back to article While you're preparing to carve Thanksgiving turkey, the FCC will be slicing into net neutrality

Ajit Pai, chairman of America's broadband watchdog, today confirmed what we all knew was coming for months now: a move to tear up the Obama-era's rules on network neutrality in the US. Essentially, under Pai's latest proposals, ISPs and cablecos can charge subscribers extra if they want packages optimized for video streaming, …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality if they didn't plan to earn a lot from it.

    Otherwise, it would be just looking bad for no gain. You lobby for something unpopular only if the money offset greatly the image loss - anyway, if you're a telco you're image is not that great anyway.

    Streaming services became more important even compared to 2015 - it's clear someone sees a big source of revenues. The push to cloud services may be another reason - why not pay more to ensure your G-Suite, Office 365, etc. works faster?

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

      A push to kill NN you say? For the last few years I've been watching a coordinated campaign to institute NN as quickly as possible, even including near-ballot stuffing by the EFF. When it looked like Congress would not cooperate, Obama arranged to make it "law" on his own say so (thru his FCC crony, natch).

      Isn't this NN fight really the age old one about capitalism vs socialism anyway? I don't recall socialism actually winning that argument (not where I live anyway), but somehow it's a done deal in this case? Not hardly.

      The socialist NN bandwagon has finally been brought to a halt. It was never legit in the first place, and if its supporters ever want legitimacy, let them do it the proper way, legislatively. But, they seem loath to do that, preferring to end-run around Congress (via Obama) and now by smearing those who don't see it their way.

      This is how those with weak positions behave.

      1. Schultz

        ... the age old one about capitalism vs socialism

        That statement completely misses the point. Both capitalist and socialist societies are based on rules and laws. If you dream about a world without those, then you speak about anarchism.

        The question is whether you worry about overly burdensome laws or about monopolistic company behavior. Seems like a lot of the US ISPs earned a negative reputation for monopolistic tendencies (pushing products that are good for their bottom line to a captive audience and not competing with the offers the customers want).

        I hope you guys figure that one out, the rest of the world is watching...

      2. Comments are attributed to your handle
        Mushroom

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        Like clockwork: a post from Big John about NN that is devoid of substance other than "NN = socialism". Why even bother making these bullshit defenses on a tech forum? Surely Facebook is a better venue for you?

        'Throatwarbler Mangrove' summed it up perfectly the last time you came thundering in here in Trump Defense Mode (TM): https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/3287105

        1. Big John Silver badge

          Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

          I don't particularly care about NN one way or the the other. What I object to is the way the pro-NN stance is pursued here at El Reg. I see the same kind of loaded language coming from the left every day on every hot button issue. The "Resistance" they call themselves, apparently to absolve themselves of blame when they do stuff outside the normal bounds of politics.

          If NN is so compelling, why then the 'us vs them' tone? Can the NN arguments not stand on their own?

          Must the cable companies all be demonized before the NN argument makes a compelling case?

          I HAVE seen some arguments for it that make good points, so why taint the cause with personal attacks on those in the current admin, as if those people sprang directly from lucifer's droppings? I simply find this crud reprehensible and so I must assume the cause is suspect too.

          1. fredfs

            "If NN is so compelling, why then the 'us vs them' tone?"

            Because it's a war.

            This is not a panel of experts having a good-faith discussion about the best public policy. This is one group of people using political connections and money to push an agenda that consolidates power just so some executives can have bigger yachts -- while a much larger group of people stand to lose the open internet, something upon which they depend for their education, livelihood, health, entertainment, and participation in democracy.

          2. Comments are attributed to your handle

            Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

            So in other words you're somewhat convinced NN is a good thing (based on merrit), but since so many "undesirables" (i.e. people not willing to wipe Trump's ass for him) oppose it, you assume it's *really* something bad. Look up the word "doublethink".

            NN is simply about preventing anti-competitive behavior. Cable companies just want to make money - no surprise there. A sufficiently free market will correct itself - high priced ISPs will be challenged by lower priced alternatives. And that's the problem: THERE IS NO ISP MARKET IN THE US. Local and state laws (drafted by ISP lobbyist groups) spring up everywhere that prevent local ISPs from laying down wire or otherwise operating.

            Pai is the lying sack of shit in this. Between conflating NN with freedom of speech, to fucking redefining what broadband means (to give false impressions of competition in the market), he's to blame.

      3. LDS Silver badge

        "Isn't this NN fight really the age old one about capitalism vs socialism"

        One of the main foundations of true capitalism is competition. Antitrust laws and rules aimed at letting old and new companies compete are not "socialism", they are fully capitalists. Incumbents barriers are not. Is freedom of choice among products and services "socialism"?

