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1/15/2014
11:40 AM
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Net Neutrality Court Ruling Won't Ruin The Internet

Competition, not massive regulation, is the best way to make the Internet open.

A federal appeals court earlier this week neutered the FCC's Net neutrality rules, which prevented carriers like Verizon and Comcast from interfering with other carriers' traffic. It's a freak-out moment for many, including the Los Angeles Times, which wrote a headline "Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords." Not quite.

Here's the stated problem: The big carriers (notably Comcast) have already shown that, left to their own devices, they will start picking and choosing which data streams should be fast, slow, or simply blocked. That means that the carrier, not the person who pays the bills, is in charge of what will and won't work from end to end. So, enterprises could be in the position of having selected a VoIP-as-a-service provider, tested the provider, and then having service degrade, not because there is a legitimate engineering issue, but because the carrier has decided to deprioritize (or drop) packets between the provider and the enterprise.

Proponents of Net neutrality say that regulations that force carriers to treat all packets the same is the right way to fix this problem, and that, absent Net neutrality, carriers will discriminate against competitors. It's a compelling argument: Why wouldn't AT&T want to mess with Vonage? Why wouldn't any cable provider want to mess with Netflix or Hulu?

[Learn more about the court ruling. See FCC Net Neutrality Rules Rejected.]

Yet, I fundamentally disagree that Net neutrality is the right thing for the FCC or others to focus on. The right thing to focus on is encouraging a broadband free market. A true free market allows consumers to switch when they're not getting what they paid for. Even in today's market, where there are only two or three choices, if a large company's IP voice traffic starts getting messed with by AT&T, let me assure you that AT&T will be minus one customer.

From the consumer standpoint, let me also assure you that the second that Netflix starts getting messed with by a cable provider, Netflix's software will pop up a message on the consumer's screen that says: "For best service, you may wish to switch to XYZ provider in your area."

The trouble is that historically, broadband is not a truly free market, since, typically, there are only two consumer broadband providers in any given community. Enterprises typically have more than two choices, yet pricing is normally baselined at the consumer level, since consumer service is far more common. I have been witness to a third provider entering my market, followed by drops in price and increases in capacity.

In recent years, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) provided grants to build out more broadband infrastructure. This helped to make the broadband business far more competitive than it has ever been, since part of the "strings attached" to the grant money was that carriers must allow others open access to the fiber. The private sector has also contributed to competition: Google singlehandedly raised "fiber optic" to public and economic development consciousness. Smaller municipal successes like Gig Tank have also fueled investment interest in middle-mile networks.

Net neutrality isn't a bad thing to focus on, but I worry that too much regulation could really drag down the Internet. You have only to look at the antique and slow-moving common carrier telecom regulation environment to see that this worry is founded in reality.

Why am I worried about burdensome regulation? You see, the FCC originally crafted its Net neutrality rules classifying Internet service as "information services," not a common carrier telecommunications service. Since the court struck down Net neutrality largely based on this classification, it is possible that the FCC may reclassify Internet service as telecom, making it subject to a vast quagmire of obsolete and awful regs.

The larger -- and more productive -- issue for the FCC to focus on would be how to foster more broadband competition. Let me guarantee you that without competition, no amount of regulation will help prevent bad things from happening. Without competition, prices and capacity stay the same.

Bottom line, I don't think that enterprise CIOs have anything to worry about, for now. Carriers would be idiots to start messing with the very customers that keep the best metrics about service delivery: enterprise customers.

And in general, the Internet is not going to melt down because of a lack of Net neutrality. But choice will be seriously affected if growth in competition doesn't continue. And the best way to kill new entrants into the market would be to significantly increase regulatory burden on Internet providers. Whatever the FCC does in response to the ruling, let's hope that it's not that.

Jonathan Feldman writes for InformationWeek on the topics of leadership, innovation, IT people skills, and running large organizations "like a startup." He is CIO for the City of Asheville, N.C., where he encourages innovation through better business technology and process.

Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)

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anon3801881579
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anon3801881579,
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1/15/2014 | 12:00:56 PM
A Nice But Impractical Idea
Ideally, I agree in principle with the author here that a competitive solution to this problem is preferrable. Unfortunately, and I suspect it is true for the vast majority of rural customers, I have but one broadband ISP available to me at my home. Thus, if I have any slow-down or blocking issues with any given provider, I have no recourse other than to give up my internet access. Futher, let's remember companies find other ways to disincentivize moving from provider to provider. For the foreseeable future, I believe Net Neutrality is a practical must.

 
KJones75
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KJones75,
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1/15/2014 | 1:48:01 PM
Re: A Nice But Impractical Idea
Not only are there few choices, I'm almost certain that there is price fixing involved. If all of the large ISPs agree to implement the same artificial degradation (which can be removed... for a fee!) on services like Netflix and Hulu then it doesn't make any difference which ISP I choose. The threat to switch ISPs becomes meaningless.
mediajolt
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mediajolt,
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1/15/2014 | 12:08:04 PM
A naive posting
This article is all about promoting competition to enable better quality service from ISPs. What the writer fails to acknowledge is that in many locations - nay, the majority - there is no real competition. Cable operators have swallowed up local competitors or pushed them out of the market so that there's no real competition in place. Sure, there's the phone company, but unless they update their infrastructure, real speed is still unavailable in most places. And the hope that Google will save us all with fiber is a very long ways off, if even possible at all.

