Net neutrality: What it is, and why you should care


#1

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#2

Thank you for posting this important, informative explanation smile


#3

The fear of the end of Net Neutrality regulation leading to ghettos has been so debunked, so competently, that I can only presume that the reason it survives at BoingBoing is a reflex fear of "corporations" (which is generally merely people who want people satisfied enough with their service that that they will pay them for it).

Why Net Neutrality Doesn't Matter


#4

Consummate debunkery, brought to us by a single link to an article posted 6 months ago at TheStreet?

I know it's not your responsibility to provide me (or anyone) with the research to more of the articles you've read, but please do enlighten us, if you can spare the time.

Did you read the article linked by the BoingBoing post? Whether or not you have, I refer you specifically to page 7 and to the final panel.

I did read the article you linked, in its entirety, twice. Nothing in Mr. Blankenhorn's article addresses the issues pointed out in panel 7.


#5

LOL!
That article is a joke. You're not seriously posting that to refute net neutrality, are you?
Are you a paid shill? If so, they should get their money back, as the first comment below that piece pretty much destroys the entire thing.
BTW -

No, let me complete that for you - it's fear of corporate deep pockets that have the ability to influence this issue to their advantage.
What are you, from the fucking Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute?


#6

The link to the FCC comment page isn't working.


#7

Nothing in Mr. Blankenhorn's article addresses the issues pointed out in panel 7.

Well, Blankenhorn's article isn't a rebuttal of this cartoon, so it's not a point-by-point fisking. But it does address this issue in panel 7. So you're afraid that your ISP will build up infrastructure to support faster lanes for the big guys and not let the little guys ride? It doesn't matter, because only the big guys are the ones having problems with their access. Only the big guys (particularly Neflix and Hulu) have had enough usage to blow out the limits their Peering providers have arranged with the ISPs.

Net Neutrality is supposed to regulate the bandwidth ISPs offer to different players. But as far as the big ISPs are concerned, there is no AOL or Netflix. There are only peering providers. The problem Netflix was having last year, was that their peering provider had signed a contract for so-much streaming but Netflix was blowing out their expectations. The peering provider didn't want to pay more for Netflix's additional data -- even though they had contracted to do so. So while the Netflix consumer thought he was getting choked by Comcast, in fact, it was Netflix that was getting choked by their peering provider. Net Neutrality is regulating the wrong end of the pipe. By insisting that the government ensure ISPs allow as much bandwidth usage as a consumer demands, they are in fact giving a huge pay-out to the peering companies and by extension to the big companies that use them.

And Panel 7 demonstrates the really big problem with Net Neutrality that its advocates don't recognize:
You are concerned that big corporations have the government bureaucrats in their pockets. So what is your solution? Give the government (who are in the corporations pockets) more power to regulate corporations. Who do you imagine will get the raw end of the deal with this plan? Any corporation who is not a big enough corporation; any corporation who does not have a friend in the White House.

Have you heard of Regulatory Capture? In order to regulate an industry, you have to have expertise in that industry. Where does the government go to get that expertise? To the corporations. And the most expert in the industry are hired by the biggest corporations and paid handsomely. And say hello to the public-private revolving door where the bureaucrats get rich when they retire to work for the corporations and the politicians can demand deals from the "regulated" big companies. The problem with the FCC administrator in panel 7 is not a glitch. It's a feature of FCC regulation.

NN is essentially a bid to centrally plan the business model of your ISP.


#8

I'm informed. See my response to david405.


#9

So you're afraid that your ISP will build up infrastructure to support faster lanes for the big guys and not let the little guys ride?

No, see panel 4. ISPs will (and already do) congest the open side and charge both the user and the content provider for the normal speed.

only the big guys are the ones having problems with their access.

It starts with targeting the largest sites and the deepest pockets, especially if they're a content competitor. And anyone left on the congested peering links is affected, not just the ones that were asked to pay.

The problem Netflix was having last year, was that their peering provider had signed a contract for so-much streaming but Netflix was blowing out their expectations.

When peering connections are congested, the peers should upgrade the connection, as it helps both sides - a win-win. Refusing to upgrade the peering connection may result in higher profit for the ISP, but the users, the peer and the content providers all lose.

Give the government (who are in the corporations pockets) more power to regulate corporations.

That's a good thing to keep in mind. ISPs will not stop trying to bend the law to their side as long as there is profit to gain. But I don't see how conceding to them without a fight, as you seem to be suggesting, is a better option.


#10

No. Almost the exact opposite. I suppose I should have referenced the transition between pages 3 and 4 in conjunction with page 7.

