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'More Competition Would Fix Neutrality' Isn't Really an Answer
by Karl Bode 02:51PM Monday Jan 27 2014 Tipped by cabana See Profile
As a sort of counter-point to former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' claim that we should classify ISPs as common carriers to preserve net neutrality, the EFF has penned a blog post effectively arguing that the FCC really isn't going to save us from network neutrality violations because they're a broken agency in the pockets of industry. Unlock Copps, the EFF fears that giving the FCC any additional authority opens the door toward even worse rules and regulations:
quote:
In light of these threats it is tempting to reach for easy solutions. But handing the problem to a government agency with strong industry ties and poor mechanisms for public accountability to fix the very real problem of network neutrality is unsatisfying. There’s a real danger that we would just be creating more problems than we’d solve.
It's still not entirely clear why the prime worry on many fronts is that the FCC, which has done nothing but deregulate the broadband industry while waffling or ignoring most real consumer issues for more than a decade, is suddenly going to start hyper-extending its authority with new consumer protections. Still, the EFF makes a good point that if the FCC has done a piss-poor job historically of managing the broadband sector, why assume things are going to be any different moving forward? Especially with a former cable and wireless lobbyist at the helm (yes, yes I know...he's smart and a nice guy and that lobbying was so long ago we're all supposed to have nothing to worry about).

So what are the EFF's solutions to our broadband quagmire? One is to have Congress pass net neutrality rules, something that will never happen given Congress's partisan toxicity and loyalty to ISP cash. Two is to empower consumers to point out violations and sue over them, though that pretty clearly only works some of the time and can be defeated through marketing, bogus tech justifications and confusion (just ask Verizon Wireless). The third option, argues the EFF, is to focus on making broadband markets more competitive, so that carriers would be punished for bad behavior by customer defections:
quote:
One alternative that would go a long way would be to foster a genuinely competitive market for Internet access. If subscribers and customers had adequate information about their options and could vote with their feet, ISPs would have strong incentives to treat all netowrk traffic fairly. The court agreed with us on this point: "a broadband provider like Comcast would be unable to threaten Netflix that it would slow Netflix traffic if all Comcast subscribers would then immediately switch to a competing broadband provider."
You'll note the EFF just stops there, and doesn't explain how to create a more competitive market, especially if you're not willing to give the FCC authority to fully regulate broadband carriers. This idea that we can just somehow magically create competition to prevent neutrality violations without government intervention is a common refrain I've seen of late, but all of these missives seem to either omit a solution or rely heavily on unlikely heroes like municipal broadband (assaulted on all sides constantly and viciously by ISP lawyers, pundits and lobbyists) or Google Fiber (which I've explained is absolutely great, but will never have a serious impact on competition outside of a handful of markets).

If network neutrality consumer protections are truly dead and the only solution moving forward is more vibrant sector competition, how exactly is that supposed to be accomplished? Especially when you're working with a broken and corrupt Congress, a hopeless and/or incompetent regulatory authority (one we seem eager to hamstring further for caution's sake), and telecom laws now literally written by the wealthiest ISPs (looking at you, ALEC & AT&T)? The conversation doesn't just suddenly stop when you declare that more competition will fix broadband issues, so therefore neutrality rules aren't that important.

Yes, you can have some success engaging in telecom reform on the local level (WISPs, community broadband) -- at least until you get big enough to be noticed by a large carrier and swatted like a bug by state legislatures for hire. Sure, there's occasionally a mom and pop ISP like Sonic.net that runs the incumbent gauntlet and survives, though you'll note a telling lack of truly consumer-friendly ISPs on a national scale. But what about national solutions? How do you propose creating more competition without a strong regulatory authority?

However broken United States telecom regulators are (and I've made modest living out of highlighting how they're quite comically and horribly broken), the narrative that government is entirely beyond reform seems like a bridge too far. Rescue from uncompetitive markets isn't coming magically via deus ex machina; your options nationally really come down to reforming regulators so they work for you, or letting the foxes drive the henhouse further down the well of denial and mediocrity.

view:
topics flat nest 

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

1 recommendation

Held hostage by ISP

It seems nowadays you have to pick your poison, if network neutrality is gone, you will effectively be locked into one service, AND their preferred partners.

Your email is blocked or slowed. ISP offers own service, use it. YAHOOO! so fun.
Your video service is blocked or slowed. ISP offers preferred partner paid service, use it.
Your text/communication program is blocked or slowed. ISP offers own service, use it
Your music service is slowed. ISP offers preferred partner paid service, use it.
Your Social Networking. ISP offers preferred partner service, use it.