No, these types of non-competitive, monopoly situations are exactly what governmental oversights and regulations are for - because any corporation, if compared to a human being, is a sociopath by behavior, and the government is the doctor prescribing meds and creating boundaries to keep these sociopaths from harming the public at large.

This writer's position is naive and willfully ignorant.
doctordawg
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doctordawg,
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1/15/2014 | 1:02:53 PM
Re: A naive posting
The ruling eliminates the internet.  By definition, handing control of it to private money redefines what it is.  It becomes a private communication network controlled exclusively by the richest people on earth.

The courts once again prove beyond any doubt that their number one job is the preservation and growth of private wealth, not the public good. Oh sure, they throw lots of little bones to the peasants, but when the big choices come...
TomW925
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TomW925,
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1/15/2014 | 1:49:04 PM
Re: A naive posting
LOL. Stop fear mongering. There are so many possible loopholes around an ISP favoring some bandwidth over others that it will never happen for long if it ever does happen at all.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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1/16/2014 | 3:57:48 PM
Re: A naive posting
I disagree that this article is a "naive posting." The author isn't suggesting (in fact, he plainly states he's not suggesting) that we should tear down antitrust law. If an Internet provider has a monopoly or dominant position in a given market, regulation must still ensure that that provider isn't abusing its position to drive weaker competitors out of business so that it can ultimately gouge customers. Those laws and regulations exist. They can still be enforced. The author is suggesting that Net neutrality is a distraction. The government should focus on encouraging competition where it can floushish--across conventional telco, cable, satellite, wireless, and other technologies and providers. "All Internet traffic is created equal" sounds dandy, but it ignores the economics of service provision. It costs the network providers a lot more money to deliver some kinds of traffic than others, and so they should be able to charge accordingly. All companies are sociopaths and governments are care givers? I'm not buying that metaphor.


ecory
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ecory,
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1/15/2014 | 12:13:24 PM
Part of the problem..
A big part of what I have a problem with is that AT&T, Verizon and other broadband providers have used federal dollars to build out "their" fiber infrastructure. The problem is that it really isn't theirs. It's ours, all of ours. Charge me for access to it, and for the support you provide, but don't try and bill the backbone as something owned and financed by big red or big blue. Sure, they did a majority of it, but not all majority is created equal. It's transmission across this publicly funded infrastructure that I have problems being metered / limited.

"And in general, the Internet is not going to melt down because of a lack of Net neutrality. But choice will be seriously affected if growth in competition doesn't continue. And the best way to kill new entrants into the market would be to significantly increase regulatory burden on Internet providers. Whatever the FCC does in response to the ruling, let's hope that it's not that."

I haven't seen any additional competition pop up in my region of the US since U-Verse came in to play 6 years ago. But what do they offer? A maximum of 6mbps when the cable company offers 100mbps; both metered. The only areas where things have really changed that I can see is where Google Fiber has started.
The Judge
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The Judge,
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1/15/2014 | 12:15:12 PM
Confused author
Mr. Feldman appears to be unaware of one of the primary roles of government, to protect its citizens.  The FCC is a REGULATORY agency; it was not created to foster the economic development of industry, but to regulate the development in a way that protects and benefits the citizenry of this nation.

The idea of regulation of an industry as an evil plot against business permeates our society today, yet it was less than 100 years ago that most people in this country were no better off than the serfs of Russia.  Turn a blind eye to business, and see what happens.  When given the opportunity, they'll sell their souls to the enemy (look at how many circumvented the ban on the sale of steel to Japan in the early-1940's)...
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 3:03:00 PM
Re: Confused author
While I have the same concerns about this ruling, let's not roast the judge.  My take on this is the judge told the FCC that they were trying to regulate what they classified as an "information service".  The judge told them that they only have the power to regulate common carriers.  To boil this down further, a common carrier is essentially a utility.  Utilities are allowed monopolies that operate under close supervision (regulations).  Within reason, the regulatory body that oversees the utility can change rules, make new rules and remove rules.  If the utility does not accept the rules, it has the right to challenge the regulatory body in court.

The ruling simply tells the FCC that if they believe the Internet needs regulation, it will have to classify the providers as common carriers (utilities).  Then they can govern these bodies with regulation.

Another option is for Congress to write some laws that regulate the Internet.

Now back to my concerns.  I'm very concerned that we do not have sufficient competition for the Internet to be self-governed.  Recent NetFlix performance ratings show Comcast falling from grace. At least some Comcast customers are not happy with their NetFlix performance and since they apparently don't have an HSI choice, they are dropping NetFlix.  Competition should punish non-performance.  In this case, NetFlix claims the issues is not on their end and points to other HSI providers that don't have any problems.  At one point Comcast was also ranked at the top of the list (top being good).

