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Senators, ISPs, and Network Neutrality 174

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the my-oh-my dept.
Polarism submitted a good article about net neutrality that is currently running on Ars. It's a good explanation of where the pieces of the problem are, the government issues, the industry issues, etc. Worth a read.
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Senators, ISPs, and Network Neutrality

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  • Why the red herring? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XorNand (517466) * on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:21PM (#15532965)
    Over and over again the anti-net neutrallity rant is based on the presumption that web site operators don't already pay for bandwidth. I don't understand why this continues? While most people don't know the nuiances of negotiating a high-dollar agreement with a carrier, there are a great many people out there who pay $10-50/mo for simple web hosting. Surely these people know that both ends of a HTTP connection are already paying. I'd like to know if this is an intentional distortion perpetuated by the telecoms, or if this is an honest misunderstanding?
    • by QCompson (675963) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:29PM (#15533049)
      I'd like to know if this is an intentional distortion perpetuated by the telecoms, or if this is an honest misunderstanding?

      How dare you sir! The telecoms are trustworthy, honorable companies. They would never intentionally release distorted information to increase their profits. Anyone back me up on this?
      • by mkw87 (860289) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:42PM (#15533156)
        Anyone back me up on this?

        Our president probably would.

    • by gid13 (620803) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:31PM (#15533063)
      I manage a tech support call centre, and we get MANY calls that go something like this:
      Customer: "I'm getting an 'invalid username or password' error, is your service down?"
      Agent (after checking logs): "No, you're typing the wrong username."

      Other thrilling examples include "So, is my modem my hard drive or is it my screen?", "What's an X?", "What is a phone?", and "What is a keyboard?" (This last one was from someone who spoke fluent English and said she only used the internet for Yahoo mail, and after 5 solid minutes of explanation using phrases like "The thing your hands touch when you type an e-mail" she still couldn't grasp the concept).

      Why is this relevant to net neutrality? People have no idea what the internet IS, let alone how it works. You can't expect understanding of a "complex" issue like network neutrality from someone who thinks he must be connected to the internet because his computer is on.

      Senators are not necessarily more technically inclined than anybody else. Believe me, honest misunderstanding, or just lack of understanding, can account for FAR more than you think.
      • Senators are not necessarily more technically inclined than anybody else.

        No, but they have a staff, and they pay impartial experts to explain things to them, where necessary.

        There has been plenty of instances of highly technical legislation going through congress before, and speeches were they discussed the issues in rational and accurate terms. You can't claim many of those same people went stupid all of a sudden.
        • by houghi (78078)
          No, but they have a staff, and they pay impartial experts to explain things to them, where necessary.


          In Corporate America, experts pay you (if you are a senator).

          Unfortunatly this is how it really works. Somebody wants to get more money, hires an 'expert' and then tells the senator that such and such change would be good for everybody.
          • If you get all your political news from the media, you are missing out on the great sources of information that senate committee hearings are. Sure, lobbyists with questionable experts might have started the ball rolling on this legislation, but as usual, the list of (I believe unpaid) experts who testified at the committee hearing [senate.gov] on the subject is impressive:
            • Mr. Vinton Cerf
              Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
            • Mr. Walter McCormick
              President and CEO, United States Telecom Association
            • Mr.
        • No, but they have a staff, and they pay impartial experts to explain things to them, where necessary.

          Damn. That's the funniest thing I've read in a while. I'd call you hopelessly naive about how the Congress works, but that would be an insult to hopelessly naive people everywhere. Trust me, no Congresscritter is going to pay for an expert opinion when a lobbyist will pay for it and give him/her/it a free dinner at The Palm or Galileo to boot. Never mind that that opinion will be about as impartial as a Red

        • There has been plenty of instances of highly technical legislation going through congress before, and speeches were they discussed the issues in rational and accurate terms. You can't claim many of those same people went stupid all of a sudden.

          Yes only problem is they do go stupid all of a sudden, we've had senators pass stuff then later admit they had no clue what it is they passed or what it ment to anything. Also, All to often they admit to passing something without ever reading the proposal or having

        • No, but they have a staff, and they pay impartial experts to explain things to them, where necessary.

