On Net Neutrality – Jeb Kinnison

On Net Neutrality – Jeb Kinnison

You have probably seen some net neutrality scare tactics recently. The issues are complex and proposals to “guarantee” net neutrality usually promise to protect Internet users from a variety of evil ISP behaviors by authorizing the FCC to treat the Internet as a common carrier / utility, with powers to regulate and tariff (that is, price control) services. As is usually the case when powerful business and political interests are involved, the spin obscures more than clarifies.

First, let’s look at a reasonably neutral outline of the issues, from Open Secrets:

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminated against based on platform, content, user or any other characteristic; ISPs may not create pay-to-play “fast lanes” that only some content providers could afford. Sounds simple enough, but the application of this axiom is technically and legally complex given the immense, intertwined — and sometimes competing — interests of ISPs, governments, and consumers in Internet industries and infrastructures

Debate over net neutrality in the U.S. has picked up in recent years, but it’s been an issue of worldwide contention since the early 2000’s. The US government has attempted to implement various strategies for regulation over this timeframe with little success. Net neutrality supporters believe that the government hasn’t gone far enough to protect individual freedom and security on the Internet; opponents fear that government intervention will hamper innovation and investment while increasing the costs of getting online.

Much of the recent debate has centered on the concept of paid prioritization. ISPs, such as Comcast, want content providers to pay them to deliver data faster. The ISPs claim that allowing these fast lanes is the only way they’ll be able to manage data efficiently and generate revenue to expand and improve Internet infrastructure. Opponents of paid prioritization, including content providers like Netflix and Amazon, assert that this kind of data discrimination will stifle the growth of fledgling companies that cannot pay to compete with developed corporations in the fast lanes. Advocates on both sides of the issue believe that additional costs will be absorbed by customers if their adversaries prevail. Paid prioritization is only a part of the Net Neutrality issue, but it has become the most prominent aspect of the public discussion.

By voting in February to regulate broadband communications like a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC effectively prohibited paid prioritization. The Title II statute prohibits “common carriers,” which ISPs are now considered, from creating “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” Similar common carrier laws have been used to regulate monopolistic markets like the telephone and railroad industries. Additionally, Title II imbues the FCC with the authority to investigate any consumer complaints in the Internet market and requires privacy and fair use assurances from ISPs. Net neutrality supporters rejoiced at this decision, but opponents are not settling for defeat: Congressional attempts to reign in the FCC’s authority over broadband have commenced as the first wave of telecom litigation arrives

Furthermore, some proponents of net neutrality like Google worry that the broad Title II classification may promote unintended consequences that raise costs. This is because Title II, an expansive set of regulations, permits the FCC to impose tariffs and other forms of rate regulation that are looked upon unfavorably by the private sector. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has vowed to selectively enforce Title II authority in an attempt to minimize costs and negative externalities, but such assurances have not assuaged the concerns of those embroiled in the debate.

Proponents of net neutrality regulation emphasize fear that ISPs will abuse their customers by using their power over what is delivered to discriminate against content — in its simplest form, the fear that the sites *you* want to see and paid to access will be slowed in favor of others. ISPs are widely resented in much of the US where local municipalities — authorized by Federal law to allow only one cable TV company to operate in their territory — restrict entry of wired Internet competitors, leaving the average US citizen dependent on 1.5 broadband Internet providers, usually the incumbent cable TV operator along with a few less competitive alternatives like DSL from remaining telephone carriers. You are stuck with one company, and as a result the company is unresponsive, the standard model for a regulated monopoly utility, and gets a better return on money spent lobbying its regulators and buying political influence than it does from spending to satisfy customers.

No one is suffering from differential slowdowns at the moment — though many suffer from lower speeds and higher monthly bills due to lack of consumer choice. Because most have no alternative, cable companies can milk their customers and make high profits while failing to invest in new equipment and network capacity. Until recently these companies were generating so much cash on cable TV that they were able to reinvest in content providers by buying up TV networks, cable channels, publishing houses, and newspapers. So today we have Time Warner, soon to be swallowed by Verizon (which originated as a rollup of old Bell System companies), Comcast (which now owns NBC-Universal and its cable channels (including MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSN, E!, and The Weather Channel), Charter-Spectrum-Brighthouse, Cox, and so on.

The giant and most hated of these is Comcast, with its reputation for unresponsive, DMV-like service, constantly rising prices, and occasional abuses of power to favor their own content over competitors’. Comcast is maneuvering to get net neutrality regulation tailored to its interests — this would prevent other ISPs from charging for access to its content, while allowing it to provide better service and access for its own services within its dominant network.

On the other side are major content providers who want a net neutrality that bars ISPs for charging them extra to guarantee quality of service (QoS) for their customers. Netflix, for example, is paid by customers by the month, and those customers suck huge amounts of streaming data through the system to their homes; if that data bogs down the network, ISPs either have to spend money on new capacity and charge non-Netflix users for it, or control use by capping data use or speed. While metering data and charging both originators and receivers for it at a very low rate might be the closest to economic fairness, asking big data sellers like Netflix, Amazon, and Google to pay something for their use is at least approximately fair. Of course these companies don’t want to pay unless all of their competitors (especially the in-house content generators of the ISPs) are required to.

