Sorry, But All You Internet Users Appear to Be Idiots

I am just amazed at how many otherwise smart people are rooting for the government to regulate the Internet:

According to a pair of new reports from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will soon do what some net neutrality advocates have been clamoring for for ages: Try to officially reclassify internet service as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. That'd effectively put internet access in the same bucket as landline telephone service, which is treated as a public utility in the United States, and would basically ban the paid prioritization of certain web sites and services over others....

We -- along with many of you -- will be watching the outcome of that vote with bated breath. For that matter, so will representatives and head honchoes of the country's internet service providers. A vote in favor of reclassification means that all of those companies will eventually have to deal with way more intense regulatory scrutiny, and do away with plans to treat some web-centric companies with deep pockets as first-class citizens of the internet while the rest of us wait longer for other stuff to load.

So, out of the fear in the last sentence, that some people will get better service than others -- something that, oh by the way, has never really happened so is entirely hypothetical -- you are urging on a regulatory regime originally designed for land-line phone companies, a technology that basically went unchanged for decades at a time.  The phones that were in my home at my birth in 1962 were identical to the one in my dorm room when AT&T was broken up in 1982.  Jesus, we are turning the Internet into a public utility -- name three innovations from an American public utility in the last 40 years.  Name one.

And all you free-speech advocates, do you really think the Feds won't use this as a back-door to online censorship?  We are talking about the same agency that went into a tizzy when Janet Jackson may have accidentally on purpose shown a nipple on TV.  All that is good with TV today-- The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Arrested Development, etc. etc. etc. results mainly from the fact that cable is able to avoid exactly the kind of freaking regulation you want to impose on the Internet.

Here is my official notice -- you have been warned, time and again.  There will be no allowing future statements of "I didn't mean that" or "I didn't expect that" or "that's not what I intended."   There is no saying that you only wanted this one little change, that you didn't buy into all the other mess that is coming.   You let the regulatory camel's nose in the tent and the entire camel is coming inside.  I guarantee it.

Update:   Apparently the 1934 Telecommunications Act imposes a legal obligation on phone carriers to complete calls no matter who they are from.  Sounds familiar, huh?  Just like net neutrality.  It turns out this law is one of the major barriers preventing phone companies from offering innovative services to block spam calls.


  1. J_W_W:

    Sorry, but the thing that is driving this is happening already.

    I pay my ISP money for access to the internet. I download a movie from Netflix. The bits that came to my computer from Netflix were paid for by ME. Now ISP's in the middle, not the ISP's Netflix pays for, but ones in between them an me are demanding that Netfilx pay them for the transit of my bits across their network. But this is how TCP/IP works, packets follow whatever path gets them there. The folks in the middle are there to allow data to cross their network. But these providers want Netflix to pay them EXTRA money for the bits I PAID for to receive and that Netflix PAID for to send. They are trying to double dip. But its worse than that. For ultra super crap ISP's like Time Warner and Comcast, their customers are paying for the bits and bandwidth and then Comcast and Time Warner are trying to charge Netflix extra for bits THEIR OWN CUSTOMER ALREADY PAID FOR!!

    If common carrier is not enacted, big ISP's and peering network providers are going to gouge the data providers HARD for the data they are sending to us that we've ALREADY PAID FOR. Then we get to pay too much for shitty broadband AND pay way more for Netflix and Hulu and whatever streaming service is out there. Oh yeah and ISPs will also get to block VPN packets if they desire (because piracy, crime!!), so those of us who routinely work from home would get the special privilege of paying extra for "enhanced" services that would still allow VPN.

    Everyone speaking out against Title II is defending the some of the worst companies in the US (world!) and claiming that if Title II passes companies that routinely fuck over their customers just for spite will be unable to provide their customers what we paid for. They screw us over all the time anyway. Title II means they deliver all the packets I request over the internet at the speed agreed to in my contract at the bandwidth agreed to in my contract. This "premium faster access" is a ruse because the only thing they can really actually do is muck with the works and slow things down. As TCP/IP is designed packets get there as fast as they can anyway. Optimization freedom is what they're saying they would do, but what Title II really affords us is banning them from doing massive targeted de-optimization of data streams.