          Actually, they don't. They give it to staff (the intern who is a friend of a friend) or to experts (which are better known as lobbists). I don't recall any impartiality in the process.
      • Like my grandpa said, "When you got no clue, shut up and let those talk that have one."

        Not you. The senators.

        Quite seriously, let's imagine I'm charged with making a decision about ... say, a law regulating the use of artificial insemination in cows. Not quite my topic. What would I do?

        I would HIRE someone to tell me why it's good or why it's bad. Preferably someone who's neither from one end of the lobby chain, nor the other. Hell, I'd hire TWO guys. One from each side of the chain. Both should tell me why
      • >Senators are not necessarily more technically inclined than anybody else.
        > Believe me, honest misunderstanding, or just lack of understanding, can
        >account for FAR more than you think.

        When I called my Congressman's office and asked his position on Net Neutrality, the aid I spoke to told me this:

        She said that basically the "Net Neutrality" thing was just a small portion of the legislation and had been "blown out of proportion". She also said that their position was that the legislation was /really/
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > I'd like to know if this is an intentional distortion perpetuated by the telecoms, or if this is an honest misunderstanding?

      Like the best lies, it's an intentional distortion that takes advantage of an honest misunderstanding among nontechnical folks.

      > While most people don't know the nuiances of negotiating a high-dollar agreement with a carrier, there are a great many people out there who pay $10-50/mo for simple web hosting.

      There may be a few hundred thousand people who pay $10/50/month for

    • I'd like to know if this is an intentional distortion perpetuated by the telecoms, or if this is an honest misunderstanding?

      While the optimist in me would love to beleive it's the latter, based on the people who are ant-net-neutrality, namely big telecomms and cable companies, it's impossible for me to accept that these people are simply ignorant of how it works. If they are then they certainly don't deserve the positions they hold within their companies.
    • > I'd like to know if this is an intentional distortion perpetuated by the telecoms, or if this is an honest misunderstanding?

      See http://savetheinternet.com/ [savetheinternet.com] -- the telecoms are spending millions on a [dis]information campaign, they keep whining about people not being charged when the peering agreements, hosting agreements and ISP bills charge all ends of the transaction. They cite "competition" when most people have two or fewer choices for broadband... Or the "our network" bit when we paid them over
    • "I don't understand why this continues?"

      It is just about money. But I'm afraid that with this kind of discussion I can end up with 3 minutes long page loading from Wikipedia meanwhile my neighbor downloads ten high resolution porn clips... :-( Sad discussion, isn't it?
    • It doesn't help that 75% of the pro-net-neutrality articles I see on Slashdot and elsewhere don't even mention the "double-dipping" nature of net neutrality. Some even further confuse the issue by comparing a tiered internet to "first-class flights" or toll roads, which is totally false. Unfortunately, there seems to be very many persuasive people arguing against it, and very few persuasive people arguing for neutrality.

      So if you're clever, please stand up!
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:24PM (#15532995) Homepage
    The key to stopping these problems would be to impose rigorous common carrier status regulations on general bandwidth providers. Allow everything from political speech to hate speech to pornography. The only thing that would get exempt would be IPTV so that IPTV providers could organize content packages according to their customers' tastes.

    For the love of God, get rid of all of the bullshit regulation at every level that allows governments to meddle in the prices of bandwidth packages and the ability of property owners to negotiate with the telecoms. Take away EVERY barrier that keeps new players from entering the market, or that even increases the cost of entering.

    And I ask one more time. Does anyone want this Congress, with its meth-addled ADHD-afflicted child-level attention span for details and consequences to regulate complex technical issues when most of it are MBAs and lawyers? I wouldn't, and I despise Verizon. I switched to Vonage and would stay with Vonage even if cost more than Verizon or AT&T because it's not AT&T or Verizon, but I sure as hell don't trust this bunch of coin-operated cronies to regulate the Internet.
    • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @01:00PM (#15533323)
      Take away EVERY barrier that keeps new players from entering the market...