Let's dive a little deeper.  If folks cut the Comcast video cord but keep their HSI connection, Comcast loses big money.  They either need to figure out a way to stop video customers from defecting to NetFlix or raise their HSI prices to account for lost video revenue.  Raising HSI prices may not be an option because SOME (not all) customer enjoy a choice (especially those in Verizon's FIOS areas).  Raising prices may drive those customers to a competitor for HSI which then means they'll be playing a zero sum game.  I suppose Comcast could only increase prices where folks don't have a choice but I'm pretty sure they don't want to get caught doing that! 

I'm certainly not suggesting Comcast has willfully degraded NetFlix performance to stem NetFlix defectors.  However, what motivation does Comcast have to solve the issue if it only exacerbates defections to NetFlix?  What we have here is a conflict of interest.  History is rife with examples that inappropriate decisions are made whenever such a conflict exists.

We need to either make sure everyone has a whole bunch of choices for their HSI service or we MUST establish a few rules to keep the insanity of allowing HSI providers to not only own content creators but compete with other services that use their network.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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1/16/2014 | 4:51:54 PM
Re: Confused author
"Another option is for Congress to write some laws that regulate the Internet."


That was my reading. Given the example set over the last few years by the Supreme Court, I'm usually willing to listen if someone says a judge has done something that favors money over humanity. But in this case, I believe the judge's point was that current classifications don't allow the Internet to be regulated as proprosed, and that new laws or classifications are necessary. It's a problem with the Internet in general; we try to force the Internet, a phenomenon that evolves second-by-second, into rules that were written decades ago. That's not a sustainable model-- even less so when so many people doing the "forcing" are either ill-equipped for the challenge or motivated by corrupt motivations.
anon2054905372
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anon2054905372,
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1/15/2014 | 12:20:58 PM
Calm Down everyone
  Let me say this about the companies doing this cut down on bandwith. You haven't seen anyone do it yet. When they say this and that to cut it would be a death nail. Think about it with the viral permis we are in. Let it start on Facebook or Google then it is everywhere. They riped me off.People will stay away just because of the words said. That would be a death nail. Let a company be that guy. AT&T would never think of it. 60 percent of the business does this. Let the mobile industry does this well lets go to T-Mobile. They have a cross platform with phone and internet. It would mess with both businesses. They wont do it. Comcast has the AT&T to worry about. They would be the bad guys. It will never happen. I think the writer had it right. 1 customer is 100 or 1000. nothing ever happen in the few.

 

Always follow the money. It is bad bussiness to do this people will find out and the knowledge would be the death nail.

 

Doc
The Judge
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The Judge,
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1/15/2014 | 12:49:44 PM
Re: Calm Down everyone
You're being naive.  This has happened before, and the results will be the same.

Remember when Congress de-regulated cable and radio in the mid-1990's?  How has that turned out?  Now, you have limited choices and steep cable fees, so much so that there are renewed clamorings for cable regulation.  As for radio, only a handful of companies own almost every radio station in this nation.  In the city in which I live, two companies own all eleven FM and three AM stations.  This limits the sources of media information available, and throttles the development of other industry (music, venue development, etc.).

Or how about when rail was de-regulated in the 1960's, and instead of answering consumer calls for increased competition, companies simply closed down passenger lines?

You also operate from the assumption that Americans can simply switch providers.  In reality (and as stated in another post on here), most Americans only have access to one high-speed cable provider in their area.

Stop buying into the corporate propaganda, and ask yourself this:  Why would these major corporations risk millions in legal fees to fight Net Neutrality if they wouldn't gain from it being stricken down?
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
1/15/2014 | 2:58:10 PM
Re: Calm Down everyone
I generally agree with and enjoy Feldman's articles, but he left me confused on this one.  He advocates the best focus of FCC to be encouraging free competitive market, but somewhat conveniently forgets that he reminded us at the beginning that when left to self regulation the big players do not play fairly (ComCast cited).  There can be no free market if the rules do not support a level playing field.  Name the company AT&T, Verizon, ComCast, or Google - where they cannot simply buy you out, they will all seek to tip the scale and rules in their favor.  Simply change providers is not simple as they all have adopted at least two year contracts and high penalties for early termination if you have the luxury of multiple providers to choose from.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2014 | 6:17:36 AM
Re: Calm Down everyone
Hi MyW0rld, thanks.  Sorry I left ya confused... I probably should have mentioned (as I mention in a response to Charlie B) that I differentiate "types" of regulation.  I have seen first hand in government how frustrated a new business can get with the onus of regulation.  That said, I completely agree that the playing field should be leveled in SOME way **TO SUPPORT COMPETITION.** I believe that Net Neutrality is a distraction issue. 

The real issue is the duopoly.  If government wants to jump in and create incentives for competition, awesome!  That doesn't impose a burden on a new business.  If the government wants to jump in and establish "unbundling" like they have in Europe (where middle mile providers are NOT allowed to also be last mile providers), awesome.  If the gov wants to establish a true "commons" backbone (via lease and purchase), I think that's not a bad idea, either (except then we have the NSA issue, right?)  There are actually already many national fiber networks such as National Lamda Rail (http://www.nlr.net/services-map.php).  North Carolina is blessed to have a not-for-profit network called MCNC.  Wireless is also getting pretty hot -- I know of several prosperous wireless ISPs that do quite well in rural and metro.