    Basically the US needs Title II common carrier because without it, the ISPs will get to turn us into a internet backwater with super expensive super crappy internet service forevermore.

  2. aczarnowski:

    It was good while it lasted. I'm surprised it lasted this long. Everything with value will eventually be consumed by government and many will line up to help as long as they're think the trains will run on time.

  3. Ponklemoose:

    Streaming quality video over TCP/IP is hard and Netflix is already paying quite a bit to deliver a good experience. Not with dollars (‘cause that would be bad) but by writing crazy code and scattering mirroring servers all over the world. The question (as I see it) is: should ISPs be allowed to offer content providers an alternate (hopefully cheaper) solution. I think this would be a boon to smaller competitors (to Netflix, Youtube etc.) since it would scale more gently.

    The other question, is why can’t we wait until there is a problem before we try to solve it?

  4. jjc:

    The question I have is: can we figure out a way to get delivery "at speeds agreed upon in my contract" without involving the F.C.C.? The idea of the F.C.C. running the internet (considering what the did to TV and radio) is a deal breaker for many of us who otherwise sympathise with the points you make.

  5. mesocyclone:

    Yeah, let's just hand it all to regulators. You'll love that. Maybe you are too young to remember when phone service was a tightly regulated monopoly. You had your choice of two kinds of telephones (albeit in several colors). If you wanted to hook up something to the phone line, the company had to install it (federal law!) and they sold it to you.

    If we had stayed with that sort of regulation, there wouldn't even be a consumer Internet today.

    BTW... you are only imagining that you have already paid for all those bits. Go look at your contract. Internet bandwidth, except to business at much higher prices, is sold on a statistical basis: if they have the bandwidth at the moment, you can have it. If they don't, go suck rocks. If you think you have already paid for all of it, then go hire a lawyer and start a class action suit. Good luck with that.

  6. mesocyclone:

    What I find annoying, but not even slightly surprising, is that a lot of these "net neutrality" advocates are libertarians... except when they aren't. Ask them, and they'll tell you that net neutrality is a Libertarian principle.

  7. Ponklemoose:

    Easy. Break the local monopolies and the ISPs will have to compete.

    is getting ready to bury fiber in my city and Comcast just bumped my
    nominal speed up by 50% and my un-scientific occasional speed tests make
    me say it’s more than doubled. This was free and unprompted by
    anything other than the fact that my best alternative would no longer be
    DSL at 1.5-2.0 Mb/sec.

  8. mx:

    Because your solution leads to a scenario where Video Service X is only available if you use ISPs Y and Z. That's fundamentally not the internet: services available to one network user should be available on a roughly equal basis to all network users.

    The other problem is that many of these ISPs compete with internet-based video service providers. How can it not be in NBCUniversal-Comcast-Sheinhardt Wig Company's interest not to favor Comcast's video services and NBC's content over competitors? Remember that Comcast has a practical monopoly for internet service in many of its markets.

  9. Mole1:

    I don't know, I think it TOTALLY makes sense that the cat pictures I email to my friends should have the same priority as the live telesurgery video/haptic feed going from the faraway robotic surgery center to the surgeon at the controls in the John Hopkins University Medical Center.

  10. Zeev Kidron:

    Nothing scares Government like free, massive communications between people.

    What I find amazing is that most people totally accept that most scarce resources (apples, cars, hotel rooms etc) will be priced according to quantity demanded but another (bandwidth) won't be allowed to. I must be stupid because I don't

  11. Old Salt:

    @J_W_W et al.

    Get ready to pay even more pal! When you do please remember that you had a hand in making it all possible because your obsession over fairness short circuited what should be a hard-wired aversion for politicians.

    To the rest of us who remember when answering machines were illegal, talking to a friend in another area code meant additional fees, and luxuries like caller ID were reserved for the rich kids, I guess it will be yet another object lesson for the next power grab made "for our own good."

  12. obloodyhell:

    }}} Sorry, But All You Internet Users Appear to Be Idiots

    Don't blame me, I voted for Bill and Opus...

