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Re: Net Neutrality

#34
India's telecom regulator has published recommendations strongly backing net neutrality, bringing the country a step closer to what could be the world's most progressive policy on equal internet access for all.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#38
A few days ago Ajit Pai mocked everyone that supported net neutrality, and joked about being a Verizon shill. He's corrupt, and knows it's quite obvious he's corrupt, and he's even willing to flaunt that fact because he's sure of "victory" and doesn't care what the public thinks about him.

Our current system of laws was not built with the Internet in mind, and that becomes more and more obvious the longer this goes on. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner should never have become as powerful as they are... and if this vote goes through, they'll be able to choke out anyone that disagrees with them - to make sure those voices are never heard. They ought to be held to the same standards of free speech that the government is held to. Data should be treated equally. I don't understand how anyone could be against net neutrality, unless they were paid off by one of those large companies.

Personally though, I fear all of our efforts are for nothing. I don't think the FCC cares. I don't think the government cares. Those four companies have already paid off and acquired the vote of dozens of congressmen.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#39
Talvieno wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:07 pm
Personally though, I fear all of our efforts are for nothing. I don't think the FCC cares. I don't think the government cares. Those four companies have already paid off and acquired the vote of dozens of congressmen.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#40
Talvieno wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:07 pm
A few days ago Ajit Pai mocked everyone that supported net neutrality, and joked about being a Verizon shill. He's corrupt, and knows it's quite obvious he's corrupt, and he's even willing to flaunt that fact because he's sure of "victory" and doesn't care what the public thinks about him.

Tal, I think you're being very unreasonable here. "Corrupt" means that the only possible reason Pai (or anyone else) could maintain that regulation of fraudulent business practices should be restored to the Federal Trade Commission -- which is mostly what has actually been proposed -- is because he's taking money from telecom lobbyists. Is there evidence of this?

If not, why is it so hard to accept that people who think the FCC shouldn't be dictating ISP services and prices might actually be decent, normal human beings? You may disagree with them. Maybe they're wrong. It does not mean they're corrupt. That is a very serious charge that ought to be reserved for when there is actual evidence of a payoff, otherwise the criticism loses its meaning.

To try to pull back a bit from the emotion, I've carefully read a number of the "net neutrality" arguments, and I think I can see how it emerges from several beliefs:

  1. ISPs can't be trusted to decide what to charge the customers of the services they (the ISPs) paid to build.
  2. It is impossible for new and more responsive ISPs to emerge who can compete with the current big (and abusive) ISPs.
  3. Federal regulators, despite having more power than private businesses, are less corruptible than ISPs.

(There's another, less honorable reason for pushing for more government regulation, but I'm assuming good intent from the commenters here.)

The reason I don't share the pro-net neutrality conclusion is because I don't hold the beliefs behind that conclusion.

1. Anyone holding that first belief -- that businesses need to have the services they offer and the prices they charge controlled by the government -- has a duty to explain exactly how national price controls have ever worked, or how they will benefit consumers versus maintaining the ability of businesses to decide for themselves the prices they ask for the non-fraudulent goods and services they want to sell. (And no, an ISP charging Netflix more because Netflix consumes a large percentage of finite network capacity is not fraud. You may think it's a bad idea, but bad ideas are not fraud.)

The salient facts here are that the feds do not have to care one whit whether their rules put a company out of business, while a business that wants to continue to exist must at least try to satisfy most of its customers. To believe that federal regulators "care" more about consumers than a for-profit corporation, simply because they (the permanent civil servants) have the raw power to arbitrarily dictate what services may be provided and at what price, is to choose to believe a thing that never has been and never will be true.

This is not a claim that all federal regulators are devils any more than it's a claim that all ISP employees are saints. Neither of those things is so. They're all just people. But there is a crucial organizational, institutional difference between them, and that difference is that a for-profit business must respond to customer demand to stay alive, while federal agents can (as long as they can claim some legislation applies) do whatever the hell they want regardless of whether it puts companies out of business, at which point their services are no longer available to any consumers at any price.

ISPs should be allowed to charge their customers what they want, because businesses are subject to market forces and federal controllers are not. Market forces don't guarantee you'll get everything you could ever want, or that you'll get it Right Now; they just improve the odds of your getting some of what you want eventually... a valuable pressure that does not exist in any way in a federal agency whose employees are permanently subsidized by taxes. Yes, people running businesses sometimes do stupid things. So do people in federal agencies; the difference is that one stupid business only ruins itself.

