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Was The FCC Comcast Investigation A Farce?
Editorial: More than meets the eye to Martin's 'consumer advocacy'
by Karl Bode 10:02AM Thursday Jul 31 2008
Anybody who has studied Kevin Martin's tenure at the FCC, and his recent crusade against Comcast for P2P throttling, probably finds this latest consumer advocacy shtick a little hard to swallow. Martin is no consumer advocate: this is an FCC boss that dismisses rural broadband penetration concerns as unfounded whining, has stripped consumer protection laws wherever possible, and has fought tooth and nail to keep accurate broadband data out of the hands of consumers.

Consumers must be fully informed about the exact nature of the service they are purchasing and any potential limitations associated with that service.
-FCC Boss Kevin Martin
Martin has protected and empowered the nation's broadband duopoly at every turn -- almost always thanks to short-sighted, profit-centric policies lobbied for by incumbent phone providers. Suddenly he loves consumers? Suddenly he's concerned with transparency and accountability? Om Malik believes Martin's more interested in political fortunes than ISP honesty:
quote:
...it is a calculated bet by Martin, who is rumored to be contemplating running for US House of Representatives after he leaves FCC. No wonder, he has been campaigning hard to chastise Comcast, and perhaps censure them for an undeniably lamentable act. My inner cynic believes that this so called punishment is nothing but a smart tactic by Martin to show that he is on the side of network neutrality and champion of open access and the people.
I'm sure that Martin's political ambitions certainly play a role in the FCC boss pretending he's a consumer advocate. He's certainly an ambitious and political animal, highlighted by his use of indecency issues to gain support from "family values" organizations. Given his term as FCC boss could last until 2011, he could be trying to sell himself to the Obama or McCain campaigns. But I can't stop wondering if Martin's new found obsession with ISP "transparency" doesn't have a larger motive than just politics.

Click for full size
The technology media and industry lobbyists have spent the last few weeks debating whether the FCC has the authority to police Comcast. What most of them fail to note is that Martin has always known that the FCC's network neutrality principles (pdf) aren't law, and probably won't even be enforceable -- because he designed them that way. Martin knows he's putting on a dog and pony show. But why?

While consumer advocates are cheering the FCC decision as a network neutrality victory, and pro-free-market types are lamenting Martin as the worst sort of socialist evil-doer, Comcast really won't see more than a wrist slap. Note the only real change, insiders tell me, is that Comcast may impose a 250GB monthly cap, and start charging users $15 for each 10 GB over the cap they travel. I'll repeat: the only real result of the investigation is bad press for Comcast and an industry push toward caps and metered usage. Who benefits?

Throughout the investigation, Martin, for the first time ever, repeatedly pretended he was really concerned about ISP transparency. What's more transparent than metered billing? Martin's close friends at AT&T have stated they're going to test usage-based billing this year, and have proclaimed that usage-based pricing is "inevitable." At the most recent in a series of feel good FCC hearings, AT&T was sure to highlight just how transparent they are, while dropping vague hints that usage-based billing could be the answer to all of our problems.

While the cable industry frequently complains that Kevin Martin really hates them, he didn't just start picking on them out of spite. AT&T and Verizon's lobbying prowess have a little something to do with it. If Martin is, as history has shown, primarily a lap-dog for AT&T, what better gift than to give AT&T's top competitor a year of negative press, while warming consumers to metered billing? Like Time Warner Cable, metered billing would help AT&T control and profit from broadband video alternatives to their U-Verse IPTV service.

The best case scenario is that Martin is just pretending to champion network neutrality in order to further his political future. The worst case scenario is that Martin and AT&T are using the throttling investigation to begin warming consumers to an immensely unpopular pricing model. If the latter, expect the hard sell for metered pricing to drop this fall, with a heavy push coming from AT&T and their various policy mouthpieces.

Just food for thought.

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person300

@comcast.net

Sounds about right.... corrupt and only out for self benefit

Give me a few million dollars as an incentive and I too would jump on screwing people. Why? Because the I can and egocentrism rampant in the USA is great. Let us see who can screw each other better for higher profits.