  13. ColoComment:

    You must be a young 'un.

    In Detroit in the 50s, color choices were black Bakelite, black Bakelite, or black bakelite. Desktop style, I think you'd call them now, was all that was offered. (I remember the introduction of the "Princess" line. In colors. With lights.) We're talkin' pre-area codes, when numbers were formatted like "TU[xedo] 4-9062." I don't recall if wall phones came before or after the princess phones. Sometime in the 60s we may have gotten a beige-colored phone....

    Oh, and the phones were leased to you by the phone company -- you didn't own them. You paid for them via a bit in each monthly bill over the full length of time of your phone service. However, if your phone broke or your line failed, a phone company tech would replace the phone & fix everything at no charge to you.

  14. J_W_W:

    The classifying of telephone service as Title II common carrier is what broke the telephone monopoly, not what enabled it!! Once the phone lines were common carrier we were allowed to select different long distance service and were not locked into the monopoly. This issue is being miscast intentionally by the ISP's to try and get libertarian sympathies.

  15. J_W_W:

    Again. Common Carrier SOLVED those problems, it did not cause them! Government action broke the Bell Telephone monopoly. This is the same thing.

    The additional fees are enabled if things stay as they are. Packets must all be treated equal or they will throttle all different types of internet communications unless you pay extra "streaming fees" or "voip fees" or "vpn fees".

    The ability to do what you are claiming only remains if internet traffic is NOT reclassified.

  16. J_W_W:

    Actually the telesurgery feed should be traveling over an encrypted private network or a VPN over standard internet.

    If you alllow deep packet inspection and the ISP's classify telesurgery as special, they'll charge the same greatly inflated prices we pay for all our "medical" services now.

    TCP/IP is very poorly constructed to do priority routing, it is designed to be guaranteed delivery not guaranteed rate. What the ISPs want to do with traffic shaping an prioritizing is crudely bolting toll roads onto the internet.

  17. J_W_W:

    If you look at packets. Net neutrality is a libertarian perspective. Every packet is treated the same, always.

    The other libertarian part is that to even DO traffic shaping you have to LOOK at every packet (at the very least its metadata). This would be akin to the post office reading your mail and deciding which letters you should get first, second, or third.

  18. J_W_W:

    How does the government saying that all packets transported over the internet must be treated and transferred the same, cause runaway government control?

    Everyone I know who sets up or configures networking for businesses and organizations is for common carrier. Almost all networking experts who do not work for the ISPs want common carrier.

    I feel like the apt analogy here would be that this would be like conservatives in the 80's arguing that the fairness doctrine (traffic shaping of discussions on radio airwaves) was a good regulation and changing the rules to allow for any show from any political viewpoint that the station wanted to run would be a bad thing.

  19. JW:

    You have to admire the delusion that thinks that the entity that created the problem of local scarcity to begin with, the state, is going to fix it by entrenching the status quo. And no, they won't *ever* censor your bits or cause the cost of the service to exponentially increase, like everything else that the state heavily regulates. For realsies!

    I don't want to hear one little squeal out of you after you get through fucking Comcast good and hard, because that's what this is really all about, when the torrent kiddies flood your subnet and et up all of those bits you supposedly paid for. Enjoy the buffering.

    And stop ruining my good my name. *I* paid for those letters.

  20. JW:

    "Net neutrality is a libertarian perspective. Every packet is treated the same, always."

    Through the monopoly of force and the coercion of the state. You really are an idiot.

  21. mesocyclone:

    Yes, but it was still trading one form of tight government regulation for a better one, albeit better. I am no fan of the ISP's, but using this gigantic federal hammer is going to cause grave harm. Notice how many of us have really outstanding Internet service. That didn't happen because of regulation. It happened because of a lot of greedy, profit seeking ISP's and the suppliers and inventors of their equipment.

    Also, if you think it needs regulating - perhaps because it is a monopoly in some areas, better to regulate it on a local level. Then if the regulators screw it up (and many will), folks can point to another jurisdiction and show how it can be better. And if the regulators let the monopolists screw it up, the same dynamic applies.

