sprint to do, since providing access "just to Facebook and Twitter" cannot possibly cost them much less than providing access to the entire Internet. Thus, they are blocking poor users from the full information of the internet, and they are overcharging users who want the Internet the way it's meant to be for all of us.

To respond directly to your point, you're not entirely incorrect. However, if I pay for the "unlimited destinations package" which is what all current plans are, then there should be no "behind the scenes" throttling of particular sites for non-QoS reasons.

Everyone should have access to the ENTIRE Internet. Shame on Sprint for trying to turn it into a universally walled garden.


This is assuming that your standards for the internet access are universal to every person, and that you know every person's financial, social, and internet situation well enough that you're ready to decide for them. If you didn't know all of that for certain, it would be reprehensible of you to force them without knowing.

What you said about false advertising is correct, and I agree, that would be fraud.


What is assuming what? I didn't propose any evil, freedom-hating laws or "socialist" protections to an open Internet. I just said that it's a crappy thing for Sprint to do, and it is.




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