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back to article Verizon finally drags FCC into court fisticuffs to end one-speed internet for all

Broadband provider Verizon and US watchdog the FCC will face off in court today in a crunch battle for net neutrality – a longstanding principle that guarantees a fair and level playing field for all on the web. Verizon and fellow ISPs want to charge websites and other online businesses a premium for piping their data faster to …

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The Balkanisation continues

They won't be satisfied until the "Inter" in "Internet" no longer has any meaning.

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Unhappy

One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

One can only hope Verizon doesn't win as ultimately it's a precedent for ISPs everywhere, not just the US.

Unfortunately, in the US, the larger the company the more it seems to be able to bypass the judicial process through lobbying. Even if Verizon fails in court, it'll probably ultimately win.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

If they lose, ISPs will simply sell private IP services to run alongside public Internet. If guaranteed content delivery is forbidden using public Internet, it will shift to networks and services that aren't public Internet.

I can't think of another industry where a net neutrality rule would be considered fair and equitable. If I set up a new car company I wouldn't expect government to legislate against Ford and GM for having established a dealer network and spent billions on R&D and factories. Are you saying that my cars should be sold equally alongside Ford's in showrooms that they've paid for, otherwise it's somehow unfair to my new business?

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Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

Electricity. All power goes into the same lines.

Gas. All gas goes into the same pipes.

Even telecoms. Many companies share the same links.

Net neutrality defines the Internet and the free movement of information. If Verizon win, I hope their customers drop them like the steaming turd they will have shown themselves to be.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

"Electricity. All power goes into the same lines."

Your examples are all single purpose networks. The Internet is a multi-purpose network and so better analogies would be with the postal service or courier firms.

I think Verizon's argument is that they should be free to offer premium services on top of standard. No-one claims that their ability to mail a package by standard mail is infringed by the very existence of 24-hour delivery premium services.

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Coat

@A.C. - Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

Once the fibre cable costs are amortised providing bandwidth essentially costs nothing, I repeat, nothing!

Physics/nature has provided us with essentially unlimited bandwidth in fibre for free, and physics does not charge a monthly rent. Pass on the costs if you may, add a 1000% if you like, but when I went to school 1000% of 0 was still a big fat naught.

This 'grab' is nothing but a double-dipping scam. I only hope the Court et al doesn't fall for the con-job.

Then ultimately there's the utility argument. But then, in the US, utility is an oxymoron,isn't it?

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Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

> I can't think of another industry where a net neutrality rule would be considered fair and equitable.

Can you think of another industry where most markets have local monopoly or duopoly providers?

The fundamental problem with the US ISP market is a lack of competition. With three enormous companies between them having almost totally locked up all the markets, and constantly lobbying to maintain their stranglehold (and massive profits), there is rarely any motivation for them to to improve, innovate, or even deal fairly with their customers.

The current situation is not a result of over-regulation.

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Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

"The Internet is a multi-purpose network and so better analogies would be with the postal service or courier firms."

Depends how you view it. You view the electrical network as "single purpose" as is "move the elcetrons back-and-forth". So is the Internet. Move the packets around. One purpose.

You claim the Internet is multi-purpose. Well I can claim the electrical network is multiple purpose. It powers TV, microwaves, MRI scanners and even time-stamps telephone calls. Now, do you want to be charged a different electrical rate depending on the device?

"I think Verizon's argument is that they should be free to offer premium services on top of standard."

What you think and what is in actuality are not the same. The argument is to permit Verizon of retard data from other sources and thus push their own. If Verizon want to provide a premium service, there is nothing stopping them going out and building that network. But they want to use the Internet (built by others) and then degrade that to gouge their customers.

No.

Fuck that shit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

Isn't that the point? There is a free market. If people don't like Verizon's service, for example because they find it's too slow to access the content they want, they can vote with their pockets and choose a different ISP. If this encourages people to *measure* and *compare* the performance they are getting, then that's to everyone's benefit.

Heck, Verizon itself could decide to offer multiple levels of service: a cheaper one where you only get a decent speed for traffic paid for by the sender, and a more expensive one where all traffic is carried at the same speed.