So the big campaign to scare you into supporting the latest generation of net neutrality regulation is really a fight between big media and ISP companies to keep their own margins high and competitors weak. Notice the real underlying problem for consumers — limited choice of ISPs and local monopolies — isn’t addressed at all. Nearly every legislator at federal, state, and local levels gets some campaign funding from the media and ISP giants (as well as flattering news coverage that is a major advantage for incumbents), and by finding problems only where the big donors want them to look, they keep voters from understanding where the real problem is. This is much like the current battle to “repeal and replace” the ACA, which carefully neglects to address the biggest underlying problem, the cost and limited availability of medical services and treatments due to overregulation and cartelization of supply.

In the long run, beyond 5 years, technology will eliminate the local cable monopolies — wireless 5G and beyond will provide broadband data service in most locations at a reasonable cost. Google fiber rollouts have stopped and most companies with fiber optic ambitions have decided to scrap new installations as the high costs would have to be written off in a short time, which is why Verizon FIOS, a winning product where it was allowed to compete with coax-based cable TV, was never fully installed where authorized and has been sold off to other companies.

The giants are competing for advantage in a future marketplace by promoting regulation that benefits them or reduces competition. But in their focus on their interests, they are opening the door for broader FCC regulation of the Internet, which in the long run could be applied to wireless and as well and result in constant political warfare and control of what you see and hear. The excuse for FCC regulation in the New Deal era was to prevent a kind of Tragedy of the Commons in radio and television — since there was limited spectrum for signals and laissez-faire broadcasting would ruin it for everyone, Congress declared the spectrum a public resource, then promptly turned it into a property right by handing it out for free to TV and radio stations connected to the powerful (see, for example, how Lady Bird Johnson made LBJ a multimillionaire by using his political pull to get TV licenses.) FCC control came with regulations of content and suppression of minority political viewpoints, something many party politicians would like to see return. Already the incumbent social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are suppressing “dangerous” views, and countries like China are suppressing Internet speech to continue their control of public discourse. Even a small step in that direction like the current net neutrality proposals is dangerous.

Free people don’t need protection; they need freedom to change providers. Start by opening up competition in ISP services so any abuse can be dealt with by going with someone else. Don’t give unelected government regulators control of your feed.

Jeb Kinnison wrote the Substrate Wars science fiction series and most recently Death by HR, how HR departments became the arm of government reaching inside companies to enforce politicized hiring policies at the expense of merit. See: SubstrateWars.com and JebKinnison.com.

124 thoughts on “On Net Neutrality – Jeb Kinnison

  1. What percent of people will not be able to get high speed wireless? Do we have any idea? I can tell you what political party they will tend to favor, because they’re rural. I can see this being used to ‘deal with re-educating those ignorant racist rural republicans’ because obviously they should only see what their betters want.

    I can also tell you that we will still have a landline and dsl as the only choice here, because if it’s not worth installing a cell tower to hit a dozen houses, it won’t be worth installing a wireless access point either. We wouldn’t have the landline if some government regulation or program hadn’t compelled them to put it in. Electric too. (Which, knowing my neighbors, wouldn’t stop anyone from living here. We all laughed at the gas company a couple years ago when they offered to install a gas line for the low price of $20,000 per household plus hook-up charges.) I’m not even sure there’s a single location where you could install it to hit all 12. Twisty canyon.

    1. DSL isn’t an option at our place. They won’t bring it out that far from town. We’re trying to figure out how to get a tall enough tower to see the wireless internet tower. Right now we tether using the phones. It’s not great, but it (usually) works. Trees. We have trees.

      1. We have trees, and granite hills with high iron content. I could make some very pretty pictures graphing signal strength as I walked a grid on my property.

      2. Hm… we bought a house that didn’t have DSL until the had to go through and replace the phone lines– at which point they put in phone lines that could handle DSL, of course.

        That might be the best route for competition, I’m not sure what the load capacity for phone line sized stuff is.

        1. They replaced the phone lines? Public service commission must have required it. If you HAVE to replace copper phone lines today, you should string out fiber instead. I remember reading within the last year of an area being rebuilt on Long Island after Hurricane Sandy. Phone company told people get a cell phone or do without. Don’t know what the final resolution was. I’m in the boonies. I have DSL. Promised to us by the phone company (a non-Bell) in 2000, delivered in 2014. Now they’re promising fiber optic within 2 years. Trust me, I’m not holding my breath. A single 4G tower in the middle of their service area devoted to internet service would wipe out most off their revenue. Except for my Mennonite neighbors, and probably the older residents, everyone has a cell phone. And they get our business for DSL because they’re the only option.

          1. They replaced the phone lines? Public service commission must have required it.

            Technically, “a bunch of really big trees that died” required it….but if you mean that the rules said they could try to put the same broken lines back up, probably.

            Back in the late 90s, my valley got fiber optic. They were saying we’d all have access in a year or two.

            Clinton passed something or other that was all about rural internet jibber jabber.

            My mom is STILL on radio internet.
            (Dad hasn’t turned on a computer since ’95, when he tried the solitaire program and found it wanting.)