Can't wait to see the earnings of those at the top. New bonus says an extra 5 million?

Chiyo
Save Me Konata-Chan
Premium
join:2003-02-20
Charlotte, NC
kudos:1

1 recommendation

Martin should be outsted

seriously he is doing his job, he isn't adhering to what the job calls for and I think he should be taken out of office. I know I'll never vote for the douche bag even if he runs for HOR. Just my 2 cents.
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FFH5
Premium
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Tavistock NJ
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Re: Martin should be outsted

said by Chiyo:

I know I'll never vote for the douche bag even if he runs for HOR. Just my 2 cents.
Since he will be running in North Carolina and not Minnesota, you won't have to grapple with that decision.
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DataDoc
My avatar looks like me, if I was 2D.
Premium
join:2000-05-14
Martinsburg, WV
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Suddenlink

Re: Martin should be outsted

said by FFH5:

said by Chiyo:

I know I'll never vote for the douche bag even if he runs for HOR. Just my 2 cents.
Since he will be running in North Carolina and not Minnesota, you won't have to grapple with that decision.
OK, I won't vote for him.
axus

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

1 recommendation

why so complicated?

He's always done things that hurt cable companies and/or helped telecom companies. This has been how he's operated since Powell left, I don't see any change.

I don't really see any proof offered that he's hinting at usage-based pricing by asking for transparency. Having a defined usage limit from Comcast is what we've been asking for since they started sending letters about their super-secret heavy usage limit. It only makes sense to sell more bandwidth past that limit.

250GB monthly cap is reasonable... though it should be like Gmail, and slowly increase every day as they add more capacity
lordofwhee

join:2007-10-21
Everett, WA

Re: why so complicated?

said by axus:

250GB monthly cap is reasonable... though it should be like Gmail, and slowly increase every day as they add more capacity
BAHAHHAAAAHAHAHA. 'Add more capacity' he says! What a joke! Everyone knows that it's those damn bit torrent users slowing everything down, and not the fact there's way too many subscribers per node than any node can currently support!

Soja

@covad.net

Re: why so complicated?

Don't Forget, The internet was never designed to do what it does now. It was originally designed for Text Based Information sharing. After it started coming out they figured that it could pass pictures also.

And anyways, Why should there be caps and throttles on a product that you/we are paying for "Unlimited Usage" on. That's like getting a Cellphone with Unlimited Talk, and then when you call someone, you can only talk to them for five minutes at a time per day. And if you talk to them for longer, you get charged more.

And don't forget the article didn't point out that ISP's started with Pay per Usage. As I remember, you got charged by the minute when the net first came out, then moved to by hour (rounded up every 30.01 minutes(AOL)), and so on till Unlimited Usage by Month.

And, as WhyADuck said, "...there are sellers and buyers, and the buyers get to see the price ahead of time and either agree to buy from that seller, decide to buy from another seller (which may offer lower prices or better quality), or decide to do without." The Easiest way to show that you disagree with someones prices and/or services is to denie them your money. If you look at the stock of a store and they don't carry what you want, you tell the Manager of the store that you can't buy it there and then go where you can, or you just don't buy it at all (I have gotten several stores where I live to carry Dr.Pepper this way, and most to carry more than just the 20oz).

Matt3
All noise, no signal.
Premium
join:2003-07-20
Jamestown, NC
kudos:12

Comcast doesn't serve Charlotte

If the rumors are right and he's running for a House seat in Charlotte, well, Time Warner, AT&T, and Windstream serve Charlotte.

No Comcast to be found anywhere. Interesting huh?
Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1

2 recommendations

Don't think about this matter to much!

The entire Bush Administration is corrupt. Consider the situation with the Justice Department. If you think about corruption in the FCC to much you head will explode.

fatmanskinny
Premium
join:2004-01-04
Wandering

Re: Don't think about this matter to much!

KAPOW!!!!!

the big bbomb

@comcast.net
BOOM!!

There it is. Some people can't resist.