Point is, I'm all for taking action to prevent duopoly.  I'm just not supportive of us creating the same kind of crazy maze of bureaucracy for IP that we had for telco.  We can choose to take action or to try to regulate.  And the trouble with burdensome regulation is that it applies to EVERYONE, including new entrants into the market.  When I was in business school, I had one classmate who worked for an "incumbent" telco who laughed that they were used to the regulatory maze, but that new entrants were dazed and confused.  I just don't want that for the Internet.  Thanks!
BeckyC031
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BeckyC031,
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1/15/2014 | 12:36:20 PM
Regulatory Capture
What "The Judge" is confused about is that most regulation has been captured by politically well-connected businesses, Regulators are not wise impartial eunchs devoting the totality of their existence to the good of the American public. I am astounded that people can have such faith in the  governemnt's regulation of the Internet when it is the same governemnt which is in the process of destroyijg the Internet with their data strip mining operations.  Please see this article by Electronic Freedom Foundation : The FCC and Regulatory Capture.
The Judge
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The Judge,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 1:05:21 PM
Re: Regulatory Capture
Wow, you sure read a lot into my post, and then added to it with some zany enhancements.

I never said there would be some individual sitting around watching every little thing.  But in my years of experience in research and in dealing with multiple regulatory and oversight agencies, I can tell you that the letter of the law has far more impact than you will ever realize.  And you can thank the government when your kid eats a Crayon and doesn't die from its toxicity.

I can also tell that you have no familiarity whatsoever with what I am refering to regarding regulation, tin-foil hat...
ANON1249062745509
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ANON1249062745509,
User Rank: Strategist
1/15/2014 | 12:48:01 PM
Here's the REAL problem...
"Here's the stated problem: The big carriers (notably Comcast) have already shown that, left to their own devices, they will start picking and choosing which data streams should be fast, slow, or simply blocked."

Sorry.  That dog won't hunt.

The REAL problem is that consumers are being charged for services they DO NOT USE.  Net Neutrality has always been a lie.  It's about increasing the profitability of companies that are too cheap and lazy to pay for the bandwidth they use and pass that cost on to THEIR actual customers.

This court ruling is the first sane government decision to come along since Net Neutrality began wasting people's time with this nonsense.  The high bandwidth users (a minority) that the ISPs throttled in days gone by were ruining the Internet experience for everyone else (a majority).  And now we have to pay for their fun.  Don't whine the next time you pay your Internet access bill.  You're underwriting Google's profitability, Netflix's "cheap" streaming fees, and all the gaming communities' fun.  You should feel generous and content in your generosity.  You deserve to for supporting Net Neutrality.

 
The Judge
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The Judge,
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1/15/2014 | 12:54:30 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Spoken like a true ISP mouthpiece.  You sure can tell who has a dog in this fight...

You can't be so naive as to think these coporations risked millions in fighting Net Neutrality, all for the good of the 'majority', as you put it.  Now that's delusional...

Weren't you posting on this topic on other boards yesterday?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 1:07:10 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Amen. I was wondering about that same thing in a post to another Info Week article on this. It has always seemed to me I'm subsidizing the people who want HD content on their iPhone just so I can VPN tunnel into work. That hardly seems fair and doesn't appear to me that charging for the last mile (tiered) solves this issue. Just how much investment in bandwidth do all of us really want to pay for so our teenagers can Xbox game all day long.
The Judge
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The Judge,
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1/15/2014 | 1:15:31 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Think about what you're posting.  You are part of society after all, and we all pay for things that we may never use, or not use as often or as fully as others.

The best example I can give (though there are many others) is our public schools.  We all benefit from an educated populace, so we pay a set millage to provide education to our youth, whether we have kids or not.

I'm willing to put up with "subsidizing" (as you put it) others as long as it means the Internet is not controlled and manipulated for and by a select few corporations and their shareholders...
TerryB
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TerryB,
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1/15/2014 | 1:27:31 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Each school district voters get to decide how their local public schools are supported. That's why not all public schools are equal. Did I miss the discussion and vote that bandwidth needs to increase exponentially, annually, so we can watch HD movies on iPhones and play Call of Duty on internet?

You are essentially arguing any application of the internet is something that must be supported by infrastructure investment. I argue my money can be spent better. I'm still waiting for that killer internet app that feeds and houses people living in poverty, or any of a thousand other examples of creating a better society.

We've jumped from email to web browsing to streaming HD on internet without any public debate I'm aware of. I'm sure Netflix is happy about it but doesn't mean I'm happy about paying for them to be successful.
C151
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C151,
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1/15/2014 | 1:44:14 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
the problem is that the users of the internet with lower usage have the most to loose since the netflix users will absorb the cost of their speed since that is the only way that the service can operate ...the lower users won't be able to pay the fees so that will result in them leaving the market ...soon all you will have is netflix to choose (exaggeration) from even if you don't subscribe to netflix
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 2:06:03 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
No question, that's essentially what I'm complaining about. Even though I just want enough internet to build a VPN tunnel, use email and web browse occasionally, the internet backbone better keep up with the Netflix's of the world which are consuming the bandwidth now. My concern is that we are paying for that increased investment, not NetFlix.

