‘net Neutrality

There is a lot written on ‘net neutrality; to help readers who might want to try to understand the issues involved from as many different angles as possible, this page will simply point to a large number of articles on the topic. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with any particular article; this is just a resource you might find useful in trying to understand all the different sides of the debate.

last updated 16 February 2018


Too little attention has been given to this point. Whether we keep net neutrality or throw it out, as the FCC recently did, we need to factor in the negative effect of shifting the regulatory environment every election cycle. If Democrats take back Congress this fall, which is possible, we are likely to see another effort to swing the pendulum back again. It might actually take them winning the presidency in 2020 and appointing their own FCC chairperson to get there, the possibility of which I won’t speculate on, but the point remains that in just a few years, perhaps even next year, we may see yet another shift in how the federal government regulates ISPs. —Dylan Pahman @Acton


At the outset, it should be noted that the Reversal Order exudes its own political blather — kissing the internet vibrancy ring, extolling the virtues of the free market, and reciting the “internet freedom” incantation. Never mind that the present internet was nothing more than a U.S. version of Pouzin’s datagram invention that was funded with many billions of taxpayer dollars, controlled, hyped, and marketed for decades by the U.S. government to gain various perceived global strategic advantages that have largely proven illusory if not national security liabilities. —Anthony Rutkowski @ CircleID


The incumbents were against Net Neutrality as that would stop them from exploiting the generous content status that they have, which allows them to stop any serious retail broadband competition as they don’t have to make broadband capacity available on a wholesale basis. The situation in all of the other developed economies is totally different. Broadband is part of the telecoms regulatory regime, and this has created a well-functioning competitive retail market, in Australia for example with over 50 providers. Competition, not bandage solutions such as Net Neutrality, is the solution to the American problem. —Paul Budde @ CircleID


Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has swung at least four times between differing rules governing broadband service that have left both businesses and consumers confused. Just recently, on December 14th, the FCC repealed the “Open Internet” order that was instituted just two years ago, also referred to as ‘net neutrality’. As in any other sector of our economy, frequent regulatory fluctuations are not good for Internet providers nor for those who rely on network access for both business and personal purposes. It is my view, that light-touch regulations are necessary so that Internet Service Providers, content creators and consumers have the regulatory certainty they deserve so they can succeed—and that should originate in Congress. —Congressman Mike Coffman @ TownHall


Landline networks like the old phone system and the new(er) cable systems do lend themselves to monopoly or at least duopoly outcomes. Building these networks is both very expensive and requires myriad government approvals. Once a system is in place, it is hard for anyone to raise the capital to duplicate it. Even a network of wireless towers is hard to compete with. It’s hard enough to get a permit to build a tower to serve unserved areas (“it’ll ruin my view”; “it will stop the wildebeests from migrating”). It’s much harder to get permitted for a tower whose “only” purpose is to increase competition. —Tom Evslin @ CircleID


In fact, Cisco reports IP video was already 73 percent of global consumer traffic and is expected to grow to 83 percent by 2021. Yet, how this video is delivered varies significantly. Right now only a third of video delivered over IP is from traditional commercial TV services (e.g., Comcast and FIOS in the US). With consumers increasingly unplugging and using mobile devices, this figure will drop even more in the future. —Lawrence Hecht @ The New Stack


Could you bear to live in a world where parts of the Internet might be bundled and sold to you monthly in the form of subscriptions? Apparently, some people can’t. A representative from California shared this graphic on social media, supposedly to demonstrate how terrible lifting net neutrality would be. To me, it demonstrates the exact opposite. —The Federalist


The primary foundation of net neutrality explained is this: Providers should not be able to give services they offer any advantage over a competing service running over their network. The perfect example might seem to be voice services. Suppose you purchase access to the internet from a company that not only sells internet access, but also voice services. Now, suppose the provider decides to sell its voice service as superior in quality to any other available voice service — and guarantee its service is better by degrading the handling of traffic to and from every other known over-the-top voice provider. For example, the access provider could choose to drop every 10th voice packet not sourced from, or destined to, one of its voice servers. —Russ White @ Tech Target (note this article is behind a registration wall)