How is this different to, for example, having different prices for 2M and 8M services? It might mean you could pay for a 2M service but get 8M speeds from certain partner companies (and 2M to the rest of the Internet). Tell me again why this is a bad thing?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @A.C. - One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

"Once the fibre cable costs are amortised providing bandwidth essentially costs nothing, I repeat, nothing!"

Right. So you've never paid another company for transit to reach the rest of the Internet. You've never had to buy a new 10G line card (or even a new router) when your traffic grows. You've never seen the price of service and support contracts for routers which handle tens of gigabits of traffic. You've never seen the cost of an 10G single mode SFP+, nor the cost of DWDM equipment when you need to upgrade your 10G fibre link to 40G or 160G or higher.

Equally, you believe that roads are free once they're built, and therefore the billions spent annually by the government on roads are completely unnecessary. Of course this is nonsense: part is maintenance, and part is expansion. The Internet (and the underlying fibre networks) have both of these costs, except that the rate of expansion is way higher than the expansion of the road network.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

"Depends how you view it. You view the electrical network as "single purpose" as is "move the elcetrons back-and-forth". So is the Internet. Move the packets around. One purpose."

Except that the way those packets are handled will determine if some services actually work or not. There are two ways to deliver reliable VoD or VoIP - massively over-provide capacity to ensure time-critical packets aren't delayed during periods of high network utilisation or engineer your network to treat those packets differently. One of those solutions doubles your monthly Internet bill. Which do you prefer?

" I can claim the electrical network is multiple purpose. It powers TV, microwaves, MRI scanners and even time-stamps telephone calls. Now, do you want to be charged a different electrical rate depending on the device?"

Erm, that's kind of how it does work. If I run a factory or other high energy using business I will be charged for buying three-phase electricity. My tariff can vary by time of day and day of week and I can even be hit with a surcharge if the network is exceptionally busy - which is why many businesses with backup power are *paid* by their electricity company to use their generators instead of drawing from the grid at certain times. It's more cost effective to - in some cases automatically - get a few dozen factories to spin up their diesel sets than it is to bring a whole extra power station in off standby.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @A.C. - One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

That's a total nonsense. The Internet isn't a bunch of fibres. Fibres have terminal equipment that costs money, that uses electricity, that needs upgrades and people to maintain it. Those fibres connect to routers that again cost money, use electricity, need a building to be housed in, need upgrading and maintenance, need ongoing management and need configuration of the routing tables they contain.

The people who do, oversee and manage all this stuff need paying, pensions, training, healthcare. The investors who paid for all the kit in the first place want paying back and a return.

I'm utterly gobsmacked that anyone could think that the Internet runs for free.

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Re: One can only hope Verizon doesn't win.

If they are running it on the same wires, it is. It's like bumping off the normal mail to make room for more premium deliveries.

If internet is now considered an essential infrastructure, the Government does have an interest in ensuring lower income or geographically isolated residents still get a fair level of service at an affordable price. They can and do make such stipulations when letting contracts for electricity, highways etc.

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Anonymous Coward

FCC: Stand your ground!

How dare Verizon? How DARE they? Trying to monetize something which they don't own, basically.

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Re: FCC: Stand your ground!

You say Verizon is trying to "monetize something which they don't own". That's not quite right. They're objecting to two rules - one that prevents them from arbitrarily blocking user access to content, and another that only allows them to perform traffic engineering for "reasonable" technical purposes. What they are trying to do is grab the right to have captive customers, which is a lot *worse* than simply opposing network neutrality by discriminating against some content.

Go FCC!

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I can see it coming...

"They" won't be happy until the internet is dragged back to being a cable TV service, where content providers (Facebook, Netflix, ebay, Amazon, BBC etc.) pay the carriers to take their content and the punters pay the carriers for access to "Approved" services. Google takes their cut by stuffing adverts into everyone's feed. No peer-to-peer, don't want the plebs making their own voice heard. Only the big boys need apply to join the providers club, and you'll only get into the routing tables if you're in the club.

I give it 5 years.

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Angel

@Jusme - Re: I can see it coming...

"I give it 5 years."