    Don't break what ain't broken.

  22. mesocyclone:

    It's a libertarian perspective only if you consider each packet as a person. Doh!

    Traffic shaping is in no way like reading your mail. It's like the post office looking at the stamp and the size and weight of the envelope.

  23. dullgeek:

    It is amazing how so many people can ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to this topic: TWC, Comcast, and the local telcos are monopolies. But they're not monopolies by accident. Municipal right of way laws make it illegal for anyone else to run telecommunication lines to my house.

    All of you who are worried about the power that these companies hold should be rightly concerned. You should want to break up these monopolies. But instead what you're asking for is additional regulation on them. Increasing the regulatory burden on the last miles is going to do what exactly to encourage new entrants? If the FCC were going to be productive, they would override the municipal right of way laws that entrench TWC, comcast and the rest. They wouldn't even have to do this nationally. They could run an experiment, pick a few cities, get the rules relaxed and see what happens.

    Oh wait, someone is already doing that: google. Their entire fiber initiative is pitting municipalities against each other to downbid their right of way rules. Those cities that remove the most regulations get google fiber. Unfortunately, those advantages extend only to google. The FCC could still come in and do some good by getting the rules reduced for anyone willing to buildout the infrastructure. And if the burden of having to fight the legal institutions were gone, there would be plenty willing to do it.

    Title II is the worst possible way to ensure a neutral network. It's the last thing we should want. It should be tried only after everything else has been exhausted. The first thing: increase competition. Then if comcast tries to pull the shenanigans it's tried, people will just find a better provider who doesn't do that crap.

  24. David:

    Not in the last 40 years, but back pre-divestiture, Bell Labs produced all sorts of awesomeness, and that was wholly supported by the AT&T monopoly. Examples include the transistor, Unix, and the discovery of the wave nature of matter.

    Admittedly, Bell Labs was pretty singular, and none of the the utilities today have the capacity to throw talent at pure research the way they did. This doesn't refute your argument, but as a data point it's worth noting.

  25. dullgeek:

    "Admittedly, Bell Labs was pretty singular"

    I see what you did there.

  26. JW:

    "Common Carrier SOLVED those problems, it did not cause them! "

    You have no idea what you're talking about. Common Carrier is a section in the 1934 Communications Act that put certain requirements on the transmission of voice service, that's it. It didn't cause the breakup of the Bell network.

    In fact, AT&T used Common Carrier regulations for decades, as a bludgeon to restrict competition and the types of devices that could be attached to their networks. AT&T refused to allow a ***plastic cup that would go over microphone of the telephone handset*** as a crude mute mechanism under the 1934 regulations (They were sued by the Hush-a-Phone company and lost). The Carterphone case, an acoustic coupler to join radio and telephone networks, is what began to open up the network in 1968. AT&T threatened to disconnect any circuit with the Carterphone operating on it. AT&T had to be sued *again* to have it allowed on the network. They lost.

    So, there's your future Internet, Sparky. Controlled and locked down by the dominant players for their own benefit. Enjoy those lawsuits you'll be filing.

  27. JW:

    "How does the government saying that all packets transported over the internet must be treated and transferred the same, cause runaway government control?"

    Magic. That's how it all works.

  28. Andrew_M_Garland:

    Government created the AT&T monopoly with the full cooperation of AT&T.
    === ===
    [edited] 30 years on, let’s celebrate the anniversary of a monopoly’s end. Don’t forget that the AT&T monopoly was a creation of government regulation that forbade and discouraged competition and innovation in numerous ways.

    The most important rivals to the telephone network were not other telephone companies. The key wasn’t government-fostered managed competition, nor the creation of similar firms to compete with AT&T. The end of monopoly communications came from new technologies, new firms, new platforms, and new business models from outside and inside the telecom world.
    === ===

  29. J_W_W:

    No it's not magic. Do you have any working knowledge how TCP/IP works? To implement common carrier net neutrality ISPs have to do nothing extra with their hardware. To do traffic shaping and prioritization the have to inspect every packet.