      The biggest barrier is the last mile. You don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry digging up the streets to lay fiber, so localities make agreements with a few players. The problem is, some of these players like the phone company and the cable giants, has historically made exclusive agreements and done their best to keep the public from knowing. (Time Warner has packed town hall meeting with employees so the citizens wouldn't be able to speak)

      So, in steps the State and Federal governments. Legislation is proposed to limit the big players, since they have defacto monopolies. These players, sensing that the new law would cost them money, send their paid lobbists to increase their monopoly status. Hilarity ensues.
      • You don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry digging up the streets to lay fiber, so localities make agreements with a few players

        So dig up the streets once and lay some nice big conduit for every tom dick and harry to pay to install in. When its full, you'll have received enough to dig the streets up again (several years later) and lay another nice big conduit. If the company fails they get a choice of pulling their lines out or selling them to the city to get the installation cost back, and the next company
        • That's the way it ought to be, but I've seen examples of where the incumbant politician used all his polical capital to get some neat infrastructure installed. (A pedestrian bridge) Just before it was installed, he was voted out and the new mayor took credit for the whole shebang.

          Say you are the mayor of a large town/city, and you get pipes laid that everyone can use. You'll have to spend money. Some other politician can outspend you getting elected knowing that he can sell off your infrastructure to
  • Monkey suits... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Brothernone (928252)
    I hope people can start to figure this out. The pipes are paid for. We're all Leasing the bandwidth on both ends. Over the last few years i'm sure the comusmer market has paid for the pipes. I garuntee they're making money. This is just a bully tactic to force people to pay for the "privalige" to use their pipes.
    The Confusion is almost all on their side of the argument. It would be nice if congress would look at how things work before they try to pass laws about technology.
  • Keep it limited (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Artie Dent (929986)
    Looks like we might get some action from Congress after, that's heartening, I just worry that in regulating this aspect of the net, it could try and get overzealous and use it as precedent to regulate other parts of it too.
  • My understanding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argoff (142580) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:27PM (#15533034)
    My understanding is that currently a communications company can try to bill someone (like Google) whose traffic gets routed thru their network (and they do not provide the connectivity at the end points), but then Google can tell them to go to hell. Well, if they block Google traffic all their customers will leave, so now they want the government to force Google to pay. So now the 'Google side' has turned things arround and decided to get the government to force neutral access no matter what.

    The truth is that we are probably better off with no new laws at all. Let the companies who screw with traffic go broke, and let the market force neutral access and not the government.
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:52PM (#15533249) Journal
      Not quite how I understand it. Currently tier 1 providers can't charge google directly, they have peering arrangements where smaller providers have to pay. They aren't trying to get the government to force google to pay, they are trying to get the government let them charge google directly.

      What makes you think the market can force neutral access? Remember Betamax? Undeniably the better format technically, yet the market chose the inferior format. The free market isn't magic. If people are too stupid to regulate something correctly, what makes you think they can acheive a better outcome through random purchasing? Besides, we are dealing with oligopolies here, there is no free market. Adam Smith's invisible hand only works in certain limited circumstances, libertarian rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.
    • My understanding is that currently a communications company can try to bill someone (like Google) whose traffic gets routed thru their network (and they do not provide the connectivity at the end points), but then Google can tell them to go to hell. I've posted before to this argument, but perhaps it merits another mention since the message clearly is NOT getting through. My dad lives in a town of about 50,000 people that is more than 100 miles away from the nearest large metro area. Bellsouth, his pro
    • My understanding is that currently a communications company can try to bill someone (like Google) whose traffic gets routed thru their network (and they do not provide the connectivity at the end points), but then Google can tell them to go to hell.

      I might be wrong, but my understanding is that the main enemies of network neutrality are the last mile providers. After all, that's the only place where bandwidth is limited as a practical matter, and therefore where competition cannot easily "route around" d

  • by Whumpsnatz (451594) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:29PM (#15533046)
    The Bush administration (and the FCC) has already decided to throw out neutrality. That means action by both the Senate and the House is necessary for anything to change. The House already voted against the Markey amendment (by 269-152, I think), so there doesn't appear to be _any_ chance of saving net neutrality.
    • Not quite dead (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aexia (517457)
      I might have this wrong but this is how it goes.