You're right, but I hope you're wrong about 5 years. If the writing's on the wall then political action is in order to charge or increase charges for their cable rights-of-way.

Much cable goes over public land--it has to, and we, the public, want out rent. Their rent pays for a parallel cableway that provides universal access for everyone else.

This means war. Stuff 'em, I say.

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Re: @Jusme - I can see it coming...

Remember how long BT dragged their heels providing internet access in the first place? First with dial-up by not providing sufficient line capacity to these upstart ISPs and DAXing domestic lines when everyone wanted a second line for internet use. Then broadband...

There are only two last mile providers in the UK - BT (ok Openreach, but that's just bean-counter fiction) and Virgin, and they have precisely no incentive to open their networks to anyone. They only need to play the "Think of the Children" card and the government will be happy to let them be nanny to everyone's internet. Actually they already do.

And why else do the carriers prefer to implement NAT rather than IPV6? Couldn't be that NAT makes the internet look more like the traditional broadcast model (provider to consumer) could it?

Interesting times...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Jusme - I can see it coming...

You're forgetting the four mobile networks. That makes six last mile providers before you start to count telcos like C&W and Colt who own last mile networks.

But the point is irrelevant anyway. Traffic shaping or prioritisation happens way before the last mile in the ISP's network. The last mile is largely irrelevant when considering net neutrality. It's your ISP's core routers doing the work.

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Re: I can see it coming...

To an extent, but one of the problems I see with the laws currently is that end websites are not under net neutrality laws either. That seems like something we need not worry about but look at Netflix with their required peering rules, which is using the net neutrality rules to force ISP's to pay to use their specified peers or they will intentionally downgrade end users experience... which seems like something the net neutrality laws were put in place to prevent. The big content providers are doing just what you said "you'll only get into the routing tables if you're in the club" and there are no laws against it. The fact that websites are saying to ISP's, pay up to peer with us or we will make your customer's experience worse is rather is just as bad as ISP's doing it.

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The suits usually win.

No surprise really,

its the same with apps, the guys wearing the suits usually win.

What is sort of surprising that we still have an internet.

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Mushroom

The arrogance!

Verizon has argued that the FCC [...] is violating the telco's right to free speech [...].

Such fucking arrogance; it would be a stroke of jurisprudential genius to dismiss the case for that statement alone. Violating its right to free speech? Hardly; more like it (the FCC) is "violating" the telco's right to extort basically anybody with a web presence for access to its customer base.

Last I heard, extortion (and its bigger sibling, racketeering) is still a crime on the west side of the pond. (Unless, I guess, you happen to be some fatass corporation, in which case the rules for the landed gentry apply....)

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Re: The arrogance!

What about the "FREE" speech of the web sites that cannot pay?

I pay the ISP to deliver content at XMb.

Now as far as I am concerned that means they delver the "internet" at the agreed price and agreed speed.

If the need / want to charge me more, fine tell me the price and I will see if it matches to what I want.

Hang on.....when they choose FREELY to become an ISP, did they not sign up to delivering the internet in a neutral way?

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Re: The arrogance!

That is classic American fundie/neocon rhetoric right there. Their inability to oppress me is somehow violating their fundemental liberties.

It's MY speech that we're talking about here. It's not Verizon's. Verizon wants to interfere with MY speech. That's THEIR idea of "free speech".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The arrogance!

" Hardly; more like it (the FCC) is "violating" the telco's right to extort basically anybody with a web presence for access to its customer base."

Or, it's much the same as me choosing to pay the Post Office for standard, three day delivery of my parcel or paying extra to have it delivered the next morning. It's not extortion - I'm making an informed, commercial choice. My paying more for next day delivery doesn't harm or hamper the standard service.

What right has the government to make it illegal for me to freely enter into a commercial arrangement to buy a service that's better than whatever the standard offering is?

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Re: The arrogance!

Freedom of speech is != freedom to be heard. At the same time if I want to hear some thing who are they to tell me when, how ,what and were I can hear it. Quiet frankly I don't want to hear Verizons BS. Freedom of speech!= freedom to censor.

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Devil

@Someone else - Re: The arrogance!

