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U.S. House Rejects Net Neutrality 598

Posted by Zonk
from the tiered-internet-here-we-come dept.
tygerstripes writes "A recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives has led to a rejection of the principle of Net Neutrality from the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (Cope Act), in spite of massive lobbying from prominent businesses. According to the BBC, the bill '...aims to make it easier for telecoms firms to offer video services around America by replacing 30,000 local franchise boards with a national system overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'. However, according to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, 'telecommunications and cable companies will be able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway... This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the internet.'"
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U.S. House Rejects Net Neutrality

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  • US = Fuxx0red (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:03AM (#15501419) Homepage
    Ok, so rather than whine about how our government is corrupt and quickly ruining life in America...I want to talk about solutions.

    The telcos will begin the tiered internet pricing, and in the end the price hike will inevitably cost the consumer more.

    What I want to know is, how can I get around their speed throttling for sites that do not pay up? I am not that savvy when it comes to coding my own scripts, but are there any tools that will help make things stay the same usage wise (if not price wise)?

    Also, can someone clearly list some bullet points of how this will ultimately affect the end user? I'd like to share them with my family and explain to my Republican father how his boys have ruined our countries future.

  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by l2718 (514756) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:09AM (#15501458)

    Unfortunately, this won't work that easily -- perhaps that's why the ISPs want to charge the service providers and not the end-users: it's easy to lie about the protocol/content of the packet, but it's very hard to lie about the source and destination address.

    Indeed, people are going to be pissed off -- which is why I expect some ISPs to stay away from packet discrimination. People who care about it will simply flock there. The market is a better solution than hackers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:11AM (#15501475)
    I think you left out one big point. Net Neutrality is not about stopping ISP for charging different amount for different levels of bandwidth. It is about stopping the ISP from charging content providers for different kinds of content.

    It would be as if the phone company charged you one rate for calls where you discussed your family and a different rate if you discussed computers.

    In general it is the difference between telephones (where you pay to be connected to someone else) and cable (where you pay for a kind of content) Net Neutrality would guarantee that the Net stay a communication tool and not just a form of entertainment.

    Also it is only in the contexts of common carrier status. If an ISP want to take responsibility for the content that it is delivering then it can not get the government protection of common carrier, and jump into the wild.

  • by m874t232 (973431) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:16AM (#15501507)
    They shouldn't be in a market where they only have one ISP to choose from.

    Yeah, but we can't legislate additional wires or ISPs into existence. We can, however, legislate that the wires and ISPs exist are used equitably and in a way that protects people from arbitrary pricing and restrictions.

    so I ended up going with a local company for DSL

    The fact that you have that choice is itself a consequence of a legal framework that gives you that choice. Completely unregulated, your phone company would be the only DSL provider, and they'd charge monopoly prices (actually, completely unregulated, you'd be on a 19.2kbps dial-up line, if you're lucky).

    So, legislation like this works, and you have just given another example of that.
  • by s0abas (792033) <shadowphoenix@g m a i l.com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:19AM (#15501525)
    The biggest problem I have with this bill is that the lines aren't the telco's to regulate in the first place. Here's the sequence of events in the form of a chat log:

    Telcos: Hey congress, we want to build fiber to have a faster internet for the future. Would you please pay for it?
    Congress: Sure! That sounds like a swell idea. Here's some money!
    Telcos: (Later) Congress we ran out of money! Can we have some more?
    Congress: Sure! Just finish the daggone thing already!
    Telcos: (More Later) Congress we ran out of money! Can we have some more?
    Congress: Sure! Just finish the daggone thing already!
    Telcos: (Even More Later) Congress we ran out of money! Can we have some more?
    Congress: Sure! Just finish the daggone thing already!
    Telcos: Congress! WTF! We want to be able to charge people more for using these lines you paid for with taxpayer dollars!
    Congress: FINE JUST GO AWAY
  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MooUK (905450) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:19AM (#15501527)
    They rejected an amendment to a bill, and passed the unamended bill. The bill makes it possible for ISPs et al to ignore the entire idea of net neutrality, amongst other thing. The amendment was intended to enforce net neutrality.

    At least, I think that's right.
  • by MECC (8478) * on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:24AM (#15501563)
    Large media conglomerates going for the throats of providers.

