Net Neutrality: Let There Be Laws - InformationWeek

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11/12/2014
08:06 AM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Net Neutrality: Let There Be Laws

Telecom companies insist they already comply with the precepts of net neutrality. So what is the harm in codifying their behavior?

President Obama on Monday asked the Federal Communications Commission "to implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," and to extend those rules to cover mobile broadband.

It's about time. The FCC needed to hear in unequivocal terms that anything less than strong net neutrality protection would risk turning the open Internet into something more like the fiefdoms of cable television.

The President's plan would reclassify wired and wireless broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunication Act. It would prevent ISPs from blocking legal content; it would prevent ISPs from throttling data flows; it would make peering arrangements between network providers more transparent to the FCC; and it would ban paid prioritization of Internet traffic.

[Google Inbox will change the way you look at email. Read Google Inbox: 7 Reasons To Say Yes.]

Regulation can hinder businesses. But some businesses should be hindered because they have the potential to interfere with other businesses. Without net neutrality regulations, the Internet becomes a protection racket. Network owners have the option to slow certain network traffic if the source of that traffic fails to pay above and beyond the agreed upon rate.

Comcast in 2007 blocked BitTorrent file sharing intermittently before public criticism forced the company to stop doing so. In February, blogger David Raphael accused Verizon of slowing Netflix traffic in Texas. Verizon denied the charge. But assessing the truth of Verizon's claim would require net neutrality rules, which would impose transparency requirements on network operations.

Neither Comcast nor Verizon likes the idea of being regulated. Comcast said Title II reclassification "would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the Internet has generated." Verizon said, "Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation."

If Verizon bristles at being bound by a law that originated as far back as 1934, it must be fuming at its tax obligations under the even more antiquated 1788 United States Constitution.

But leaving that bit of rhetoric aside, the arguments posed by telecommunications companies make no sense. Verizon calls the proposed Title II reclassification "a radical reversal of course," even as Comcast insists

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
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jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2014 | 2:01:25 PM
Re: The point is actually a good one
I know what net neutrality is and I'm in favor of it; but this wouldn't even be an issue were it not for the lack of competition in the ISP space,  which is therefore the underlying problem.  In a truly competitive market, attempting to charge content providers for better access to end users would be near suicidal.

 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 6:54:00 AM
Re: The point is actually a good one
"And there would be a lot less need for net neutrality laws if there were a lot more competition in the ISP space.  Accordingly, it probably *would* be a good idea to require public utilities (such as cable and telephone companies) to make such networking infrastructure as is under their jurisdiction available to ISPs on a non-discriminatory basis at such rates as are judged to be equitable.  After all, were it not for the franchise monopolies conferred on such businesses by governments, they probably wouldn't own any of that infrastructure anyway."

Network neutrality is the idea that your cellular, cable, or phone internet connection should treat all websites and services the same. Big companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want to treat them differently so they can charge you more depending on what you use.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently debating legislation to define limits for internet service providers (ISPs). The hope is that they will keep the internet open and prevent companies from discriminating against different kinds of websites and services.

yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 6:49:50 AM
re: Government knows best - NOT!
"Five attempts to pass bills in Congress containing some net neutrality provisions have been made and failed. Each of them sought to prohibit Internet service providers from using various variable pricing models based upon the user's Quality of Service level. "

There'll always be troubles over passing a bill that vandalizes service provider's route to earn more money without giving better services.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2014 | 10:14:31 PM
re: Government knows best - NOT!
@ANON: I do believe that net neutrality will not be having the detrimental effect on ISP regulations and hence regulations on people who avail ISP services. 

Five attempts to pass bills in Congress containing some net neutrality provisions have been made and failed. Each of them sought to prohibit Internet service providers from using various variable pricing models based upon the user's Quality of Service level. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2014 | 10:07:46 PM
Re: Net Neutrality
From Wikipedia:

Neutrality proponents claim that telecom companies seek to impose a tiered service model in order to control the pipeline and thereby remove competition, create artificial scarcity, and oblige subscribers to buy their otherwise uncompetitive services. Many believe net neutrality to be primarily important as a preservation of current freedoms.