      First, the House net neutrality vote was for a net neutrality amendment to a larger bill(COPE). They didn't include it obviously.

      Now, the Senate is considering their version of the bill. Their version may or may not include the net neutrality provision. Talking Points Memo is keeping a tally of where Senators currently stand [talkingpointsmemo.com].

      Ideally, the Senate includes it in their version of the bill. Then, the bill will go to conference to iron out the differences between th
  • TV over IP / FIOS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by harshaw (3140) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:39PM (#15533122)
    What a good bit of the debate does not discuss is that a number of players, Verizon in particular, want to bring TV into your house over IP (via a fiber connection) in order to compete against cable. This is the holy grail of the telecoms industry: bundled services.

    In general, competition for cable is a good thing. However, what is not often discussed is that TV content would come over a dedicated connection from verizon that you the subscriber would not have access to directly (at least, this is my understanding). The really really bad thing about this is that it would let verizon do what companies in the mobile space are doing: mixing transport (delivering the bits) with content control. In the mobile space this has been a terrific failure for most customers as the wireless companies control the delivery channel and the portals (what applications and ring tones are available).

    I think the critical issue here is that we need to insist that the delivery pipe from verizon is a level playing field and that others can delivery TV content if they so choose. The pipe would still be seperate from normal internet access but I would be able to choose my HDTV provider who would let me pick the "geek" bundle of channels (plus oxygen for the wife) and who would undercut both verizon and comcast.

    Verizon and the cable companies are natural monopolies: there is no way around that. Verizon is sinking tons of money into deploying FIOS: they should be compensated for that deployment. However, that compensation should not comes with strings attached - they should bill the customer for access to a high speed pipe dedicated to video and that's it.

    • The problem is people on average won't pay for a dedicated high speed pipe they will pay for TV and telephone. Verizon doesn't want to sink all the capital into a pipe if they can't be assured of being the sole provider of TV or telephone (preferably both) on that pipe. If Disney/Google/whoever can undercut on both items them no one will pay Verizon two diddlies for their pipe.
  • Moonie Times (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    "But nothing in life is free" - Moonie^WWashington Times [google.com] editorial

    That Moonie editorial isn't merely "confused", unless you want to call fascist zombies "confused". It's evil.
  • by Mycroft Holmes IV (217745) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @12:54PM (#15533272)
    what prevents Google (or Ebay, or Microsoft) from slowing their internet connections to anyone who goes through the AT&T pipe?

    The reason I'm asking is cause, as the article points out, I don't pay $$$ for a fat pipe, I pay $$$ for a fat pipe to these sites.

    And if necessary, I'll pay someone else $$$ for a fat pipe.

    So...if we lose net neutrality, what prevents Google (or others) from extorting AT&T?

    Pipes for free? Hell, before we're done, we'll charge AT&T to use their pipes!
    • Exactly - something I've said all along in this argument. Big sites like Google or Ebay aren't going to pay. If AT&T or Qwest or Comcast throttle their connections they can just throttle it on their end too, or drop off completely. Make a big news announcement that your ISP, AT&T, is responsible for slow access to Google and recommend customers switch to a better service. That would be a PR and Sales disaster for the ISP.