        Actually socialism aims for giant state monopolies, a few entities controlling everything, a restricted choice of products and services - just like illiberal capitalism, it's much easier to gain a lot when you stop competition, and fix prices as you like. Both lead to a huge concentration of wealth.

        Pai would look very well as an apparatchik in Soviet Union...

        That said, I understand some of the telco issues - the legislation is hopelessly outdated, and sure, big monopolistic entities like Google are exploiting it as well. But it's not favoring one or the other that will solve the larger problem.

        And if you believe the industry can self-regulate, look at what happened when telco were left free to choose a mobile standard - each tried to force its one, and US lagged for years behind Europe who adopted a single standard from the beginning - so the competition field was level, and companies had to compete on products and services, not rely on lock-in.

        On the other hand the high prices many monopolistic European companies could ask in the 1990s slowed down Internet diffusion - and still here the State now has to invest in ensuring fiber connectivity is widespread, because greedy telcos don't invest in any area that doesn't return immediate high revenues - even in areas that are very wealthy, but made of many small towns instead of a few huge cities, making deployment costs higher. Is this "socialism" - or just ensuring people freedoms are respected? And once the network is completed, why should the telco be allowed to charge customer more just because they can?

        1. Joe Werner

          Re: "Isn't this NN fight really the age old one about capitalism vs socialism"

          Sorry, as many you confuse socialist and communist (wrt the state, sorry: "people" owned and operated monopolies, like VEBs in the GDR).

          Other than that: yes. Rules that ensure the market is not loaded and a select few companies carve it up between them is not a socialistic thing. Ensuring that there is competition and the forces of the market can act sounds sensible. (As I understand it, there is no choice of cable company for many = de-facto-monopoly).

      4. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        What's wrong with socialism?

        It seems to work for the benefit of all in the Scandinavian countries.

        1. Joe Werner

          Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

          Last time I looked we still had a king ;p

        2. SundogUK

          Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

          If you believe the Scandinavian countries are in any way 'socialist' you are truly retarded.

          http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

            "If you believe the Scandinavian countries are in any way 'socialist' you are truly retarded"

            Erm... what? The site you link to doesn't rank countries by how capitalistic they are but how good their overall economies are. Look at the detail scores and you can see that the Scandinavian countries score low points on "Government Spending", "Tax Burden" and "Labor Freedom" categories (ie they are socialist). Being socialist is not the same as bing communist, and these countries are perfect examples of combining open economies, rule of law etc (all the other categories on the site ) with socialist policies to be able to have well-functioning open economies for the benefit of most of society rather than the handful at the top.

      5. jmch Silver badge

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        "Isn't this NN fight really the age old one about capitalism vs socialism anyway?"

        Funny, I don't see many supposed free-market capitalists pushing to expand the choice of providers, they seem quite happy with the big 2 providing quasi-monopoly services in what is basically a legally approved cartel.

        Oh, I forgot, many of today's "capitalists" are not pro-free market at all, they want their monopolies and are paying for the best politicians money can buy to provide that.

        Personally I don't see anything wrong with charging more for guaranteed better service. In the early days of internet <deity> knows that this was rarely/never the case, and if ISP is going to invest in broadband they need to have a commercial case for it as well. But this cannot be achieved without true ISP competition (with most people having a choice of 4+ broadband providers of which at least a couple are local/regional not the giant trolls). Canning Net Neutrality without forcing increased competition is putting the cart before the horse

      6. PapaD

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        The problem here is the near monopoly in regards to ISP provision in large parts of the US.

        You don't need any form of net neutrality regulation if you have a healthy amount of competition, because then the various nasty things that not being neutral can be tested with real customers, to see if they walk to other ISPs or not.

        However, if you only have 1-2 options for ISP, and they both decide to throttle your access to streaming TV if you don't pay extra, you are basically screwed.

        So, if the plan is to fix the massive monopolies, then you can go without NN, however with the monopolies in place then you need to regulate how much they are allowed to screw their locked in customers.

        1. SundogUK

          Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

          Why do these places only have one or two options? Because the STATE mandates it.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

            "Why do these places only have one or two options? Because the STATE mandates it."

            This isn't exactly true in the US. It used to be true, but stopped being the case years ago. Sortof. The situation now is that anytime someone tries to compete with the dominant ISP for the area -- even if that someone is the government itself -- the ISP throws a ton of money and power to kill the effort dead before it can get started.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        Always makes me hoot when Americans talk about their "socialist" politicians. Their most socialist politician would probably be just right of centre in the UK. God knows what they'd make of someone like Jeremy Corbyn.

