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So long Internet... it was nice knowing you

Sinan's Photo Sinan 24 April 2014 - 01:37 PM

Well all the comments prove my point which is that this is a really tough issue to regulate. All of us debate this constantly ourselves and we never really come up with a solution that works for everyone. Regardless of how you come down on it, the network does require constant investment, maintenance, design and so on and someone has to pay for it. Someone said it always ends up with the consumer and they are right. I think the biggest problem with our telecoms strategy has been to let the access providers start buying up content. But no one ever contested these mergers as monopolistic and I doubt if anyone now is going to stand up and say something, Al Franken is a voice in a hail storm. As for the network costs, the big problem you have is that everything is now just data to the network. The regulations have been created over decades for separate services which are now all the same to a customer. That bait and switch ad above shows you which services the provider decided were just mooching off the network and not paying for access to clients. Vonnage is a perfect example. VOIP has to travel over someone's network. Did Vonnage pay anything to any provider to get access to homes and businesses? Nope. My opinion is that rural and urban America have two totally different needs, constraints, networks and should have two different sets of rules. Urban customers have many choices but there really is only one network that can scale and grow over time and that is a fiber to the home network. So say you live in Sacramento and some regulator has to figure out which provider should be told to provide just a dumb pipe. Which one should they pick and with what criteria? The MSO with an ancient HFC plant? The ISP that doesn't even own their own access network? The wifi or wisp? The satellite firm? The incumbent telco? If you force everyone to create competitive dumb pipes with equal access to any content then you are going to have multiple fibers to each house owned by different firms. Your house will start to look like a cell tower for Chrissakes.

Sometimes it just seems that some things are best done by a monopoly that is treated like a utility. That is my conclusion but don't quote me, plenty of folks in this industry disagree and they all have great arguments one way or the other.
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drdredel's Photo drdredel 24 April 2014 - 02:10 PM

@J-CA, I don't recall our government starting any actual (non figurative) crusades in the last 20 years. I'll grant you that the Iraq was quantifiably a more impactful decision than this one, and I already noted Citizens United, but I'm saying that this is up there with those levels of mistakes. You're welcome to disagree, but I'm saying that I'm not being comically hyperbolic in my usual way; It is my position that this is - non exaggerated - one of the worst decisions our government has made in multiple decades, as it will adversely affect ME.

There are two ways to look at this. One is "what's the worst thing that can happen?". The other is "who benefits/suffers in the most obvious ways based on this decision?"

The first question is less interesting to me because given the relevance of the internet the slope can only be *so slippery here. If comcast throttled bandwidth to everyone other than Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix so badly that people noticed a dramatic delay in trying to read the NYTimes the response would be swift and brutal.

So... let's consider the less dramatic, more subtle realities that I feel this represents.

There's a reason Comcast (and its ilk) are pushing so hard to not be forced to just be a dumb pipe. They stand to make a ton of money giving various players special access, and it makes it even less urgent for them to upgrade their infrastructure and put fiber into the ground everywhere since they can allocate their existing bandwidth in a way that really shrinks the throughput for non premium providers.

The reason I'm really upset about this is that this is a very large step backwards from the direction in which the rest of the world has moved in this regard. The Internet isn't a tool for gamers and video watchers anymore than the electricity in your house is there to power your electric shaver and blender - sure it does do that, but it's a much broader utility that gives power to just about everything we currently do as a society. Looking at it from that perspective, would you want PG&E to have the freedom to charge Whirlpool extra for powering their dishwashers vs GE? That notion seems preposterous but that's EXACTLY what this decision portends. Internet bandwidth shouldn't belong to Comcast. Yes they paid for the pipes in the ground, but that's a TINY fraction of the cost of innovation and engineering the bulk of which was borne by the tax payers as the Internet was developed by the military for 25 years. So, aside from being in NO way in the interest of the consumer that these companies be allowed to decide who has what sort of access, it's also fundamentally unfair that the end user would be punished for funding this huge and fabulous tool, only to then see its fruits go to massive corporations.

And just for comparison's sake, my ex-wife in Stockholm has a fiber pipe to her home for which she pays roughly $30 per month and through which she gets their BUDGET throughput of 100MbPS. Those same 100MbPS are available to me from Comcast over their NON-fiber cable line (which means that the actual throughput is in no way guaranteed to be that large) for $100 per month and that's the BEST they can offer me. If my ex wanted to she could pay $50 p/m and get the full 500Mbps throughput that is on offer.

S.Korea puts Sweden to shame for what they have available to their public both price and throughput wise.

