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Two-Tier Internet & The End of Freedom of Speech 364

Max Fomitchev writes "The proposed Two-Tier Internet bill threatens not only to raise prices on goods and services served online but also to seriously hamper free speech on Internet by allowing telecom providers choking user pages and blogs not associated with major content providers. What a perfect way of censorship..."
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Two-Tier Internet & The End of Freedom of Speech

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  • Two steps to anarchy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:14PM (#15436243) Homepage
    telcos argue that they want to curb proliferation of online video and other types of data-hungry streaming that allegedly taxes their networks they think imposing traffic fees on content providers would be a fair solution. So ISP's (not TELCO's since not all ISP's are necessarily TELCO's) want to impose sort of a private highway fee for passing bandwidth through their networks... Its surprising to see which one of these clowns will be the first to stick it to the next one. Since all networks rely on another one to pass their information through their pipes (peering), I wonder how long before one de-peers with another and breaks the Internet again (see: Who broke *.org []).

    I wonder what idiotic government officials while having their pockets greased will do their emails no longer come in but instead they receive a hostage notification from their provider: Dear Mr. President, under subsection 1(a)(b)(c)(d)(e) of the Draconian Telecommunications Act, we cannot deliver today's messages. Please pay the sum of a) bandwidth b) tax fees c) attorney fees d) greaser fees in order to release your messages.

  • Two Questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:17PM (#15436278)
    1. From a "free speech" point of view, how is this any different than than your local newspaper's editorial policy? Some newspapers just won't print some kinds of content, even if the author is willing to pay for the service.

    2. Does this form of content limitation take away any of the rights you had before the dawn of email? Back in the day, we wrote pen & paper letters because it was the only option. Today, although letters are (probably) more secure, because they are not subject to the kind of keyword data mining that can be conducted on electronic communications, we seem stuck on email. Do we need to be?

  • by binarstu ( 720435 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:27PM (#15436384)
    A tiered internet would be the same as keeping the peasants out of libraries. It's a huge step *backwards*. I'm not quite sure about your analogy. Under a two-tiered Internet, the content providers pay extra, not the "peasants" who are merely browsing in the "library." In other words, you have to have more resources to publish information, which is how existing print media has always worked.
  • by Wellington Grey ( 942717 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:33PM (#15436435) Homepage Journal
    That's it. I'm sending in the ninjas [].

    -Grey []
  • by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:33PM (#15436437) Homepage
    whether the industry should be allowed to discriminate based on traffic type and content, rather than pricing by bandwidth consumption alone. There is nothing written that states a provider has to pass traffic for another. Providers with their peering agreements agree to pass X through their networks as a means of allowing their traffic to traverse a competitors. While I see their arguments for bandwidth consumption when it becomes extreme, I see this as a ploy to eliminate competition and charge higher prices. Its not a matter of discriminating someone's views or content from my inference but more of a "how can we profit". What people should do is get together for a month long protest against these telco's... Place high content bandwidth consuming content on their sites... Waste time and money call up customer service to complain... Waste resources sending emails complaining both to officials and the providers... Call and speak to billing departments expressing concerns (more wasted money for the providers)... Threaten to jump to X Provider... Post the results for someone to analyze and do it all again. Hit em where it hurts.
  • Re:REDACTED (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRC'99 ( 96526 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:34PM (#15436445) Homepage
    This strikes a good note with me at the moment... There's a fault with a section of the Southern Cross data cable that connects Australia to the US. This means it currently has limited access. Suddenly, my ISP lost *all* international connectivity. Interestingly enough, when I use a proxy of my ISPs upstream provider, I can get through to international sites.

    This makes me think that there is already a two-tier internet - as this case obviously demonstrates. It seems that their wholesale traffic/customers aren't as important as its own. Nice way to wipe out tens of thousands of users off a network.

    Food for thought.
  • by artjermyn ( 908361 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:37PM (#15436476)

    Under a two-tiered Internet, the content providers pay extra, not the "peasants" who are merely browsing in the "library."