            1. which is appropriate as to why many people don’t *read* modern SF, but watch it in tv and movies. The first time they stepped outside a tie-in book, they found it wanting. (usually as soon as it started preaching at them)

        2. Where I lived until a few years ago, it wasn’t the wiring that was the problem – the “mini-exchange” service box that served my road wasn’t close enough for DSL, and they wouldn’t run a line from other boxes that WERE close enough (I could drive to three different ones within less than the 15,000 foot(?) limit, even the one that I had to drive past and backtrack a half mile to get to, but our road was served by another one in some weird location.

    2. First-generation wireless broadband sufficient for streaming HD video will cover about 95% of the population on 30% of the US land area (guessing), much like current LTE. The economics of wireless are better for serving low density areas but as usual they will the last to be served since greater immediate return on investment is available elsewhere. Even wireless base stations need some wired pipeline to the larger network, so areas far from any fiber pipelines will still be too costly to serve.

        1. Eventually the throughput will be there in both directions, but that darn speed of light imposes a significant latency as the signal goes up 22K miles or so to the sat, then back down again to the ground station – that’s about a quarter of a second (250 ms), which is forever in data transmission terms.

          No way around that.

          It works fine in one direction, and as long as the up and the down are only loosely related (sending email while reading this blog and simlutaneously watching kitten videos) there’s no issue, but as soon as you try to, say, participate in a VOIP voice conversation, what you are saying is way way out of sync with what you are hearing.

          1. Not to mention that hard rains/snow storms will interrupt satellite service. We have satellite TV service and that happens regularly during storms.

            1. Even high winds interrupts our wireless service from a tower. It’s strictly line of sight — not sure why the high winds cause problems, but they do.

              1. I don’t know where you are within their signal range, but if you’re near the fringe, winds could move the antenna enough to lower the signal strength at your location to the point where it loses connection.

    3. There is a sort of fancy receiver that can be installed– I use to play WoW over radio internet. 😀 Better than the satellite option, for sure.

      Environmental issues and the risk of being forced to put in all the risk and then sell the right to use it to others has really slowed that down, though.

  2. Proponents of net neutrality regulation emphasize fear that ISPs will abuse their customers by using their power over what is delivered to discriminate against content — in its simplest form, the fear that the sites *you* want to see and paid to access will be slowed in favor of others.

    So the government, which already is limiting my access to the internet through the process of license and regulation of providers, companies that they claim are limiting my free access, wants more authority over these companies so it can be the one to decide how to further limit my access by installing parameters of availability not based upon what I want, but on what they say is properly representative, all in the name of providing me free and neutral access?

    I’m not buying.

    1. In order to provide fair and free access we will put it under the control of the board that can fine for nudity and curse words.

    2. Net neutrality is the equivalent of DEA control over opioid manufacturing volume. We don’t care whether you’re in pain or not; we’re chopping everyone’s access to pain medication because we don’t want you abusing it.

      1. In the opioid case, then they wonder why people are overdosing on street drugs. Maybe we’ll get the equivalent by pirate satellite with absolutely no content control.

  3. Gee, why isn’t the user public enthused about net neutrality? I mean other than everyone they hate and distrust being those that are pushing it the hardest, what’s not to like?

    1. But it seems the opposite. Google, Amazon and Netflix all are positive in most people’s eyes because they don’t care they are being bought and sold like a product. But the monopoly providers always manage to step on toes. So while this is a case of bigger companies using government to force smaller competition to cowtow to them it is looked at as the opposite where Comcast is hurting poor widdle baby google

      1. Must be the folks I know then. None thinks all that highly of Google et al and are not in favor of net neutrality legislation pushed by either side of the ledger. Especially as it is being pushed by Comcast, certainly, but they tend not to like a whole lot of Amazon’s or Netflix’s version.
        I’m leaving that below, I tried to correct the thing and Yoda.

        .etc Google fo much overly think them of None .them know Ii folk the be Must

        1. Had someone saying that disagreeing with the spies’ nn was like saying people should die if they can’t get other people to buy them health care promises. In most demeaning manner possible.

        2. Not just y’all. Heard around here:

          “Net neutrality? What, the goverment did such a great job with the VA, the housing projects, food stamps, and welfare we want to give them *more* power, and over the ‘net?” Assorted words not suiable for young eyes to read did follow.

    2. Because they completely confused by the explanations given by the government, and not particularly helped by confusing explanations of companies with their own agendas.

  4. I suspect that eventually, if net neutrality stands, Internet service will be metered just like electricity and water are now, and we will pay for what we actually use. When the cost of providing a 4K stream to a TV is reflected in a customer’s bill, bye bye Netflix.

    1. There are actually benefits for it going to metering on the receiving side, although I doubt that it will go that way universally. It would be like turning mail service into metering. All of the electricity and water we get are electricity and water we ask for, but not all of the data we get are data we ask for. I don’t see being asked to pay for junk email any more than being asked to pay for junk mail or being asked to pay per advertisement on cable TV—without also getting tools for making sure that we don’t get junk we didn’t ask for. There can be no complaints about installing ad-blockers when ads themselves cost us money.

