Net Neutrality Supporters Are Kinda Sorta Right

In my opinion, AT&T is being pretty arrogant by treating their customers as "theirs." It's hard for me to imagine a company like SpeakEasy or InReach ever doing something like this. AOL and Earthlink probably have the clout to pull it off and have declined. Hopefully I won't get sued for posting this, but last I knew AOL and Hotmail peered directly and no money changed hands for the arrangement. AOL sees that their customers want to get to Hotmail, so they make it easy for them by having a fat pipe directly to Hotmail.

This reminds me of back in the "old days" (i.e. the 90s) when I was working at InterNex. Our customers were complaining about horrid performance to any web site hosted by MCI. It turned out that MCI was allowing their connections to the public peering points to become completely saturated with no intention of upgrading them. Their view was that if the little guys wanted to get to "their" customers (who were also paying them) they should also become MCI customers. MCI basically tried to create their own private little Internet. And look where it got them. What a crappy company.

Anyway, I seriously doubt the Googles of the world want to be dealing with paying a bunch of different ISPs for access to those ISPs' customers, when the customers are already paying for access to the whole Internet.

In a truly free market where AT&T hadn't been handed Death Star status on a silver platter, this would all be pretty irrelevant. If people wanted nondiscriminatory access to different services, they'd choose an ISP that provided that. But unfortunately this is not the world we live in right now, and a narrow net neutrality law that was restricted to government-granted-monopolies would probably not be particularly harmful and might even help out a bit.

The potential damage would come from preventing business models like free or extremely cheap access in exchange for getting crappy performance to "non-preferred" sites. Isn't this how most health insurance works anyway? There's probably a bit of a problem with setting more of a precedent for regulating the Internet, but such a narrow law would only apply to US companies and not really "the Internet" anyway. And we already had CAN-SPAM which in my opinion was the real Pearl Harbor of Internet regulation. Good thing it's been such a resounding failure.

BTW, I haven't been able to find anything definitive about Comcast's involvement or non-involvement in this whole thing. It seems like Comcast is staying out of it or even saying they have no intention of trying to charge people for access to their customers. Does anyone know?

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While I've been arguing

Speaking of Comcast, I know

Speaking of Comcast, I know I've seen advertisements from them about phone service, and believe I heard a commercial about an online video service a few days ago which also mentioned a whopping 6 megabit connection! Suffice to say that those services will be directly connected to their network and thus fast. They'll probably also be packaged up into deals as well.

The real and right question about this is: will every provider of pipes negotiate neutral peer agreements? I'm leaning towards yes.

So the potential problem is

So the potential problem is that very popular sites get nice peering arrangements for free, but suddenly the little startup nobody knows about does not. I guess this gets handled by their ISP who probably has to pay to be in some consortium that pays for access to large customer sets (or becomes it's own big player in the war over access charges). Ultimately it probably works out to something reasonable with no major access barriers for new companies, as long as there are still a number of large competitors providing access. I could see a lot of small players in all segments getting screwed in the transition, but you'd have to compare that with the screwage inherent in any new regulation.

I think most here have

I think most here have overlooked an odd feature: Even if every ISP went to tiered service, it would then look an awful lot like today's Cable-TV service. What many have overlooked is the fact that popular channels are not paying money to be carried by the cable companies, they are being PAID money.

So, if we assume people love, just like they love DisneyTV, then we must assume the results will be similar: SprintDSL will pay Google for the right to re-broadcast

This eventuality is obvious with a little thought: some parents sign up for cable simply to gain access to Disney programming, which means even a Cable monopoly must worry because to some subscribers pay-TV without Disney is not worth the money. Conversely, Pay-Internet without E-Bay may also not be worth the money.

Given this fact, I don't think it is proper to worry that the cable company will seek to restrict access to, we should worry that E-Bay is going to wake up and threaten to cut off service to Road Runner Customers if Road Runner doesn't pay up.

Remember how the Internet

Remember how the Internet was supposed to route around damage (because it was - apocryphally perhaps - supposed to survive a nuclear attack)? Remember how the Internet was supposed to interpret censorship as damage? Well, I have read a lot of ink spilled (a lot of keys tapped) on this subject of net neutrality but nobody has brought that aspect up. Is it that any time someone mentions it they're cens

"Remember how the Internet

"Remember how the Internet was supposed to interpret censorship as damage?"
Absolutely, there are very good technical solutions to any attempt at censorship from anyone mid-stream (such as China, Canada, or AT&T). At the same note, these same technical solutions can be brought to bare against ISPs (and content providers) through the use of proxy servers, remote DNS services, etc. etc.

The argument is that the majority of net users are too inept to utilize these solutions.

All of this said, I still suspect that any attempt to block access by any of the entities involved will risk violating customer expectations, spawning sufficient and sustained outrage to prevent future attempts.

Such extortion in the Cable industry I suspect is a product of the decades of monopolistic competition. While WAM may be a substitute for ToonDisney it isn't a very good one. And with network providers, DirecTV may be a substitute for Time Warner but it isn't a very good one.