Last I heard, extortion (and its bigger sibling, racketeering) is still a crime on the west side of the pond.

Al Capone in flashy suits was a bit before his time; his business model clashed with the powers-that-be. Reincarnated, still in flashy suits, he lobbies Government and runs a respectable US ISP. And now a model of respectability.

...Meanwhile on the pond's west side, Webster redefined racketeering as "Normal business practice pertaining to US ISPs and telcos."

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@Anon 20:41

It isn't that they want to make it illegal for you to buy a service better than whatever the standard offering is, but to make it illegal to sell you a better offering that creates WORSE service for those who do not pay. Your example of next day delivery isn't correct because the post office putting your package on an airplane and getting it to me tomorrow doesn't make the package my mom sends me take longer than it otherwise would.

Networks are a zero sum game though, unless they offer completely different infrastructure to be used for expedited delivery. If your packets have priority then those without priority by definition will take longer to arrive than they otherwise would have. If the networks are congested, the 'standard delivery' packets are the ones that will be dropped, while your expedited packets are not dropped.

You really don't see how this is akin to a protection racket? "Psst, hey Google, youse really oughta pay for Vinnie the Verizon's packet insurance like your neighbor Microsoft, we'd sure hate to see sometin' happen to 'em on the way to your users!"

Think about how refineries in the US always happen to go "down for maintenance" right about the time that capacity is reduced (like when they change from winter to summer blends and vice versa) Maybe when the links between SF and NYC are 80% utilized they decide to take a router or down for maintenance/testing and 'ooops!' suddenly we're over 100% utilization. So sorry we'll have to drop packets for those who aren't paying for expedited packet delivery, I'm sure this will in no way impact the future decision of people to pay for it...

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Re: The arrogance!

With a small adjustment your cencept would work as a parallel....

100 people go into the Post Office to send a package home to their Mum (Mom I suppose as this is a US-centric issue at present). 50 of them choose the next day option so their packages go into the van first which only leaves space for 25 more so half of the other group are going to have to wait for the next van but it will be along fairly soon. Oh and of course it will take any packages on next-day delivery first but their packages will go....eventually.....probably

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Half right

> Internet providers want the extra dosh to bankroll the hardware needed to improve connections and beef up the internet's arteries.

If that sentence had ended after "dosh", it would have been completely correct.

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Not quite right...

"Verizon and fellow ISPs want to charge websites and other online businesses a premium for piping their data faster to customers"

I'm sure that should be...

Verizon and fellow ISPs want to charge websites and other online businesses a premium for NOT piping their data slower to customers.

That's a nice packet you have there... shame if something were to happen to it.

When the ISP owns/is owned by a content provider you can be sure games will be played with competing content providers. It will be like trying to order Coke in a restaurant owned by Pepsi.

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Re: Not quite right...

You can, and depending on the waiter you won't be asked if Pepsi is what you'd really like, but you won't get it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not quite right...

"When the ISP owns/is owned by a content provider you can be sure games will be played with competing content providers. It will be like trying to order Coke in a restaurant owned by Pepsi."

But you're free to eat where you want. If you don't want to drink Pepsi in a Pepsi owned restaurant, go somewhere else. Isn't that what the free market is all about?

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Stop

@A.C - Re: Not quite right...

"If you don't want to drink Pepsi in a Pepsi owned restaurant, go somewhere else."

This ISP issue is simplicity personified!

Cutting to the core of the matter. It's access to the fibre which ultimately matters, got that and you're right--there's sufficient bandwidth for all, for any service or combination of services, for the foreseeable future. If the fibre feeds to video content providers and or the internet it's irrelevant, as there's sufficient bandwidth for both.

When you've gotten access to the fibre, and you don't want Pepsi then try Coke, or Bud or whatever and you'll still be absolutely fine.

What really matters is killing the artificial 'slowdown' block between you and the fibre. It's absolutely the key issue.

Remember, probably every accountant and shady executive in the sleazy ISP racket is just about full-time on ensuring that you cannot bypass their 'slowdown' because that's how they milk you--you are their cash-cow, and they'll fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

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Re: Not quite right...