Basically, it is an error to believe that consumer interests are always aided by people with government power arbitrarily trying to prevent what are 100% ethical and legal (even if sometimes financially stupid) business practices. You may not like those practices, or lousy customer service, or some other thing. Fine. If so, there is already have a solution available to you: switch to a different provider that does a better job of delivering the services you want at a price you're willing to pay.

2. "But the ISPs are too big, there aren't any other options!" In that case, you ought to be arguing for less federal regulatory interference, not more.

The history of regulation -- regardless of any good intentions claimed by anyone -- is to protect existing large players at the expense of smaller, newer competitors. This happens because regulation imposes costs of doing business that the big players can easily pay, but smaller startups can't afford.

I actually agree with many of the criticisms of Internet providers today. I've just ended a three-year running battle with AT&T to get Internet service that actually works; I recently spent seven -- no exaggeration -- hours on the phone being shuttled from one incorrect, clueless AT&T office to another. If there was a company that offered the data rate I wanted using the available technology at a price I was willing to pay, I'd have already switched. AT&T sucks.

Well, guess what? Embedding hundreds and thousands of federal regulators with AT&T and Verizon and Comcast and all the other big players will not do a blessed thing to improve my service. There is not a single FCC bureaucrat who cares about me, or you, personally, or has any interest whatsoever in the fact that my Internet service sucked. When your Internet service goes out, is there a phone number of an FCC regulator you can call to get your service restored?

The only thing that increasing regulatory expenses will actually do is limit the new services that ISPs pay to develop (because why bother when they can't recoup those costs because feds are forcing flat fees?), and raise prices with no commensurate service improvement (because regulatory compliance costs get passed to the consumer, always).

I suspect most of us here could agree that we want more Internet service providers competing for our business. That competition is how services improve. Consumers vote with their wallets. The point I'd like more people to appreciate is that the history of regulation -- go look it up in a reputable source if you can't believe me -- is to reduce competition, preserving the big players regardless of how sucky their goods and services are. If you want more choice in ISPs, you should be supporting Pai's efforts to roll back federal regulation to only that which is necessary to limit fraud.

3. Finally, as for whether federal regulators ought to be in charge of Internet content, have we already forgotten the NSA's collection of "aggregated" phone data? Or that the FCC itself was collecting phone usage information? And this doesn't even scratch a molecular layer off the decades of well-documented screw-ups and abuses by federal bureaucrats.

How can anyone claim to be consistent who's upset at federal agents monitoring their activity (when it's the NSA) but also demands that federal agents monitor their activity (when it's the FCC)? Does anyone really believe that there's a difference in the levels of competence and honesty between career civil servants at one federal agency versus another?

When you've succeeded in giving flawed, fallible, finite human beings working for the national government the power to monitor everyone's Internet activity -- because that's necessary to ensure the "fairness" you demanded from ISPs -- you will have zero grounds to complain about them reading your email or, entirely predictably, start telling you what sites you're allowed to visit.



To sum up: a reasonable person can conclude, based on the factual history of federal regulatory action, that leaving the FCC's 2015 rule change in place to dictate what goes through Internet pipes is likely to reduce service improvements and increase costs, making things not better but worse for consumers, and furthermore that it may actually be dangerous to hand federal agents the power to impose content restrictions on ISPs. We may disagree on these points... but absolutely no good whatsoever is done by throwing around accusations that anyone in favor of eliminating the briefly invented "net neutrality" policy must be corrupt.

I understand others here will disagree with this analysis, and (for whatever reasons) may feel very strongly about it. Cool. If you're sure yours is the stronger position, you should be able to lay out your facts and reasoning without being insulting about it, just as I've tried to do, and then we can continue to also talk with each other in a friendly way about other things.

But assuming ill-intent on the part of anyone who disagrees with us is possibly the most dangerous path of all for a culture... and not much fun for what's normally a welcoming discussion forum.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#41
Flatfingers wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:54 am
1. Anyone holding that first belief -- that businesses need to have the services they offer and the prices they charge controlled by the government -- has a duty to explain exactly how national price controls have ever worked, or how they will benefit consumers versus maintaining the ability of businesses to decide for themselves the prices they ask for the non-fraudulent goods and services they want to sell. (And no, an ISP charging Netflix more because Netflix consumes a large percentage of finite network capacity is not fraud. You may think it's a bad idea, but bad ideas are not fraud.)
Flat, for what is now the third or fourth time, that's not what net neutrality means. It's not about charging Netflix more for using more data - that's already the case for both content providers and content and is never illegal. It's also not about the government controlling prices for data outright.
It's about ensuring that everyone pays the same price for the same data with the same bandwidth from the same ISP.
It's about ISP's not being able to charge Netflix extra solely because they're Netflix, not because they use more data or bandwidth.

