Well, the US just got screwed with regards to internet.

Discussion in 'Congregation of the Masses' started by Firestorm, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Firestorm

    Firestorm I did my best, I have no regrets!
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    As you may or may not know, the FCC just passed a faux-Net Neutrality bill which allows for usage-based billing and allows Mobile Internet providers from blocking services by competitors.

    The effects are laid out here in this Reuters article.

    Fortunately, Republicans are going to try and kill this. Unfortunately, they also seem to believe the internet requires no regulation when in fact the cable companies do need to be told "Hi, you can't do this" when it comes to killing innovative services because they would rather restrict usage to save their old businesses rather than expand infrastructure and innovate themselves.

    If you'd like to learn more, you can also read the conversation we have going about Canada as we're having a similar issue here. Unfortunate that as time passes, the internet is becoming less and less of a democratic medium.
  2. Alan

    Alan

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    Alright Deck Knight, now is your time to shine.

    Serious note, this is completely retarded.
  3. whistle

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    I have no idea what is wrong with this. Last I checked, I pay more money on my cell phone plan for unlimited minutes per month than for 50 minutes per month. What is wrong with charging a college student who watches a movie every day over Netflix more for his internet than a family who uses it only for email and news? It sounds like a way to correct an economic externality.

    edit: not to mention the obvious benefits that come from prohibiting discrimination by broadband providers...
  4. MrIndigo

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    Aside from the fact that most of their costs are incurred as overheads, rather than upkeep, meaning this is a huge profiteering drive that prevents the onset of cloud computing and not an attempt to readjust costs?
  5. whistle

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    fair enough, that is a point that I hadn't considered (but definitely should have). anyways, I found this article which is a cost analysis of broadband streaming. it's a bit long, but the actual discussion starts on page 8 if you don't care about how the author gets to his conclusions. here are a few key assumptions in the first 7 pages:

    • users are charged $40/month, and those who use WAY too much might get cut but otherwise there is no price discrimination
    • ignore fixed cost of the network (overhead costs), so the analysis focuses on the cost to actually transfer additional data to the customer
    • congestion in broadband networks is usually caused by artificial limitations; much more bandwidth is allocated to television than internet -- thus removing this artificial bottleneck lets us "measure" the real costs of usage
    author quals (open)
    http://groups.csail.mit.edu/ana/People/Clark.html

    David Clark is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where he has worked since receiving his Ph.D. there in 1973. Since the mid 70s, Dr. Clark has been leading the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect in this development, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. His current research looks at re-definition of the architectural underpinnings of the Internet, and the relation of technology and architecture to economic, societal and policy considerations. He is helping the U.S. National Science foundation organize their Future Internet Design program. He is past chairman of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies, and has contributed to a number of studies on the societal and policy impact of computer communications. He is co-director of the MIT Communications Futures Program, a project for industry collaboration and coordination along the communications value chain.


    I expect that there have been some shifts in the structure of content streaming in the past two years (p. 10-11) so these costs might be a bit smaller. however the point remains: heavy usage doesn't come for "free".

    it seems like the analogy holds for the phone plan idea as well, since both the phone and broadband industries have kind of the same basic structure. there is underlying infrastructure and then some additional cost per call/GB, although I didn't do any research to see the specific breakdown for cellular carriers. in a commercial sense the analogy still makes sense to me because why shouldn't a firm charge more to provide more of a particular service?
  6. jrrrrrrr

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    It's worth noting that the net neutrality lite bill in the OP only eliminates freedom on wireless networks. Google and Verizon teamed up to convince politicians that it was ok to discriminate against content due to the inherently limited bandwidth. However, the wired internet remains free. Your phones will be affected by this, but probably not your desktop. At least not yet.

    There's nothing wrong with charging based on how much data you use, the problems come when companies get to decide your fees based on what content you see. If net neutrality is not preserved, companies can charge you different prices for the same internet. If your ISP has a deal with NBC, they could block Fox altogether and make NBC's pages load lightning fast. Net neutrality must be preserved to maintain a truly open internet, which is undoubtedly the cornerstone of free speech in this and future generations. Companies deciding what content their users see is pretty much the definition of fascism. Propaganda:Democracy::Violence:Dictatorship.

    When ISPs are allowed to filter content, it creates an artificial scarcity that starts a race to the bottom. The internet will cost more and you will get less, entirely dependent on the arbitrary tiered pricing schemes that come forward. Two people paying the same amount of money for internet access should get the same content at the same speeds. Removing net neutrality would eliminate the need for competition and instead replaces it with a need for collusion.

    The only regulation on the internet should be enforcing a policy of no regulations.
  7. cim

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    The whole reason the Internet was great is because it was the first truly level playing field. The barrier to entry was minimal and little websites started by your mom, forums like Smogon, and "dumb" ideas like Reddit and 4chan are just as accessible as anything by the old elite media.