And this decision just means that Comcast now has one less reason to give a crap about any of this.
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Sinan's Photo Sinan 24 April 2014 - 02:23 PM

Well if you start comparing us to the Swedes, the Swedes win every time. I spent a lot of time in Sweden over the years and sold a ton of routers to them. They were one of the most advanced nations right from the gitgo. I also worked at Ericsson. The Swedes as a people are immensely practical so the models they use usually end up serving the best interests of the Swedes first not the corporate giants. Even if they let Telia or Ericsson call the shots, those companies really do care about their customers, the nation of Sweden itself and do things that might not be in their own self-interest in order to help Sweden. We just don't operate that way unfortunately.

I think DD is trending towards my idea of some form of utility model but again, who gets to pick which company is the dumb pipe? As for the electrical metaphor, sorry but electric utilities are indeed going to start charging you more for that inefficient machine. That is one of the benefits to them of smart meters. Don't get me started on the energy sector. Talk about being at odds with the consumer...
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Banty's Photo Banty 24 April 2014 - 02:40 PM

 Sinan, on 24 April 2014 - 01:37 PM, said:

Well all the comments prove my point which is that this is a really tough issue to regulate. All of us debate this constantly ourselves and we never really come up with a solution that works for everyone. Regardless of how you come down on it, the network does require constant investment, maintenance, design and so on and someone has to pay for it. Someone said it always ends up with the consumer and they are right. I think the biggest problem with our telecoms strategy has been to let the access providers start buying up content. But no one ever contested these mergers as monopolistic and I doubt if anyone now is going to stand up and say something, Al Franken is a voice in a hail storm. As for the network costs, the big problem you have is that everything is now just data to the network. The regulations have been created over decades for separate services which are now all the same to a customer. That bait and switch ad above shows you which services the provider decided were just mooching off the network and not paying for access to clients. Vonnage is a perfect example. VOIP has to travel over someone's network. Did Vonnage pay anything to any provider to get access to homes and businesses? Nope. My opinion is that rural and urban America have two totally different needs, constraints, networks and should have two different sets of rules. Urban customers have many choices but there really is only one network that can scale and grow over time and that is a fiber to the home network. So say you live in Sacramento and some regulator has to figure out which provider should be told to provide just a dumb pipe. Which one should they pick and with what criteria? The MSO with an ancient HFC plant? The ISP that doesn't even own their own access network? The wifi or wisp? The satellite firm? The incumbent telco? If you force everyone to create competitive dumb pipes with equal access to any content then you are going to have multiple fibers to each house owned by different firms. Your house will start to look like a cell tower for Chrissakes.

Sometimes it just seems that some things are best done by a monopoly that is treated like a utility. That is my conclusion but don't quote me, plenty of folks in this industry disagree and they all have great arguments one way or the other.

Yeah, and I don't see a way around it.
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Banty's Photo Banty 24 April 2014 - 02:41 PM

 Sinan, on 24 April 2014 - 02:23 PM, said:

Well if you start comparing us to the Swedes, the Swedes win every time. I spent a lot of time in Sweden over the years and sold a ton of routers to them. They were one of the most advanced nations right from the gitgo. I also worked at Ericsson. The Swedes as a people are immensely practical so the models they use usually end up serving the best interests of the Swedes first not the corporate giants. Even if they let Telia or Ericsson call the shots, those companies really do care about their customers, the nation of Sweden itself and do things that might not be in their own self-interest in order to help Sweden. We just don't operate that way unfortunately.

I think DD is trending towards my idea of some form of utility model but again, who gets to pick which company is the dumb pipe? As for the electrical metaphor, sorry but electric utilities are indeed going to start charging you more for that inefficient machine. That is one of the benefits to them of smart meters. Don't get me started on the energy sector. Talk about being at odds with the consumer...

Shhhh... say that too loud and we'll start hearing about how the Swedes are specially-special (or we are), and they can't possibly be compared to us.
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J-CA's Photo J-CA 24 April 2014 - 02:58 PM

 drdredel, on 24 April 2014 - 02:10 PM, said:

The reason I'm really upset about this is that this is a very large step backwards from the direction in which the rest of the world has moved in this regard. The Internet isn't a tool for gamers and video watchers anymore than the electricity in your house is there to power your electric shaver and blender - sure it does do that, but it's a much broader utility that gives power to just about everything we currently do as a society. Looking at it from that perspective, would you want PG&E to have the freedom to charge Whirlpool extra for powering their dishwashers vs GE? That notion seems preposterous but that's EXACTLY what this decision portends.
This metaphor is completely broken. You pay for electricity based on how much you use, Internet access is not metered in that way.