There seriously is reason to have a voice against net neutrality because if not then there will be many services at our disposal that we don't really need, but since this reform also enforces easy data handling (since all data is to be treated the same) there are a lot of ups in this.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
11/13/2014 | 3:09:15 PM
The point is actually a good one
Says me, a good law is one that is simple, well known, well understood, easily obeyed, easily enforced, is in harmony with the moral consensus (such as it is); and as much as possible, only mandates acts that honest, conscentious people would do as a matter of course, only prohbits conduct that such people would be unlikely to engage in anyway, and doesn't require anyone to violate his own conscience.  That said, I don't think it would be too hard to write a net neutrality statute that met every last one of these criteria and would be objected to only by free enterprise purists and the monopolists and oligopolists they all too frequently extol and defend.  But such a law would have to come out of Congress (unlikely in the current political climate), as it is highly unlikely that the FCC could formulate a regulation that met all of the above criteria without it being obviously out of harmony with existing statute.

And I think the FCC should be *very* reluctant to extend common carrier status to ISPs in light of Cyber Promotions v AOL in which the latter successfully argued that because it wasn't a common carrier, its antispam activities were legal.  The Law of Unintended Consequences remains in effect and the consequences of regulatory changes without careful consideration can be severe.

And there would be a lot less need for net neutrality laws if there were a lot more competition in the ISP space.  Accordingly, it probably *would* be a good idea to require public utilities (such as cable and telephone companies) to make such networking infrastructure as is under their jurisdiction available to ISPs on a non-discriminatory basis at such rates as are judged to be equitable.  After all, were it not for the franchise monopolies conferred on such businesses by governments, they probably wouldn't own any of that infrastructure anyway.

 
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/13/2014 | 2:15:23 PM
re: Government knows best - NOT!
>>But networks could also be paid for by network owners.

Thomas, that is where I get confused on this. In my admittedly stupid HoloTV example, why would a network provider want to increase their bandwidth 20 fold to handle this new type of traffic so people can use HoloTV? I understand they could charge more to consumers for this bandwidth in the last mile but what if a new transatlantic/pacific cable is needed? Or 20 new satellites?

This is where my lack of knowledge on how the internet actually gets paid for keeps me from really coming down on one side or other of this argument. I might as enter the debate on whether some other sub atomic particle exists or not. Definitely why I like seeing posts like @Anon, someone that knows some detail.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2014 | 6:41:47 PM
Re: Net Neutrality
"Government regulation has certainly been known to do more harm than it does good in all kinds of areas, some that seemed like no-brainers, too. That being said, the ' any regulation kills the free market' argument is a little tired, isn't it? It's not like anyone thinks there should be no rules, so what we're really talking about is finding a healthy middle ground."

Amen. Or at least that's the way it should be. But then again, as you pointed out, "go start your own ISP" comments come up. There's definitely a point of view that's a lot closer to "no rules" than it is to "middle ground." Personally, I don't blame telecoms for resisting regulation, but I also don't trust them any farther than I could kick them.
ANON1244661561810
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ANON1244661561810,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/12/2014 | 5:40:36 PM
re: Government knows best - NOT!
Sorry, but wrong song!

Unless net neutrality includes strict and specific interconnection rules (which I've read is highly unlikely to happen....and if it does, it just one more item to most likely get shot-down under judicial review), Net Neutrality will have absolutely no direct impact on your example of a 5 Mb link from one ISP and a 10 Mb link from another provider. If one ISP wants to offer 5 Mb links but another says offering such a link isn't worth their while, and the lowest capacity link they offer is 10 Mb, they certainly now and in the future will have that choice, net neutrality notwithstanding. It's a business decision, and it has no bearing on any of the aspects involved in the net neutrality debate. And, what is also not at issue is the technical aspect of such a decision; rather, it's all about the economics of the types and sizes of products and services to be offered. Again, if an ISP has found that the majority of their customers require 10 MB or above, they may decide they will not offer a 5 Mb service in their product line.......and customers like yourself who do have such a need will have to purchase the 10 MB link (sometimes in such circumstances, you purchase the link at that size but then the vendor does allow only cranking-up 5 Mb  of service......and you have some growth ability in the link). 