    All you're doing is thumping your chest and grunting "regulation bad".

  30. Old Salt:

    So the government "solved" the monopoly that it had enforced for the better part of a century. The solution then as now is to respect property and contract not to vainly attempt to legislate a "better" system.

  31. JW:

    "Do you have any working knowledge how TCP/IP works? "

    Why, yes, yes I do. In short, TCP handles the packaging of the data. IP handles the delivery.

    Do you know how compliance with gubmit laws and rules works? Right. Magic.

    Whatever you're thumping, you may want to stop before the damage becomes permanent.

  32. JW:

    You're speculating on a non-falsifiable premise: that without this monopoly, none of that would have been created.

    I'll point to the last 20 years of intense competition in telecommunications and computers and ask you which period has produced more value.

  33. JW:

    "It is amazing how so many people can ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to this topic: TWC, Comcast, and the local telcos are monopolies."

    No one is ignoring that, but it's a little late in the game. The ISPs enjoyed 40 years of cozy oligopoly thanks to our masters, and they will be very, very tough to dislodge. Maybe Google can.

    You are correct in everything else.

  34. LoneSnark:

    We don't need to grant the FCC unchecked power over the internet to fix that one problem. Congress could tomorrow pass a law preventing telecommunication companies being content producers. Such a law would have the benefit of being debated in the public forum of a democracy. Not so with the unelected back room dealing at the FCC.

  35. slocum:

    Right -- you weren't allowed to own a phone, and were required to pay a monthly charge for each handset in the house. My father, rebel that he was, actually found a 'black market' source (a neighbor) for an extra phone and wired the second connection himself. As a little kid, I nearly spilled the beans about the other phone when a phone repairman was in the house and got us busted. Good times.

  36. Mole1:

    You are lost in the weeds. It is fundamentally idiotic to insist that all traffic should have the same priority. Every proponent of government regulation to ensure "net neutrality" seems to advocate mandating that all traffic should have the same priority. Telesurgery data should get through more quickly. Those getting telesurgery should pay more to make sure that it does than those sending cat pictures over email. That way, there is a market incentive to develop the technologies and protocols necessary to allow time-sensitive and critical data to get through with higher reliability.

  37. Emil:

    err no they don't in a IP/MPLS network. You assign different priorities to different VPNs and put certain traffic (the one being prioritised) in higher priority VPNs. Then all of the rest remains unprioritised. You don't need to do any deep packet inspections at all.

  38. cltby:

    TCP/IP has absolutely nothing to do with routing. From what I see in this comment and prior ones, your technical understanding of the issues is very crude.

  39. TeeJaw:

    You don’t have to know a thing about how the internet works to know that the greatest order emerges from the spontaneous actions of millions of people making choices in their own interest and will always outshine a small cadre of regulators who can’t possibly know a scintilla of the information the free market will accumulate, and have a lot of special interest baggage to boot.

    Thomas Sowell: When some small group of people think they know it all, that is usually a prelude to disaster.

  40. TeeJaw:

    Comcast doesn’t seem to act like a monopolist. They have a special department that will, if you try to cancel your service, offer to cut your bill or do other things to try to keep you as a customer. A monopolist wouldn’t need to do that, but Comcast knows you have alternatives, and can obtain internet service from other providers. Comcast has instituted several innovations over the years that I’ve been with them that have greatly improved my experience with their service. A monopolist wouldn’t need to do any of that. I have comcast and I know a lot of people in my town who get their internet from somewhere else. So, a monopoly they’re not.

    Here another thing to consider. When TCI and AT&T merged the result was a disaster because TCI was a highly entrepreneurial company and AT&T was “phone people” who were used to operating as a regulated monopoly. The shark tank that resulted nearly went into a death spiral. Comcast saw an opportunity and soon acquired what was left of the wreckage from AT&T, and rebuilt it. This is not the stuff of monopolies.

  41. TeeJaw:

    Bell Labs was a division of AT&T but was not a regulated monopoly nor a de facto monopoly. Bell Labs intensely competed with other research companies. The Wikipedia page on it has a list of many of Bell Labs discoveries and names several of its competitors for each one. Bell Labs was free to earn profits from wherever it could successfully compete.

