Tell The FCC, Congress To Support Net Neutrality

Net neutrality advocates are gathering momentum to take Comcast to the woodshed for an old fashioned populist beating. Comcast believes that deliberately destroying connections to the popular communications protocol BitTorrent amounts to “reasonable network management,” which the FCC permits. Advocates figure if they can’t ride the net neutrality pony to Congressional passage now, it will forever lie dormant in the stable munching on BitTorrent packet hay.

ISPs want to block BitTorrent, ban political text messages, and censor concert lyrics. The only political solution to bad faith is to strip of ISPs of their right to discriminate.

Net neutrality advocates want two things: hearings in the Congressional Commerce Committees; and for the FCC to join them at the woodshed to slap Comcast with a massive fine. Now is the time to write to your Members of Congress, write to the FCC Commissioners, and visit SaveTheInternet.com.

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(Photo: SuziJane)

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  1. m0unds says:

    A company protecting its network and consumers from abusive p2p bandwidth use is totally acceptable from a management standpoint. This still has nothing to do with the legitimate cause of net-neutrality crusaders.

  2. gibbersome says:

    Woot! Let this be a warning to those seeking to erode our right to free communication.

  3. Skiffer says:

    The issue isn’t that simple…

    Net neutrality isn’t just about blocking BitTorrent or censorship – it’s about who will pay for the network infrastructure.

    The “anti-neutrality” telecom companies want the content providers to pay a fees based on their bandwith usage. Will this leave room for shady deals and preferential fees for some websites (i.e., “discrimination”)? Sure. But it should ultimately lower the cost of internet access to the consumer…

    The “pro-neutrality” people want no fees. This will ultimately end up raising the cost to the consumer.

    Did anyone realize that, with cable’s “shared bandwith” characteristics, Comcast throttling BitTorrent probably increased the connection speed for the average non-large-file-downloading customer?

    Of course, one way or another, Comcast will find a way to rape both parties of every precious penny they can – but I’m just saying please don’t take the simple-minded approach of just falling for the terminology:

    “Neutrality sounds good…it must be good”
    and
    “Discrimination = bad”

  4. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @Skiffer:

    “… should ultimately lower the cost of internet access to the consumer …”

    BS. If telecoms start working out deals with content providers for bandwidth usage, the end customers aren’t going to see any of it. It will just be more money in the telcos pockets.

  5. Skiffer says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: Yeah, unfortunately I agree. The “lower cost to consumers” is usually the arguing point of the telecoms…but you know they’ll just keep the consumer cost the same and boost their earnings…

    I’m just a bit hesitant to have to pay 5x for internet because the other consumers are downloading 8 GB dvd rips…or have a bandwith usage fee levied against me…

  6. Did anyone realize that, with cable’s “shared bandwith” characteristics, Comcast throttling BitTorrent probably increased the connection speed for the average non-large-file-downloading customer?

    @Skiffer: The people using BitTorrent are Comcast customers too.

  7. Skiffer says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I understand, and I think the BitTorrent case is pretty reprehensible.

    I just meant that Comcast may have affected (made up numbers) 10% of its users who hogged 60% of the bandwith to improve service for the other 90% of the customers. But yes, the whole censorship aspect is horrible and a bad decision on their part.

    But net neutrality is not just about censorship or discrimination – it’s about who is going to pay for the internet.

    Think about this – compared to 5 yrs ago, how much has your bandwith usage increased? I’ve gone from page surfing/reading to watching online videos. My bandwith usage has probably jumped 100x or more. Now, who should pay for that? Me or Youtube? I’m just greedy and don’t want it to be me.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    If ISPs get to pick and choose what speech is allowed, and what kinds of traffic get what priority, does that mean they aren’t Common Carriers, and does that mean that they become liable for the traffic on their network? (ie, can they be held liable for transmitting child pornography, copyright infringement, etc.)

  9. Instigator says:

    The main problem is that the majority of United States legislators – of both parties – are appallingly ignorant about how the Internet is structured and operates. Most believe the Internet is mainly a conduit for porn and pirated music, movies, etc., and as such is a problem in and of itself. They are not at all tech savvy, yet unwilling to educate themselves about the relevant issues involved. Add to this ignorance their inclination to support corporate interests, and achieving net neutrality is truly an up(Capitol)hill battle.