Yet Mozilla (and many others) are building their case for net neutrality around the fear that other, bad corporations are going to impose “censorship” that is so much worse the benevolent speech patrols of the corporations they like. On Mozilla’s landing page, that’s the obsession of just about every anonymous quote from a “Concerned Internet Citizen.” —Robert Tracinski @ The Federalist


Over the next decade which companies do you think will be better able to exercise monopoly power? Amazon, T&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Regional phone companies, or Verizon? If you’d asked me this question in 2000, I would’ve picked AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and regional phone companies. They are part of local duopolies for wired infrastructure. They had a comfortable relationship with the FCC which regulated them nationally and with most of the state regulators. They saw the Internet as potentially disruptive and would’ve preferred to have its potential for innovation slowed by regulation. Amazon and Google (and most of the Internet community of the day) were against FCC regulation of the Internet exactly because that would chill innovation. —Tom Evslin @ CircleID


Ironically, the world’s leading winner-take-all Internet platforms — Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are the leading voices of the July 12th “Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.” They want to pressure the U.S. FCC to maximally regulate ISPs as Title II telephone utilities, even though they don’t believe in operating neutral networks themselves. Even more ironic, is this 1 min. Google-YouTube video — by the Internet Association, “the unified voice of the Internet economy.” It defines net neutrality and what it wants the FCC to ban ISPs from doing. However, those banned behaviors closely describe how Google, Facebook and Amazon often operate. Awkward. —Scott Cleland @ Somewhat Reasonable


Last week, activists proclaimed a “NetNeutrality Day”, trying to convince the FCC to regulate NetNeutrality. As a libertarian, I tweeted many reasons why NetNeutrality is stupid. NetNeutrality is exactly the sort of government regulation Libertarians hate most. Somebody tweeted the following challenge, which I thought I’d address here. —Robert Graham @ Errata Security


The latest episodes in this unfortunate techno-religious proclivity are now emerging. One involves an especially egregious hyperbolic excess of the Internet Wars known as Net Neutrality. The winning internet protocol religious faction, having infused the Washington political system with their Templar Knights in 2009, baked their commandments into the embarrassing December 2010 Report & Order of the FCC as “preserving the free and open internet.” “Today the Commission takes an important step to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free expression.” Nevermind that they never actually defined “the Internet.” They simply believed that whatever it was, the FCC as a federal government agency needed to “preserve” it as a religious belief to be imposed upon everyone. — Anthony Rutkowski @ CircleIDThe latest episodes in this unfortunate techno-religious proclivity are now emerging. One involves an especially egregious hyperbolic excess of the Internet Wars known as Net Neutrality. The winning internet protocol religious faction, having infused the Washington political system with their Templar Knights in 2009, baked their commandments into the embarrassing December 2010 Report & Order of the FCC as “preserving the free and open internet.” “Today the Commission takes an important step to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free expression.” Nevermind that they never actually defined “the Internet.” They simply believed that whatever it was, the FCC as a federal government agency needed to “preserve” it as a religious belief to be imposed upon everyone. —Anthony Rutkowski @ CircleID


No baby boomers had been born when Congress enacted Title II of the Communications Act in 1934 as a means of regulating the Bell telephone monopoly, and the first Millennials were in elementary school when that monopoly was broken up in 1983. Title II was set to die along with plain old telephone service until the Obama administration decided Title II should be used to implement net neutrality — the principle that consumers should have reasonable access to internet functionality. Title II is wholly unsuited to this task, because it doesn’t apply to Silicon Valley companies that control access to many of the internet’s core functionalities. — Fred Campbell @ CircleIDNo baby boomers had been born when Congress enacted Title II of the Communications Act in 1934 as a means of regulating the Bell telephone monopoly, and the first Millennials were in elementary school when that monopoly was broken up in 1983. Title II was set to die along with plain old telephone service until the Obama administration decided Title II should be used to implement net neutrality — the principle that consumers should have reasonable access to internet functionality. Title II is wholly unsuited to this task, because it doesn’t apply to Silicon Valley companies that control access to many of the internet’s core functionalities. —Fred Campbell @ CircleID