My concern is that the ISPs will throttle traffic selectively, and that throttling (or lack thereof) will be based on who has paid (or not paid) for uninhibited access. Page 7 shows that is a purely semantic difference, and one that will either be resolved in court (expensive and uncertain) or by capitulation (less expensive, and the cost can be passed on the consumer).

I am grateful for your apparent expertise on this matter. You've taken the time to post a 400+ word response to my request, but all I really wanted was a few links to reliable sources wink


#11

I said: "So you're afraid that your ISP will build up infrastructure to support faster lanes for the big guys and not let the little guys ride?"

No, see panel 4. ISPs will (and already do) congest the open side and charge both the user and the content provider for the normal speed.

There's no evidence of that. And as the article I linked to demonstrated, they would have to GREATLY degrade the open side to have any affect on a small provider.

It starts with targeting the largest sites and the deepest pockets, especially if they're a content competitor. And anyone left on the congested peering links is affected, not just the ones that were asked to pay.

That's not the way it works. Last year, maybe you experienced the problem that Netflix would pause while all of the other Internet traffic (Youtube, Spotify, whatever) worked fine. Peering contracts ensure that just because everyone in your neighborhood is watching Orange is the New Black, your broadband speed will not go down to 3mps. They work just like your (relatively unregulated) cellular plan. The more data you use on their network, they more they will charge. Netflix paid a peering company in advance to connect to Comcast's network. The peering company made them an offer based on how much data they expected Netflix to stream. When Netflix streamed more, the peering company didn't want to pay for the extra bandwidth. So Netflix was getting screwed, but not by Comcast...but by their peering company.

I repeat. When Netflix buffered, that was Netflix failing to live up to its bargain with you. Comcast was entirely a bystander. When Netflix got its problems worked out with its peering company, your problem would be resolved. (Actually, Netflix just chose to become its own peering company.)

When peering connections are congested, the peers should upgrade the connection, as it helps both sides - a win-win. Refusing to upgrade the peering connection may result in higher profit for the ISP, but the users, the peer and the content providers all lose.

No. No. No. Comcast would have loved to upgrade their connection. So would Netflix. But Netflix didn't want to pay more to the peering company they had already contracted to have it upgraded. The peering company didn't want to pay more to upgrade their peering plan. Comcast didn't want to give the peering company (a big wealthy corporation) free access to its networks--you shouldn't want that either, because then Comcast's customers see ALL their bandwidth deprecated. Everyone was acting rationally. The hold up was between Netflix and its peering company. Not Comcast. But NN advocates point to Comcast as the problem...because they don't understand how streaming content gets to their house.

ISPs will not stop trying to bend the law to their side as long as there is profit to gain. But I don't see how conceding to them without a fight, as you seem to be suggesting, is a better option.

Doing something you know will make things worse is not an option at all. As I said, the regulations the abet the big players at the expense of consumers and smaller competitors is a feature of government regulation, not a bug. Big corporations LOVE regulation. It drives up the cost of entry to compete with them. It means they will control the rules by which the game gets played. It is the method by which GE managed to make millions selling consumer washing machines that don't work as well as those made 20 years go while paying no tax on their profits.


#12

My concern is that the ISPs will throttle traffic selectively,

There is no evidence of throttling or an intent throttle, except to the degree that Verizon throttle's your cell service when you haven't paid the bill. The problem with responding to people about this is that they don't understand how the Internet industry and data access industry works. Here try this.

and that throttling (or lack thereof) will be based on who has paid (or not paid) for uninhibited access.

The Internet has always worked this way, as I explained to factbased. And we've all been happy with it, right?.

Did you know that when you make a call or send/receive data, your cellular/Internet provider (or a company they've contracted) checks for the cheapest route and the fastest route based on the type of data? Then it contracts for access to those routes (which might be owned by different companies) and pays for the access in milipennies. All this commerce happens in the 1 or 2 seconds involved in completing your call or connecting over the Internet. (Granted, peering agreements often simplify this process.) People think there is a Mr Big pulling the strings of their data access. It is actually way more complicated than that. Why else do you think, in the 80s, AT&T was busy laying all that fiber optic cable (at their own expense) and microwave networks and communication satellites---even when they knew that MCI and Sprint would be taking over a lot of their long distance business? Because they knew MCI and Sprint would be among their most important customers.


#13

There's no evidence of that.

Yes, there is. Read this, for example.

And as the article I linked to demonstrated, they would have to GREATLY degrade the open side to have any affect on a small provider.

No. When there is congestion, by default a router will queue up a few packets, adding a bit of latency. When that queue is full, the next packet coming in will be dropped, regardless of whether the source is a small or large content provider.

They work just like your (relatively unregulated) cellular plan.