On the other hand, if that same vendor found they were getting many requests for a 5 Mb link, and potential customers were turning to another provider (if there is one), then this competition may spur them to begin offering such a link.

And, regarding interconnection, under TitleII, Section 10, and Section 706 rules which the current talked-about net neutrality proposals would be architected, any modifications for net neutrality could impact so many other aspects of the regulations that it would upset the applecart..........the legal intricacies in not only coming-up with a workable solution but one that can also pass judicial review are quite intense. In potentially reclassifying broadband under Title II and then forbearing, one has to be careful that so much is forbeared that broadband then cannot be considered a Title II service (there are almost 1,000 items under Title II that must be considered as pertaining/not pertaining to broadband). In one of these items (universal service), the industry has been way overly skittish about making broadband subject to universal service contributions.........this is way overdue, and it's just a matter of time. For those who say universal service should be an item that is forbeared, then that may conflict with what the Federal-State Board on universal service determines is what's needed for USF contribution methodology reform.........causing another logjam.

And lastly, while there are  many in this debate who are well-informed, I suspect the great majority of those with some type of opinion on net neutrality have at most a shallow view of the subject; and in addition to all of the substance, have no idea that no matter what proposal the FCC decides-on, there will be numerous suits filed, with a reasonable number in the industry saying the decision could end-up in the Supreme Court; meaning this will not be resolved for 2-3 years at best. In addition, President Obama's latest weigh-in on net neutrality with a specific proposal in mind could actually hurt the chances of this getting resolved a bit earlier, if what he pressures the FCC to do is a proposal that would cause more lawsuits than other proposals.......it will already delay the FCC decision by 45-90 days; but the additional lawsuits could cause the ultimate outcome to be delayed even longer than with other proposals.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 
Aroper-VEC
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Aroper-VEC,
User Rank: Strategist
11/12/2014 | 4:32:38 PM
re: Government knows best - NOT!
Take this hypothetical: I am a subscriber with Cox who has invested heavily in their infrastructure and can handle peak demand for all services, including streaming services, because they also offer streaming media content. As long as I am accessing sites on Cox's backbone I never have a problem with buffering or anything else. But, let's suppose that a site I want to access is on Verizon's segment and they haven't scaled their infrastructure and they are throttling usage and demanding tariffs for "priority queuing". When my packet request leaves Cox's network and hits Verizon's it gets dropped because Cox doesn't feel it should have to pay Verizon to pass along a packet it would have otherwise transmitted. Then, us Cox customers complain about not getting access to the site or getting poor access. Cox tells us that it's Verizon's problem. Verizon points the finger at Cox for not paying their "gate fee" for access. Cox explains that they won't pay unless we as consumers pay. How is that fair to me as a consumer because Verizon's network is sub-par? I'm not a Verizon customer, why should I have to pay Verizon for access to a service that I would otherwise get with my ISP? This is one of the many scenarios that Net Neutrality would seek to eliminate - one ISP strongarming another for additional revenue it doesn't otherwise deserve to receive.

Here's another actual scenario. I have a location in another provider's service footprint. I wanted Metro Ethernet into that new location in that other service area. My current ISP can only bring service up to the border and then has to hand it off to the other ISP. So, no big deal, right? Except, my ISP can offer 5Mb links (which is all I needed or wanted) but the other ISP won't do anything less than 10Mb. If I want access I have to buy the 10Mb from the other ISP and an extra 5Mb from my ISP. I am paying for more bandwidth than I need. How is that fair? Again, Net Neutrality would remove that limitation especially since there is no good technical reason for demanding the consumer buys more bandwidth than they need.
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