Compare this to internet providers (60% of zip codes have 4 or more competitors) and content providers (E-Bay competes not just with Froogle but Best-Buy, Amazon, etc).

This dense and fierce competition is going to keep all sides sufficiently wrangled to prevent censorship of non-paying sites/providers.

Earthlink is not an option

Earthlink is not an option for right-thinking people, being founded (and I believe still owned) by a Scientologist, so I’m not even sure what they offer in the area.

Not a joke, Constant. Sky Dayton is indeed a Scientologist. He tried to run the company according to Scientology principles, but AFAIK that failed miserably. I think it's silly to avoid using them as an ISP just because of that. They seem to be one of the ISPs that "gets it" and AFAICT they provide decent service at a decent price. They are at the very least better than SBC/AT&T and AOL.

I'm no fan of Scientology. I worked for Netcom when they were being sued by Scientology (before they were acquired by Earthlink), and I was very disappointed when they settled. Netcom's settlement of that suit set a very dangerous precedent, and probably started the downhill slide that got us DMCA takedown notices. Scientology's litigiousness is deplorable, but it's mainly a symptom of the major problem, which is that we let lawyers run the country. Earthlink doesn't seem to have the same sort of litigation issues.

Anyone who avoids Earthlink just because of the Scientology connection deserves what they get (i.e. one less ISP to choose from).

Nolan: Comcast called me

Nolan: Comcast called me about their phone service a couple weeks ago. It's clearly only intended as a competitor to traditional phone service and not to *any* VoIP service, because they charge $45 a month for what SunRocket is providing at $17 a month. When I told her this she expressed disbelief, then said "wow, that's a great deal!" and told me to have a nice day. I wonder if she was able to read her script with the same conviction to the next person she called.

LoneSnark: Interesting observation. It could well make the whole Net Neutrality debate somewhat moot. It seems like now that the "digital divide" is almost nonexistent in the US, we're happening upon a new divide between people who have a choice of ISPs and realize it and those who don't. Why anybody with a choice uses SBC/AT&T is beyond me, other than the fact that they seem to be heavily subsidizing their own DSL to squash EarthLink. But their customers sure as heck pay for that subsidy. IMHO EarthLink should be the lowest common denominator and nobody should even think of using their telco as an ISP.

Personally, I use Comcast, and probably because San Jose has the newest infrastructure in the SJ Bay Area, it's never gone down that I've noticed. It's also fast as heck, at least downstream. Upstream is kind of pathetic (384k) (compared to what? Certainly not SBC/AT&T) but with QoS I've managed to stop the problems I was having with SunRocket while I'm running Azureus.

[sorry, 1 more point] Even

[sorry, 1 more point]
Even if a given area is serviced by few (or one) internet provider odds are good the providers are large and service a large swath of area, some of which is competitive and some that is not.

However, a company suffers a lot of overhead if it tries to impliment different policies for different areas. As such, to violate customer expectations through network-wide censorship will undoubtedly lose customers in your competitive areas.

It strikes me that network censorship is a form of price being inflicted upon network subscribers. For some people it costs them nothing, for some it costs them dearly (I only wanted internet to access E-Bay). Would it not be better to charge them directly without suffering the overhead? For example, areas of light competition can face higher prices without confusing your customers or fracturing your own network in an attempt to censor competitors only in certain areas. Sure, some will shun broadband at $45/month, just like some shunned internet without E-Bay, and some wont care about the higher prices just like they didn't care about accessing E-Bay.

The only difference I see is decreased costs and higher revenues when your ISP gives up trying to censor where possible and just starts monopoly pricing where possible :mrgreen:

Sean and LoneSnark: things

Sean and LoneSnark: things aren't quite so rosy outside the biggest internet consumer areas (NYC, Bay, etc.). Where I live (heavily urbanized, on the edge of 2 different million plus markets), DSL coverage is somewhat spotty. Maybe 85% of households and businesses have access to it. The only other consistent option for cheap broadband is cable. Lots of providers for leased lines, but until about a year ago, a T-1 link cost a minimum of $700/month. I was able to get low pricing for my business back in 2000 only by combining internet and phone on the same wire. Earthlink is not an option for right-thinking people, being founded (and I believe still owned) by a Scientologist, so I'm not even sure what they offer in the area.

I would expect that the situation here to be better than the median for the whole country, since we're a heavily populated area with a lot of internet dependent corporations and only 2 hours from the huge markets of NYC and Boston.

"as The Washington Post has

"as The Washington Post has reported, more than 60 percent of U.S. ZIP codes are served by four or more high-speed providers, a figure that will only continue to increase"

I enjoyed the Reason article on net neutrality:

not an option for

not an option for right-thinking people, being founded (and I believe still owned) by a Scientologist

A joke?

Not a joke, Constant. Sky

Not a joke, Constant. Sky Dayton is indeed a Scientologist.

That's not what I was hoping was a joke. I was hoping that someone isn't avoiding being a customer of a company because the owner is a Jew. Sorry, a Muslim. I mean a Scientologist.