I think you're referencing paid peering / interconnection. Comcast is using their oligopoly market position to extract payment on both sides - content provider and content consumer. That should be settlement-free peering. There are reasons for paid interconnection, but not in the circumstances we're discussing.

When Netflix got its problems worked out with its peering company, your problem would be resolved.

The problems were at the interconnection point between backbones (e.g. Level 3) and the residential broadband provider (e.g. Comcast), not between Netflix and its provider.

Comcast would have loved to upgrade their connection.

No, they've been refusing, and dropping packets. Unless you work for Comcast or Level 3, you don't know the price per megabit Comcast was trying to extract. But $0 is the appropriate price.

Doing something you know will make things worse is not an option at all.

Keeping the longtime status quo (net neutrality) is a rather obvious option, since it's worked so well.

Big corporations LOVE regulation. It drives up the cost of entry to compete with them.

The big residential broadband providers don't love regulation that benefits consumers and keeps the playing field for content open, as we can see from the current dustup. Regulations, and laws in general, can have positive or negative effects. You sound like a reactionary anti-government type. I encourage you to instead evaluate proposed laws and regulations on their merits.


#14

There is no evidence of throttling or an intent throttle

Read the evidence I linked in my other comment. Then ask yourself: why are the ISPs fighting against regulations saying they can't throttle?

The Internet has always worked this way, as I explained to factbased. And we've all been happy with it, right?.

No. In the old days, the residential provider would have been paying the backbone provider. Now Comcast is large enough, has a backbone and has a tight enough hold on its end users that it can demand payment from both sides (end users and peers).

The Internet has worked so well because there are a set of tier 1 backbones that cover the globe. Those tier 1 backbones did settlement free peering (with some variation based on coverage and direction of traffic) so that anyone connected to any of those backbones could reach anyone else. Tier 2 providers without a backbone of sufficient size would pay a tier 1 to connect to the Internet, paying their upstream providers and charging their downstream users. Comcast's stance is like declaring that they are the Internet, and everyone else is a tier 2 provider and must pay up.


#15

factbased, from your link:

"However, in recent months Level 3, Netflix and Cogent have all gone public accusing some ISPs of keeping those ports congested while trying to charge above-market rates for direct interconnection."

If you read this, and also click on the link in that blog post, you will know almost everything you need to know about Netflix and Cogent's relationship with Comcast.
Cogent was Netflix's peering provider who did not want to pay Comcast in order to secure the bandwidth Netflix required...bandwidth they had accepted money from Netflix to secure. To blame Comcast is like blaming FedEx because Amazon and a manufacturer couldn't agree on who should pay them for shipping.

Netflix did publicly join Cogent and Level 3 in blaming Comcast. But Netflix backed down when Comcast threatened to sue them for liable. I don't know the current state of Cogent and Level 3's complaint but they are no small time players. And they would very much like to promise unlimited access to the major ISP's networks without paying for it. Who wouldn't. They are not uninvolved parties and Cogent at the very least does not have a spotless record.

No. When there is congestion, by default a router will queue up a few packets, adding a bit of latency. When that queue is full, the next packet coming in will be dropped, regardless of whether the source is a small or large content provider.

Generally, yes. But it is not unlimited. Read your terms of service with your ISP. If you download over a certain amount of data you agree to be throttled. The same is true on the supplier end. Businesses with a lot of email and other data traffic pay more than you do at home. Netflix has to pay more than a little hosting site does. Naturally, Netflix would like to not have to do that.

I think you're referencing paid peering / interconnection. Comcast is using their oligopoly market position to extract payment on both sides - content provider and content consumer.

That's not an oligopoly. That's called a middle man. Your real estate brokers also use their oligopolic powers to collect from the seller and the buyer as a charge for bringing them together. The Internet is a two way service. They have to manage both sides of their network in order for the system not to collapse. If they charged only one side for service and support on both ends, it would either be a service only available to wealthy subscribers or to very well-heeled companies. There would be no innovative culture.

The problems were at the interconnection point between backbones (e.g. Level 3) and the residential broadband provider (e.g. Comcast), not between Netflix and its provider.

I'm sorry but I don't believe you know what you're talking about. Read the links I referenced particularly this one. The throttling was a Neflix-Cogent problem. There's no evidence I've seen that Comcast suddenly jacked up its prices per data usage in order to squeeze more money out of Cogent (or, by extension, Netflix).

Keeping the longtime status quo (net neutrality) is a rather obvious option, since it's worked so well.

It's never been neutral. Not the way you think it has. But the FCC would love to codify that it has control over Internet business models and content.

Now Comcast is large enough, has a backbone and has a tight enough hold on its end users that it can demand payment from both sides (end users and peers). The Internet has worked so well because there are a set of tier 1 backbones that cover the globe. Those tier 1 backbones did settlement free peering (with some variation based on coverage and direction of traffic)...