Unless the "last mile" going into NetFlix datacenters charges them for cost of all this extra backbone bandwidth they use, all of us who pay for any internet circuit are subsidizing this. I have no real knowledge of who pays what other than my own experience. I know it wasn't long ago I paid $19 a month for internet, now I pay $50 even though my internet usage has not changed. Meaning I don't consume high bandwith things like streaming video or HD gaming. Then throw in another $30 a month to cellular guys so I can get work email on my phone. It adds up in hurry.

I can live with cost I have now. But I'm not convinced this won't continue to ramp up as more and more high bandwidth services are launched, whether I ever use them or not.

Some of people posting correctly (to me) pointed out it would be so much simpler if backbone providers were not the same as the content and last mile providers. But I don't think a transition from where we are now to that model is possible. At least without some major event like government(s) taking over backbone and funding from tax base. Then it would be like The Judge describes. And that's OK with me if majority of people support that. At least then we (taxpayers) could recover revenue by charging NetFlix fees proportional to the bandwidth they consume. The Net would be neutral and you would pay for what you use.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 4:28:04 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Please investigate how much bandwidth an HD NetFlix stream uses.  You might be surprised that it isn't the bandwidth hog that everyone assumes.  Last weekend I watched the Avengers with my kids. The HD stream only used between 700Kbps and 1.5Mbps.  I have a 30Mbps connection and that means at least 25Mbps of it is left for someone else to use.

Using this kind of bandwidth will only get less consequential as technology improves and network vendors (who by the way aren't losing money) continue to invest and improve their networks.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 1:58:25 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
The way I see it, is that much of today's successes of e-commerce can be traced back to investments that was made yesterday in the telecommunication sector. Today's investment should in the same way pay off in the future. If the internet is only going to be a means to consumer (HD movies etc), then it is not an investment to begin with.  
The Judge
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The Judge,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 2:28:17 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Every state in the U.S. has millage on property for the purposes of education.  You have no say in that, only in how much beyond that you are willing to pay.  There's a lot you don't have any say in but pay for anyway.  

I don't smoke, but my health insurance premiums go towards paying for cancer treatment for those who do.  I don't commute, but the price I pay for gas is impacted (partly) by those who drive more than I do.  I have never driven on all the roads in my home state, but my tax dollars go toward the maintenance of our highways.

I have no problem with "subsidizing" those who might use the broadband more than I, but that really shouldn't be the point of this discussion.  What I oppose is the potemtial for control that might well (and eventually will) be exerted by some monstrous corporation over what infromation I can access.  That runs counter to one of the fundamental principles this country was founded on...
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 3:09:24 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Your primary concern is because the ISP doubles as a content provider. Under that scenario, with the limited competion possible for last mile, there is little choice but to enforce Net Neutrality for just the reason you state. I'm sure FCC will. But doesn't mean I have to like funding it versus getting the ISP's out of the content business in first place. Then we wouldn't be having this discussion.

But I can't except your argument I have to support unlimited buildout of backbone so the NetFlix's of the world can move traffic off of other circuits I intentionally pay for. Time Warner charges me extra because I request to have HD service, they don't stick it on your bill also when you don't want it. At least not as clearly defined anyway. ;-)

I hope other poster is correct that NetFlix cost of however many T3 circuits they buy into datacenter keeps me from paying for the buildout of the backbone those T3's tie into. Somehow I doubt that today.
CoolBOBob1
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CoolBOBob1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 1:54:57 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
Currently I have one broadband provider in my area.  I pay for a line that's 20Mbps d/l, 2 Mbps u/l.  If I pay my ISP for that line and the content provider pays for their line, why should my ISP be allowed to priortize or degrade that information.

For example, if I have Netflix streaming they can choose to slow down that service to either extract more money from Netflix on top of what they pay their ISP or they can try to cajole me into paying for their ISP streaming package.  Either way they are trying to extract more money so that I can get the service that I paid for in the first place.

It gets even muddier when your ISP is also a content provider, like Comcast for example.  Then they can make their content appear to have better service because they hamstring the competition.
BorisR434
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BorisR434,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 1:59:09 PM
Re: Here's the REAL problem...
You are dead wrong.  Net Neutrailty doesn't have anything to do with the AMOUNT of data a consumer or business can use.  Even if full Net Neutrality (in its current form) was implemented, the ISPs still have the option to charge people and companies for the amount of bandwidth and data they use, as they already do this.  So if a website is using a lot of data, they will need to pay for it.  Net Neutrality just means that the ISPs can't limit consumer's access (by slowing or cutting it off altogether) to any source.  It is all about access to information / content, not about paying for consumption.  If a user wants to access the content of their ISPs competitor then they will pay for that access the same as if it was the ISPs own content (in the case of broadband / streaming video companies, for example).
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 12:51:05 PM
Consumer's interest
Net neutrality is appealing because it is aimed towards creating an environment where all traffic is equal -- torrent or otherwise. However, it is in the interest of consumers that not all traffic be equal. Take for instance a medical procedure that might lead to lower health care costs using technology based video collaboration, in such a situation preferential treatment needs to be given to the data of the video link and there needs to be an economic incentive in place to bring about such a change.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 4:41:16 PM
Re: Consumer's interest
That's already differentiated and IMO clouds the issue.  If a hospital needs a super fast connection to another hospital for video medical procedures, they can contract with a major provider to create an MPLS with an SLA that guarantees bandwidth and latency.  That traffic shouldn't even be on the public Internet for so many reasons I have no idea where to begin.  How about a public personality having their operation show up on YouTube?