    It's a damn shame we lost that.
  8. Firestorm

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    whistle, the same companies who provide you television service also provide you your internet service. It stands to reason that to protect their existing services, they would neuter the ability for others to deliver it over the internet. Shaw for example just changed their bandwidth cap to be even lower. Rogers also has lowered their cap recently since Netflix entered the country. We allow ISPs to control how much is "too much" and that's not acceptable when they're directly competing with innovative new services.

    I don't want to be tethered to old services like television because these companies don't want to innovate to keep up with what's out there. In this type of environment, we'll see increasingly less of services like Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, Steam, Skype, etc. because they'll require too much bandwidth for most people to afford.

    We were supposed to be moving towards richer media experiences, not towards "browsing with images disabled because I'm nearing my cap".
  9. MrIndigo

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    This is pretty much bang-on the major issue in most technology law these days. The existing polygopolies and monopolies apply pressure on the government to bring in crypto-protectionist statutes to make sure they don't have to compete in the future.

    Protectionism - it sucks balls for the people, for real.
  10. Deck Knight

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    Government colluding with big business, enabling them to control internet content under the auspice of regulation is retarded?

    Congrats Alan, welcome to my worldview :D

    It's going to be difficult to extricate the Verizon/Comcast Duopoly on ISP service, but regulation which gives them more power to discriminate is not the answer. I agree with Firestorm that there needs to be more competition in internet provider services.

    The best way forward would be to try and reduce barriers to entry in the ISP industry. Theodore Roosevelt, whatever his flaws, was known as The Trustbuster. It's time to pull a Ma Bell on Comcast/Verizon and find a way to get them to segregate their services and allow more competition. The internet is the greatest vehicle for free enterprise yet divised. The only real way to inhibit its natural tendency toward diversity is to approve monolithic gatekeepers to its use, which is what the FCC appears to be attempting.
  11. Mentlegen

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    Except it doesn't have a natural tendency towards diversity. The barriers to entry arent due to government regulation, they're due to the costs of starting the business. You have to lay line, which costs a ton of money. The internet is probably going to go the way of electricity, with convergence instead of divergence. Divergence only happens in fields where anyone can enter, and the ISP business is a difficult one to enter.
    I think the easiest way to remedy this issue is through government regulation. If companies starting up are going to be few and far between (which if the past 20 years has been indication, this is going to be true), and the ones that do start up are going to be swallowed up by the goliaths of the industry, you need to find a way to control those goliaths, and legislation will provide the easiest route to do this.
  12. FlareBlitz

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    Um. I'm not sure what's wrong with this.

    I mean, yes, it doesn't go quite far enough, with regards to regulation; however, keep in mind that we currently have no regulation in place. To those of you saying "this FCC bill lets ISPs do [x]", well, ISPs could already do [x]! This new proposal is weak and fairly toothless, but it's not harmful by any means, unless viewed from the perspective of it breeding a false sense of security...

    Here's a comment I made on a friend's facebook (he had just linked a Fox opinion piece) relevant to this thread:
    "You know what my favorite part of this article is? It doesn't mention WHAT regulations the FCC agreed upon. See, that way, they won't need to muddy their hyperbolic drivel with things like "facts" and "journalism".

    The planned regulation will prevent ISPs from blocking or limiting access to websites. It will, in other words, prevent ISPs from censoring legal content that they do not approve of for whatever reason. It will also prevent them from charging more for access to certain sites (known as "tiering"); you know how you need to pay extra to access HBO and Cinemax for cable TV? Well, how would you feel if you needed to pay extra to access Facebook or Google? The "free market" doesn't have anything to do with it because, the extremely high entry costs and vast economies of scale facilitate natural telecommunications monopolies, which prevents market forces from acting as they should on these service providers.

    Put simply, these regulations were introduced to preserve the web as an open, innovative environment. Any article that attempts to spin these turn of events as an infringement upon the freedom of the internet is disingenuous."
  13. Firestorm

    Firestorm I did my best, I have no regrets!
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    FlareBlitz, for me the issue is two-fold. I completely agree with you that stopping them from tiering content or censoring is a positive move and am happy that has happened. I think explicitly stating they can tier usage of the internet is a bad move though and will bite the American public in the ass. I've purchased 100 GB worth of content in a month before. I'm not sure about US caps, but most Canadian caps do not allow for that =/

    I guess I'm just afraid that the likely outcome is "Oh, yeah we passed that bill we're done with it now".
  14. FlareBlitz

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    I see. In that case, I do agree with you; if the FCC considers this the end of net neutrality regulations, I would be upset myself. I merely view it as a stepping-stone on the way to, hopefully, regulations regarding bandwidth caps and network traffic monitoring/control.