When I purchase a service, it has to have value to me. If things are blocked, its lost value.
2 year service contract standard is BS, along with outrageous early termination fee. Also the no contract gouging the same.
Some people are afraid to lose their email address they were unfortunately using for important business. Held Hostage, and made even worse by going from Network Neutrality to Network Predator.

The only way competition would work here if they build out new and share the lines.
--
Let them eat FIBER!
InvalidError

join:2008-02-03
kudos:5

Re: Held hostage by ISP

How would network neutrality prevent ISPs from picking who they peer with and which service providers' cache appliance they deploy on their network? It most likely would not.

The only enforceable part of network neutrality is preventing outright interference with competing online services. If an ISP signs up a peering or cache appliance hosting deal that favors Netflix over whoever else, there isn't much that NN can do about that unless you want NN to abolish CDNs and transit providers with deep ties with a subset of content providers.

The idealistic through-and-through network neutrality idea is unrealistic and unenforceable. NN advocates should focus on the much more reasonable no undue interference aspect.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Held hostage by ISP

Your right and that's why I wrote that last line "The only way competition would work here if they build out new and share the lines."

However, I do not agree that its unrealistic or unenforceable. At this level of discussions it would be unwise to concede any parts of NN. No undue interference leaves customers service at the word of the corporate network engineers, managers, technicians, lawyers, representatives/damage control experts who lie, misrepresent, blame the customer, etc. etc. And they are getting very good at it.
Unless a customer has wealth and informed representation, they are poorly equipped to deal with problems in a timely fashion.
As a DSL tech told me last time the bad service was worse, "its not regulated so were not obligated to do repairs for dsl (on the old spliced copper that was put in from the 1940's-50;s with an out of specification length)" "If you keep complaining and getting us out here they will shut your service down, its not regulated"
--
Let them eat FIBER!
InvalidError

join:2008-02-03
kudos:5

Re: Held hostage by ISP

said by gaforces:

No undue interference leaves customers service at the word of the corporate network engineers, managers, technicians, lawyers, representatives/damage control experts who lie, misrepresent, blame the customer, etc. etc. And they are getting very good at it.

Well, network neutrality would not necessarily be successful in addressing any of that since it still requires the very same minimum amount of good will to have any chance of working anyway.

If you want through-and-through neutrality, you would have to ban content delivery networks and cache appliance to force ISPs and online service providers to rely on pure network brute force to bush bits around the globe, which would increase equipment and power cost overheads by a significant amount. This sort of network neutrality is simply not economically viable.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

1 edit

Re: Held hostage by ISP

A third party like an artificial intelligence with preset commands to enhanced throughput and power saving. Very low maintenance, so low there will be job loss.

That's the way everything's moving towards, might as well have infrastructure for it ready.
If an AI can drive a car it can run a network.
phazah

join:2004-05-02
Findlay, OH

2 recommendations

how 1990s

If if becomes like the early 90s, can only email people on your ISP's servers...
time to snip the cord, go luddite.. let telcos and cable companies go bankrupt.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: how 1990s

"time to snip the cord, go luddite.. let telcos and cable companies go bankrupt"

It will never happen. Consumers would prefer to bitch, moan, and complain instead of doing something about the problem. They will tell you they are all about change but they are too greedy to make a stand. In the end the mega huge ISPs only look at numbers. If their subscriber counts are high they don't give a rats ass if customer dissatisfaction is high. If the numbers start a downward trend then they will take interest.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: how 1990s

So what's your solution. If you say "Switch ISP's" or "Start your own ISP" then you fail.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: how 1990s

It's too late now. Everyone jumped ship from the indies in the late 90s to save a buck or two. The indies folded or sold out which left us with little choice. 15 years later everyone is bitching because there are few choices left.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

1 edit

Re: how 1990s

It wasn't to save a buck or two. It's because the incumbents were the only one who could offer broadband. Here local ISP's tried and were blocked. SBC (now at&t) was VERY aggressive in blocking CLEC ISP's. They died because of broadband, not because of price competition. You had a choice of DSL from at&t or dial-up. Later Cox began offering High Speed Internet. So you had 3 choices.... at&t DSL, Cox, or dial-up. The locals, stuck in dial-up, died out in just a few years. In effect the battle was lost when TA1996 was gutted. Now, years later we are reaping the natural end result of prevention of competition and monopolization (or oligopolization).