"But you're free to eat where you want. If you don't want to drink Pepsi in a Pepsi owned restaurant, go somewhere else. Isn't that what the free market is all about?"

Not really. Some places you only have one choice, or you might have a choice of Coke or Pepsi but you have to subscribe to one of them. Then you get them trying to sell you the TV/Phone/internet bundle, so they are not going to want netflix or some VOIP outfit stealing their fat profit triple play customers. The last thing they want is a free market.

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Pirate

Re: Not quite right...You are NOT free to "eat" where you like...

The fact remains that there is almost no competition for the local or "last mile" to your door.

The telco has the phone line or fiber or the cableco has the coaxial or fiber you typically cannot get a choice of high speed/broadband vendor in most US locations even in large cities.

Verizon does not have fiber in my county, only Time Warner can provide "high speed". Where is that "choice" you speak of?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @A.C - Not quite right...

What do you mean by 'access to the fibre'? Which fibre?

Are you talking about the network core or are you talking about the fibre provided in FTTx networks?

A physical fibre might have theoretical near unlimited bandwidth, but the rather expensive routers and DWDM kit that actually make it work don't. I don't understand what you mean by 'artifical slowdown block' - most ISP's routers in peering points are running nearly - or beyond - flat out at busy times. Why would any business install kit and then actively take steps to stop it working effectively?

ISPs margins are small - which is why so many of them have gone bust and been bought up by bigger operators. Prices are declining and the smaller operators no longer made enough money to repay their loans. 'Rackets' usually have large profit margins. I don't get the 'milking' comment either - fixed line broadband is almost always sold at a flat rate.

I'm not convinced you actually understand what the Internet is or how it works.

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I'm glad

that Verizon is not coming to Canada...we have our own crooks in here, don't need any imports right now.

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Inaccurate title...

The title of this article is inaccurate -- ISPs are allowed to throttle, this is no matter of "one-speed internet for all". The ISPs can throttle based on usage, either on a bucket or monthly basis as they wish. They don't take advantage of this, instead in some cases running a "hard cap" (what they call it if they charge huge cash overages if you go over a limited number of GBs.) What is not allowed is claiming to be an internet service provider, while in actuality blocking services, blocking web sites, and throttling based on services used rather than quantity of data used. This is as it should be and it's important the FCC stand their ground on this issue.

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Flame

How would this even work?

How can a non-neutral network even function? No entity controls the entire Internet after all, it's a collection of many thousands of large and small companies working together.

An example: I get my Internet from Comcast. Lets say I want to watch a TV show on HuluPlus who for the sake of this argument have paid Verizon a big pile of money to give Hulu's packets priority over other video services.

So I start streaming an episode and the video packets race through the Verizon network getting green lights all the way... until they pass over to a segment of the Internet owned by Comcast. Hulu hasn't paid Comcast anything, so now what happens to the packets? Do they just wait in line with all the others like they used to? Or will ISPs honor each other's priority requests?

Could Hulu pay Verizon to specifically *degrade* a rival service's performance?

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Re: How would this even work?

The ISP and the content provider agree to provide a private connection between themselves that bypasses the public Internet and delivers that content at a guaranteed rate close to the consumption point. The content provider could even pay to put servers hosting content in exchanges/central offices.

The ISP hasn't limited or restricted the competitor's service, it's just made sure that its preferred content provider's packets have a much better chance of being delivered in a timely fashion.

It's common in Europe with ISP's video on demand services. Delivery is guaranteed because the service isn't being provided over the public Internet, it's being provided from a server in the telephone exchange hosting the end user and then delivered using a portion of the last mile access reserved for such content at the time the user asks to watch it. The important and relevant point is that it's not the public Internet and so any net neutrality rule would be moot. A content delivery network engineered end to end to ensure effective delivery beats best efforts public Internet every time.

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Re: How would this even work?

What you're describing is co-locating or geographic content caching servers; I have no problem with this. What Verizon wants to do is to give priority service to certain packets based on how much money they've been paid by the packets' originator.

Really it's an extortion racket.