    Nope. The "peasants" will pay more. It will cost more to push the information out to the peasants, so the "peasants" will pay more by increased cost for the products or a reduction in information/services.
  • Hyperbole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:37PM (#15436477) Homepage Journal
    Freedom of speech is violated when there are legal consequences from government for saying what you think. This is not that. We had freedom of speech before the internet even existed, I don't see how we're losing it with a tiered system. Don't misunderstand, I don't agree with or like the "tiered" internet approach, but this hyperbolic language about what is and is not a loss of basic human rights is not conductive to the debate. It trivializes TRUE abuses and suspensions of human rights, and clouds the issue in people's minds. When people don't understand what something is, they can't make intelligent decisions about it.
  • by shreak ( 248275 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:38PM (#15436487)
    I agree that we don't need a net neutrality law but it's not as straight forward as you state it.

    The ISPs bought their equipment with their money, yes?
    Yes... mostly
    Why should they not run their equipment how they choose
    It's where they put that equipment that fuzzes the issue. The old school telco's also were allowed to run cables through public right of way, i.e. land that belongs to you and me. They were not charged for this, the cable is still there and is still used.

    Also, part of your phone bill is required to go towards the cost of providing phone service to rural areas where it's not as profitable (thus probably wouldn't get any service at all.)

    This is arguably a tax, thus making it public funds. Therefore part of the equipment in use is paid for my you and me.

    I think a big part of the problem is access (cable, towers, etc...) is bundled with service (phone switches, ISP equipment,etc...)

    If access were separate from service then we could pay for bytes from any service. Pay my access provider (perhaps my municipality or local coop) and have hookups with multiple services (ISP,phone,cable...) and pay for what I want.

  • by AnonymousJackass ( 849899 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:39PM (#15436499)
    I got an email (genuine, not spam) from EBay this morning encouraging users to write to congress about this. It links you to this page: _id=neutrality1 []
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:46PM (#15436559) Journal
    There's nothing wrong with paying more for better service, for example a connection to a bigger pipe. That being said, this isn't what's happening. Rather, it's that you would be forced to pay for a transit-party (between you, your own ISP, and the client connecting to your site) to not degrade the regular connection. The problem is, that the connection has already been paid for. On the end of the client... to their ISP by them. If they don't want to pay for a higher-speed connection, then with dial-up or low-speed they will get overall lower performance. Fair enough

    On your end, you have bandwidth and pipe limits imposed by your ISP. If you want more, you pay for the bigger package. Again, it depends on what service contract you choose.

    What should not happen, is that the client's ISP will bill you (after the client is already paying for service) not to choke off your access. This also applies to the midpoints in the connection, and somebody has already footed the bill.

    It's double-dipping, and it's extortion. It also strays far from the concept of an ISP being somewhat of a common carrier, and shows blatently that the can (and will abuse the ability to) monitor and/or restrict specific traffic.

    If this passes it will be a dark day for the internet indeed... but if it does my hopes are that the first ones to try it will be hammered so mercilessly (lost customers, complaints, legislation, and banner ads everywhere proclaiming to existing customers that their ISP is evil) that the idea will quickly lose it's appeal.

    That being said, perhaps we can create a master-pool of ISP's that use said service. In that case we could create something similiar to an anti-spam list wherein customers will get a memo stating "connections to this site will suffer extremely slowness and loss of quality because your ISP 'ASSHATINTERNETCO' is limiting your connection. Click here [link] for more information". I'd be happy to pop those up on my site, and it's easy enough with SHTML, etc.

    Anyone in?
  • by TonyXL ( 33244 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:48PM (#15436572) Journal
    The pro-freedom approach would be to let fiber owners (telcoms) charge whomever and whatever they want to use the lines that THEY OWN. If these telcos start charging content providers, the cost may be shifted to users, but new companies would start laying more fiber to grab some of the profits, and the increased competition would bring prices back down in the long run. Plus, there'd be a lot more line capacity out there, which would not happen with "net neutrality".

    If it were up to this guy, bookstores couldn't charge different prices for different books--that would amount to abridging "freedom to read" by his logic.

    Freedom of speech means you can speak freely. It DOES NOT mean that you are entitled to be provided with the means (internet, microphone, megaphone) to speak.