I had gas this morning. Bush's fault.
My mama died of lung cancer in 1995 - Bush's fault.
It rained this morning - Bush's fault.
I ran out of toilet paper - Bush's fault.
lordofwhee

join:2007-10-21
Everett, WA

Re: Don't think about this matter to much!

We're fighting a war for oil - Bush's fault.
The entire world hates us - Bush's fault.
The government has more control over people's lives than the people do - Bush's fault.

I could go on if you want me to.

menumorut
BE an American.

join:2005-07-04
Queens Village, NY

Re: Don't think about this matter to much!

said by lordofwhee:

The entire world hates us - Bush's fault.
If Jesus Christ himself was president of US (I used this example not because I´m religious but to get the cleanest role model) the world would still hate US.

Is all derivate from envy and most of the world would love to see US going backwards and align with their lower level of development.
--
Give the world changes at a pace it can absorb.

kamm

join:2001-02-14
Brooklyn, NY

1 recommendation

said by the big bbomb :

BOOM!!

There it is. Some people can't resist.

I had gas this morning. Bush's fault.
My mama died of lung cancer in 1995 - Bush's fault.
It rained this morning - Bush's fault.
I ran out of toilet paper - Bush's fault.
Ummm, there's a world beyond of your Mama, the rain and you taking a shit:

9/11 - The Retard in Chief's fault.
BL got away - The Retard in Chief's fault.
Iraq, this royal fuckup - The Retard in Chief's fault.
Economy is busted - The Retard in Chief's fault (YES, IT IS.)
New Orleans scandal - The Retard in Chief's fault.
Corrupted administration - The Retard in Chief's fault.
...

should I continue...?
--
JimF
Premium
join:2003-06-15
Allentown, PA

Have you ever heard of the free market?

The alternative to metered billing is to raise the flat rates to everyone if they want increased bandwidth. Why aren't you arguing that giving consumers some choice is the correct free-market approach, rather than imposing a given flat rate on all customers that "net neutrality" requires?

Why not just require Ford to sell cars in only one color (black) the way Henry Ford used to do it? Isn't that more "neutral"?

funchords
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Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

3 edits

2 recommendations

Re: Have you ever heard of the free market?

You're confused about Network Neutrality. Since the world does not need another Network Neutrality definition, I'll propose this way to think about it:

Network Neutrality is the name given to a set of guiding principles designed to continue the Internet's interoperable, non-discriminatory, end-to-end processing tradition. The Internet (the routing and forwarding network) was originally neutral because it generally lacked any information or capability that would make it otherwise, and since "more speed" was the demand, improved hardware capabilities over time was usually spent delivering more speed (not more functionality like DPI).

In recent years, network operators and network hardware manufacturers have been focusing less on speed improvements and more on services. As one might expect with any new and powerful technology, some of these uses are genuinely useful while others tend to be quite questionable. The secret deployment of this technology, whether useful or questionable, is also highly questionable.

In short, today's Network Neutrality efforts seem focused on maintaining the free, open, and level playing field that the Internet originally created.

Tiered access and bandwidth caps have nothing to do with Network Neutrality. People have always paid to access the network, and people have paid more to access it faster.

That doesn't mean people shouldn't object to bandwidth caps -- it means that the reason to disagree is something other than Network Neutrality. (Such as, I don't like caps because they stifle high-bandwidth application innovation, or I don't like TV companies imposing Internet caps because it is an anti-competitive act.)
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SilverSurfer1

join:2007-08-19

1 recommendation

Re: Have you ever heard of the free market?

said by funchords:

Tiered access and bandwidth caps have nothing to do with Network Neutrality. People have always paid to access the network, and people have paid more to access it faster.

That doesn't mean people shouldn't object to bandwidth caps -- it means that the reason to disagree is something other than Network Neutrality. (Such as, I don't like caps because they stifle high-bandwidth application innovation, or I don't like TV companies imposing Internet caps because it is an anti-competitive act.)
Stop making sense. You're confusing the drones with your damnable facts/logic!
SuperWISP

join:2007-04-17
Laramie, WY

Doublespeak

Always watch out when someone offers to tell you the "way to think about" something. It means that Doublespeak will follow. In the case of Robb Topolski, it means that you will get the views of Free Press, an inside-the-Beltway group of Washington lawyers and lobbyists who want to regulate the Internet and don't care at all about consumers.

kamm

join:2001-02-14
Brooklyn, NY
said by JimF:

The alternative to metered billing is to raise the flat rates to everyone if they want increased bandwidth. Why aren't you arguing that giving consumers some choice is the correct free-market approach, rather than imposing a given flat rate on all customers that "net neutrality" requires?