    2. There is a wireless broadband that covers (some of) our area, but you need to have line-of-sight to the mountain-top tower. Ain’t that high of a mountain, and my neighbor’s trees kill that idea. (Cell coverage is spotty; same mountain.) No DSL, and cable probably won’t happen in my lifetime. (No relation to Lazarus Long…)

      That leaves us with satellite. My plan gives me 10Gb primetime, and 50Gb on the off hours (2AM-8AM). I get up early enough to take advantage of it, but Youtube downloads are pretty rare. Still, if I need to download software (usually the latest Pale Moon source), I can do it. (They made my day when the latest release was the day before my usage cap reset.)

      So for me, NN is a potential cost raiser, with no practical benefit. Pfui.

  5. I’ve observed that the extent to which my acquaintances push for “Net Neutrality” is directly proportional to their use of Netflix and other streaming services. Can’t escape the feeling that what they really want is for me to pay for their streaming.

  6. This is all End of the Internet, Film at 11 again. The entire logic appears to be:

    1. Net Neutrality was the law until a few years ago.
    2. ISPs have been able to charge exorbitant prices all throughout Net Neutrality.
    3. Therefore, we need to reinstate Net Neutrality.

    Which doesn’t make sense, so the real issue is likely that those pushing for net neutrality new power over the Internet. This is probably also why they keep pushing for Title II control rather than going back to Title I the way it used to be.

    1. A simple fairness in labeling bill where the ISP must provide a minimum speed would solve all of the common reasons people give. But of course that’s not an option that anyone even considers. So what is the motive.

      But the groups agitating for the bill, well, Netflix wants its costs spread around everyone and Google wants to force-feed as much advertising as they can push.

      1. It’s a bit more complicated than that, because the ISP can provide you with the promised speed for its internal services while failing to provide the access infrastructure at its interconnects with other networks that allow outside services to reach you at that speed. And no ISP can guarantee speed or even determine why some distant server can’t get data to you at a volume and latency satisfactory for gaming and streaming. The ISPs argue (reasonably) that the big sellers of data should pay to help fund those interconnects, so their customers help fund improvements required to serve them. The behind-the-scenes negotiations between the networks, caching services, and content providers have, despite the occasional hiccup, brought us to this near-miraculous state where most of the population can stream movies without problems. Bringing the FCC in is about changing the balance of those negotiations so the bigger players can buy the rules they want.

      1. I agree, I’m not sure that’s true given the current definition of net neutrality. But it is the argument—that (Title I) net neutrality has been the law, but it’s gone. Therefor, we need congress to restore (Title II) net neutrality.

  7. Over the years I have learned that, as a handy rule of thumb, the more benign the title of any government act, the more malign the effect.

    Not broke, and this would clearly do nothing to fix (well, okay, “fix” in one sense known to all steers and capons.)

    1. So then, like me, you’d be provisionally in favor of the “Beat Up Those Guys Until They Give Us Some Money Act of 2019” at least while you make sure you’re not one of those guys.

  8. First, why I care about this. I work in Computer Security at Internet based businesses. I also live in a place that has exactly one “high speed” ISP available (cable, AT&T can’t provide high speed in my area. I’m in the middle of a city of over 100,000 people in the Los Angeles area)

    > No one is suffering from differential slowdowns at the moment …

    But there were numerous examples of the ISPs doing this back in 2012, and in fighting the FCC the ISPs said under oath in court that they intended to do more of it.

    Do you remember the Netflix shakedown? ISPs who’s customers were already paying them for Internet connectivity let their network degrade in the areas that affected Netflix until Netflix (who also already paid their ISP for bandwidth) agreed to pay ISPs big bundles of additional money.

    The need for NN rules (like the ones that are just now coming into effect) is because the ISPs have forgotten that the people paying them are their customers, they want to treat them as the product to be sold. They have been able to get away with this due to the Monopoly (or Duopoly in a few areas) that they have over Internet traffic to those customer’s locations. If we had real competition, NN rules would probably not be needed.

    The NN rulemaking started around 2012 because the FCC tried to punish ISPs for abusing their positions (in part by slowing down traffic they didn’t like or that competed with their offerings), and a Federal Judge ruled that they did not have the authority to stop the ISP under the current rules at the time. The FCC tried to make a small change to the rules and the Judge ruled that it wasn’t good enough, and they would need to make the rules treat the ISPs as ‘common carriers’ (which they were up through the 90s)

    The NN rules are what they are because that’s what the Judge said was needed to be able to restrain the ISPs from misbehaving in ways that their CEOs said they wanted to (under oath, in court)

    Personally, I see the ISPs wanting to have their cake and eat it too. When it’s convenient for them, they want to claim that their networks are their’s, and they have the right to restrict whatever they want. But when lawsuits start showing up, they change their tune and claim that they are just the innocent carrier of packets and have nothing to do with what’s in the packets.

    I think they should be forced to choose what rules they want to operate under. If they want to be ‘common carriers’, they have no ability to restrict traffic, and no liability for traffic going over their networks. If they want to have complete control over what goes over their networks, then they become liable for what they allow to take place.