It really comes down to regulatory capture and money in politics, like the root of most evils in the USA economy. It doesn't help that people continue to deny this is a problem and insist everything is fine and competition is robust.

I'd say the solution would be in aggressive Government regulation once again fostering start-up providers, but alas the realization that cronyism and the influence of money in politics now makes that also doomed to fail. Giving Government more power over telecommunications in this environment just means giving more power to the current incumbents to entrench positions and toll-gate the internet.

The entire system needs to be smashed. The idea of "free market capitalism is alive and well" needs to be dismissed for what it is: A Myth. Propaganda to protect the status quo. If we don't stop them they will take over the entire internet (at least in the US) in the same manner. A few large Corporations to rule us all (With the full power and authority of the US Government as their lapdog.)

Local Government, and most especially Muni-Fiber broadband may be the very, very last chance any of us all have.... and that's looking mighty slim.

--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: how 1990s

"Local Government, and most especially Muni-Fiber broadband may be the very, very last chance any of us all have.... and that's looking mighty slim."

As long as you have a Muni operating as a retail entity they are going to be no better than the Cable or LEC in that market.

Muni networks should be treated just like roads. Anyone who is willing to pay a reasonable rate can buy access on their network and reach any one else to deliver un-restricted services (provided it's not causing harm). They should not be in the retail business but rather the wholesale business with the goal of getting connectivity between private business and private parties.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: how 1990s

That would be ideal. They build the network, and others provide end services over that network. Equal access and equal pricing to all service providers.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR
said by phazah:

If if becomes like the early 90s, can only email people on your ISP's servers...

That was NEVER true of the Internet. TCP/IP and SMTP, BY DESIGN, was intended to send messages between different systems and networks.

It might've been true in the early 90s that AOL users couldn't talk to Compuserve users, but those were proprietary systems, not designed to talk to each other.

But even those "walled gardens" eventually provided Internet access, and the ability to email people using different ISPs.
Millenium

join:2013-10-30
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

1 edit

2 recommendations

Walk

ISPs will respond to only two things: Shrinking demand and regulation.

What people pay for smart phones and their associated data plans leaves little hope for a shrinking demand even as fee lane caps grow ever smaller and more expensive. FCC corruption leaves little hope for regulation that will prevent ISPs from breaking neutrality.

I'd say be prepared, it's coming. Anyone with any concern for what is to come has little option but do their best to limit, even eliminate, their need for internet.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: Walk

"Shrinking demand and regulation."

They can always find a way to tip regulation to their favor so that only leaves one thing to respond to.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.
phazah

join:2004-05-02
Findlay, OH
the ISPs own the federal government(both R and D) and the courts.
the internet is neat, but i lived 30yrs without it, can live the rest without it too
kevinsheeks

join:2013-05-10
united state

Re: Walk

I signed the petition but honestly i doubt its going to do anything

elios

join:2005-11-15
Springfield, MO
to where? you have choice of 2 of the same or 1 of the same or nothing
Millenium

join:2013-10-30
kudos:1

Re: Walk

That's why I suggest it is time to think about reducing, even eliminating, our need for internet. It's not going to be internet for very long anyway. It's going to be capped and fee'd into a collection of private networks.
OwlSaver
OwlSaver
Premium
join:2005-01-30
Berwyn, PA

This is a hard problem

Without the government layering the industry, this will be hard to do. I think one of the big stumbling blocks is lack of access to live sports. There are a number of entertainment options opening up on the web - e.g., Amazon. But without sports access, consumers will not be able to make a choice that fosters completion. This is certainly not true for all consumers but live sports is a big driver.

My take is that we need to do everything we can to make AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and such into dumb pipes. If we can do this by getting all of our entertainment from sources other than them, we will succeed. But, we are far from that.

So, I guess I am advocating that we all cut the cord for everything but IP services and then buy the other services on top of the IP service as best we can. The incumbents will resist.

As I said, this is a hard problem.

cpt spasmo

@sbcglobal.net

Re: This is a hard problem

The incumbents will just raise prices on ISP services to compensate for the loss of video revenue, based on the need to make really big pipes to delivery all TV content over the "internet" - really Netflix's CDN in their data centres.

And then Netflix will raise prices because they control all the content....
kevinsheeks

join:2013-05-10
united state
welcome to america we lose and then we lose some more
e_identity
Premium
join:2003-09-10
Silver Spring, MD

1 recommendation

problem to be solved?

