Court strikes down net neutrality. Who's on the side of the angels here?

Story here.

I have to admit I’m more than a little confused. Ensuring the openness of the internet is something I’m all for but further on in that story I see that one of the options open to the FCC is to reclassify the internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information service, over the which the court ruled they have no authority.

Suddenly things didn’t look so clear-cut. If the internet is deemed a telecommunications network then the FCC have regulatory powers over it. That makes me very nervous.

OK, I know there’s a long way to go before this thing is settled but what is the best way forward? How do we keep the internet as free as it has been? Both sides in this battle seem to present dangers. I don’t know how this will eventually play out but I have a sinking feeling that we’ve seen the high noon of internet freedom and ahead lies the gathering dusk.

Well Wiki defines Telecommunication as ‘is communication at a distance by technological means,…’ and includes such things as smoke signals, jungle drums and the internet. So there seems to some merit to a possible reclassification.

Haven’t read the opinion yet but from a purely policy perspective this seems like a bad ruling for everyone but Verizon and Comcast. I don’t think anyone (myself included) wants to discuss the admin law mumbo jumbo anyway.

I remember someone characterizing the net neutrality debate as something like this: “who would you rather control the internet: the government or corporations?”

For proponents of net neutrality I think there are two potential solutions

  1. Regulatory (like you mentioned, reclassification)
  2. Legislative
    …And the Supreme Court granting cert, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

The legislative solution would probably be the best way to go about it, a narrow amendment to the communication act to impose net neutrality, but I don’t trust this clusterfuck congress to wear matching socks in the morning.

thinking that there is real competitive choice is wrong headed. there might be for some people in some places.

vendors make less money when they compete. that is their last battle for money. they will prefer to keep exclusive territories as much as they can.

My understanding is that the FCC originally got involved with TV/radio because the public airwaves were limited and, well, public. We didn’t (and don’t) want a single company to be able to dominate just by using up the available frequencies. That largely doesn’t exist with the internet, although I guess a case could be made that the cables are public.

Here in the US that largely DOES exist with the internet. Most people have little if any choice in ISPs, and without an ISP you’re not accessing the contents of the internet. And what’s to keep those ISPs from throttling access to services like Skype or Netflix that compete with their own offerings? Without some form of net neutrality laws, nothing, as consumers aren’t free to switch providers.

Exactly one of the big issues with net neutrality, or rather, with the lack thereof. Media companies like to talk about “convergence” – the phenomenon of a media mega-corporation owning multiple related properties like cable, broadcasting, sports teams, and movie distribution, for instance – because the synergy offers great opportunity for monopolistic dominance. Where I live the dominant cable provider has indeed just announced entry into a movie streaming service to compete with Netflix, and incidentally they are full or part owners of at least three major-league sports teams and have a handful of broadcast channels. Oh, and they are the dominant ISP! I wonder how long before Netflix finds itself at a severe disadvantage with regard to performance or bandwidth quota!

Do you have a cite? I’ve lived in multiple states, rural, suburban, and inner city and have always had at least two internet options. Even if you DO have a cite I think the better solution is to foster competition instead of regulating internet.

For example, laws have been passed that require the mobile phone companies to allow users to keep their #s when they switch. This has led, over time, to the companies loosening their restrictions. T-Mobile is making a killing right now convincing users to switch to their cheap non-contract plans.

Too much money is being made on the internet for an ISP to limit users. Is there any evidence that ISPs are doing this on anything but a trivial scale?

Here you go:

You’ve been lucky.

And just how do you suppose we can do that, when telecos fight any such deregulation - and have millions of dollars to bribe legislators with?

It’s hard to argue for one or the other in broad generalities, but I see it as somewhat analogous to the larger argument about government regulation of monopolies and oligopolies vs. believing that the free market will always deliver the best results. The problem is that free markets are not always free – sometimes if the government doesn’t control them, then often a small group of mega-corporations will.