    1. I worked for Comcast in 2014 and 2015, and I *don’t* like them. I routinely get calls from recruiters from them and as soon as I find out it’s for Comcast the discussion is over. This is also true for Charter and CenturyLink.

      I’m a Dev/Ops Unix Admin/Architect. Very senior.

      In the past I’ve worked on nation wide Content Distribution Networks, I’ve worked on [ahem] contracts that passed data over Satellites. I’ve dealt with VOIP data, streaming data, bulk data transfers. I’ve had two or three servers in a cluster *all* cranking data up dual 10 gig links at VERY near wire speed (we capped them at 1 gig under the limit so we could get in if we needed to 🙂

      At one point in my life I have run GUI interfaces over freak MICROWAVE links IN A SAND STORM. I’ve dealt with *second* round trip latency on terminal windows.

      I’ve seen Sun Monitors on fire off the side of the multimedia lab. I’ve seen NTU lights glitter in the dark near the Mail Gate. All these things will be lost in time, like the root partition last week. Time to die…[1]. Oh, sorry, got lost in there.

      > Do you remember the Netflix shakedown? ISPs who’s customers
      > were already paying them for Internet connectivity let their
      > network degrade in the areas that affected Netflix until Netflix (who
      > also already paid their ISP for bandwidth) agreed to pay ISPs big
      > bundles of additional money.

      You mean when Netflix changed bandwidth providers and started cranking *all* of their traffic through a single peering point between their ISP and Comcast, breaking the peering agreement that Netflix’s *ISP* had with Comcast?

      That shakedown?

      Netflix had NO beef with Comcast, Comcast had a peering agreement with (Don’t Remember) that stipulated *SHARED* data with a certain percentage of overage. Part of that contract was that once a that overage was used their bandwidth got throttled.

      What part of that is *Comcasts* fault?

      Do you know how much 10G interfaces cost in 2012? And what the cost per *slot* for a router capable of handling 10G is?

      Comcast handled it horribly, but Netflix did not do that by accident. Handling that amount of traffic through a SINGLE peering point, especially with little to warning was a serious dick move on Netflix point and given their public posturing I question whether it was deliberate or not.

      In fact ALL ISPs have handled it horrible, mostly because Marketing is more important than truth or performance.

      The simple face is that *some* traffic IS more important than others–VOIP traffic NEEDS to be prioritized over streaming media, which needs to be priortized over static web content which is more important than FTP traffic. This is a simple *technical* priority.

      Netflix makes agreements with bandwidth providers and CDNs. Those providers have agreements with other network providers, Netflix customers want high-bandwidth, low latency connects at no additional cost because “I WANT”.

      Screw them, and screw Feds.

      This is a power grab, pure and simple.

      [1] Peter Gutmann, posted in alt.sysadmin.recovery back in 97 or 98, IIRC

      1. I love your comment so much I’m copying it. 🙂 Yes, you have obviously been in the trenches. Having propagandists manipulate the public with fearmongering a la “they’re going to charge for email!!11” can do us all a lot of harm in the long run. Give bureaucrats a say and lose one more dynamic industry to stagnation, and in this case it’s a critical industry enabling others to compete globally.

        1. “fearmongering a la ‘they’re going to charge for email!!11′”

          If only. Charging a nominal fee for email would probably be the single best thing we could do against spam and phishing attacks.

          1. Nay, you’d just initiate the process of FedGov taxing unpriced transactions between private parties. Fact: most fraud/phishing spam is sent from poorly secured, compromised webservers.

            If you want to reform RFC 821/2821/5321, I recommend looking at https://cr.yp.to/im2000.html .

            1. Yes, but if those compromised servers started racking up thousands of dollars in email charges for their owners, they’d probably get secured tout de suite.

      2. “I’ve seen Sun Monitors on fire off the side of the multimedia lab.”

        I’ve seen them burning, too, but it was in a workstation development lab. At Sun, where I was a tech writer for 23 years, mostly workstation engineering.

        I’m not sure we ever figured out why those two Sony monitors let out their smoke and quit working.

      3. “The simple face is that *some* traffic IS more important than others–VOIP traffic NEEDS to be prioritized over streaming media, which needs to be priortized over static web content which is more important than FTP traffic. This is a simple *technical* priority.”

        THIS! A thousand times, THIS!
        But so many of the decisions are made or influenced by politicians, judges, and regulators who think that All Data Are Created Equal, and to the extent they understand the issues they are going on about, actually believe it (or pretend to because not doing so sounds like discrimination of some sort.)

    2. Personally, I see the ISPs wanting to have their cake and eat it too.
      And you don’t see Netflix or Google or Amazon doing the same? I certainly do.

    3. “Do you know how much 10G interfaces cost in 2012? And what the cost per *slot* for a router capable of handling 10G is?”

      I haven’t kept up with prices since I retired, but I recall one medium-sized Juniper router, just chassis, backplane, and one power supply went for about $1.2 million in 2010. That was without ANY cards in any slots, nor any daughter cards attached to them to actually interface with the circuit. (Also without a redundant power supply.)

      That size of router was no longer big enough to be part of the backbone on the public Net but could be found at the edges and in the middle of private networks.