  42. Mike Powers:

    "How does the government saying that all packets transported over the
    internet must be treated and transferred the same, cause runaway
    government control?"

    How will we be certain that the packets are being treated and transferred the same?

    Yeah yeah yeah sure the companies will totally say that they're doing it, but you know they're all liars. How will we be *certain*? I mean, really CERTAIN?

    And, therefore, we obviously need some sort of public organization, run by objective civil servants not beholden to business interests, to monitor everything and make sure that nobody's trying to cheat.

  43. Mike Powers:

    And keep in mind that the biggest things we got from Bell Labs were funded by the United States Department of Defense. Private industry did not invent microprocessors or TCP/IP.

  44. J_W_W:

    I am of the opinion that telesurgery should be done on a private leased line from site to site then. Those circuits can be setup and are secure.

    Whats interesting is that its telesurgery that is the example you use and not streaming. Thats because the money to be gained is not to be gained by ISP's giving preferential treatment to Netflix traffic, it will be gained in requiring us to pay money so the ISP does not throttle Netflix traffic.

    Netflix already busted a few large ISPs they made paid agreements with to deliver their data at adequate speeds and the printed the performance results of before and after the agreement showing no actual change for customers. Proving that the ISP was just fleecing their customers.

    If the ISPs survive the latest FCC meeting without common carrier being implanted, it will open the floodgates on all these charges.

    Everyone snidely telling me "you'll be paying more bucko" is wrong. Without common carrier rules all sites, like this one and any other on the internet, will become a target for charges for all data crossing all networks regardless of how much bandwidth they pay for. Costs will skyrocket.

  45. J_W_W:

    Where you see coercion of the state as not being able to solve this problem, I see regulatory capture and bought off legislation and rules allowing bad behavior by these companies.

    I would love a truly free market in the ISP space where everyone has five options for broadband carrier. It would be the best case and provide the best results to everyone. But, alas, that is not available to us now.

    Now, once SpaceX and google provide fast low orbit satellite internet connections, then we might see the ISPs truly scramble to remain relevant and in business.

  46. J_W_W:

    Each packet is a person's data (their property).

    Conversely, this whole argument from the ISPs about speed and capacity is kinda bogus.

    With enough bandwidth and throughput, prioritization of packets just becomes a waste of energy.

    But with the current low bandwidth customer lock in models employed by the current ISPs we won't ever get there.

    The ISPs love complaining that no one wants really fast internet because they can't sell it. But then google come along offering fiber to customers in that ISPs area and whaddya know, the ISP can provide fast internet for the same price.

    Too many ISPs are monopolies that abuse their monopoly position.

    I do agree that this problem didn't need to be solved until it happened. But as soon as the Netflix shakedowns happened, that indicated that there is an issue.

  47. J_W_W:

    There aren't millions of people making choices about internet delivery in the US. In very many situations there is one company available to customers in the broadband space.

    Your comment would be true if there was real competition for internet access, but there is not.

  48. J_W_W:

    Heh, a comment from you I actually agree with.

  49. JW:

    "Where you see coercion of the state as not being able to solve this problem"

    I'll speak slowly, so you'll be able to better understand.

    The *only* way that your glorious NN plan is able to work is by:

    1. The state retains its monopoly on force
    2. It uses the threat this monopoly to encourage compliance
    3. If a company is non-compliant, threats of violence will be made
    4. If non-compliance continues, armed men will come to this company and use force in response
    5. If resistance is met, they will use deadly force.

    Capiche? Now, explain how any of that is libertarian.

  50. dullgeek:

    An interesting point, but misses the issue: it is still illegal to lay new cable in most cities in the US due to municipal right of ways laws. Put simply, any new entrants trying to lay cable are illegal. IMHO that is the root cause of the problem that people fear. Failing to address that root cause will do little to address the problems. Even if those problems are imaginary, how is legalizing competition in last mile services not beneficial to everyone? And how is that not an immensely better option than Title II regulation of the incumbents?