Net Neutrality Bill

Found this while surfing on

What is it about?

I’m sorry if I get a little political here.

  1. The “old time” telecoms and such are in serious trouble. Their old business model of “install a phone and rent it for decades” is gone. They have to upgrade a lot of equipment every few years. Just when they got good networks of analog cell phones going, they had to start putting up digital networks. Things like that.

There are a lot of technologies out there that make these companies very scared. E.g., VoIP. Forget the phone company, talk to granny in Australia for free all day long. Even use webcams. Then there is also the free WiFi and similar systems being built out. (In some states, the telecoms have gotten states to outlaw public-funded free metro WiFi networks!)

Cable companies are also worried since you can get TV and movies over the Internet for free or very little money. (With the legal stuff becoming quickly more common.)

There is also the issue of control. If you get your subscribers to stay “in network” for using the Internet (a contradiction in terms), you make money. I have broadband cable and have no reason to use any of its services or sites for any reason whatsoever. So the “portal pages” and such are wasted. No ad revenue or anything.

If they can be AOL-like (what a goal!) and force you to start from their portal, use their search engine (or affiliate), their VoIP, their everything, they make money.

  1. So this old companies see upstarts like Google (and even MS) as threats. If you can use Google, why bother with a Bell or cable company’s services?

The solutions are to: 1. Compete. or 2. Go to Congress with a big suitcase of money in one hand and a bill in the other. Guess which one big old companies choose?

  1. Their plan is to basically charge twice at both ends. Note that we users pay for our Internet connection. Google and MSN pay for their Internet connection (big time). There is no “free ride” going on.

So, in the world of modern American politics, you accuse Google of getting a “free ride” and demand additional compensation. (E.g., like calling the conservative owned media “liberal.”)

(Note that similar things are already happening. AOL is charging mailing lists $ if they want their legitimage non-spam to reach AOL subscribers. They allow actual spam thru of course!)

Some of the back tech involved. People want their bits fast. The telecoms can do things within the world of Internet routing to decide which bits should be fast and which should be slow. That’s the sword over the other companies’ heads. The telecoms and cable companies will make sure their bits go fast. But if Google wants it bits to not start going slow, it will have to pay $.

  1. In a nutshell, a good “Net neutrality” bill would mean that all bits are treated equally. Just like they (in theory) are treated now. Note that the bills that are likely to be passed are anti-Net neutrality bills. They will allow telecoms to double charge.

  2. This is the classic “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” thinking. Things work great now. Lot’s of money being made. Let’s kill it! Brilliant!

  3. Note that the hired commentators of the telecoms are pitching this as leftist anti-corporate “Michael Moore-style liberals” (TM FoxNews) against Wonderful Capitalism. But note that it is really old dying dinosaur companies against the new-tech companies. The latter is just starting to understand the bribery/campaign funding system and so are not the favorites of incumbents.

Note that there is a lot of really awful politics behind this. A lot of these old companies hate new ideas, new companies, alternate political ideas, and such. They really do think that a corporate run police state is a good idea. Unrestricted control by companies aligned with politicians in the pockets of these companies. Cf. the rewriting of American history the last 30+ years.

  1. Oh, I guess I ought to mention a valid point of the telecoms. They are rolling out new highspeed, highbandwidth networks to handle the upcoming demands for voice and video over the Net. It may be reasonable to charge extra if you want to download “Over the Hedge” (legally) in 1 minute instead of 10. But this is distinct from adding a new charge for your existing capability as well as effectively limiting who you can download from. (E.g., their system vs. someone else that’s cheaper.)

“Net neutrality” is the common term for all Internet traffic being treated with equal priority by ISPs.

Basically, some ISPs, especially large ones like Verizon and AT&T who own other communication infrastructure, are looking to restrict customer access to web services based on what web services pay, and this is the important part, in addition to their regular hosting fees. Google, for example, could find that access to their services is diminished or cut off entirely by an ISP, even if that ISP is not their own, unless Google pays additional money to that ISP for what is usually called “priority access.” This would allow ISPs to promote their own services to customers while abusing their position as a data carrier to make it harder or impossible for their customers to use competitors, including competing services such as VoIP. It’s already happened. A North Carolina ISP was fined by the FCC for blocking Vonage traffic, preventing their customers from using that service. Although, as seen with the Madison River case, the FCC currently enforces net neutrality, the bills specified on the Google page you read would change that.

Moving thread from IMHO to General Questions.

Should mention that Congress, as of this time, has already voted on the “net neutrality” bill. Actually, it (HR5252, the COPE bill) was a bill to allow national-level to give the FCC power over who gets to offer service where, superceding local franchising authorities.

Net neutrality entered the picture in the form of an amendment to the bill proposed by Rep. Markey of MA, stipulating that companies could not create a tiered pricing structure for access to high-speed lines.

I can’t find the specific roll call vote for the amendment, but most sources are reporting the vote was strictly along party lines.