The theory is that if there is enough competition in the market to provide internet service, then a provider that assigns equal priority to all content will have a competitive advantage. Accepting that proposition as true, the question becomes how do we foster competition? I don’t think any proposed answer should be automatically rejected because it is currently politically unworkable—sometimes a good idea can take root and advocacy can, over time, expand possibilities. I think the discussion has to start with identifying the problem to be solved--why is competition among internet service providers presently limited and how will that change over time. It seems to me that one of the biggest reasons that sufficiently competitive markets don’t exist today is that, even putting aside politics, barriers to entry into the market are high. Specifically, each service provider must build its own network (wired or wireless, national or municipal) connecting to each home or business to be served, and this is very expensive. I understand that some parts of the network use shared infrastructure, but each company must still build out significant parts of its infrastructure (e.g., the last mile). My question is—over the next relatively long period of time (i.e. at least one decade, possibly more) will those barriers remain high? If technical innovation sufficiently reduces the cost of creating networks, then the barriers to entry into the market will be lowered and extensive competition among providers will commence without any need for regulation. In such a circumstance, the pace of change could potentially be accelerated by investing in the development of relevant technology. If, despite technical innovation, the cost of creating networks will still be high enough to discourage sufficient competition, then other alternatives need to be considered. One possibility that I have thought about is a regulated public utility—not unlike an electric utility. In this situation, a regulated public utility (potentially municipal, regional, or national) would build a network to provide internet service, and all companies providing internet content would deliver that content to the consumer over the utility’s system. The utility would be required to prioritize all commercial content equally. Where the pace of technical innovation is relatively slow and the cost of building a network remains high, this might be a viable option. In my mind, the regulated public utility model works particularly well in the provision (to distinguish from the generation) of electrical power because the same wire can be used to carry electricity regardless of who generates it and the technology of power lines has remained relatively stable for many decades (e.g., the 50 year old wires in my neighborhood can still fulfill their function adequately). In its prior life as a regulated public utility, AT&T amply demonstrated that public utilities may not be incubators of innovation, but, especially if building a network remains expensive, they have the advantage in cost efficiency--only one network need be built and the cost of building that network would be shared among all users (i.e. the total cost of building one network is lower than the total cost of building multiple networks and that total cost for one network is spread among a larger pool of users (i.e. all users, not just the subset of users who are customers of the particular service provider)). While politically tenuous in the current atmosphere, municipal broadband is an example of using a public utility to provide internet service. Another possibility would be for the utility to own the “shared” parts of the infrastructure and to limit access to that infrastructure to service providers that guarantee they will assign equal priority to all content (not unlike a national highway system that provides equal access to vehicles from all states and all manufacturers). So, I think identifying the path towards enhanced competition in the market for internet service depends significantly upon what will happen to cost of providing that service—will it drop low enough in the medium to long term that many companies will jump into the market? I confess to not knowing the answer to this question, but it seems important to answer this question at the outset of this discussion.
Millenium

join:2013-10-30
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

2 edits

Re: problem to be solved?

said by e_identity:

The theory is that if there is enough competition in the market to provide internet service, then a provider that assigns equal priority to all content will have a competitive advantage.

Unfortunately, offering cap-free access to ESPN or Netflix is an advantage too. That's how it is already marketed and how it will successfully be sold: Small expensive caps for access to everything not in the ISP's free lane, but only the free lane getting all the promo time.

With that one small move the ISP controls virtually the entire internet, and people line up for all the "free" offerings.
e_identity
Premium
join:2003-09-10
Silver Spring, MD

Re: problem to be solved?

All true, especially in the present. However, if in the future the cost of building a network is low, the premium for providing cap free access to all content will also be low (and the savings for choosing a provider who priortizes preferred content will also be small). If the cost of building a network remains high, different consequences seem to follow. The cost of building a network seems important.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Re: problem to be solved?

Cost is not really relevant, revenue per customer is.

The cost of building a network in the current environment could be at $0 and prices would not change nor would their efforts to create a fast lane to increase revenue for the perceived better experience.

Bottom line is that any network, regardless of how big or how small, will only have an issue and need prioritizing if it can't handle the traffic. Wired networks are not at a point that prioritizing is needed and probably never will be for any of the major players.

Prioritizing to bypass caps (that are not needed in the first place) is nothing but a money grab by the ISP's. One that starts with the deliverer of the content paying and ends with the consumers paying.
masterbinky

join:2011-01-06
Carlsbad, NM

An answer doesn't mean it's a solution..