 drdredel, on 24 April 2014 - 02:10 PM, said:

Internet bandwidth shouldn't belong to Comcast. Yes they paid for the pipes in the ground, but that's a TINY fraction of the cost of innovation and engineering the bulk of which was borne by the tax payers as the Internet was developed by the military for 25 years. So, aside from being in NO way in the interest of the consumer that these companies be allowed to decide who has what sort of access, it's also fundamentally unfair that the end user would be punished for funding this huge and fabulous tool, only to then see its fruits go to massive corporations.
Would you like to substantiate your claim that the research dollars that went into the Internet exceed the costs of the capital infrastructure for the US's entire cable and telephone system? I would be very interested to read it.
Seems like some pretty massive fruits are going to all the non-infrastructure Internet companies out there, are you interested in going after their margins too given they they are also piggy-backing on the very same research? (I would argue that they do it even more unjustly, their capital costs often start near zero.)

 drdredel, on 24 April 2014 - 02:10 PM, said:

S.Korea puts Sweden to shame for what they have available to their public both price and throughput wise.
And this decision just means that Comcast now has one less reason to give a crap about any of this.
South Korean and Sweden, as far as I know, also have large corporations in charge of their telecoms and Internet infrastructure that are ruthless and profit-seeking, I would say that a lot of different factors go into pricing.

To me a utility model makes the most sense, one where people pay for what they use and also pay to have a specific amount of burst bandwidth available to them.
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LFC's Photo LFC 24 April 2014 - 03:02 PM

 Banty, on 24 April 2014 - 02:41 PM, said:

Shhhh... say that too loud and we'll start hearing about how the Swedes are specially-special (or we are), and they can't possibly be compared to us.

F*** the Swedes and their evil plans!

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Sinan's Photo Sinan 24 April 2014 - 03:31 PM

In South Korea, the densities are very high so its easier and cheaper to put in fiber and wifi. In Sweden, they too live near each other but not nearly as close as SK. It comes down to priorities of the nation. We could do this if we made it a priority. The new broadband plan is an attempt to create a new plan and goal for the nation but it has split us into two different networks. Rural and urban networks. The rates assigned to each just happen to coincide with some of the bullshit the wireless industry got Janikowski to buy into, its basically a plan to let the mobile operators destroy the land line folks. We all argued for fiber to each home. It would have cost around 300 billion to do it nationally. But the Tea Party and the Obama FCC said no. There is now some effort to undo some of the damage Janikowski did to the telco industry. We are hopeful that they protect rural carriers and customers. But if you live in an urban area, you will have to rely upon the big boys upgrading your local network. They might get around to it one day but for now, they are cherry picking cities. Google did KC and now they are doing Austin. I got news for Google. I sold the first gige to the home network in 2005 to Cloudcroft, NM. That is fiber to the home, each fiber originates on a gige ethernet port and terminates at an ONT that has a gige pipe and 4x100 meg copper connections. Sure it's really only 400 meg to the home but all that you have to do is change the ONT to gige in and out and you have gige. Upstream of that switch, the backbone is 10Gige up to a single Gige trunk to the world. Its all over subscribed anyway, most of this is just marketing.
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LFC's Photo LFC 24 April 2014 - 03:56 PM

 Sinan, on 24 April 2014 - 03:31 PM, said:

I sold the first gige to the home network in 2005 to Cloudcroft, NM. That is fiber to the home, each fiber originates on a gige ethernet port and terminates at an ONT that has a gige pipe and 4x100 meg copper connections. Sure it's really only 400 meg to the home but all that you have to do is change the ONT to gige in and out and you have gige. Upstream of that switch, the backbone is 10Gige up to a single Gige trunk to the world. Its all over subscribed anyway, most of this is just marketing.

Heck of a speech impediment you've got there. It even comes out when you type. ;-)
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drdredel's Photo drdredel 24 April 2014 - 04:00 PM

 J-CA, on 24 April 2014 - 02:58 PM, said:

This metaphor is completely broken. You pay for electricity based on how much you use, Internet access is not metered in that way.

We're arguing about opposite ends of the horse here. This FCC decision has exactly zero bearing on how Comcast can or can't charge the consumer for useage. They already can (and do) charge based on usage only they do it by pipe throttling rather than per-bit charging (Mobile providers do a combination thereof where you get some bulk bandwidth for a bulk price and then pay for every additional byte (at a really painful price) thereafter.