So if the apparent SDMB response time from the client end ever drastically increases even further because the telecom companies priced the high-speed lines out of the Chicago Reader’s reach, you can thank your local Republican congressperson.

Write to your Senator. They haven’t voted on their version of the bill yet. And vote out your local Repug this November if this is a key issue for you.

Actually, it (HR5252, the COPE bill) was a bill to allow national-level to give the FCC power over who gets to offer service where, superceding local franchising authorities.{/QUOTE]

Sorry, that should have been “…to give the FCC power over who, among national-level telecomm service providers, gets to offer service…”

If tiered pricing is ever adopted, content providers should retaliate by blocking service to any telco that charges them more. See how long their customers continue paying for internet service that doesn’t include Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Ebay, Amazon, MySpace, et al.

And note that you have completely ignored the business dynamics of the situation. But that’s typical, given that your post was nothing but name-calling and conspiracy-mongering.

Let’s look at that one for a second…

Why should the “dying dinosaur companies” be forced to provide services that, as you yourself admit, will put it out of business?

If your business model depended upon a service, and somebody found a technology that would essentially turn that service against you (i.e., SBC vs. Vonage) by using resources you’re providing… what would you do if you were told that you must provide your competitor with the same level of service that you give yourself?

What would Vonage’s cost structure be if they weren’t free-riding on SBC’s lines, if they had to provide the physical infrastructure needed to go “the last mile”? And don’t tell me that they’re not “free-riding” - if they’re selling phone calls for (ex.) 5 cents a minute using the lines of a company that has to sell the same phone calls for 8 cents a minute in order to meet its cost structure… well, Vonage is free-riding to the tune of 3 cents a minute. Your mentioning of Granny in Australia ignores the financial and physical facts that her VoIP lines/wireless/whatever had to be built and is currently maintained… by a telecom “dinosaur”.

And until you attack this dichotomy by looking realistically at the finances and the market, rather than using hoary old terms like “dinosaurs”, whining about your “political opponents”, and ignoring the cost+infrastructure dynamics between the two companies, the concept of net neutrality will die as being, essentially, financially unsupportable. And it will do so because people who support it can’t be bothered to understand the business dynamics of what is happening, which means that they will be unable to offer up practical solutions.

I mean… why build and maintain a network so your competitors can undercut you? Why even bother?

Extending Fear Itself’s point, an interesting aspect of this is that, given enough redundant routing, network neutrality might not really be an issue. That is, the old saw “the internet sees disruption of service (e.g., censorship) as damage and routes around it” would resolve the issue because the fastest route from source to destination would be the one without controls (assuming, of course, RTT is used to determine the “best” route, not, say, hops; I’m not sure what current routing algorithms are used). However, with individual carriers controlling large portions of the backbone AND the “last mile”, the redundant routes can’t exist.

But they’re not free-riding. If the carriers are losing money, they’re not charging enough for the bandwidth they provide. Look, I don’t want my net access bills to go up, but if carriers are selling bits per second, that’s what they’re selling. Because they’re selling bits per second, they’re not responsible for what those bits are, nor should it play into how they’re routed.

Yeah, I was right.

Vonage charges $.03/call (, look at the $14.99 for 500 minutes pricing plan.

That telco that blocked Vonage’s calls… the lowest the FCC allows them to sell long distance service is .035, with their base rate being .049. page 29.

So… Vonage immediately discounts them 14% on their best rate, 38% on their base rate, and the telco’s are stymied because

  1. They can’t charge Vonage more because of Net Neutrality
  2. They can’t charge their customers more because that requires a multi-million dollar filing process with the FCC and the state governments, with all the attendent publicity.

Hell, if I was in that situation, I’d demand that the law change too.

  1. But they’re prevented from charging more for that bandwidth, it’s what the bill is all about. Why should they have to raise everybodies rates because a few companies are manipulating the regulatory structure?

Vonage is doing to the telco’s something similar to what Enron did to CA - exploiting the rules to make money by forcing higher costs onto third parties. In Enron, they manipulated electrical movement through the wire to force the government to pay Enron a higher fee, in this case, Vonage is using flaws in the regulations to have part of it’s cost structure dumped onto SBC.

You do know that long distance rates are largely regulated by the FCC (especially for CLECs, RBOCS, and etc), right, not to be changed at a mere whim? A company has to file to the FCC to change their rates (and their state governments). See the above linked filing for a small example (and this is just some little podunk Telco in NC - imagine what SBC’s filings look like!)

If you’re arguing that the FCC is erring in its price regulation as concerns the amount common carriers can charge for straight-up BPS, I’ll accept that as valid (and something that I’d not thought of before). But that’s not net neutrality, which is about disregarding the type of bits being sent. Furthermore, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that carriers have (in some respects; I’m not as familiar with this as I perhaps should be) a government-sanctioned monopoly of sorts; they benefit from carrier status as opposed to…um, I forget the term…let’s say, content providers.