Which is no weirder than expecting that I have to pay the same price for the same carton of milk in the same store as my friend Jack does. Even when the store owner doesn't like me and would like to charge me double.

Sorry for the harsher tone but it's kinda frustrating to have a discussion about an important ideological topic when you seem to not know what the topic actually means, despite people explaining that multiple times...
Last edited by Dinosawer on Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#42
Flatfingers wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:54 am
(And no, an ISP charging Netflix more because Netflix consumes a large percentage of finite network capacity is not fraud. You may think it's a bad idea, but bad ideas are not fraud.)
then... what are netflix and their customers paying their monthly connection fees for if not to pay for the load they put on the network?
what are the ISP's customers paying for if not for the strain they are allowed to put on the network?

if you are selling people a service and then complain that that service puts a strain on your system you are mismanaging or trying to extort twice for one service.
and im 1000% sure that every single joule of electrical energy expended and every single technician hour is billed for in the most basic contract they offer.
because otherwise those points wouldnt be addressed in the majority of their customers and they'd run a giant loss with providing those services.

so any claim that netflix and similar are "using a large percentage of the network capacity" and thus need extra fees for the ISP is only a confession that they are mismanaging their business.
... or that they are lying through their teeth and are fabricating a statement to extort money from netflix and co.

you'd complain if the mail service demanded an extra cut for delivering amazon packages but no extra fees when you send the same package with the same priority and speed between private persons.
Flatfingers wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:54 am
The point I'd like more people to appreciate is that the history of regulation -- go look it up in a reputable source if you can't believe me -- is to reduce competition, preserving the big players regardless of how sucky their goods and services are.
you mean like those evil anti-monopoly laws that prevent one big player to buy and dismantle every startup that could eventually provide services that would cut them out?

or those common-carrier equivalent laws over here that require ISPs to offer access to their infrastructure to (dont know defined) "fair conditions" which enables companies to offer data services without having to build infrastructure first. aka enables new providers to emerge
and i have a gigantic variation and choice of ISPs to get and they all seem to be healthy and kicking. the large and the small ones.



also, what dino said.
Net neutrality isnt about setting the prices in stone for everyone.
but that everyone can talk to everyone else on the internet without additional barriers or limitations.

which would happen with a large likelyhood, because the ISPs dont spend many millions of dollars in lobbying to be allowed to improve the service... they want to get the right to make more money than they are allowed right now.
and yes, they tried that before and the fcc stopped them from doing so (albeit outside their jurisdiction which wasnt noticed until a year or two before the NN ruling which caused the initial NN ruling). with one ISP (forgot which one) blocking VOIP services which weren their own from passing and comcast interfering with all torrent traffic regardless of its legality and the FCC stepping in on both accounts.

and because you speak of those price dictates at all times, does that happen now?
from what i gathered from over here is that ISPs still have freedom to charge whatever they want, just not to charge you extra for services they dont like.
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Re: Net Neutrality

#45
Dinosawer wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:34 am
Flat, for what is now the third or fourth time, that's not what net neutrality means. It's not about charging Netflix more for using more data - that's already the case for both content providers and content and is never illegal. It's also not about the government controlling prices for data outright.
It's about ensuring that everyone pays the same price for the same data with the same bandwidth from the same ISP.
It's about ISP's not being able to charge Netflix extra solely because they're Netflix, not because they use more data or bandwidth.

"They use more data" was the justification given by ISPs, but let's say your accusation is correct. If so, it's not a serious justification for regulatory intervention. As you've expressed it, it's virtually tautological; darn near anything any business does for any reason would be an adequate excuse for nationalizing everything. That can't possibly be a good idea, or Venezuela would be the economic envy of the world.