However... my analogy is 100% sound in that you will notice that I am saying PG&E would charge specific device manufacturers for powering their specific devices - and it would not do this based on how much power they use - but just based on whether or not they have a "special" relationship. So, you have two air conditioners, one made by LG and one by Whirlpool and even though they drain an identical amount of electricity you know that one will cost you 30% more to operate because PG&E detects what brand of AC you use and bills you differently based on that label.
That is PRECISELY what we're talking about the FCC allowing. Netflix and Amazon would pay some huge sum of money to get the better bandwidth and Mom&POP Streaming Service would be left out in the cold.

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Would you like to substantiate your claim that the research dollars that went into the Internet exceed the costs of the capital infrastructure for the US's entire cable and telephone system? I would be very interested to read it.
Seems like some pretty massive fruits are going to all the non-infrastructure Internet companies out there, are you interested in going after their margins too given they they are also piggy-backing on the very same research? (I would argue that they do it even more unjustly, their capital costs often start near zero.)

Again... you're fixating on entirely the wrong thing. Cable companies can (and do) make billions of dollars off of consumers - leveraging technology that they didn't need to invest any money in developing. What has Comcast "invented"? They bought shovels and hard hats and rubber and copper and did a lot of digging and splicing. Every time they've been tasked with inventing anything (or even improving anything) they have failed monumentally. (I won't go into detail unless you want me to, but I've been working for Cable companies for over a decade helping them develop iTV stuff and they are still just about nowhere, having squandered over a decade). In any event, yes, they've spent a ton of money to lay all their pipes and for that they're being compensated. But that's not "the internet" and they shouldn't have the capacity to screw up "the internet" for the people that paid for "the internet".

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South Korean and Sweden, as far as I know, also have large corporations in charge of their telecoms and Internet infrastructure that are ruthless and profit-seeking, I would say that a lot of different factors go into pricing.

To me a utility model makes the most sense, one where people pay for what they use and also pay to have a specific amount of burst bandwidth available to them.

Again, I have nothing against the utility model. That's not what we're talking about and that's not what the FCC is talking about. NN isn't about charging consumers for bandwidth, it's about charging content providers for access.
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AnBr's Photo AnBr 24 April 2014 - 04:25 PM

 J-CA, on 24 April 2014 - 01:20 PM, said:

Actually it does.
Depending on how they do it. It will if they are limiting bandwidth overall, but most of the schemes I have heard of selectively throttle bandwidth.
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J-CA's Photo J-CA 24 April 2014 - 05:24 PM

DrDredel, your analogy is still broken. You'd be closer if PG&E could make the Whirlpool work better than the LG.

Who did or did not invent anything is entirely immaterial to the conversation, that was my point. If Google doesn't owe the government anything for inventing the Internet upon which its business is built Comcast does not either. Both are using the existence of TCP/IP to make a lot of money, one is on top and the other is underneath, the rest is just details. If you want to argue that Comcast owes the public something you have to do it from the perspective of the rights-of-way and other allowances from the public that allow their business to function (which I entirely agree with).

It is still about people being charged for things, if Netflix is paying for preferential bandwidth consumers are paying for it, we both know that the money for it does not magically appear in the Netflix bank account, they have to get it from consumers with subscriptions or through advertising revenue (a model that is dying a slow death).
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drdredel's Photo drdredel 24 April 2014 - 07:06 PM

 J-CA, on 24 April 2014 - 05:24 PM, said:

DrDredel, your analogy is still broken. You'd be closer if PG&E could make the Whirlpool work better than the LG.


You're a glass is half full kind of guy, eh?

Ok... so... Netflix pays Comcast a ton of money and their video stream arrives in HD at a quality that the consume has come to expect from their internet stream, while BrandX Streaming Service Startup can't afford to make such a deal with Comcast (or isn't even offered said deal - no one says Comcast *must take their money) and their stream arrives looking like a 1998 SMTP stream, full of JPG artifacts and re-buffering stuttering. In MY analogy, it's not that the PG&E is making the Whirlpool AC work "better" it's that it's making the LG AC pump heat into the room; It becomes unusable. And that's the entire point. Comcast becomes the kingmaker, with the ability to cripple providers. And of course since Comcast owns Time Warner, which has its own Media Streaming service, it can opt to throttle all the competition's services since it owns the pipe. Of course eventually someone would step in to point out how decidedly Monopolistic this is, but by then who knows which companies would still be standing.

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Who did or did not invent anything is entirely immaterial to the conversation, that was my point. If Google doesn't owe the government anything for inventing the Internet upon which its business is built Comcast does not either.