  10. Skiffer says:

    @TechnoDestructo: I wouldn’t think so…

    It’s not really so much about content as bandwidth. The theory is that high-bandwidth content providers, like video sites, would be charged more than low-bandwidth providers like text sites.

    I don’t think the BitTorrent fiasco was so much motivated by “BitTorrent’s used for illegal sharing” as it was “Jesus, BitTorrent uses a lot of bandwidth”

  11. Omi says:

    @SKIFFER

    Net neutrality isn’t just about blocking BitTorrent or censorship – it’s about who will pay for the network infrastructure.

    The “anti-neutrality” telecom companies want the content providers to pay a fees based on their bandwith usage. Will this leave room for shady deals and preferential fees for some websites (i.e., “discrimination”)? Sure. But it should ultimately lower the cost of internet access to the consumer…

    Huh? I guess you don’t run a web site then do you? I have a small website and I pay my web host based on, among a few other things, largely how much bandwidth my site uses. If I use more bandwidth I have to pay more money. I also pay as a an internet user to see such content.

    Site hosts pay for the bandwidth to have their content on the internet, users pay to get said content, then what else can you be charged for? How about getting the service you already paid for?

    Perhaps you should read up a bit more on the issue.
    Educate your self:

    Wikipedia’s description of Net Neutrality:
    [en.wikipedia.org]

    Google on Net Neutrality:
    [www.google.com]

    Youtube video :D Jello Biafra (former singer of The Dead Kennedys) on Net Neutrality:
    [www.youtube.com]

  12. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    don’t forget wearetheweb.org!

  13. badlydrawnjeff says:

    STOP GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION! Dear god, people. Stop trusting authority!

  14. Hamm Beerger says:

    Skiffer’s got everything exactly right. Comcast is killing bittorrent because bittorrent is killing their network upstream.

    It’s not about censorship or even about Comcast being cheap about upgrading bandwidth. There’s only so much upstream bandwidth available on a cable plant, and that limited frequency range is (to a certain extent) shared between you and your neighbors. Until bittorrent that was no big deal, most ISP traffic was downstream (and the nature of cable is that there’s plenty of downstream). But with torrents Johnny Filesharer down the street can easily fill up his upstream, and if there are a couple of Johnnys on a node they’ll start impacting your email and surfing performance. Then you’ll be pissed, and you’ll want your ISP to do something about it. And that something is called Sandvine.

    There’s no easy solution to this. Sandvine is the best they’ve got right now… if you can come up with something better (and getting Congress to ban Sandvine is NOT better) then you’ll be a very rich person.

  15. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @ Jim Thome:

    OK, how about they sell/advertise speeds to their customers that they can reliably meet without having to throttle traffic? Crazy, I know…

  16. jamar0303 says:

    Or how about we get some decent internet in America so that there’s no need for bandwidth throttling anymore. If Japan can run 100M fiber across their country, at the very least we can do it in big metro areas or Silicon Valley. So why isn’t anyone doing it (FiOS doesn’t quite cut it)?

  17. Skiffer says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: Not exactly straight-forward with the “shared bandwidth” cable set-up. It would require a lot of extra unused “reserve” band-width, raising the cost to the consumer. If you want guaranteed speeds, get DSL.

    Anyone know how Verizon FIOS is structured? Dedicated like DSL, or shared like cable?

  18. Xkeeper says:

    Simple, yet amazing, concept:

    Let’s say you’re Comcast.

    You have 50kB of upstream bandwidth available for a group of 5 people.

    Are you going to advertise and give 10kB per person, or are you just going to say you have, say, 25kB of bandwidth per person, and hope nobody uses more than 10?

    Comcast is overselling its bandwidth, and they have nobody to blaim but themselves. You don’t “magically” start crossing into other people’s bandwidth if the cable company wants to stop it.

  19. louisb3 says:

    @Skiffer: Forcing ISPs not to extract protection money from content providers doesn’t “raise prices” for the consumer; it just prevents them from being (hypothetically) lowered.

    The cost to the consumer is bigger than merely bandwidth. Telcos trying to get extra fees for preferential treatment damages any given entity’s ability to create online content of any kind, because the costs are higher to get useful bandwidth. As a result, innovative businesses with little capital will fail where they would have succeeded, and John Q. Public’s ability to get on a digital soapbox and engage in political discourse is harmed. Both ultimately hurt the consumer/citizen immeasurably.

