Thursday, February 26, 2015

Am I Missing Something?

Because when I hear the term "net neutrality", what I'm hearing is along the lines of "everyone's car should have the same features."
In short, some internet service providers want to fundamentally alter the way the internet works and collect money from companies like Netflix and Facebook to guarantee their data can continue to reach users unimpeded.

The above video is something of an ad for a VPN service, but it also fits net neutrality into the analogy of cars traveling down a freeway. Under a neutral internet, this flow of traffic is constant and unaffected. If ISPs like Comcast continue to get their way, companies will need to pay "tolls" where there previously were none. If they don't pay, their ability to send data to their users will be limited.
So, internet service providers want companies like Netflix that use a lot of bandwidth to pay extra for faster internet. Is that about right? Companies like Facebook that have made its founders billionaires several times over, all by selling your personal data to every company under the sun. Oh, and ads.

But when an ISP - and I yield to no one in my undying hatred of Comcast - wants to charge more for companies that use more bandwidth, that's a bad thing. The service they provide - that costs them money to provide - should be unfettered regardless of how much people are using it.

You know, like all those unlimited cell phone plans.

Dunno. Maybe there's something I'm missing. The idea that "the Internet has operated as an unregulated, competitive free market" is a false dichotomy - conflating the *content* of the internet with how the internet reaches the consumer. Force the ISPs to continue to provide the same access regardless of cost, what's to say they won't *only* issue 2400 baud modems with their basic service? You can have 50 MbPS service, but at the entry-level rate internet service you can only have the lowest modem.

One thing's for certain: whenever big business (and let's be realistic here; Netflix, Facebook, etc. are very big business) and the federal government want the same thing, bad things happen. GM bailout? Banks too big to fail? Cash for clunkers? Every time the government has acted to make things "fair," the end result is someone takes it in the shorts. I trust this no further than I can throw it.

You know what these businesses want? They want to make as much money as possible. That another party might cut into that revenue stream has them running to big nanny government for laws. That should send up giant red flags. Big nanny government will do *anything* for more power - and doing things in the interest of "fairness" lets the government stick its greasy mitts ALL over the place.

So change my mind. Give me one reason we should support "net neutrality" - beyond "I want to stream unlimited everything for the same price I've always paid. The linked article relies heavily on the status quo - using the "we've always operated that way" excuse, but a lot has changed over the internet in 20 years. We've gone from slow modems that took minutes to render a simple picture to lightning-fast cable internet capable of streaming video on the fly. Why shouldn't ISPs charge more money for customers that use more of the service?

It sounds suspiciously like "everyone gets a Ferarri." It's not *fair* that some car manufacturers make cars that are faster than others. It's not *fair* that some cars are more luxurious than others. Why is there no "Car Neutrality"? Why is "net neutrality" different than demanding that everyone get a Cadillac Escalade for the price of a Chevette? Look, I get it. We don't want to pay more for the services we've gotten used to having. Well, I hated it when gas went from $1 a gallon to $4 in the span of only a few years. Still happened.

Asking the government to step in to ensure "fairness" is a horrible idea. Every single time the government has acted to make things more "fair", it seizes control, makes the product worse, and causes huge headaches for all parties. See ObamaCare for a prime example - that really made healthcare more "fair," didn't it? Let the .gov succeed in wrestling control of the internet from the ISP and you'll have the same effect - if you like what they did to your health care, you'll love how they'll handle your internet.

And just wait until it takes control and offers "auto neutrality" - say hello to the Trabant 2.0...

That is all.


Dave said...

I think there is an issue to be addressed here -- big ISPs, often owned by content providers, having the power to throttle competing content providers' offerings, or to provide preferential treatment to established companies to the detriment of new ones, seems like something I don't want. I don't want Facebook to remain popular because the next Facebook killer can't afford to buy the same speed pipe that Facebook can, I want Facebook to remain popular because they are fending off competitors at every turn.

The idea that I have choice is false; many Americans have only one broadband provider to choose from. My municipality has choice, but I do not. I can indirectly influence my municipality but we're talking years of slow process and no direct electoral accountability.

Finally, there's the freedom of information concern; a big-media owned ISP could decide it just doesn't want to run ads for politicians who oppose their policies, and that's not a trivial concern.

All that said, I am not sure that the big sledgehammer of the current net neutrality proposal is the right way to address them. I think we have smart people out there who could solve these problems, if we let them, but we'd rather wrap up a big solution in a nice package and put a bow on it and get it voted on for a nice political win, than to really try and do the hard work of government.

I trend more liberal than most of your readers, but I still think Obamacare was a "worst-of-both-worlds" solution to our health care problems. I do fear we're getting the same with this proposal.

Roger said...

My expectations about the new "improved" obamanet are the same as the performance of obamacare, the performance of the VA, the performance of the IRS. That is to say, poorly done, wasteful and expensive. With the added feature of being highly taxable for a new revenue stream for the govt. to waste.

Ted said...