      (I’m just an old X.25 retread who lived long enough to work at a few large ISPs. I am not an engineer, though many of my job titles contained the word.)

  9. > how HR departments became the arm of government
    > reaching inside companies to enforce politicized
    > hiring policies at the expense of merit.

    That became nonfiction back in the 1960s…

    1. Don’t sugar-coat it: this is EXACTLY what Barry Goldwater foresaw when he argued against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and was called a raaaaacist by both Democrats and GOPe Republicans to this day.

  10. “Providers like Netflix and Amazon, assert that this kind of data discrimination will stifle the growth of fledgling companies that cannot pay to compete with developed corporations in the fast lanes.”

    Am I the only one who hears “Netflix and Amazon are worried about the effect of this on small companies” and immediately gets suspicious? I mean, certainly it’s possible that it really would be bad for new companies and the established companies are standing on principle, but in general, this is the sort of the thing that makes me double check that my wallet is still there…

    1. Prezactly. Microsoft has been known to get dewy-eyed over the plight of the little guy too, though a cynic might cast a jaundiced eye on their monthly updates, twice a year upgrades, and software as a service business.

      1. Since they are trying to go back to the “you don’t need software, we’ll send it over cloud…and charge you yearly what one edition of software good almost indefinitely was.” I’d bet part of it is the ‘we have to be able to shove as much down their pipe as we want without having to deal with the side effects.’

        Plus the “the anti corpers want it so we’ll support it so we don’t get antitrusted” mindset.

  11. . . . wireless 5G and beyond will provide broadband data service in most locations at a reasonable cost.

    HA! Most locations don’t have the signal strength for even basic voice data. The most common thing we hear from visitors is “Where do we get a good cell signal?”

    “Well, you start by driving about twenty miles thataway.”

    1. Heh. When I call 511 on my cellphone from my house to check on traffic, I get the info for the next state (which doesn’t help me at all). Because the signal isn’t strong enough for the antenna on our side of the border (I live less than 20mi from said border). I got the next state over on a 911 call, once, too (they quickly transferred me).

      1. HEck, every time I drop down to El Paso, I get texts from my phone company about “welcome to Mexico!”

        Me, to the phone: “Alright, I am not a state away anymore, but THIS ISN’T MEXICO! We haven’t even hit El Paso, yet!”

        1. On vacation in coastal Maine my cell phone kept getting a tower in Canada (either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia) – and switching from Eastern Time to Atlantic Time.

          1. It was explained to me that Canadian towers are allowed to broadcast at a higher power then US towers. And therefore, reach further. As I called my cell phone provider every month while my son was going to college in NY straight across the Niagara from Canada. And they took the extra charges off every month since he wasn’t actually in Canada.

    2. When we were driving out to Washington State to sell at a certain convention, we stopped at a rest stop on I-90 and got a voicemail. The reception in rural Montana was so bad that AT&T couldn’t even connect a call to me, so it had gone to voicemail and the notification only reached me when I was back in reach of a cell tower.

      1. When I worked at Watts Bar nuke plant back in 2011-2013, my AT&T cell phone would lose reception about 5 miles east of Athens and would stay off until I got back close to I75.

      2. I find cell coverage poor over much of the rural areas east of the Pacific Coast states and west of approximately 100°W. Along major interstate corridors it is somewhat better – it improves to spotty!

      3. ….I read that four times before I realized the “missed a call because of bad connection” thing WAS the point.


      4. Years ago I had a visitor (invited) who loved that the signal for “his” carrier dropped into the noise a few blocks away from where I lived. While he was visiting, his work could NOT pester him.

    3. I can’t get a decent cell signal in front of the Doubletree in Downtown Houston. It probably has to do with the created need to have the hotel staff call a cab…..

  12. content providers like Netflix and Amazon, assert that this kind of data discrimination will stifle the growth of fledgling companies

    *Sniff* Their concern for the welfare of potential competitors touches me heart deeply, it do.

    Title II imbues the FCC with the authority to investigate any consumer complaints in the Internet market and requires privacy and fair use assurances from ISPs.

    Who can object to regulators “responding” to consumer activist complaints? Surely nobody would attempt to game such complaints to the benefit of certain interest groups, as the “need” for greater minority representation in TV licensing resulted in a number of Black Faces being hired as minority fronts for White businesses (or for “flipping” licenses) back in the Eighties? [See: Gantt, Harvey]

    I notice that the authors of this Open Secrets article err in multiple places by using the verb “believes” when the more accurate term would be “claims.”

    1. During the 90s, the number of “8A setaside” tech startups who had exactly one non-white face skyrocketed….

      That was also the decade when AL State Senator Alvin Holmes made it clear that dot Indians were plantation owners, as far as competing for AL state contracts was concerned. In an open committee hearing. Do I have to name the party?

  13. Yes, choice is the issue.
    I have a single cable provider. We have a single landline provider (though you can pretend we have more by looking at the name you write on your check, rather than looking at who owns the lines). We have FiOs – almost* (it comes to the subdivision next to us, but not to us).