Google doesn't control anything. Google can't prevent you from going and doing a search with Bing. Google can't stop you from using a different email service or MapQuest or any other offering that they compete with. Comcast owns the pipe which for many consumers is their ONLY option for modern internet. You may be one of those that argue that the internet *isn't an essential utility but if you did, then I think I'd be able to prove to you without too much hassle that you're wrong. And if the government feels strongly enough about regulating the phone lines and the electrical lines (which share a similarity in being utilities that most consumers have no real choices between) then this falls under the same category.


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It is still about people being charged for things, if Netflix is paying for preferential bandwidth consumers are paying for it, we both know that the money for it does not magically appear in the Netflix bank account, they have to get it from consumers with subscriptions or through advertising revenue (a model that is dying a slow death).

And here again we return to this *not being the conversation. If there's some regulation that says that providers must compensate the carriers for use that's one thing (and I'm fine with that). But if the carriers get to choose who they take money from and who they don't and have the power to use their access to kill competition, I think that's a travesty and I find it hard to understand how the FCC can turn a blind eye to such an arrangement.
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J-CA's Photo J-CA 24 April 2014 - 07:25 PM

My implication with the "work better" was in the relative sense, I am on the same side of this argument as you, I just think you are doing a really poor job of representing your (our) side.
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cmk's Photo cmk 24 April 2014 - 07:32 PM

I haven't been following this, but my general view on the issue is that the problem isn't with this proposal, the problem is the lack of competition. Give consumers options and all of this becomes noise.
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Tom's Photo Tom 24 April 2014 - 07:47 PM

 cmk, on 24 April 2014 - 07:32 PM, said:

I haven't been following this, but my general view on the issue is that the problem isn't with this proposal, the problem is the lack of competition. Give consumers options and all of this becomes noise.

I sort of agree (don't have time to get into this issue fully, but have been enjoying other poster's perspectives) - more choices in the internet provider marketplace would definitely be helpful. I wonder, though, about how feasible that really is - my impression was that massive infrastructure projects like running cables all over the place tended to be natural monopolies. I also think that regulations preventing vertical integration (where bandwidth providers are also content providers, and can privilege their own content) is probably necessary - much like I think that not allowing banks to also be investment houses makes sense.
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drdredel's Photo drdredel 24 April 2014 - 08:13 PM

 Tom, on 24 April 2014 - 07:47 PM, said:

I sort of agree (don't have time to get into this issue fully, but have been enjoying other poster's perspectives) - more choices in the internet provider marketplace would definitely be helpful. I wonder, though, about how feasible that really is - my impression was that massive infrastructure projects like running cables all over the place tended to be natural monopolies. I also think that regulations preventing vertical integration (where bandwidth providers are also content providers, and can privilege their own content) is probably necessary - much like I think that not allowing banks to also be investment houses makes sense.

Right, that's precisely my point. The cable companies have made the (insanely specious) argument that they're not monopolies because people can opt to get their internet from other sources for years and years and the argument has only become more nonsensical (rather than less) as the quality of service for other forms of internet bandwidth have atrophied to the point where they're many factors slower than cable (especially on the upstream side of things).

Charles, if not for "choice" there would be no issue here at all, right? I mean, it's simply not a practical option for someone else to come along and bury a bunch of new cables in the ground (unless the government did it, which I'd be totally in favor of). I suppose in some not too distant future Verizon will be a serious competitor in the bandwidth space but that's simply not the case now. So, for the time being we're stuck with Cable monopolies owning the cable in the ground and taking advantage of the fact that the government refuses to recognize them as deliverers of a vital utility rather than an optional form of entertainment.
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J-CA's Photo J-CA 24 April 2014 - 09:12 PM

Choice only solves something if the consumers willing to pay more for a "neutral" ISP.. and would that ISP have access to all the content the other ones have access to?
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Beelzebuddy's Photo Beelzebuddy 25 April 2014 - 09:57 AM

"Chattanooga, Lafayette, and other communities have built their own fiber networks, with the utility serving as the Internet provider. Government-run networks aren't for everyone, though—Louisville and the metro area of Bryan, Texas, and College Station are both hoping to attract private companies to build out a fiber network"

It seems a solution is already available - for urbanites anyway. I've heard that lobbyists in some state legislatures have had legislation passed to prevent cities from providing fiber. Not sure how many states are involved.
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Probabilistic's Photo Probabilistic 25 April 2014 - 10:07 AM

Metered usage with different rate classes. Big guys pay higher rates. Just like utilities: residential, small commercial, C&I. Problem solved. Standing up PUC for Broadband and agreeing on regulations, rates etc. remains to be worked out. Minor details ;)
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