The Internet was not broken before "net neutrality".

I certainly don't want the government to "fix it". Nothing good can come from that.

They are looking for a way to tax and control it and they can't stand the idea that the "interwebs " are the ultimate free and open communication system ever invented.

The unintended consequences of the initial DARPA project they funded just makes them nuts. "What do you mean there is no switch ???? Whose idea was that???

Lupis42 said...

The primary distinction is that ISP's don't operate in a market, thanks in large part to their lobbying (at the state and local level) to be treated like a public utility. ISPs have spent a great deal of time, effort, and money getting access to the telephone poles and rights-of-way, on the basis that they are a utility service.

At the national level, they've sought many of the same kinds of protections that FedEx and UPS get as 'common carriers'. The ISP transports data from customer A to customer B, and is (for the most part) not responsible for policing that data for copyright violations etc.

"Net Neutrality" in the main, means regulating ISPs as common carriers - carriers of bits.
That means they charge you based on the quantity of bits you want delivered (bandwidth) or the time it takes to deliver them (latency), but they don't get to charge you a premium because the bits are a movie instead of a bunch of phone calls, or a model of an AR-15 receiver for use with a CNC mill.

What the ISPs want is not to charge you more money for faster usage (Ferrari vs. Honda) - they can do that under the Title II regulations proposed - but to sell you a Honda, and then charge fuel stations extra if they want to be able to sell you gas for your Honda, or make a deal with Regal Cinemas so that when you try to drive to the AMC, your Honda goes 10mph and gets 1mpg, but when you try to drive to the Regal, your Honda goes 120mph and gets 100mpg.

Attempting to enforce this through the FCC's 'Title II' is a crappy solution, primarily because the FCC is one of the worst regulatory bodies in America today. (This is an understatement on the level of 'John Moses Browning was a pretty good firearms designer, but English is not equipped to handle my opinion of the FCC.)
It is nevertheless the least crappy solution practical at the moment, because of the way that spectrum allocation, and at a local level, pole access and rights-of-way are managed, and because ISPs insisted on doing the equivalent of UPS accepting a few hundred packages being shipped to Netflix (and being paid for them), loading them onto it's trucks, and then calling up Netflix and saying "Hey, you guys are getting an awful lot of deliveries lately, you need to start paying us to deliver these to you."

TL:DR - It has little to do with fairness, it's partly schadenfreude (ISPs that got special protections and local monopolies through lobbying regulators are getting the short end of that regulatory stick) and partly about the least crappy solution politically on the table.

lelnet said...

There is no problem so bad that involving the government in it will not reliably make it worse.

But at least as far as the underlying argument goes, Lupis42 has the right of it.

Armed Texan said...

I started to write a long diatribe, but I'll let Reason do the work for me instead:

Anonymous said...

Net Neutrality is a necessary evil. Right now you think that this only impacts business.

That is wrong.

It will impact all users.

If you have money, your requests for content go far and fast. If you have the bare minimum, and can't afford more, your requests might get there.

It gives the ISPs (which are a localized monopoly which drives prices way up) the opportunity to crank up prices and force out the poor.

Programmatically, this is saying that every router must examine every packet to find out who is paying for it for priority.

Net neutrality is a good thing.

In this case, some content providers want to eek out a little fiefdom within the internet and be able to suppress competetion.

Joseph in IL

Ian Argent said...

Both sides are being disingenuous, and both sides have dirty hands. I'm not sure there *is* a good answer as long as bandwidth is finite and pole/tunnel space is finite, which both are. I'm not even sure there's a least-bad solution that isn't pretty bad.
Businesses have grown into behemoths assuming that bandwidth is unconstrained, and that assumption is failing. I'm of the opinion that the problem is, at root, the same reason air travel sucks. We all want first class but aren't willing to pay anything more than coach.

Ted said...

"We all want First Class ...... ".

On many airlines First Class now sucks too . It's not nearly what it once was.

But I'm still much more willing to let the marketplace determine who gets high speed internet. Letting some Goverment clowns decide will mean we all get equally BAD service.

when I want great service I'm willing to pay for it.

lelnet said...

Let's be perfectly clear about this.

The reason air travel sucks has nothing to do with first class vs coach. It's that anyone who isn't wealthy enough to own their own jet must, in order to fly anywhere, be sexually assaulted by the state.

Reese said...

The Soviet Union had "car neutrality." Have you ever seen a Lada?

There you go.

Matt W said...

Government regulation bad! Net neutrality legislation good!

It's almost comical how much people decry something until it directly impacts their pocket books or their ability to stream p0rn.

phigmeta said...

Call your senators this new bill should not pass......

Oh wait. ....

This is the real issue a government entity just granted itself power.... and of course did so without any recourse or oversight of the prolatariate.

Matt W said...

Oh - and let's get something else clear. Everyone is going to start paying more for internet in the near future. The fact is that what ISPs charge for access is not enough to pay the bills to improve the crappy infrastructure we have in the US.