    The landline provider only offers the worst quality DSL line to our neighborhood. FiOS, as I mentioned, doesn’t think our neighborhood is worth the investment. So, cable provider it will eventually be (because I can’t stand the DSL any more – it makes me crazy**). But not because I have a real choice. Because it’s the only real choice I can make.

    (* We have been told it isn’t worth the investment for Verizon to pull the fiber another 1/4 mile. But, the information above makes me think that might no longer be the real reason. Naturally, they’re still in WalMart and the mall, trying to get us to sign up for it. I have been unequivocal in my opinion of Verizon when accosted by these folks. They all turn sheepish when they realize I’m right about my neighborhood not having FiOS.)
    (** Honestly, I think a lot of the chatter about bandwidth is baloney. I doubt most households – unless they have lots of people there, all watching different shows simultaneously, while also downloading TBs of illicit IP – actually have the need of 600MB/sec bandwidth, much of which increase is achieved through caching. Which means it only works if you’re visiting the same places everyone else is visiting.)
    (I’m willing to be schooled on either of those footnotes.)

    1. After that whine, I realize I didn’t explicitly say why “choice”.
      Because, quite simply, if I had real choice, and my current provider started charging for watching Hulu or Amazon, then I could pick a provider who didn’t do so. No need for a law or regulation. I just pack my bags and go.

      Part of me – HERETIC! – thinks it *should* be a utility. But that utility should simply be a data pipe that runs to my house. I can contract with anyone I want for the data that runs over it. The utility simply provides upkeep and upgrades to the data pipe.
      And, yes, I know the problems with that. But, honestly, where’s the real market incentive for multiple companies to run that data pipe to my house? (Maybe with wireless – even given its technical disadvantages.)

    2. > Honestly, I think a lot of the chatter about bandwidth is baloney. I
      > doubt most households – unless they have lots of people there,
      > all watching different shows simultaneously, while also downloading
      > TBs of illicit IP

      In most multi-person households you have 1/x people streaming video and 1/x people doing something that works better with low latency (multi-player video games, typing on a console etc.)

      1. And “bandwidth” seems to be the catchall advertising word (the “technical term”) for “my internet is good.” When there’s really a lot more going on than simply bandwidth.

        1. Aye, there are times I desire a lot of bandwidth.. and times I desire low latency.. and these are not necessarily the same times – for me. What $HOUSEMATE might desire is another matter. What we both desire is the ‘luxury’ of not worrying either and simply having “enough” at any given moment. Fortunately, that is usually the case.

    3. We had DSL that was capped at half what we’d had at the previous place.

      Until… I said to heck with it, and called up to cancel because we were going cable.

      Suddenly, they COULD get us the same speed we’d had at the last house.

      FWIW, I think this was a function of having replaced the phone lines in the last six months, and just not telling anybody.

      1. DSL has an unfortunate habit of degrading the farther it gets from the central office. In the 90s there was a hard and fast limit of 13,000 feet from the CO. Since circuits tend to follow the streets, this generally meant you could draw a 2-mile circle around the CO and that was as far as DSL went- And then only if your CO was digital. (If memory serves, the last analog phone switch in a central office didn’t vanish until the late 1990s.)

        Early in this century, ADSL Loop Extenders became a thing. By 2005 you COULD extend ADSL out about 12 miles, but it didn’t really take off for more remote developments until 2010 when Uncle Sam said that he would subsidize ADSL as a lifeline service, as long as you had a minimum speed. (Just looked it up, 4 megs down, 1 up.)

        With the current crop of extenders it appears that you could send a DSL signal around the world if you installed enough extenders.

        1. You can’t use the draw-a-circle method for where I live. None of the friggin’ roads are straight. It’s not just farmland-turned-into-housing, it’s where-the-hell-is-this-road-going-through-farmland-turned-into-housing. Parts of the road effectively double back on themselves, before you even get to the curvy-subdivision-roads. Feh.

  14. I love playing in persistent virtual worlds like WoW and EQ. I do have to come up for air each month to pay the bills for them though, and I still have to pay the ISP bill in addition to those.

  15. Name your heavy-handed control freak policy something vague but good-sounding: “Here is our Sunshine and Unicorns program!” So, when someone tries to oppose it, it you can make your opponents look unreasonable. “Evil Rethuglicans oppose Sunshine and Unicorns!”

  16. I confess, I listened to both sides, tried to make sense of all sides, then looked to see who was squalling the loudest. And a pox on all their houses, I do not want more regulation of anything, especially internet. *Points northeast ward* Sweden and Germany *points west* The PRC. Nuff said. I want competition among providers, real competition, and absolute bare minimum, if any, content regulation.

    Hey, I can dream.

  17. Those pushing Net Neutrality are really pushing for someone else to work for free. We used to call that slavery. Now the moochers and looters call it fairness.

    Shame on anyone who supports slavery.

  18. The IT department where I work are pushing NN pretty heavily. Company wide memo and all that. I’ve even heard some light to medium bad-mouthing of people against NN from the IT manager.

    Personally, I hadn’t been able to make heads or tails of it. Both sides seem to have some points, while also spewing some fairly obvious BS (or so it seems to me). All in all, if I had to vote on it at this point, I would have to vote no, which is my default vote when it comes to anything that would increase the scope of federal government. IF the Internet goes to S#!T because of a lack of NN, then it can be fixed. Hopefully without any heavy-handed big government Jackbootery.