    Why? Because a large media provider will pay extra so their video and other content will get faster downloads. Like for example Disney paying TimeWarner. Then, however, to Disney's surprise, the speed of their media on the Internet only improves a little - very little.

    Why? Because in order for the so-called 'toll lanes' or 'fast lanes' to actually make any real difference, each and every piece of equipment in between the provider and the consumer will have to have a compatible configuration - each and every switch, firewall, and router. Ultimately the end ISP has the most ability to impact how much prioritization will improve performance. So, Disney shells out millions to TW, only to find out they got snake oil. Large contracts like that don't get negotiated without SLAs, all of which have rebate clauses. Which will inevitably get enforced. In court.

    Each time a packet crosses to another providers network, the treatment of prioritization setting in the packet will change, if respected at all. Who could possibly believe that AT&T will treat Verizon's IP priority settings exactly the same as their own. So, the likelyhood that telcos will be at eachother's throats is a possibility as well. Run a traceroute and see how many providers the takes to get to google, apple, or Disney. Then think about how well those providers will be at deploying effective prioritization amongst themselves. Not very well will be the answer.

    Its kind of like locking a bunch of cannibals together in a room with no food. All the better.

  • Soooo... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr.Scamp (974300) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:26AM (#15501578)
    So when google lights up all that dark fiber and goes into the ISP business, will I be able to tell Verizon to stuff their toll lanes or will Verizon still be able to stick their fingers in the pie due to Interconnects?
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:41AM (#15501692)
    there's nothing to stop them except that their paying customers will be pissed if they get slow service

    Sadly, most people probably wouldn't even notice. I know for a fact that some major companies are already doing some downthrottling, and apparently not enough people are noticing to even call them on it.

    I recently had an experience myself where I canceled my unlimited long-distance service with Bellsouth and the same day they downthrottled my 3 Mbps account to 1.5 Mbps speed (probably a measure aimed at those dumping them for VoIP service, to make VoIP look bad). Being a geek, I noticed right away and called them on it. They explained that they must have "made a mistake" (yeah, a "mistake" that just happened to have occurred on the exact same day I cancelled my long-distance plan with them) and returned me to 3 Mbps with curious ease.

    Now, if a big company like Bellsouth has the balls to do something so brazen, it must mean that they KNOW that most of their customers will never notice. And that was MUCH more obvious than site-specific down-throttling.

    -Eric

  • by plaisted (449711) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:42AM (#15501693) Homepage
    Here's the problem with charging content providers for faster access to consumers: The price a service provider charges the consumers is limited by market forces. There may not be a lot of different choices for internet access in a lot of places, but consumers still have the choice to cancel their DSL/Cable and use dial-up, the library, Wi-fi hotspots, or whatever to access the internet if the rates get outrageous.

    However, when service providers start charging content providers, there is no market to limit the prices they charge to what is reasonable. They have a monopoly on the consumers that access the internet through them. So if Comcast starts to charge Google to send data to Comcast's customers, Google can't choose another service provider to get to those consumers.
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BigCheese (47608) <dennis.hostetler@gmail.com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:48AM (#15501736) Homepage Journal
    I was reading the other day that QoS doesn't work all that well. It's easier and cheaper to make the pipes bigger on the long hauls. I'd cite the source but I can't seem to find it.

    Extensive use of QoS will require much more powerful routers with more complex routing software. That's a good recipe for trouble. If QoS generates enough problems they will lose money on the whole deal.
  • by jefu (53450) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:51AM (#15501763) Homepage Journal

    While I find the notion of adding more laws to the internet a difficult one, I don't find your comments all that persuasive.

    Since I'm in an area with a single DSL provider (with Comcast also in the broadband market), I pay quite a bit (don't ask) for DSL and I have to buy a landline (an expensive one at that) as well. I find the notion that my DSL provider will be allowed to (essentially) raise their prices arbitrarily on either specific applications or bandwidth uncongenial. Since the content providers also pay for access, I suspect the network folks are making out quite all right.

    I also wonder if this would make content something that the net folks could charge for differentially. For example, suppose Foo-Mart (a huge corporation) both buy preferential access for itself and at the same time, buy far less preferential access for Bar-Mart (another huge corporation). Or could they be in favor of a political candidate and opposed to another and charge one political website more than the other? Or perhaps they're opposed to abortion (or gay marriage, or ...) so they charge those websites more.