    Also: at the 3rd paragraph, this guy admits he's a socialist, so his credibility to talk about freedom is GONE.
  • Re:Two Questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lysander Luddite ( 64349 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:40PM (#15437142)
    The wires and machines are the medium that the messages are conveyed. Think of them as air. One cannot claim ownership of the air as a private right unless it has been granted a monopoly by the government (in the US usually the FCC). If one could then airlines and satellite TV signals would have to be be nogoitated on an individual level.

    The Internet was built with US public tax dollars. Most of the private carriers you mention are regulated (phone companies and cable companies). ISPs themselves rarely own the wires, they're owned by cable or phone companies. They are often third parties, although in the US broadband ISPs are usually phone or cable companies thanks to US regulations of open access to wires being thrown out.

    If one thinks of the Internet as a system, public infrastructure or utility then one can understand many (but not all!) of the characterstics of the Internet. Those entities are regulated for the good of all citizens and participants.

    The phone and cable companies want to frame this issue as one of private ownership. The Internet must remain as a space that is not owned by any one industry or consortium of iindustries. Doing so will eliminate meritocracy for all groups be they political, economic, or social in nature.

    Off topic, but in the US phone companies were deregulated in the 90s and allowed to compete in the long distance marketplace. The phone companies promised to build out their networks yet they reneged on that promise. There is plenty of "dark fiber" in the major networks and backbones, but the real profit area is "the last mile" which is where broadband customers are most vulnerable.

    I see no reason to trust phone and cable companies when they spend millions of dollars on advertising trying to frame this debate as one of regulation of private property. History shows that neither industry serves the best interests of their customers, but of their shareholders and executives.
  • by thule ( 9041 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:07PM (#15437402) Homepage
    The idea that no one "owns" the net itself should be inviolate. I already am charged for the bandwidth that comes off my servers because of the cost incurred by my ISP for upstream bandwidth. ... and the big guys don't pay for all their bandwidth either. I'm surprised that no one on slashdot brings up peering. Yahoo apparently only pays for half of it's bandwidth. The other half of their bandwidth requirements flow over direct peering links to ISP's. Is this unfair? It saves the ISP money and the content provider money. Plus they get a short-cut -- lower latency, less hops. My gosh, that seems like an unfair advantage! Do you get free bandwidth for your servers?

    Another thing is that I imagine that colo companies may pay for tiering and advertise that to their customers. This would allow any old blog to get special handling at a large colo.

    It seems to me that very few people have actually thought more than two steps ahead on the economics of a tiered Internet. Personally, I would be interested to see how the marketplace would work out. I suspect it will not be like the FUD says it will be.
  • by zenasprime ( 207132 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:36PM (#15438797) Homepage
    ...Hey, lets get our townships, counties, and other municipalities to charge the ISPs for usage of local land to run their lines. AFter all, why should I let them run their lines accross my property and not get a cut of the profits. :)
  • Re:The difference? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by evil_tandem ( 767932 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:56PM (#15440033)
    There is no monopoly unless your local people cause it to be so.

    It is not economically feasible to run pipes to everyone. Most places in the US have such an arrangement (tax subsidies/etc). Once the pipes are in place however the carriers want to start abusing the situation. Since possession is 9/10-ths, for the most part they get their way.

    It is disingenuous to imply that anyone could go out tomorrow and just recreate much of this infrastructure with private funds.

    The several competing providers who have chosen to set up in my area are trying very hard to win me over, always offering better deals and counter-deals on bandwidth.

    Understand your situation is unique, not the norm. I have lived in several major cities, and several different urban areas in the last few years. The most I have ever seen in any place at once is 2. The phone carrier (about whom you had no choice), and the cable operator (who you also had no choice about). Most places I have lived had just one choice.

    ou have only your locally elected people to blame for a less competitive environment

    To be fair, it has more to do with population density than elected officials. When your local government subsidizes pipe because it is uneconomical for a company to do it, it is not reasonable that the company then gets a monopoly over it. Through lobbying, and because it is prohibitively expensive to lay down extra lines, most companies have managed to get a monopoly in any given area.