    @badlydrawnjeff: “Government = authority = distrust” is just reactionary. Governments act, at least hypothetically, and at least in some cases, because of the will of the people. We distrust ISPs (and there’s not enough competition for a trustworthy ISP to emerge), so we (attempt to) act through the government to limit their ability to abuse their power. I doubt you’d argue that we should distrust government to, say, stop murders from occurring.

  20. Skiffer says:

    @louisb3: It will not necessarily stifle competition or innovation, and the Dept of Justice has already ruled on that:

    [consumerist.com]

  21. Skiffer says:

    From the link I just gave:

    “The term “net neutrality” encompasses a variety of proposals that seek to regulate how broadband Internet providers transmit and deliver Internet traffic over their networks,” DoJ said in a statement. “The department stated that precluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers.”

    The department said “it may make economic sense for content providers who want a higher quality of service to pay for the Internet upgrades necessary to provide such service.”

  22. Hamm Beerger says:

    Franklin – That’s a good point, Comcast (and all the cable providers) have backed themselves into a corner by promising high upstream speeds that were sustainable two or three years ago. Then bittorrent came around, and 768k per customer became kind of ridiculous.

    Xkeeper – Basically, the same response applies. But you’re over simplifying a bit. DOCSIS creates problems for cable companies where customers do “magically” start crossing into each other’s bandwidth.

  23. Skiffer says:

    @Omi: Google isn’t exactly an unbiased source…

    Funny thing, though…BitTorrent is hoping for non-neutrality laws:
    [news.bbc.co.uk]

    To which end [Bram Cohen]’s done a deal with Warner Brothers to help them to distribute their movies on BitTorrent.

    One of the things that’s hoped might sweeten the deal is a new kind of faster torrent which the makers hope will make the current version look like paint drying. At the same time it will also unblock those congested pipes, so that his invention can avoid getting banned from networks quite so often.

    “Discrimination” and “censorship” and “neutrality” are all just buzzwords for the neutrality proponents to evoke a base emotional response and collude the real issues…

    Doing the same, “net neutrality” makes the internet communistic while “anti neutrality” makes the internet a capitalistic free market…

  24. Geekybiker says:

    For me the point isnt about censorship so much.

    Everyone pays for their internet bandwidth. I pay my end of the connect to be served a certain bitrate. The companies online pay per GB and for line speed. Point being that the connection is already paid for. ISP’s essentially want to be able to charge per GB for their customers without appearing to do so. After all its the high bandwidth traffic that really annoys them. They’d love to advertise 50mb/s but restrict it such that the only time you get that is low bandwidth applications where it doesnt really matter.

    I sort of wish we would just goto a GB/month usage model like alot of places. Companies would be falling over themselves to upgrade your bandwidth. Pleading for HD streaming video, etc. They could make more money for more usage then. Right now there is a financial disincentive to give us any more bandwidth.

  25. Omi says:

    @Skiffer:
    Ok then, think of one mildly obscure site you love to visit for me.



    Are you thinking of it? Good. Now imagine that ISPs started taking money so their content would be prioritized. Could that obscure site you love afford that same sort of prioritizing? Probably not. Now all the big companies and super popular sites start paying for their site to be prioritized, do you think you’ll be able to get very good speeds from that small, obscure site you love? You’ll probably find after awhile that you feel like you’re on dial up.

    Now do you truly believe that with this tiered internet that some company won’t slip in some sneaky TOS in there that prohibits you from speaking out against the company or some policy of theirs? If you do then I feel you are truly naive. Now surely with this tiered internet model there will be hundreds or maybe thousands of employees who have to build lists of which sites get what level of service. That’s a whole lot of power in the hands of people many people some of whom may or may not have any scruples. Surely you can imagine some unscrupulous employee who, say doesn’t like gay people, and places gay rights sites so low on the food chain that they practically don’t exist.

    Well, just arrest that unscrupulous employee then right? That may be a bit harder than you think in practice. This could easily be covered up with claims that there was an unspecified problem with the database, and of course the ISP would probably cover it up because they don’t want to be associated with discriminating against homosexuals, that would be scandalous. This would make freedom of speech near impossible to protect on the internet because any time a scandal like this would occur ISP would just hide behind the guise of unspecified problems.