    Allowing the corporations to make any decisions that favor one network content provider (or protocol, or ...) over another is likely to lead to them making all kinds of decisions that many of us would find troubling.

  • by dsginter (104154) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:57AM (#15501799)
    I was listening to (I believe) NPR the other day and an advocate of the telecoms explained the situation to make it sound like the new multimedia applications (YouTube, Google Video, etc) were the bad guys. But, behind his explanation was this:

    "We've traditionally used bandwidth as a marketing stat. The average Joe never uses the full extent of their available bandwidth. But now, new applications are popping up and changing this at our expense. We also believe that the providers (google, youtube, etc) are serving these applications at no cost so, instead of charging more for bandwidth, we'd like to do something entirely more profitable."

    The straw man here is that the providers *do* pay for their side of the bandwidth. It just boils down to the fact that the telecoms would rather implement greed instead of pragmatism as a solution.
  • by Optikschmoptik (971793) on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:05AM (#15501852) Homepage

    I'm not old enough to remember the old AT&T monopoly days, and that might be the problem with a lot of voting constituents. I do remember what my mom told me about those times. It's hard to imagine that, back then, The Phone Company was basically able to give you the finger and get away with it. What could you do? Pretty much nothing, you might as well be asking the IRS for a sales tax refund. That's how monopolies work.

    For the past fifteen years or so (don't know the exact dates, but since the courts broke up the old AT&T), there's been competition in both different service types and different companies offering the same solutions. But they've slowly consolidated, and now the monopolistic entity is back. It's more of a cartel now; and they have no incentive to go out of their way for you. Live in Idaho and don't like that you can't access Google without waiting ten minutes for the page to load? "Sorry. Try Verizon speedsearch!, with the all the info you need on your favorite music, videos, games, and sports-and-news!" It's the same as if you flip on the cable TV and veg. It doesn't matter to them. They make money on both. The difference is now, there are even fewer laws regulating who gets access to communication and information.

    We can't imagine that the internet could just be taken away like that. But what's stopping them? We do technically own the pipes, but congress just proved to us that it's really only a meaningless technicality in their opinion. So the telco/cable cartel gets carte-blanche control. The CEO of SBC has even refered to them casually as "[his] pipes." In all but official title, it looks like he's right.

  • Re:Damn you Nancy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by woodsrunner (746751) on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:06AM (#15501863) Journal
    Screw that. You want the internet to turn into a tollway? She's making a huge understatement when she says, "This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the internet" and no one in their right mind would think otherwise. This is going to allow the death star of AT&T to focus it's destructive forces at all that is good and innovative about the internet.

    Say good bye to VoIP, P2P, and porn not produced by AT&T and say hello to higher rates for an even poorer grade of broadband.

    The internet infrastructure in the US was provided primarily by tax dollars. Tax dollars, I might add that were given to the telcos in exchange for them to provide the american public with true broadband. The telcos kept the money (billions of dollars) without coming through with the goods and now are going to have the ability to charge us even more for second rate service that is not only slower but now will be incredibly watered down.

    In a few years you'll be nostalgic for the great service once offered by AOL dialup.

  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Embedded2004 (789698) on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:09AM (#15501877)
    I've always thought of this the other way around.

    The ISPs are making money by providing access to Google et al. Shouldn't they be paying Google to have access to their networks?

    No one would sign up for an ISP without access to the major websites. So google is providing value to that ISP and the ISP should pay for it. Not the other way around.
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbitch (553938) on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:42AM (#15502121)
    But, and here's the question I've been struggling with over the last few days, what happens when the connection is encrypted? HTTPS or SSH or SSL or TLS? What can you route on? Source and dest IP only, I would think. Maybe that will be the lowest on the pole - "if your connection is encrypted, it gets the lowest service, since we can't tell what is going over that connection." Seems that's a good way to keep Joe Sixpack from using encryption - "hey, my stuff is running slowly. Guess I won't use that encryption stuff." Not that he uses it anyway. Maybe that's the next step in the bill - "in order to enforce this bill, we must require that all communications be unencrypted." Kind of a scary thought, no?
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:01AM (#15502271)
    The reason why they want tiers is this:

    You (consumers) pay for your bandwidth. The ISP sells bandwidth but it oversells it because they know that not everyone will be online downloading a 1.7 Gig file at the same time. So it's economical for them to offer low low prices on the bandwidth they sell to us (consumers).