    I've read a few articles on the subject suggesting that, in order for more stringent rules to be politically viable, they'd need to be accompanied by subsidies to major ISPs because they would have to pass through Congress (the FCC has only ancillary jurisdiction over the matter, which limits its power)...not sure if that's the political reality but if so, I wonder if it would be worth it.
  15. cantab

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    I think prohibiting ISPs from charging per gigabyte would be ridiculous. Bandwidth does cost them money. Upgrading their infrastructure to carry more data costs them money. I see nothing wrong in being charged by the gig. What is important is that a gigabyte is a gigabyte, wherever it's coming from.

    While I am strongly in favour of net neutrality, attempting to make things "fairer" for customers by restricting the pricing ISPs may use (which net neutrality does, and which banning pricing per GB, which some seem to be advocating, does also) indirectly entrenches the current monopolistic market in the US ISP sector. Sort out making the ISP market competitive, like has been done in the UK, and the rest will follow. I can choose from about half a dozen, probably more, fixed-line broadband providers, most offering unlimited data on even their cheap plans.
  16. Firestorm

    Firestorm I did my best, I have no regrets!
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    Data used per month doesn't cost them more money though. Their infrastructure is what costs them money. They need to upgrade once there's too many people using it at once, at which point I would say a straight throttle to keep it manageable so everyone has access during those peak times (or better yet, upgrade the infrastructure considering telecom companies are some of the most profitable in the country) makes more sense than arbitrarily small bandwidth caps.

    US and Canada are too large to be done like the UK.

    Edit: Example of bullshit - there are 5 people in this place I just moved into and the bandwidth cap per month is 80GB. Split five ways that's an average of 16 GB per person. I'm sorry but in 2011 that is unacceptable. How can digital distribution grow if our ISPs won't allow them to?
  17. FlareBlitz

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    Bandwidth might cost them money, but when you're talking cents per gigabyte, their pricing seems more punitive or lecherous than fair. And upgrading their infrastructure also does cost them money...which is what the monthly fees pay for (in addition to salaries and profits).

    You are actually correct in that increased competition would more or less solve the issue, but that's not a realistic solution, given the tendency in this sector to form natural monopolies. I was kicking around a few proposals with some friends and we found that a government-owned, nation-wide ISP would provide the necessary competition to keep private ISPs in check, while also causing the proliferation of broadband and wireless. But once again, this is not a realistic solution, given that the right wingers would likely crawl out of the woodworks and scream "SOCIALISM" at this proposal (even if the entity in question would be self-funding...) Given all this, either restrictions on charging per gigabyte or price caps on the same would be necessary. Otherwise what's to stop every ISP from adopting a ridiculous proposal like the ISPs in Canada (60 CAD gets you 25 GB PER HOUSHOULD, with $0.20 per gigabyte after that up to 300 GB, and like $2.50 per gigabyte after that)? For reference, I pay $50 for rather fast, unlimited net access currently...and I'd like to keep it that way, please.
  18. cantab

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    Firestorm or FlareBlitz, care to elaborate on why the US cannot successfully follow the approach of the UK? I will admit I don't know all the details about the UK market; I know local-loop unbundling is important, but am not sure what other factors there are.

    Incidentally, 20 cents a GB seems a reasonable price. 60 dollars for only 25 GB inclusive is the rip-off, unless it's an ultra-fast connection. Punitive charges, like the $2.50 per GB you quote for usage beyond 300 GB, are another matter. It does sometimes seem that ISPs see high data usage as something to be punished or banned. Electric companies don't increase the price by ten times if you use more than a certain number of units in a month, or throttle your power to only a few kilowatts.
  19. MrIndigo

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    There's a class action taking place in Australia at the moment against the major banks for punitive fees. Under contract law, you cannot punish someone with contractual terms, you can only attempt to remedy your own losses.

    For example, if you were an architect, and you made a model design for a client who then said they didn't want you anymore, a $10000 contract that had a clause requiring the payment of $1000 for parts, time and labor in the event of breach would be valid, but a clause that required the payment of $8000 in the event of breach for any reason would not.

    In the context of the banks, the class action is about several-dollar fines that banks charge for using an ATM that isn't theirs, and similar fees for changing banks.

    If it succeeds, I think the flow-on effects will be HUGE in many many sectors, telecoms one of them. The penalty rates for data overuse etc. would be one of the first to get nabbed.
  20. cantab

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    They banned those kind of bank charges in the UK. I don't think it had much impact beyond the banking sector. Though I think it was done by the regulator, not the courts. A court case could be taken as much wider precedent.
  21. Zebstrika

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    Exactly. That sort of charging people is ridiculous. In fact, there is nothing I can think of that gets a much higher ratio of cost to reward as the reward gets higher, besides, of course, bullshit methods of charging like this (when ISPs don't have to work 10 times harder to give customers internet past 300GB).

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