Why not just require Ford to sell cars in only one color (black) the way Henry Ford used to do it? Isn't that more "neutral"?
WTF ar eyou talking about? WTF has network neutrality to do with fuckin "imposing flat rate" BS?

BTW we never had a "free market" here, only MONOPOLIES>

This whole BS about free market in the US is totally ridiculous, this place is more and more reminds me to the Commie system I grew up...

raisetheprice

@sonic.net
If they need to raise the price so be. A lot of people have become dependent on their high speed connections that I bet very few would be willing to give them up and go back to dial up. Personally I would support a price increase instead of these damn caps that everyone wants to implement straight out of 1994.

funchords
Hello
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join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

Re: Have you ever heard of the free market?

Jim, that attitude works in a free market, but we don't have a free market in broadband. So we have to be careful. When AOL went to flat-rate, it created explosive growth. Do we want to reverse that?

The Cable TV Companies already have a flat-rate product that they'd prefer you used -- their TV service. They know that raising the price on Internet bills will drive eyeballs away from the computer back to their service.

Now they control prices on both Cable TV and Internet and there is currently insufficient competition to check-and-balance that power.

Is this happening now? What do you think?

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WhyADuck
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1 recommendation

The problem with this thinking is that in a truly free market, there are sellers and buyers, and the buyers get to see the price ahead of time and either agree to buy from that seller, decide to buy from another seller (which may offer lower prices or better quality), or decide to do without.

However, in the world of communications pricing, this whole model gets badly twisted. In many cases the number of "sellers" of a service is limited to just a few or even only one, so there isn't robust competition (and often this is the result of government policies, if not outright government fiat). And there may be serious social and financial penalties for deciding to do without.

But the worst thing about metered billing is that the customer doesn't have access to the meter. The customer isn't even allowed to see the meter. In the vast majority of cases, the customer has no way of knowing whether the meter is accurate, nor will it be readily apparent if there is excess usage taking place (for example, if a trojan horse program manages to install itself somewhere on the customer's home network, and then proceeds to spam the entire known Internet). And whereas now an ISP might notify a customer that there is excessive usage taking place, I have no doubt that large corporations will be more inclined to just let it occur and then send the customer a huge, unexpected bill if metered usage is in effect. One might even wonder if companies would ever be tempted to install software on a customer's computer (at installation) that would cause usage to increase.

There is a way that the Internet could be engineered to avoid the issue, if metered billing were really a necessity. The satellite providers already do it - you pay a flat monthly rate that never changes, but as your usage increases your download speed goes down for a time. Download a few huge files, and you might get throttled back to near dial-up speed for the rest of the day. So you cannot ever get a surprise high bill, but you might have to suffer with slow service for a time. Thing is, I'm sure the phone companies in particular WANT to be able to tack on extra charges to your bill - this has been their business model for decades, sell cheap basic service but nickel and dime you to death (even to the point of charging several dollars a month for "custom calling" features that cost them nothing to provide, or at most a few pennies a month).

However, one then should ask whether there is really a capacity shortage. Unlike the old days where you had to physically add copper circuits to expand capacity between cities, in many cases the capacity of fiber circuits can be expanded simply by adding more modern equipment at the endpoints (and any repeaters). You can use the entire visible light spectrum (and probably infrared and ultraviolet also) over a fiber, and each wavelength you add expands the capacity of the fiber. So my thought is that if the phone companies try to sell metered billing as a necessary evil, one could legitimately ask why they don't simply add capacity to deal with the increased volume.