    Now that people are doing bandwidth hogging things like downloading movies from big commercial websites, and now that the Last mile ISP's want to bring you bandwidth hogging stuff like IPTV, they have a dilemma. They've oversubscribed their pipes. There is a growing need to move more data; they'll either need to pass that price on to us, the consumer, or someone else.

    They've chosen someone else, the big commercial bandwidth providers.

    There's a reason why this is so: sites like google and yahoo wouldn't make a single solitary dime of profit if people didn't visit their site. The ISP's don't want us (consumers) to go away by raising our prices, so they charge the commercial companies on the other end of the pipe, either by making them pay a dollar figure for priority access to us (the consumer) or by limiting the bandwidth available over the last mile.

    We (consumers) are driving this change with our internet usage patterns. The network infrastructure if evolving; let it do it's thing without legislation.

    The market will find the path of least resistance one way or another.
  • Boo the fuck hoo for the backbone providers, who built most of their backbones with my tax dollars. Or didn't you know that? The bastards run their lines over our public property, with money from our pockets, then charge us for the privilege of using what should be our lines, then charge us again in the form of extra charges to content providers outside their network. Net neutrality was the way things used to be, when the greedy bastards signed the effing contracts that let them get their cushy government sponsored monopoluies, and now they want to reneg on the deal. Fuck them and fuck the free market that lets wealth get concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Adam Smith, get your damn invisible hand out of my back pocket!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:16AM (#15502394)
    This is the essential point:
    Google already pays for its increased bandwidth as do all large bandwidth users. (if you have a website you know this. You are allocated a certain amount of download traffic and if you exceed it you are hit with extra charges.)

    What the new bill aloows is for large backbone providers to negotiate individually with every website and set fees per byte based on whatever they can negotiate - UNEQUAL fees per bit. this puts the internet into a state of bandwidth brokerage closer to the dealings of a used car salesman. As with any arbitrage situation there will be enormous profits made by those brokers and hoarders and hedgers of bandwidth that will have little to do providing the service but endusers of every type will end up paying more - like a stock broker's fee.

    Interestingly it may not bode as well for the backbone operators as they think. Eventually arbitragers end up controlling the assets of providers in those situations.

    Additionally Google could say hey if you don't give me BELOW average cost or at least average then I simply will say so on our front page and tell people to switch to another provider who has a contract with a different backbone provider - and give the names of such providers. that would cause massive changes in subscriptions overnight and could bankrupt cedrtain pproviders overnight.

    This whole thing introduces a layer of capital speculation into the internet that we just got out of after the dot com "BOOM." The boom and bust had nothing to do with content - it had to do with capital guessing which player would survive and more times than not they guessed wrong and continuity and reliability and capital was sacrificed in huge amounts until it all flushed out. We just got stable and now we are going to be back to speculation but in an other area.

    It's time for a people created home to home wireless and laser mesh grid. We need to stock up on the wireless transmitters that can form an adhoc network before someone makes it illegal. All developing countries are using them to wirethemselves. Wires are old tech. wireless mesh grids are the latest and greatest (and cheapest). The city of Tempe arizona has its whole city gridded for internet through wireless mesh and if everyone does it you don't need a city backbone. It can be completely automatically self correcting and optimizing for speed and it is home to home without any government or corporate monopoly interference.

    Now with this bill looming this should be a top priority for the sourceforge GPL software world. Making code that can be used by all wireless b g and n WImax wireless home routers to create this network.

    Bypass the telcos backbone completely. Be pro freedom and pro free enterprise and against government protected corporate monopolists. Build your own network!

    GeoPilot

    http://www.globalboiling.com/ [globalboiling.com]
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@@@nexusuk...org> on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:37AM (#15502622) Homepage
    Do you think that backbone routers will make that distinction?