In fact, you have ignored the core argument I made, but I wrote a lot and maybe I still somehow wasn't clear enough. So to put it more briefly: If Internet service providers want to charge any customer more or less than another customer, for any reason, then as long as that exchange is voluntary (not literally coerced or fraudulent) they should be free to do so. And -- completely in line with Pai's call for transparency -- that fact of different charging ought to be public knowledge.

The general principle here is that consumers are almost always going to be made worse off when an entity with power but no skin in the game -- a central government -- interferes with the market's ability to encourage people to create and sell desirable goods and services at acceptable prices. Some busybody will always have some reason for meddling with the free negotiation between producer and consumer, but that effort to get in between people negotiating with each other ought to be resisted as strongly as possible because every interference distorts the market's ability to maximize useful economic activity (because no one has more to gain or lose than the producer and consumer).

Now, because I actually am not some wild-eyed absolutist, I can grant that there may be times and reasons why exceptions should be made to this principle. In fact, I'll bet you and I might have some common ground on considering Big Tech -- Google, Facebook, Amazon -- entirely too dominating and maybe worthy of some careful and limited government restrictions. Heck, I'm not closed to the possibility that AT&T and Comcast and Verizon might ought to be included in this list. Robert VerBruggen wrote a very interesting description of these concerns just today: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/4 ... ng-problem

The point I'm actually arguing is that any such interventions as these ought to be very clearly defined exceptions to a general preference to letting free and transparent markets work to reward consumer-friendly behavior. And -- relevant to our conversation here -- solid facts and reasoning must be provided by whoever it is that favors interfering with the market before allowing those exceptions.

So: what is the defense for the belief that "everyone [should pay] the same price for the same data with the same bandwidth from the same ISP"? Why?

Did you build the pipe? If not, who are you to tell the pipe's builder that they can't charge whatever they want? If people don't agree with you, you don't get to complain unless you're capable of offering an outstanding and data-based reason for demanding that interference. So what is it, and how is it so vital that it justifies making an exception to the good rule that free and transparent markets should be interfered with as little as possible?

Also (one of my points you ignored), what's to stop federal regulators from being even more invasive with the content of online traffic than ISPs? Once you've succeeded in putting the feds in charge of Internet data, how do you plan to prevent them from abusing that power more than ISPs did?

If you can't or don't want to answer these questions, that's fine. It would be interesting to read your defense that putting government regulators in charge of ISP prices would improve service and lower costs to the general consumer with no loss of privacy, but obviously I can't require you to make that argument as I've tried to do for my perspective. What I'm saying is that the eye-rolling, "well, obviously imposing price controls on ISPs is necessary" moralistic stance popular with net neutrality advocates is entirely unpersuasive (and mostly just annoying). That's not a rational argument; it's just bullying.

You're free to believe that Internet service would be improved by adding yet more nationalized regulation of it. You just have no reasonable expectation that this belief alone justifies doing it or that it's sufficient to persuade anybody to go along with it.



Cornflakes, I think most of your objections (as you suggested) were similar to Dino's, so I hope my comments above address those points.

One thing I did want to consider briefly, though, was this:

Cornflakes_91 wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:08 am
Net neutrality isnt about setting the prices in stone for everyone.
but that everyone can talk to everyone else on the internet without additional barriers or limitations.

What you're describing here is not a plan or policy, but a goal -- an intention.

That's useful! I strongly agree with clearly stating a goal. That's a necessary starting point to get something you want.

But that's not the hard part. The hard part is figuring out specific mechanisms through which the goal can be achieved without making things worse.

And that's the part I'm trying to get clarified: how is moving control of pricing -- as an important means by which people talking to everyone else is either encouraged or discouraged -- from the people who paid to build the pipes to people who have no liability for being wrong (but who do have a history of using power to accumulate more power) supposed to accomplish the stated goal?

I have zero hesitation in agreeing that ISPs are occasionally very bad about that. But what's not being made is the case that central-government regulators would be less incompetent at it.

In other words, I'm not really disagreeing with what you say you want. I'm questioning "net neutrality" as a way to get there. I don't think a satisfactory argument has been made that it's clearly the better option.

Bearing in mind both the stupidity of ISPs and the inefficiency and corruption of regulators, my calculation is that we're better off letting ISPs decide on pricing (while requiring them to publish those prices) than we are giving that power to distant bureaucrats. That's absolutely not perfect -- it's just less imperfect.

I'm open to a counterargument on this. All I'm really saying is that "well, because!" isn't a persuasive counterargument. ;)

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