Finally, I know there are people who say that everyone should pay for exactly what they use. This was the same argument used to get metered billing on telephone service in some areas of the country. That argument only works IF there really is a capacity shortage that cannot easily be remedied, and IF the customers can actually see AND control their usage in real time. But there are drawbacks to that way of thinking, also. It's like saying "I should only have to pay for the roads I drive on", totally forgetting that if no other roads existed except the ones you use, most of the goods and services you need would never get to you. So it is with the Internet - if people have to pay for every byte they send and receive, people will be much less inclined to contribute, especially any large files. Of course, the large corporations will be happy to pay the freight to upload large files if they can get you to pay for them, but then the Internet that we know today will cease to exist (and I'm sure there are greedy people who would salivate at that prospect).

The free market only works when there are no barriers to competition, and when sellers and buyers hold approximately equal bargaining power. The reason today's marketplace has gone in the toilet is that large corporations (including large phone and cable companies) have managed to shift the balance of bargaining power so that the buyer has almost none. For the first decade of its existence, the commercial Internet has been mostly exempt from that, but in the last few years the "scheming little spiders" at the phone and cable companies have done everything they can to shift the balance away from their customers and toward themselves.

Zeke

@prioritynetworks.net

Re: Have you ever heard of the free market?

said by WhyADuck:

But the worst thing about metered billing is that the customer doesn't have access to the meter. The customer isn't even allowed to see the meter. In the vast majority of cases, the customer has no way of knowing whether the meter is accurate
This statement is not accurate. First off, what ISP actually offers metered billing today? Probably none, which means that your primary objection is based 100% on speculation.

Perhaps we should wait to see one of these ISPs release metered pricing and see if you can go online to see your meter. Seems reasonable that if you think its useful, they do too. And if there's ambiguity and/or it was unclear what you used, you as a customer would call them. That call in and of itself would cost them money, which they wish to avoid. So it is in their own interest to show you the meter.

People may not like metered pricing, but come one, lets wait and see what the details are before we hang someone without the facts.

canesfan2001

join:2003-02-04
Hialeah, FL

Re: Have you ever heard of the free market?

They would just start charging you to call in. That's what a "free market" with no competition would get you.
--
OASAASLLS

funchords
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1 edit
said by Zeke :

said by WhyADuck:

But the worst thing about metered billing is that the customer doesn't have access to the meter. The customer isn't even allowed to see the meter. In the vast majority of cases, the customer has no way of knowing whether the meter is accurate
This statement is not accurate. First off, what ISP actually offers metered billing today? Probably none, which means that your primary objection is based 100% on speculation.
Verizon Wireless offers metered billing by the data transferred. Many, many dial-up ISPs offer metered billing (usually by the minute, however).

The final assertion, "the customer has no way of knowing whether the meter is accurate," is true because of the best-effort nature of the IP network. At any point along the way, a packet can be dropped due to congestion, congestion avoidance, malfunction, maintenance, etc.. which results in retransmissions. If you use a product like NetMeter at the very last machine, that's going to display the final throughput -- it doesn't count overhead from certain headers, retransmissions, or errant packets.

That doesn't mean that it can't ever be done -- as long as the measurement method is clearly described as to what it counts and what it doesn't, and as long as that meter can be seen by both sides and is occasionally audited just to make sure it's accurate, then I think it can work.

(I sure don't want to see it, but it can work.)
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jrzydude

@tx.us

High Speed? So What?

The only way to stop this is to go back and embrace dial up for some time. It will be hard at first but we need to defend ourselves from this greed. If we do not do this now we will lose this fight. These companies are going to pay very close attention at first to the defection rate at first so this is the time to deal with them.

meh37

@verizon.net

Close...

Was Is The FCC Comcast Investigation A Farce?

And with things like the Universal Slush Fund, is Congress any better?

jubangy
Premium
join:2005-03-26
Corry, PA

Protocol meter

Wouldn't it be nice if they could only meter by protocol.
Ex.. Bt/nntp/ftp/p2p - 200gb cap
Http/s - Unlimited


eric20008

@argentcross.org

FCC Comcast Investigation

Actually Martin has a long, consistent record of being anti-cable. Most recently he proposed re-regulating cable. The cable industry actively distrusts him.