  19. There are technical issues here, and you should take them into account in your considerations. The key is that different kinds of traffic have different quality measures.
    A voice conversation requires only low bandwidth (thin pipe) but the data must flow with the absolute minimum delay.
    A one-way video stream requires more bandwidth, but a constant delay is generally acceptable, and an irregular delay may be acceptable if the video protocol provides for enough data storage (buffering) at the receiver.
    A mass data transfer (file download) calls for a lot of bandwidth for a short time, but brief delays and irregular flow are often acceptable.
    The hard part is setting up the traffic and congestion management to allow the whole spectrum of bandwidth and latency requirements to be met.

  20. The devil’s details are in what opening up competition means– I know a lot of the time that means “I want to sell cake. I don’t have any cake. You have to give me a slice of YOUR cake, because you’re already selling cake, so we can compete!”

  21. in listing the providers, you forgot Frontier, who owns all of Verizon’s landline stuff including Fios

    1. I hope anyone dealing with them has better luck than we did with their DSL. The DSL speed wasn’t bad (for DSL) but the reliability was utter crap – and for alleged business class. Went to cable (no TV either) and got not just faster speeds, etc. but more reliable service, warnings of maintenance outages, AND multiple times: improved service without fee increase. Not what I expect of a “cable” company. Very happy to be ‘disappointed’ in that.

      1. Frontier apparently doesnt know what the term ‘customer service’ means at all, so, no.

        1. Customer service is what they would be willing to give me about my phone with no dial tone if only I called them using that phone.

          1. “You’re not calling from the number on your account.”
            “That’s because I’m calling you about that number being out.”
            “Well, we can’t do anything unless you call from that number. How do we know it’s you?”
            “OK…. *grinding of teeth* What do I have to do to get you believe it’s me when I’m calling from somewhere else?”
            “We use your phone number for that.”
            *sound of head hitting desk repeatedly*
            “If I get the police to come to my house, can they call you and tell you it’s really me? Because it will be easier afterward, if they just follow me to your office, so they can arrest me for committing mayhem on you……..”

      2. We started with FIOS and Frontier took it over. Here in Dallas, the service is pretty rock-solid.

      3. Wow. That’s not what you get around here from Time Warner, er, ahem, “Spectrum Communications” now. The standard seems to be poor tech support, slow maintenance calls, and unhelpful associates.

  22. Hunh! Where’d this come from?

    Teach Your Children Well Part 2
    By Sarah Hoyt
    The obvious solution is to teach your children yourself.

    By the time younger son went to school, despite all the failings of the older child’s schooling, we were afraid to homeschool.


    Because as in everything else that parents used to do at home and for which now people need a degree, there was a forest of regulations and “must learns” that made me terrified that my kids would come to the age of entering college and be told that they couldn’t enter because they hadn’t learned to warble their knabble back in fourth grade.

    Sure, most of the “required” stuff was ridiculous button counting. Which is why I was afraid I couldn’t do it/would forget to do it.

    So we kept them in school and taught them at home, in what I would call a “mixed” solution. (More on that later.)

    This continued until younger son ran into issues (mostly consisting of being harassed by 18 girls, and having the school administration side with the girls) in 6th grade, the situation turning toxic, and our deciding to bring him home to homeschool.

    And then I realized it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it had been portrayed, and in fact, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it had been when the kids started school.

    1. “It’s a lot of work because it means correcting the crazy stuff they were taught in school. But it can be done.”

      Well correcting, yes, but it also means teaching them to lie like a champion. Because “silence” no longer implies agreement. Just the opposite: “you will be made to care” and you will also be made to declare your allegiance to the Left and everything they stand for.

      This gives your kid a ready made club, and some of them will use it.

  23. No net neutrality means no net anonymity, however.
    Aside of “anything other than google+reddit+salon.com+twitter is unusable” thing.

      1. Onion, STUN, etc are subclasses of “specific type of traffic”. Which can be audited and priced into oblivion.

        De facto it’s not as much extra regulation, as shifting the weight of regulation: “spooks give unreasonable demand to ISP, ISP scream this mafia squeezes them dry” replaced with “ISPs are given a license to prey on outliers, corporate rats do the rest”.

    1. IPv6 pretty much means the end of anonymity. Sure, you can use a handle so people don’t always see right away. But part of the IPv6 address is the MAC address (the burned-in hardware address) on your device. That means that you can take your laptop to Norway (physically or virtually) from your home in San Bernadino and those with admin access at the site you logged into can see that it’s the same laptop (or the same phone, or whatever device you are using.)

      1. most routers you can edit the ipv6 address, and its assignable on a network, Your mac address isn’t in it.

        1. And even if the MAC is exposed, that can be spoofed and randomized. What I find interesting is that OpenBSD (I think it is) is going to a system that randomized kernel-space addressing somewhat on each boot so attackers supposedly will have a harder time doing things.

      2. Burner phone: it’s a thing. Of course, they also want to get rid of cash, and for the same reason.

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