As pointed out, new competition is already hamstrung by government rules and regulations over many levels (local,state, and federal). It can be legally impossible for any new deployments of physical connections to be made across a city if none of the incumbents want to cooperate. That's including solutions that look like they come from a Dr. Seuss book. It's even worse when you try to make it a practical plan. When you start to look at the reality of it, competition is DECREASING because these ISPs are consolidating, merging, or just being bought out, with the undesired parts being sold off. What WORSE rules and regulations are they thinking will occur? The only rules and regulations that ISPs are truly living under are ones they designed to minimize competition.

I don't know what provision of Title II they are so wary of though. The FCC is being forced into a corner to act. If they decided on reclassification to Title II, I don't see them going on a spree to make new rules, there wouldn't be a need for it.

All people are asking for is to put ISPs under a set of rules that have been empirically proven to work.
MaynardKrebs
Heave Steve, for the good of the country
Premium
join:2009-06-17
kudos:4

Regional monopolies/duopolies limit competition


The mantra 'competition cures all' is fine - as long as the cost to enter a market is low, or there are no political impediments in doing so.

That is not the case in ANY wireline environment existing anywhere in the world. Overbuilding is seldom successful, and the extreme pressure the incumbents (ATT, Comcast, Bell Canada, Rogers, et. al.) bring to bear on regulators and local/state governments impedes competition. Count the number of successful municipally-owned FTTH rollouts vs. the number that have been politically killed by incumbents.

The only way things really work to the benefit of consumers is - functional separation, regulated access, and net neutrality - each as part of the solution set, and not in isolation.

anonome

@verizon.net

Still, some competition

would be nice--real competition, that is... not the "my promo for excessive speed that more than 90% of customers will never use half of" is better than your "promo for yadda yadda blah blah blah...". The only thing really going faster is our money into the pockets of the ISPs.
axus

join:2001-06-18
Washington, DC
Reviews:
·Comcast

Separate infrastructure is the best way

The only "natural" competition we're seeing is between the telephone company and cable company, because they have control over a line going to the house. If there's a problem, they have to fix it, and aren't relying on someone else.

The problem with government (or third party) controlling the line is that there's little incentive for upgrades or quick repairs. Building the infrastructure is hard, but buying it isn't so bad. Worked for Google!

The best analogy I can think of is toll roads. The government approves and finances the road project, with a company who will exploit the roads for a profit. People don't have to use the toll roads (usually). Government build-out of fiber could work the same way. A company who wants to enter competition could work with the government to build the infrastructure and get through all the red tape. Sure, it would cost more than it should, and be pork-filled, but the end result would be better than handing the cash to the monopolies for universal service. Even if the company fails, the assets could be bought by someone else and used.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Re: Separate infrastructure is the best way

Is this the fed printing more money to finance the build or is there a tax levied to provide funds?
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse

1 recommendation

Ever seen the show Continuum?

Continuum is a sci-fi show from Canada which shows a future where the existing governments have been eliminated and the corporations are in charge.

That's pretty much what we have now. The only difference is that the governments of today are still allowed to run the things that don't directly relate to corporate profits. Everything else is dictated by the corporations. The politicians might as well be officially on the corporate payrolls. They already act like employees.

The whole system is completely corrupt and broken, and it's not going to change as long as the same people who are the problem in the first place are the ones being asked to change the system. Sure you can vote for different politicians, but that's like voting for which fox to put in the hen house. Even if you do manage to find a vegetarian fox, there's not a lot he can do to stop the rest of them from eating the chickens. And it's not like we can actually pick the president of the US, the Electoral College does that and they are under no obligation to follow the popular vote (of which, my state doesn't even matter).

At this point probably the only way to fix things would be a full-scale revolution. Bloodless if possible, although I suspect that those in power would happily order the death of millions if it meant hanging onto their power. Unfortunately, the people of today don't care enough to actually do anything to change things as long as the system mostly works for them.

Goliath2k
Premium
join:2013-12-28
united state

1 recommendation

Re: Ever seen the show Continuum?

said by Rekrul:

Continuum is a sci-fi show from Canada which shows a future where the existing governments have been eliminated and the corporations are in charge.

That's not Sci-Fi, that's reality television...

Your post was pretty depressing, but I really can't find anywhere to argue against it...so I guess I'll just upvote and move on

Missyg

@rr.com

The Internet Must Go

It's becoming more and more important to stay up to date on the facts and to learn as much as possible about net neutrality in order to restore it. If anyone needs a refresher on the basics, here's a great mockumentary to bring you up to speed: »www.theinternetmustgo.com/