      I think net neutrality is a good idea in theory, but I am VERY afraid of
      • If you let the "free market" work it out, AT&T will just do whatever the hell it wants with its pipes. Which includes extorting Google. This isn't a free market we're talking about, so we have to legislate in order to make sure AT&T plays fair.
        • Ah, but it is a free market, at least in most places. I don't know of many places that only have one avaliable ISP. We don't have terribly good coverage where I live, but we have Qwest, Comcast and several wireless providers. As long as there is a choice no major ISP can charge more. The other thing is I don't see how anyone can extort Google or any other major content/hosting provider. People pay for an ISP to connect them to the sites they want to see. If their customers suddenly find Google hard to
  • Net Doublecharge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @01:05PM (#15533364) Homepage Journal
    Let's break it down even simpler:

    AT&T wants to charge Google for carrying Google Net traffic, even if Google isn't directly connected to AT&T. Let's say Google is connected to GCom, which is connected to AT&T, and Google users are connected to UCom, which is connected to AT&T (of course there are really many more intermediaries, but the system works exactly the same). Google pays GCom for its traffic, while users pay UCom for their traffic. GCom and UCom each pay AT&T to carry their traffic. AT&T gets paid its portion by Google and its users through those intermediaries. AT&T gets paid twice, once in each direction, for every transaction, without marketing the traffic: Google does that risky part.

    AT&T just wants to doublecharge Google, because 1: Google has money, and 2: AT&T has a blackmail toolkit, including the huge network used by so many people, and Congress. If they just raised their rates, the traffic would flow over the redundant Internet to their cheaper competitors. So they're getting their cartel^Windustry to add a new kind of charge that everyone will collect, killing competition.

    What does the telecom carrier industry plan beyond just ripping off everyone paying for our distributed Net access? To start, they're planning to suck up the "fast lane" with video, IPTV, to "compete" with cable companies and independent distributors. Including YouTube and any other upstart not in the telco club. Charging competitors outside the cartel too much to stay in the game, just like they killed the DSL competition. They'll also squeeze out any upstart VoIP competition, so their core voice business can keep its 20th Century domain intact.

    Of course, along the way, they'll kick the crap out of any independent media they carry which tells the truth to the people. With voice, video and data under their privileged control, as well as the government, how can they lose?
    • Insightful indeed. Shortly sums up the situation.
    • Gushfest mode on:

      Once again, The good doctor boils to down to the brass tacks. Who is this Doc Ruby? He just has this way of explaining complex issues in an easy to grasp manner. Can I fit in anymore accolades and cool idioms?

      Gushfest mode off.

      I know some have called you a dumbass, but damnit, you have this excellent manner of calling bullshit. Sure you can be abrasive sometimes, but nobody's perfect.

      Yes, mod this up.

      Disclaimer: I hate the phone company. And the cable company too.
      • I don't post on Slashdot to make friends, though it does seem to happen anyway :).

        Geeks used to have a pretty safe community, resisting the bullshit of the outside world through an unconscious strategy of alienation and antisocial habits. But since HTML dropped the barriers to entry to geek culture while making geek subjects some of the most powerful and valuable in the world, geekery has been flooded with unprecedented bullshit.

        I've been lucky to grow up in geek culture since it wasn't for kids. And to hav
  • If the Corporate guns manage to modify the internet away from what it has now become in terms of the overall freedom of information flow, and general anarchism, I think we're going to see massive massive hacker incidents worldwide in numbers so large even the most in-depth IDS/IH techniques will simply fall flat.

    Of course, I also think that this would be short-lived, and if the powers that be really do want to change the neutrality of the internet, they will, and that's that.
  • I wrote Illinois Senator Dick Durbin about this and got a message back, which I'll include below. Take a look at how he fairly carefully doesn't say what his real stand is.

    Durbin has taken $37,000 in the past 6 years from telco PACs. Not a fortune, but might cause him to vote to favor Bill Daley, brother to the mayor of Chicago and shill for SBC ne AT&T.

    - - -

    Durbin's Office Wrote:

    Thank you for contacting me about taxing Internet access and regulating Internet content delivery. I appreciate hearing fr
    • Having written both of my state seneators several times, and my representative even more, I can say that this pretty much par. Any politician willing to write down his stance on paper is crazy. What if they change their position later on? What if the position they stated is not in line with yours? Once an opinion has been expressed publicly it is very hard to take it back. The fact is that yes, they all have a stance that they will likely stick to (unless outside influences pressure them, like lobbyists, ma
  • When 1gb/s of traffic goes down a 2gb/s pipe, we're all happy. If it's Qwest's pipe, then they'd like more traffic, or may think this is over-engineered, but there's no outage.