A few specific examples on the Internet front in my area. Depending on where you live you might have access to two broadband ISPs, generally cable or DSL, and in some cases third-party resellers thereof. In my experience the two major providers aligned by technology – cable and DSL – are so absolutely in lock-step with each other that if you see one offer either a new feature or a new restriction, it’s practically guaranteed that the other one is doing the same. So much for competition. A few years ago they both simultaneously announced a drastic cutback in monthly download quota with a corresponding price schedule for exceeding it. The draconian plan was rescinded when they were ordered to do so by regulatory authorities.

The other issue is the one I mentioned before. In an era of “convergence”, if the ISP is also a content provider, then there is an almost irresistible temptation to manipulate the core functionality of the Internet service to favor their own content and put competitive content providers at a disadvantage; by extension, this manipulation of what should be a fundamental digital bandwidth service could extend to any content provider who wishes to pay for favorable treatment, provided of course that it doesn’t compete with the ISP conglomerate’s own offerings. To offer a not very good semi-serious analogy, if the telephone service worked that way, every time you called to order a pizza, you would get “Bell Pizza” regardless of what number you dialed. That’s fundamentally contrary to how a telecommunications service – or an “information highway” – should work.

Comcast was under scrutiny back in 2012 for basically exempting its own on demand video service from its data caps. Meaning if you get rid of cable and watch a lot of Netflix you will either pay more or your data rate will slow down, but if you pay for the Xfinity service you download as much as you want from them.

You may believe this to be true, but it’s not at the level at which net neutrality operates. The underlying backbone for any area is frequently owned by single parties who are leasing or peering the capacity to competitors. Google’s not going to every podunk ISP, they’re going to AT&T, who can offer QOS routing across a network that’s countrywide. Net neutrality isn’t a last-mile problem, it’s a middle-mile problem, where consumer options aren’t a significant concern.

So what exactly is the policy argument against net neutrality other than some vague “the free market knows best” notion?

What are the negative implications associated with imposing net neutrality?

I noticed that none of you commented on the mobile market and the inroads made by T-Mobile after laws were passed to increase competition.

According to this (anti-ISP) article 78% of Americans have 2 ISPs. I don’t think that makes me all that lucky.

This is the argument I don’t understand. You think they’re gonna fight competition laws but not net-neutrality laws?

And as I posted earlier, my two lSP’s are in such lock-step with each other that quite literally you can read the features, prices, and T&Cs of one and know what it is for the other. It’s the ultimate example of an oligopoly being absolutely indistinguishable from a monopoly.

They’re in a better position to win a battle against competition laws, as they already have the monopoly/oligopoly position. In the case of net neutrality laws, the law is mandating they continue to do what they’ve already been doing (namely, treating similar content from all sources as equal), rather than requiring them to change their current behavior (giving up monopoly broadband provider status). Laws defending the status quo are generally easier to pass than laws which mandate radical change.

“A federal court on Tuesday overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s network-neutrality regulations”

I heard on NPR that the court ruled the FCC itself decided to not regulate the internet as a Common Carrier, and that it’s up to Congress to enact new legislation (hahahahahahahahahahahaha) giving the FCC such a right. It apparently was defeated in the 2010 law, not sure those details. Phone service is an basic utility, so that can be heavily regulated, the internet is not a basic utility, the free market is allowed to roam.

The Huffington Post laying out why this is a big deal. (At least as long as the major ISPs aren’t throttling traffic there.)

An additional thought: I kind of hope that some major ISP overreaches with a major Internet based company — i.e. demanding millions from Amazon to reach the Northeast with any due speed. Maybe then…

That’s an excellent example of the good that government regulation can do. The phone service providers were restricting the options of their customers by refusing to allow them to switch to another carrier and keep the same phone number. Now that doesn’t happen. Lets do something similar with ISPs and prevent them from restricting the options of their customers by throttling.