What we're discussing is a consumer grade Internet connection and that connection treating all data equally has no bearing on the type of connection in my first paragraph.  If that connection doesn't do what the consumer wants, they should have the option to pay for faster/better service.  So should the service provider that seeks to serve them.  However, an ISP shouldn't be allowed to extort more money from me because I want to use service X instead of service Y.  And they shouldn't be allowed to extort money from service providers because they are service X instead of service Y.  If we want to penalize data usage, then let's bill by the byte.  So far we don't seem to want to go there but that's where we should go rather than the silly door we're about to open with ATT's latest moves and this court victory.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 11:05:44 AM
Re: Consumer's interest
@rradina. Good points about MPLS and creating an SLA to guarantee bandwidth for important data.

On the consumer side, the goal is to provide open, fast and cheap internet access to everyone. If we look at Japan's internet then it can be argued that at least in terms of speed the average US connection is slower. Infrastructure is going to limit the availability of bandwidth. However, new advances in technology and something like SDN might be able to provide more utilization. And it's not just ISP that like consumers to be online -- firms like Google etc also has an interest for people to be online so that services can be provided, banks find it easier and cheaper to provide services online etc. In such an environment, won't it be difficult to massively throttle the internet just because for example, AT&T and Disney have a contract in place?
cbrenny
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cbrenny,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 12:53:50 PM
Not buying it...
"From the consumer standpoint, let me also assure you that the second that Netflix starts getting messed with by a cable provider, Netflix's software will pop up a message on the consumer's screen that says: "For best service, you may wish to switch to XYZ provider in your area.""

You need to think a bit more critically about the outcome here. What happens when moving to provider XYZ results in restricted/slow access to Hulu and Amazon Prime, or other services that I use? Since a household must pick one internet provider, I suspect the outcome of selection will be "premium" access to a few of the sites/services that each household uses, and then paying an additional add-on fee for premium access to those remaining sites. It seems unlikely that one provider will be a panacea for all of a household's internet access needs, and we will all be paying for upgrades here and there to make up the difference achieve the same internet experience we have today.

I suspect the FCC will in fact classify the internet as a "telecommunications service," because (let's be honest here) internet access if far more essential to our daily lives than speaking on the telephone.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 4:44:52 PM
Re: Not buying it...
The only flaw is assuming folks even have a reasonable choice of providers.  While I have multiple options, I have only one wired option and the other wireless options simply cannot compare.  Don't get me wrong.  I think highly of my one wired option but if they start to follow others down the path that we seem to fear, right now I don't have an alternative to take NetFlix's advice and switch to another carrier.

Otherwise I agree with what you are saying.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 12:05:49 PM
Re: Not buying it...
Choice is a problem, one that oftentimes has also affected the electric grid as well. 

The issue with the topic of choice (or the illiusion of such) is that there just isn't enough physical space to run separate cabling for every provider. That's why you only have one or two options. The same is true with electrical providers in most areas. 

The big problem that I have is tiering data. Even worse would be the sponsorship of data, creating haves and have-nots. That just doesn't seem right to me for some reason. 
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 2:12:40 PM
Re: Not buying it...
Doesn't that assume a wireless alternative cannot be competitive with a wired option?  I'm hoping for a break through in wireless that perhaps uses extremely high frequencies point-to-point -- perhaps even some kind of mesh that enables the line-of-site a neighbor enjoys to provide you with HSI.

This may be a fantasy and if it never comes to pass, then I agree because it's extremely wasteful to let everyone run FTTN/FTTC/FTTH.  In that case, we'll find ourselves with the choice of socializing the last mile or declaring utility status.  I don't like either of those options but a duopoly isn't far enough removed from monopoly.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 2:24:21 PM
Re: Not buying it...
And there would still need  to be land for the towers, government would still need to allocate the frequencies (though perhaps there could be a band that anyone would be allowed to use as long as protocols are followed) and the backbone providers would almost certainly still be wired.

The fallacy that we constantly see is that a free market and an unregulated market are one and the same, but such is usually not the case.  Rather, one of the principal goals of regulators should be to insure the conditions that make free markets (minimal constraint on all participants, not just vendors) possible.