    That's not what I meant - I meant when talking about QoS traffic shaping it's important to make a distinction between the types - protocol classification is good, toll classification is bad - just telling everyone that QoS is a bad thing and should be banned is a terrible idea because ISPs who are *improving* the service by using protocol classification will be unfairly labelled as evil.
  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:56AM (#15502819) Journal
    Excellent explaination, even the car analogy made sense.

    "...and all the ISPs in the middle (with the exception of Tier-1 ISPs that pass and generate traffic equally) pay."

    I can't imagine the double toll principle making it's way into international telecomms treaties. If tolls start springing up in the US is there any reason why the rest of the planet could not bypass these tolls by subscribing to Tier-1 ISPs based in say the EU or Canada. (As I understand it all the dozen or so "master DNS tables" are housed in US institutions but are unofficially mirrored around the world).

    In other words how hard would it be for the EU to contain the "fragmentation" to mainland USA and shift "the interenet" to Europe?
  • Re:US = Fuxx0red (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday June 09, 2006 @12:46PM (#15503296) Journal
    What I want to know is, how can I get around their speed throttling for sites that do not pay up?


    1. Get an 802.11 card and the best antenna you can find/afford.
    2. Read up on radiowave propogation in the 2.4GHz frequencies.
    3. Plot out a map of repeaters to get the signal to/from your house to/from the nearest big city.
    4. Attempt to secure the necessary land rights.
    5. Start collecting donations for the project.
    6. Get to work buying and installing the equipment.
    7. Ping.

    .
    I'm currently in a pretty good spot, myself. I've got line-of-sight to several mountain tops, all of which should have line-of-sight to this edge of the Los Angeles Megalopolis... If (I knew for a fact) there was a thriving 802.11 network accessible down there, I would start working on it right now. I'm already ideally positioned (high up, top of a fairly impressive hill) to be a relay for a couple cities and about a hundred thousand people or so.

    In fact, if someone else would be interested in providing the funds, I'd be happy to volunteer myself for the task of setting-up a line of repeaters from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. There are numerous mountains and valleys in-between, which could be well utilized to get line-of-sight between repeaters most of the way. At ~150 miles, it shouldn't even require many of them.

    It's pretty exciting to think that any technically savvy person could (basically sell their house) fairly easily buy all the equipment, and setup a wireless network across connecting all the major cities in the US, west of the rockies. The plains seem a far greater challenge, requiring very serious and expensive masts in lieu of mountains.

    Yeah, I know, I've gone WAY off topic now.
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wellspring (111524) on Friday June 09, 2006 @05:28PM (#15505744)
    Maybe that's the next step in the bill - "in order to enforce this bill, we must require that all communications be unencrypted." Kind of a scary thought, no?

    I think that's very unlikely - it would mean the death of internet banking, shopping, etc. There's no way the banks would accept liability for confidential data being sent unencrypted.


    There's another possibility. You could limit the use of public networks to a manageable number of allowed applications, then set up tiered pricing and QoS rules for each. Any unauthorized traffic would be against the TOS of the network and would be blocked, perhaps even prosecuted as unauthorized access.

    If a new application is written, it could go through a QA process with the carriers, who would then certify the application as being permitted on the network and set up appropriate pricing / QoS rules (which would be negotiated). Unregulated protocols would still be permissible-- they just wouldn't be able to communicate upstream on the main Internet.

    Sound scary? That was basically the de-facto situation in wireless wide area networks. I worked a few years ago with some BREW developers, who found that every bug fix required a whole new QA review (which took months) before being deployable. The gatekeepers had every reason to hold something up, and no incentive to move something forward. And if the product was going to be rolled out to fewer than ten thousand handsets, they didn't want to hear from you. The other carriers weren't as bad (and true IP coverage has made things infinitely easier since then) but not by much. Mobitex, for example, was a nightmare to get something approved on. Don't think it couldn't happen on the internet-- it certainly can.

    In a free market, of course, this wouldn't be allowed to come about (note that the highly competitive carriers in wireless didn't go with this model in the long term). But with high barriers to entry on wired backbones, it isn't like some new provider will pop up out of nowhere if AT&T decides that that's how their network will run. It's in the carriers' interest to become the OPEC of network access.

    Look at my previous posts. I'm normally a fan of our Congress's pro-market policies. But it appears that they dropped the ball here because they either don't realize where this is going or are trusting the Phone Company far more than someone who has actually worked with them would.

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