Companies who are anti-Net Neutrality, the ISPs, want ways to raise additional money to pay for those things without impacting the consumer directly. The effect? Content providers now have to charge more - and we know how well that worked out for Netflix.

Companies that are pro-Net Neutrality are the content providers. They don't want to have to pay ISPs to subsidize the growth of infrastructure in the US. If you think it is because they hold some benevolent belief in a free flowing internet you're kidding yourself. The consequence? ISPs raise their prices for consumers in order to pay for that infrastructure.

And as far as the whole "localized monopoly" thing goes - that's already starting to disappear. When cable or DSL were the only available technologies in the a single area this was a problem. Today? In my area alone I now have 2 DSL, 1 cable, and 2 fiber ISPs to choose from. Hardly a localized monopoly situation.

Ian Argent said...

The expense report I'm working on right now is far more aggravating than the security checks I went through in the process of racking the expense up. Calling millimeter wave radar scanners "sexual assault" is a tad hyperbolic (and dismissive of actual sexual assault), and has nothing to do with the point I was making, which is that people don't understand TANSTAAFL.
I agree that the free market based I robust property rights is a fine thing in theory, but we don't have one of those now, we're not going to get one in the future, at least as regards last mile data delivery. I'm not even sure it's possible to get to there from here.
ISPs suck, this is true. But someone is going to have to make their customers pay for the infrastructure necessary to deliver on demand streaming content to everyone, instead of just the early adopters. Or nobody party's abd we don't get it. TANSTAAFL.

Stretch said...

"If you like your ISP you can keep your ISP."

Ian Argent said...

Just to make sure I'm not misconstrued, I'm not supporting the Net Neutrality push for Title II regulation. Smacks of Harrison Bergeron

azmountaintroll said...

I predict that no matter what, prices will go up.

Stingray said...

It isn't "fairness" in the "everybody gets the same thing" sense, much like "free as in speech, not as in beer." Big companies already pay more for more bandwidth. Net neutrality is (in part) more as said earlier making sure Comcast doesn't make it functionally impossible to get to their netflix competition if you get your internet through them, or google saying you don't really need to check out idevices.

You know my feelings on government, and as a professional techie I still want neutrality to stick.

Anonymous said...

If I may:

Consider with your car analogy, the internet infrastructure is more like toll highways.

You pay your toll to get on the highway.

Your Ferrari gets to travel at 80 mph. Because your particular highway likes Ferrari's and Ferrari payed a premium so their cars would get preference.

The Lotus on the other hand is restricted to 45mph. Because Lotus didn't pay the premium access fee (on the exact same highway). You payed your fee to travel the highway. But your manufacturer didn't - So while you get to travel the highway, you do so at a slower rate, because you didn't go with the "right" car company.

This could be used to isolate Your blog traffic. Say another blogger{Or bloggers host} pays the (extortion) fees, she gets traffic. You don't. Your traffic gets stalled and slowed. Even though you use the same amount of traffic.

Old NFO said...

I want to actually READ the 332 pages, then I'll let you know what I think... But I don't think it bodes well...

Ted said...

Much like Obamacare it won't matter much what the 335 pages say, it will only matter what some bureaucrats think they say or what they think it should say. I'll bet there are plenty of things left to the"discration of the administrator or the Secretary "

Anonymous said...

Certainly getting .gov involved will only lead to abuses and graft. No argument there.

But as a separate issue: "Give me one reason we should support "net neutrality""...

Imagine having to pay extra to get gun related content because the CEO of PeaceCast is a hoplophobe.
Imagine having to pay more to stream 'Bridge over the River Kwai' instead of "An Inconvenient Truth" because the CEO of GreenCast wants it that way.

So, yes, you are missing something.

When USERS say they want 'net neutrality', what they're mostly saying is that they're willing to pay for bandwidth. period. And not have providers dick around with what they can view, or at what rate they can view it beyond the plan they pay for...

But, yeah, the providers are looking to make a buck so they are trying to bastardize the meaning.

And the .gov wants to quell free speech so they're trying to bastardize the meaning.

And the socialist/leftist turds want free shit so they're trying to bastardize the meaning.

And yep, we'll eventually be humped because the last thing this gov is going to do is respect the will of the people.

Ian Argent said...

Formynder said...

There's a bigger issue at hand here though. Congress passed a law that established Commission A, and autorized them to regulate B, C, and D. Commission A just arrogated themselves the power to regulate E, despite the law not providing them the means to do so.

So even though some thing that this step was necessary, everyone should be against the method used to seize power here.

Anonymous said...

One of the things the Anarchangel pointed out is that by re-tagging internet companies as being the same as a phone company, law enforcement gets a much broader "right" to obtaining data. That alone is enough to make me squirm, any other purported benefits aside. And yeah, at this point, I'm firmly convinced that any federal regulation on anything Internet is Bad News. Even if there's no malice aforethought, the absence of competence is enough to give me the willies.


PJS said...

What Formynder said.