 

 
junkyfour
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junkyfour,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 12:59:17 PM
There are NO choices in many cases
The problem, as anyone with cable knows, is that there are few choices for broadband internet and in many cases only one choice is available. In Northern California, specifically in regions of the Tri-Valley area Comcast is the only available choice for broadband internet access. In the Antelope Valley it is Time Warner Cable. Period. The other options? AT&T or Verizon DSL, which is simple a step up from dial-up in terms of speed--hardly "broadband." So what are you talking about? Comepetition? If I'm not pleased with my ISP then guess what? I have the choice to downgrade to DSL, and that's hardly a choice at all. For my needs I need 30 Mbps not the 1-2 Mbps offered by AT&T or Verizon (and let's not even get into their forced bundled services and high costs for inferior internet access). Regulation is a necessary function of government and in this case the consumer must be protected as was the case when the proposed T-Mobile buyout by AT&T was blocked. Now imagine the impact on consumers if AT&T had succeeded. T-Mobile is now upending the industry and forcing significant change in pricing structures for mobile plans that benefit the consumber. The internet must be protected because the pipes that carry the data are owned by only a few.
bchristopher027
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bchristopher027,
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1/15/2014 | 1:00:00 PM
We'll see......
I think the author underestimates the ultimate end game here, along with the deviousness of the major ISPs.  We'll have to wait and see what happenes after the initial furor dies down. but Verizon did not go to the trouble and legal expese to bring this suit because there was no money to be made..

I believe the FCC will reclassify the ISP's as telecommunication providors and regain control over this.  But they may wait for the Supreme Court to rule first.  Or they may take a wait and see attitude, watching for any anti-competitive action on the part of the ISP's, and then act.     Once the FCC and Congress OKed the Comcast purchase of NBC, the whole game changed.  One way or another, Net Neutrality has to come back in some form.

  
BeckyC031
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BeckyC031,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 2:29:56 PM
Regulatory Capture
 

 

The Judge" just clearly just loves regulation –from crayons to railroads. If there is this big demand for passenger railroad in the U.S. why doesn't a company provide it? Radio is pseudo deregulation – it is still under government control and most importantly the government restricts the supply – as a result that demand is now met by the Internet. However around the turn of the century that alternative was almost crushed by government regulation –not the FCC but the Patent Office. Tim Wu, who coined the term "net neutrality' said in his book "The Master Switch:

 "Again and again in the histories I have recounted, the state has shown itself an inferior arbiter of what is good for the information industries. The federal government's role in radio and television from the 1920s through the 1960s, for instance, was nothing short of a disgrace.... Government's tendency to protect large market players amounts to an illegitimate complicity ... [particularly its] sense of obligation to protect big industries irrespective of their having become uncompetitive."
The Judge
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The Judge,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2014 | 2:39:48 PM
Re: Regulatory Capture
Keep tilting at windmills, Becky.  

And supporting crackpot leftist groups...
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/15/2014 | 3:31:30 PM
Re: Regulatory Capture
The laws of physics, not the government, limits spectrum. And, where there is sufficient demand for passenger railroads, they exist. The Northeast corridor, for example.

My take is that Jonathan is right in the long term but in the short term is overestimating the ability of the free market to provide competition sufficient to make up for a lack of regulation. The Internet is a utility, like electricity or water. Or healthcare, for that matter, though probably don't want to get into that here. As such, it needs some level of regulation. I'm not big fan of micromanagement, governmental or otherwise. But we need a balance, and I for one don't trust Verizon, Comcast or any carrier with a utility.

As others say, follow the money.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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1/15/2014 | 4:12:58 PM
Re: Regulatory Capture
Arguing for lack of regulation is more persuasive when the potential for harm is small. Where harm is a real possibility (ie: robbery or other criminal behavior), we tend not to call for self-policing of behavior. Instead we rely on self-restraint in conjunction with police and the law.

Failing to insist on net neutrality will make it easy for network providers to harm those downstream. In fact, companies like AT&T and Comcast will have an incentive to do so. It's simply not adequate to suggest large telecom companies will behave nicely, particularly when there's very little real competition in the US broadband market.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 5:14:35 PM
Re: Regulatory Capture
Whether or not you like the Republican part or former President Reagan, he said it best when dealing with the Russians:

"Trust, but verify"

Business, whether big or small, is run by people.  People (of course that includes me) are flawed because we will always struggle to see things from other than our own self POV.  From that self POV, we justify all manner of behavior since it seems right.  To think that any entity run by such a creature will not invariably ALWAYS do what's best for it's own good is INCREDIBLY NAIVE.  While regulation will not solve all the problems, it's at least a starting place from which everyone will elevate their game to find loop holes.  Of course we'll have to be dilligent and keep those holes to a minimum.

Bottom line:  Unless there exists ample, stable competitors which we prevent from merging, regulation is the only option we have.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 12:39:22 PM
Competitive markets are good for a host of ills...
...but the problem is how to bring them about.  There are reasons why telephone and cable TV services developed as a public utilities, and they have to do with the inconveniences of communities having to accomodate hardware owned by multiple providers.  I humbly suggest that this problem affects the Internet as well, making laizzez faire unworkable.

We'll need some sort of regulation, but the goal should be to insure as competitive a market as possible.  This probably means that the owners of physical communications lines should be required to act as common carriers.  It should also be remembered that net neutrality isn't a recent idea, but a principle that was part of the original design of the Internet.  It should not be discarded lightly, and enforcement is not the intolerable burden Conservatives claim it is.