    Recognizing that a third party is routing an enormous portion of their traffic over your finite network, and making a lot of money doing so, does make talking to that user about traffic optimization a very legitimate objective.

    This logic is flawed. Without their content no one would want your pipes. It seems to me equally fair that the ISP should have to pay Google for helping it's customers find what they want on the network. Google is providing your customers incentive to buy your product at no cost to you. How is that fair? If all these terrible content production companies were not creating content, no one would want your network.

    A common carrier like UPS, you mean?

    Exactly like UPS. UPS does not get to double charge everyone. One side pays the price, they deliver the product. UPS does not get to collect my $10 shipping fee, then tell Amazon that if they do not also pay them they will intentionally delay the delivery of my package. If it costs more to deliver my package to me in one place than another, UPS will charge me more, not go to Amazon.

    You suffer from the delusion that Google is the local ISP's customer. They are not. The user requesting the information is your customer, and he is already paying you for that service. Google owes you nothing.

    If your customers want Google to be tiered then that is between you and the customers. It is in your best interest to give your customers better access to the content they want, not visa-versa.

    The reason ISP's want this is for the opposite reason. It gives them bundling control many of them are traditionally used to having. Bundling phone service for example. Either Vonage pays us to provide phone service to our customers (and we make money by leveraging one product for another), or we drop you and get someone else (or themselves) to do it.

    It is never in the customers best interest to be told what is best for them based on who gives the carrier the most amount of money. The only reason they can get away with this is because most of them do have a monopoly in any given area so the customers can't choose something less draconian. If this were not the case I would agree that market forces would work this out.

  • by SiliconEntity ( 448450 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:31PM (#15440291)
    This is not an issue of your rights online. It is a battle between two enormous business groups: Internet providers and content providers. Neither of them has your interests at heart! Both groups are primarily motivated by maximizing their own profits. They are using you and manipulating you in order to try to further their business goals.

    I don't love my ISP any more than the next guy, but let me make a brief counter to all the propaganda from Google and Ebay and MSN about the "greedy" ISPs (of course, Google etc. are just in business to extend love and butterflies and puppies throughout the world).

    The way people pay for and get charged for the Internet has changed over time. It used to be that many of us had to pay by the minute, or even by the byte. That has mostly disappeared, but we still pay more for better service. Not everyone has the same options for Internet access, and even if they do have the same options not everyone can afford the same access. Internet access is a business, and a relatively new one. Business models are evolving and there is no guarantee that today's model is the perfectly optimal, best possible way that people could pay for Internet access.

    It might be that if ISPs could get some money from content providers, they would charge their customers less. Of course, they would not do this out of the goodness of their hearts (they have no hearts!), but rather for the same business reasons that they stopped their per-minute and per-byte charges. ISPs exist in a competitive business environment like other companies and ultimately they need to satisfy their customers.

    It might even be that in the future, Internet access could be free. It would effectively be subsidized by the big content companies, which ultimately get their income from ads. Free access to Internet content could be supported by advertising. It has worked with other media and it's possible it could work for the net too. But the only way it can happen is if ISPs, which bear the cost of end-user access, are able to get some of the revenues from the companies that are offering the ads.

    That's really what this battle is all about. I don't know how it will come out, but I do know that when good ol' Meg from Ebay suddenly wants me to write my congresswoman about an issue that, coincidentally, would protect the huge profits Meg is earning, her motive is not to benefit me. Meg doesn't actually ask my opinion all that often. She's not on the phone wishing me happy birthday or asking how's the family. No, her interests are not mine. She is looking to protect her company's profits and she is trying to influence me and use me in this political battle against Comcast and other ISPs.
  • by paeanblack ( 191171 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @11:21PM (#15441585)
    You'd still be charged $X but Google would be charged $N for no good reason.

    That is already the case: try out the following.

    Call up your local telco, introduce yourself as Joe Schmoe geek that wants a real connection. Call again as the CIO of Inc. and order the exact same thing.

    The difference is usually upwards of 5x the price, simply for being a company. The future you fear is already business as usual. Welcome to the real world.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.