"Those are some nice packets you have there... It sure would be a shame if anything were to, you know, happen to them... Probably best if you let *us* handle them with our 'priority delivery' service. Otherwise it might take a surprisingly loooong while for them to reach your customers. Packets get lost all the time you know!"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How would this even work?

"What you're describing is co-locating or geographic content caching servers; I have no problem with this. What Verizon wants to do is to give priority service to certain packets based on how much money they've been paid by the packets' originator."

The net result is exactly the same. And the content provider putting their content servers in Verizon's buildings will have to pay Verizon to do it.

And that's kind of the point in all this - it's easy for a business to dance around net-neutrality laws and provide a better service to customers or content providers who want to pay more. If Netflix have a server bolted to the floor right next to a Verizon edge router and DSLAM and I'm a startup with a handful of servers in a cheap co-lo halfway across the continent then the Netflix packets will get through more reliably, all the time, without any action on Verizon's part to hamper or impede my service.

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"Information Service Provider" vs Common Carrier

When I signed up for Comcast, they made clear (in the fine print of the Service Agreement) that they were operating as an Information Service Provider rather than a Common Carrier. The difference being that they claimed (rightly or wrongly is open to debate) that they were providing me information, not carrying my packets. They also claim that I can't deliver the information "they" provide me to anyone else, and that they retain the right to do pretty much anything they want. It's written more like a cable tTV contract than an internet connection contract.

Were they operating as a Common Carrier, they'd be obligated to carry whatever packets I sent and to deliver whatever packets were sent to me. And this requirement would be enforced, just as it is for wireline telephone companies, of which Verizon is one (although they are trying very hard to get rid of the "wireline" part right now).

The problem with ISPs, IMHO, is that they are generally not considered Common Carriers, that they claim to provide some additional value. This, too, is open to debate. Basically, yes, their suits have won and gotten themselves classified so they can have fewer regulations and make more money with less oversight. I guess that seems fair, if you're Comcast or Verizon, but maybe not so fair if you're one of their customers...

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@Peter Simpson 1 - Re: "Information Service Provider" vs Common Carrier

Comcast's Information Service Provider are weasel words. If upheld, then hopefully it's legislation to the rescue.

Ultimately, with fibre proliferating everywhere and IP6 fully in place, traditional ISPs won't be needed. We're then back to the Common Carrier argument. Again, that's a legislation issue.

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Someone has to pay

Those who don't transfer vast peer to peer files should not have their service degraded by those who do - an argument for 'pay per byte' . Whether at the client or server end of the link...

Should BT be prevented from traffic shaping to ensure delivery via Broadband of the Sky channels on its Vision service? If not, is this because delivery of pay-TV is somehow different from the hallowed Internet?

Providing the network to support the Internet is not a charitable occupation: it tends to be 'for profit' for better or worse - and in my view better than attempting to pay for it out of general taxation and gave it run by some quango...

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Re: Someone has to pay

I think the distinction with services like BT's Vision service is that they're not Internet. They use a portion of the ISP provided last mile to deliver content hosted privately. Conceptually it's the same as watching a film hosted on a NAS in your home on your Smart TV.

Just because something is using an IP network doesn't mean it's the public Internet - and it's a distinction that I think some of the net neutrality debates completely miss. If net neutrality laws are passed I think ISPs will shrug their shoulders and set about building private overlay IP networks to deliver content from their commercial partners. Akamai have built a very successful business doing almost exactly that.

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> Internet providers want the extra dosh to bankroll the hardware needed to improve connections

> and beef up the internet's arteries.

...and there goes my bullshit-o-meter, and I just got a new one after watching General's Alexander presentation.

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thanks to the supremes

Companies get to claim "free speech" as a person while at the same time maintaining all the protections and loopholes afforded only to corporations.

last I looked the constitution was not written for corporations, and corporations do not act like individual citizens..

Like HR courts lawmakers and lawyers work for the companies not the people, a total 180 from the constitution (not that it applies in any other country in the world, but that said many other countries have ( had, it seems to be a dying species) regulatory bodies that prevent this

but everything is going the way of the dollar, the more we pay to play the more they will charge us.

I guess they think we are lucky after all we do not use dial up anymore ( for the most part)

roll on the emp apocalypse

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