 

 
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 2:14:20 PM
Re: Competitive markets are good for a host of ills...
Unless some breakthrough wireless technology enables a wired/cabled/glassed competitive option.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 3:10:50 PM
Re: Competitive markets are good for a host of ills...
This actually might happen sooner than you think with the next "5G" wireless technology from Samsung offering 1 plus gigabit speeds (same as Cat5 wired networks today).
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2014 | 6:22:11 AM
Re: Regulatory Capture
You mean we can't go back to FidoNet and UUNet? ;)
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
1/15/2014 | 8:33:27 PM
Ah, self-regulating competition as in cable TV market?
I think it's too much to hope for that Verizon and Comcast would be fair players in a self-regulating market. We have competition, but a minimum of competition, in TV cable service. That's why cable packages are so expensive. Fear of new competition springing up is not much of a restraint to Comcast. I want an active regulatory body supervising, but admit I am not sure who gets to write the rules here. This is a troubling issue.

 
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2014 | 5:59:58 AM
Re: Ah, self-regulating competition as in cable TV market?
I'm not totally against regulation, but there are good types of regulation and bad types of regulation.  Bad regulation imposes a burden upon a business.  Good regulation establishes incentives and prevents monopoly.


We already have anti-trust regulations.  If we don't believe that they will be enforced, what makes us think that net neutrality will be?


We also should look to other countries' regulatory solutions to the "monopoly backbone" issue.  Unbundling (the practice of separating middle mile providers from last mile providers) seems to have worked in Europe.  Why not here?
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 11:44:02 AM
Re: Ah, self-regulating competition as in cable TV market?
@jfeldman, good points all around. Regulation tends to be counterproductive when it is out dated or unbalanced, it is good to look at historic records and the effects of regulation, and to the most part regulation only manages to provide short term security to an economy. Brazil tried to protect its computer industry in the 1980s, the result was that everything relating to computers were behind global standards by at least a decade.

If such rulings are going to create a situation where broadband providers begin to earn abnormal profits then in the long-run a big provider from EU (or anywhere) will also have an incentive to setup shop in the US, along with hard data on the benefits of unbundling.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 9:33:11 PM
What competition?
The concept of competition is a beautiful theory but the reality is quite the opposite. In any given market, and, assuming broadband is even available, there exists a DSL provider OR a cable provider but very rarely both. Telcos such as Comcast pay big bucks to their pet politicos to keep it that way the better to put the screws to consumers and ensure the US continues to pay the highest rates for the slowest speeds in the developed world. Flashback to the mid 90s when everyone and his momma owned a DUN biz. Now that was competition! As broadband was deployed the carriers paid the appropriate lawmamkers to squeeze out the competition so well that what we will have now as a result of this ruling will be double/triple/quadruple dipping to ensure that Bob's U Betcha Blog is all but the digital equivalent of a ghost town complete with tumbleweeds BC Bob can't afford to pay extra to keep open the increasingly toll roaded pipes the way the corporately consolidated media/big biz can. This ruling is a blow to consumers and will stifle anything that doesn't have the whiff of money and lots of it wafting in the air.
SaneIT
IW Pick
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 7:37:50 AM
The root of the problem
"The right thing to focus on is encouraging a broadband free market. "

This is why we don't trust Comcast, Cox, Verizon, etc to do the right thing with our traffic.  Right now in the majority of the US you have no choice when it comes to a true broadband provider.  You either pay the cable company that has monopolized your area or you try fringe ideas like living off of a cellular provider.  Noting that there is no reason for an ISP not to mess with services like Vonage or Netflix because they compete directly in those markets is caused by their history of eliminating the chance of any competition for the past couple of decades.  
willjordan
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willjordan,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2014 | 2:56:19 PM
Competition and access
In my community there were 1 or two providers depending on where you lived. Almost everyone could get DSL from the telco, but the cable company only served the densest (and most profitable neighborhhod. The city wanted to improve broadband service throughout, but the carriers had no interest in universal service. So the city utility department rolled out fibre to the home, competing directly with the telco and cable. It had to fight well funded battles in the legislature where the cable company didn't want any municipal competition (while refusing to provide service in all areas of town.) The city decided to provide the service, including premium service for business with fiber to the end user available everywhere within its jurisdiction. The result, a thrird provider, improved service, more competition, and lower prices. I do not forsee the municipal utility restricting the content providers, but there are several tiers of increasing bandwidth available, with even the slowest one sufficient for video streaming.
missmouser33
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missmouser33,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/16/2014 | 3:52:01 PM
The Internet Must Go
The open internet was struck a terrible blow, so it's now more important than ever to understand the issues. For anyone who wants a refresher, here's a helpful mockumentary about net neutrality: www.theinternetmustgo.com/‎
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/16/2014 | 4:13:38 PM
Not A New Subject
I wrote this commentary on net neutrality in March of 2006. I happened to agree (for the most part) with the author of the above commentary -- eight years later we're still debating the same issues: http://www.informationweek.com/down-to-business-an-internet-e-z-pass-wont-clog-other-lanes/d/d-id/1041476?
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