Over the next decade which companies do you think will be better able to exercise monopoly power? Amazon, T&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Regional phone companies, or Verizon? If you’d asked me this question in 2000, I would’ve picked AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and regional phone companies. They are part of local duopolies for wired infrastructure. They had a comfortable relationship with the FCC which regulated them nationally and with most of the state regulators. They saw the Internet as potentially disruptive and would’ve preferred to have its potential for innovation slowed by regulation. Amazon and Google (and most of the Internet community of the day) were against FCC regulation of the Internet exactly because that would chill innovation. —Tom Evslin @ CircleID


That is what happens when you base your telecommunications policies on the wrong foundations. The problems with the telecommunications industry in America go back to 1996 when the FCC decided that broadband in America should be classified as internet (being content) and that therefore it would not fall under the normal telecommunication regulations. Suddenly what are known as telecommunications common carriers in other parts of the world became ISPs in the USA. How odd is that? —Paul Budde @ CircleID


“Net neutrality” sets out principles for regulators to treat all companies using the internet equally. Consumer advocates call that an “open internet.” The Trump administration calls it “micromanaging.” On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules in an attempt to “restore freedom.” —Quentin Fottrell @ MarketWatch

The U.S. Federal Communication Commission, under the leadership of chairman Ajit Pai, will next week set in motion the end of Net Neutrality in the USA. This is an unfortunate situation that will cause lots of news stories to be written in the days ahead, but I’m pretty sure the fix is in and this change is going to happen. No matter how many protesters merge on their local Verizon store, no matter how many impassioned editorials are written, it’s going to happen. The real question is what can be done in response to take the profit out of killing it? I have a plan. —I, Cringely


I’m sure that this comment could apply to many countries, including Australia with their political football called the National Broadband Network. But this time I’m referring to the United States of America and its rather strange on-again off-again regulatory dance with the concept of “Network Neutrality”. Evidently, it’s now about to be turned off again as the current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is setting up the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal their earlier 2015 ruling, with what appears to be the enthusiastic support of the White House. In 2015, the FCC moved to apply many of the common carrier provisions of Title II of the Telecommunications Act to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In particular, ISPs were unable to discriminate their services based on the content they were carrying. This ruled out earlier efforts by some ISPs to force some of the larger video streaming services to pay some form of access fee to carry their content. The 2015 measure intended, among other objectives, to put a stop to this crude extortion racket, and it was evidently greeted with popular support from Internet users. So why the current enthusiasm to repeal this act? What’s going on? —Geoff Huston


The rise of these powerhouse companies to economic dominance brought massive changes to the organization of the Internet. In the early days of the web, companies housed their websites on single computers located in well-connected hosting centers. They reached the Internet in essentially the same way consumers do today: companies paid specialized Internet Service Providers who connected to each other over backbones operated by still more specialized companies such as WorldCom and Level 3. The neutrality concept was limited to the connections between ISPs and backbone companies. Neutrality made sense, even if it was never the only way to run a railroad. —Richard Bennett @ CircleID


Last week’s announcement that the Federal Communications Commission will soon vote to roll back “net neutrality” regulations has produced a lot of hysterical overreaction, with headlines proclaiming, “FCC Is Revving Up to Destroy the Internet as We Know It.” This obviously counts on the audience’s ignorance of history. The Internet started in 1969 (depending on what you count as the Internet), and the Internet “as we know it,” i.e., what we used to call the World Wide Web, has been around for 22 years. —Robert Tracinski @ The Federalist