I’d appreciate any (factual, as this is GQ) clarification on any of the above.

A correction… many long distance rates are regulated by the States, not the FCC.

The above rate structure in the PDF I linked to was approved by North Carolina. As mentioned in 1.1.E in the document, different rate structures had to be filed and approved in Illinois, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Look, I support the concept of Net Neutrality, but the current market structure has a large part of the Internet’s infrastructure being financially and materially supported by companies who are being put out of business by that very same net/market structure.

And one can’t ignore the type of bits if it’s certain types that are putting you out of business. That’s akin to ignoring the flesh wound because you want a more “holistic” approach to that pain in your side.

And again, a faulty market structure is distinct from net neutrality. As you’ve pointed out (and it seems right to me), that’s where the problem lies.

The issue, as I see it, is the conflation of bit-carriers and content-carriers. Each has particular laws and such that apply. The bit-carriers are being hurt because they’re also becoming content-carriers. If the bit-carrying business is no longer profitable, that’s what needs to be changed, but not by (selectively) penalizing the content-carriers. That way lies even more of a reduction in free-market competition.

This is ridiculous. If the telco can sell bandwidth to Vonage and Vonage can still make a viable business selling 5c a minute phone calls, using the bandwidth it has purchased, then the answer is for the telco to review how it provides phone service (in effect, getting into the VOIP game). If the telco has to charge 8c a minute for regular phone service then this is clearly an inefficient way of providing phone service. Either it needs to get into VOIP or realize that the traditional way of providing phone serice has a limited future and gradually become strictly a bandwidth company. And if it is selling the bandwidth to Vonage at a price too low to cover the costs of the bandwith then they only have themselves to blame.

The difference in 8c versus 5c comes about due to the different technologies used. The solution is to use the more efficient technlogies, not stifle the market by passing legislation to protect the old way of doing things. The telcos are perfectly free to enter the VOIP game themselves (or should be, if they are not). Vonage is perfectly free to use the bandwidth it has paid for to provide a similar service in a far more efficient manner.

Yes, the telco did provide the “last-mile” of bandwith service. And guess what? My DSL bill ain’t free. I’m paying for that! And Vonage is paying for their end! And all the pieces in the middle are billing for their bits, which ultimately is reflected in my DSL bill and Vonage’s bandwidth bill.

Technologies shift over time. Companies that don’t adjust will fail, as they should do. The telcos are not neccesarily dinosours, because they currently provide an essential service (the last-mile of bandwidth). Someone has to provide that. But when someone comes up with a more efficient way of doing something this should be encouraged, not squelched with legislation.

Could someone please clarify for me exactly which pieces of legislation are doing what, here, and what the status quo was before these pieces of legislation came up? I.e., is it already legal for the telcos to charge different rates for different types of bits? Would the currently-debated legislation change bit discrimination from legal to illegal, or vice-versa? Or is it a question which wasn’t explicitly legislated before?

I do think that bit discrimination is emphatically a bad idea. The telco has some costs associated with sending bits over wires: They have to build the infrastructure, maintain it, buy electrical power, etc. Based on this, they establish some price for sending bits down those wires. If they have any business sense at all, the price they set is enough to cover their costs, plus a bit extra for their profit (and if they don’t have any business sense at all, that’s their problem, and they should go out of business). Now, a company like Vonage buys some of their bits, at the cost they established. Vonage is paying them the price they (the telco) calculated to give a profit. If the telco’s calculations were correct, they’re still turning a profit. And if their calculations were incorrect, if those bits are costing them more to provide then they’re charging for them, then they’re losing money on everything, not just VoIP.

Before, the different high-speed, industry-owned networks that make up the Internet backbone operated on a more or less equal basis. Although interconnected, they interlinked on the basic idea that “roughly the same number of people connected to my network are using wires on your network to transport their packets as there are people on your network using mine, so we’ll call it a wash and not charge each other anything.” Also, the networks simply route the packets without regard for who is sending them and who is receiving them. I don’t believe there was specific legislation requiring this, although a couple of things I have seen suggest this was FCC policy, as well.

That has started to change. Within the past year, two of the big networks temporarily cut their connections to each other in a pissing match over whether one owed the other money after all, affecting all internet traffic for a day. The head of AT&T asked publicly, “Why should Google get to use my pipes free?”, meaning that the popular site should pay extra for the popularity of their site and the resources it takes to handle the traffic, apparently opining that the connection fees Google’s users were paying their ISPs and the fees Google already pays to connect their servers to the net are not sufficient.

The buzz is that the telecoms, as they bring higher-speed connections online, think only those with fat wallets should get to send their bits across them. If this were permitted, then of course the network routers would have to check the packets to see who they are coming from and whether they get to move fast, or even if they get to move through the network at all, effectively censoring the internet due to source of content.

Here is a statement by Rep. Markey posted prior to the vote.