AH HA! So you're saying it wasn't actually as simple as you are putting on. And you are right. It wasn't. The days you are describing were as equal/unequal as they are today. Most subscribers used dial-up. And there were some half-dozen tiers of service above that. And if you were going to be transmitting content to those upper tiers, Heaven help them your connection wasn't up to uploading the content. They would be like the family on the couch watching Netflix buffer. In some ways it was less complicated then, because we didn't have all these different types of services and interconnectedness. But in many ways it was just as complex then, in different ways.

The big residential broadband providers don't love regulation that benefits consumers and keeps the playing field for content open, as we can see from the current dustup.

It won't. It will kill the expansion, upgrading, and speed increases that ISPs are currently making to their networks.

Regulations, and laws in general, can have positive or negative effects. You sound like a reactionary anti-government type. I encourage you to instead evaluate proposed laws and regulations on their merits.

No. I'm a revolutionary anti-government type. Government is always the tool of the strong and the influential. You need to educate yourself on Regulatory Capture and Public Choice Theory. You believe that all we need to do is give a lot of power to some guy downtown and ensure he is smart enough and ethical enough. But as sure as water finds its way to the sea, you will be back at the situation of a bureaucrat taking his orders from a wealthy corporation.

why are the ISPs fighting against regulations saying they can't throttle?

Because that is not what the regulations say. They can't just say a magic word. They have to intricately define what "throttling" means and when it is okay (because they will say it will be). And they won't define every instance. They'll leave it to a bureaucrat to decide what is throttling. And these jobs won't be held by angels. They will be held by humans who are no less desirous to thrive financially and egotistically than you or me.


#16

Because peering allows better interconnection dimensioning, networks frequently find peering more attractive than transit. Consequently peering has become pervasive and it is not just a tier-1 vis-a-vis. However to benefit from peering the interconnection usually needs to occur at multiple points, which it is not affordable for many networks. Because these and other imbalances paid-peering (and remote-peering) have become common in the Internet.

The problem is not paid-peering with netflix paying comcast. The problem arises when users are locked-in and their access provider can leverage its monopoly to exact high payments to content providers. What should be regulated is the competition in the last-mile (e.g., loop unbundling as in the EU).


#17

Unless you work for Comcast or Level 3, you don't know the price per megabit Comcast was trying to extract. But $0 is the appropriate price.

Are you being ironically pugnacious? It's a joke, right?
I don't know what sort of business you do, but think it would be awesome if I got it at no cost. It's a human right. Unless you work in the government, or a non-profit sucking on the teet of government, I'm sure I could come up with a scenario in which I would DIE without your product or service. So its a human right that you work hard to give it to me for "free" and, btw, I expect high quality.


#18

Thank you for the second link, and I did click through to read the detailed explanation by Mr. Rayburn at StreamingMedia, which seems to be the heart of the argument made in the article to which you directly linked.

Contrary to expectation, some people on the internet are not dead set in their opinions. I've learned enough from your posts and links that I now understand I may not have enough of the story to have an informed opinion. I'll be following this thread, reading all the posted links, but distrusting authoritative statements that are simply words typed by people who have not shared their source of expertise.

You have no reason to suffer fools at all, much less gladly, but you did choose to post in this thread. I dare to suggest that you will convince more people (if that is even your goal) if you don't start out by implying their concerns are irrational and misinformed.


#19

Nooooooooo! You were almost there. The problem is that whole states and cities have allowed whole regions to be the domain of a one major provider or another. That is what should be regulated....the politicians. End the monopoly. However, the good news is that even where Comcast and Brighthouse don't compete, you still have the options of Uverse and Dish and DirectTV. I'm sure there are rural areas where you don't have choices but that is what it is like to live in the country.


#20

Contrary to expectation, some people on the internet are not dead set in their opinions. I've learned enough from your posts and links that I now understand I may not have enough of the story to have an informed opinion.

This is very gratifying and refreshes my opinion of humanity. I know I can sometimes read like a bomb-thrower. But then I'll post a quiet, reasonable comment that gives both sides credit, an I'll get no takers. You are wise to demand citations, and I'm please to know that you demand them because you really want to know all sides.

You have no reason to suffer fools at all, much less gladly, but you did choose to post in this thread. I dare to suggest that you will convince more people (if that is even your goal) if you don't start out by implying their concerns are irrational and misinformed.

I actually have a high opinion about the technical knowledge of the editors at BoingBoing. Which is why an article like this irks me. It makes no sense from my perspective. But, as with the comment section, I come to BB to be entertained and irked so it is my own fault. smile