    That’s not the only problem either, because ISPs have been so deregulated in the United States in many area’s a customer can only really choose from a handful of ISPs, for example, where I live I can either sit around with Verizon-face all day or have a Comcraptastic day!

    Tell me what part of this sound like it is at all beneficial to the consumer. Perhaps it’s time you remember what happens to industries in the free market when there are no ground rules. Go and read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (a book by an awesome communist author) and remember that this to was a capitalistic free market as well.

  26. Skiffer says:

    @Omi: All the “censorship” threats are independent of net neutrality – there’s already been some isolated cases of censorship. Net neutrality is not about censorship – censorship can occur with or without price-tiers. Discrimination and lack of free speech or just emotional appeals and threats to collude the issues – they could, and have, happened regardless. They have to be dealt with either way.

    As far as “stifling” smaller companies and competition by throttling their bandwidth, there are plenty of other examples in the economy where large companies enjoy other advantages because of scale – either in cost of materials, priority, etc. Small companies will just need to take that into consideration and deal with it and adapt their business plan.

    Won’t smaller companies also be threatened when ISPs have to raise the default content provider rates because of bigger/faster sites like Google, Youtube – when otherwise they’d have access to a cheaper price tier to start off and grow into?

    And there’s a bit of difference between federal guidelines for food and drug preparation, and guidelines for internet speeds – one deals directly with human well-being, instead of human comforts.

    So to use that example of human well-being – what happens when someone makes a 911 call over VoIP, but it can’t go through because all his neighbors are playing Halo 3? Because Halo 3 is deemed just as important as an emergency call? What happens when a remote surgery is interrupted and the patient dies, because the latest movie release hits BitTorrent?

    Extreme examples, I know, but potential future implications of not being able to implement a tiered internet…

  27. magus_melchior says:

    By “old-fashioned populist beating”, does that mean we get to use tar and feathers?

    Or how about the 21st-century equivalent of epoxy and CDs?

  28. Omi says:

    @Skiffer:

    To others here I’m sorry this has digressed into what is essentially a flame war. Now then, lets get started, shall we?

    First off, in regards to 911 calls your concerns are unfounded. When Net Neutrality was first conceptualized, before it was even referred to as Net Neutrality was government dispatch, aka emergency services such as police, fire department, and ambulances (ok so things remote surgury isn’t on that list, but that kind of thing didn’t exactly exist even as an idea when these guidelines were conceptualized, it would, without a doubt, be included). These thing would clearly be exemptions and given priority on a network. This is in the very first paragraph of the history of Net Neutrality in the Wikipedia article. Basically proving to me that you have not taken time to learn about the subject at hand, but rather, you are just rehashing the tired, misinformed arguments that keep getting put forth. And it’s a good thing you did too because now we can lay to rest one of the biggest misconceptions about Net Neutrality.

    Now then, censorship is not unrelated to net neutrality because what Net Neutrality says, in essences is that the owners of the lines, can’t stop users from sending or receiving messages, for any reason. Now it is understood that not every message will go through simply because service providers aren’t perfect, things happen. Yes censorship would happen regardless, but on a tiered internet it would be impossible to deal with because you won’t be able to differentiate between censorship, and some actual honest mistakes and errors.

    And as for stifling smaller companies by throttling their bandwidth, wait this isn’t just about smaller companies is it? Any website is subject to getting shifted because they don’t pay the extra money to not get throttled.

    And in regards to companies and the economy, yes bigger companies do enjoy other advantages in the economy because of things like size, scale and the amount of money they can throw around. So why give them yet another advantage by not setting rules that stop big companies from stifling little ones.

    Net Neutrality is also not about making the price of internet access all or nothing in regards to bandwidth, Net Neutrality is about all or nothing in terms of content. Either ISPs allow all their customers access to all forms of content or be penalized, this is to stop hypothetical cases such as this: [www.boingboing.net] , from becoming reality. Bandwidth can still be happily sold at a per-use basis. Again you misunderstand the issue.

    Yes there’s a bit of difference between federal regulations for food and drug manufactures, and regulations on internet service providers, but you missed the point of what I said (I was honing in on the anti-competitive side of things, and the complete company control, I think perhaps my analogy was a bad one, I’ll come up with something better). With out regulations to make everything fair the the large companies grow too powerful. And when the large companies grow too powerful the consumer loses out.