    If we start paying a premium for some bandwidth, then a 2gb/s pipe may have 1gb/s of premium paying traffic on it, and all the receivers of that traffic will be happy. But there also might be 100gb/s of non-premium paying traffic. From the carrier's standpoint, that's not a problem. Who cares if other traffic can't get through? T
  • List (Score:4, Informative)

    by ndansmith (582590) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @01:56PM (#15533749)
    Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo has a list of where senators stand on Net Neutrality here [talkingpointsmemo.com]. It still needs work, so if you have any information about your senator, you can contribute that info to TPM and they will update the list.

    More importantly, if you don't like where your senators stand, give them a call.

  • by mhlyo (736019) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @03:42PM (#15534593)
    The real problem that I don't see many people talking about is how this hurts the little guy (aka the next great thing). Google, Yahoo, eBay, Microsoft... they all have the money to pay the proposed extortion fees.

    But if I come up with the next YouTube, I not only have to pay for my bandwidth, I'll also have to pay fees to all the other providers so my site isn't slow for their customers. This model empowers the telcos to keep Google on top and YouTube on bottom.

    The FCC has provided protection of network neutrality up until just recently. All that is being asked is that it be reinstated so the telcos can't act on their short-sighted and greedy urges. So enough with the 'regulation is bad' crap. Do you really want to trust the telcos to do the right thing without it?!?

    Get informed. Get irate. Call your representative in the Senate. If you don't, you might regret it later.

    If you still don't get it, ask the ninja:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H69eCYcDcuQ [youtube.com]
  • We're going about this whole Net neutrality thing all wrong. I mean...all us techie, geeky types *know* why net neutrality is an important thing. We need to address this issue in a way the public can understand.

    Net neutrality will help us stalk Registered Sex Offenders (TM) and will help catch child predators on myspace.com. It will also help relieve gas prices and slow down illegal immigration.

    We have to present the story in a context of issues that actually have significance.

    I mean...come on guys...hav
  • Huh ?

    PAID people that believe and defend WHOEVER PAYS THEM FIRST.

    Whatever might be the truth, they set up fake grassroots organisations, launch advertisement and (dis)information campaigns in order to do the bidding of their payer.

    What kind of phenomenon is this ?

    What kind of democratic practice is this ? Liberty to get paid and DECEIVE or OUST anybody who might stand in the way.

    I can understand this with lawyers, it is a concept of HAVING to defend the defendant, with the FACTS at hand.

    Bu
  • by zymano (581466) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @06:05PM (#15535597)
    Backbone.
    http://www.businessweek.com/1998/29/b3587124.htm [businessweek.com]

    You knew they would try this. If you didn't then you are stupid.

    Cringley had a piece on this. I guess it doesn't make sense for them pay for a network that cannibalizes their long distance which voip does.http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit2005 0303.html

    Unlike this article. The phone companies DO own the net.
    http://www.networkingpipeline.com/blog/archives/20 06/05/big_money_boys.html [networkingpipeline.com]

    This is the end of the internet.
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060213/chester [thenation.com]

    We need LOWER prices and faster speeds. I don't the phone companies with their history and now their attack on this network are going to be for that.

    Ultimately we need a public municipal lowcost network with backbone owned by NO ONE.
  • The problem is that the average bandwidth per customer of these ISPs is going up (because they are downloading more).
    The solution is to increase costs. ISPs should stop offering "Unlimited" and start adding either bandwidth limits (use more than that and you get a bill at the end of the month) or traffic shaping (I dont mean discriminating by protocol, I mean that you get full speed on all protocols untill you have used a certain amount of bandwidth then you go down to a slower speed on all protocols, my IS
  • by gnovos (447128) <gnovosNO@SPAMchipped.net> on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @07:25PM (#15536206) Homepage Journal
    A lot more informative, and in video form:

    http://www.askaninja.com/news/2006/05/11/ask-a-nin ja-special-delivery-4-net-neutrality [askaninja.com]

    network neutrality == gluereed

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