        1. RandomFactor

          Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

          "God knows what they'd make of someone like Jeremy Corbyn."

          A private citizen.

      8. Opinionat_Ed

        Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality...?

        Your (Big John's) comment had 8 (including mine) up votes and 50 something down votes. It is soul crushingly dismaying and... well frankly bizarro that the tech community is so widely brain washed against the ideals of free market capitalism, individual liberty and limited government. It seems like if they would spend even a cintilla of time honestly exploring both sides, the vast majority would be conservatarian (some blend of conservative/libertarian). We can accomplish _so much_ when left to our own devices, without a ham handed centralized government's interference. And of all the groups of people who should know this, it's those of us in the tech community. After what we've witnessed over the past 30+ years?

        *shakes head*. Wake up people. Look deeper. Government is not your friend - Liberty is.

    2. joemostowey

      Re: There wouldn't be such a push to kill neutrality if they didn't plan to earn a lot from it.

      Of course, Much like Verizon's "unlimited" Plan. Get millions of new customers hooked on a two year contract with draconian termination terms then change the unlimited to something far less.

      As Darth Vader would say " I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "many Americans have little or no choice in their high-speed broadband provider,"

    Competition, American style.

    "Of course you can change your ISP. But since we bought out the only one who would do the work (and so this is a sunk cost to us), and we've stopped any county or state run ISP's being set up (thanks to our friend "Sweet" Pai) all your bandwidth belong to us.

    Forever.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It might be that the only hope for this is the FTC getting control back. Doubtful... very doubtful. As one who lives in an area where it's Spectrum (Charter but they "rebranded" themselves) or local teleco (Centurylink) with crap speed. Competition indeed.... they charge here what they want and can get away with it.

    It's a pity and a disgrace that American citizens are held captive by corporate greed and their Congressional and governmental lackeys.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      The FTC doesn't have the authority to do much. All the FTC can do is punish companies if they don't abide by their contracts or if they engage in false advertising or fraud.

      And even then, they're so underfunded and overwhelmed that they can't even do that adequately with what's on their plate as it is. Handing all regulatory authority to the FTC is very nearly the same thing as removing all regulatory authority entirely.

  4. Palpy

    Hmmm. Wonder about --

    -- using a VPN. I could speculate, but I know there are many commentards on the site who are much more knowledgeable about intarwebb comms than self.

    If you use a privacy-wise VPN, would the ISP know whether the data stream hitting your connection is a movie or a software download, or something else? Or is it easy for them to fingerprint the traffic?

    1. as2003

      Re: Hmmm. Wonder about --

      They wouldn't know what you were doing over your VPN, but obviously you'd only be allowed to use a VPN if you had subscribed to their "ExtremePro™" or "BizzPro™" packages, at a considerable premium.

      1. Palpy

        Re: Packages, indeed.

        I can why ISPs would want to move to a cable-TV type tiered service, all right. Ugly. We may have a few tools around for awhile, though. Before the ISPs turn internet service into idjit pie.

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Hmmm. Wonder about --

      I've been using a VPN for years now, not exactly for this purpose although it does serve for that. They can see the stream of packets and can keep a tally on the density and total amounts but that's as far as that goes, currently. It might be possible to use correlation of packets to get a thumbprint but that would be a pretty expensive function to pull of at the volume that the cable companies operate normally.

      Should it somehow come to pass that they fiddle things enough to get me annoyed, I'll set up a VPS elsewhere (likely not the US) and end run them that way using HTTPS or some other encrypted protocol. And then we're right back again to "they know how much traffic and how fast, but WTF is it?"

    3. Psion1k

      Re: Hmmm. Wonder about --

      This would most likely be done using peering arrangements and source routing, rather than packet inspection, so the VPN would be detrimental if you had purchased the service.

      It would literally be that if you are paying the premium to access a service, the traffic headed to that service (based on the destination address) is routed by the high speed peer link for that service, rather than the 'general' internet. A VPN traffic stream would go to the VPN endpoint (from the point-of-view of the ISP network), rather than the service, so would be treated as 'general' traffic.

  5. Tom 64
    Facepalm

    >" ensure that we continue to lead the world in mobile wireless services"

    ... someone hasn't been to east asia recently.

  6. JohnFen Silver badge

    Corrections

    "back then, if you recall, broadband providers weren't lobbing optimized packages at us."

    True, but they were throttling content providers in order to extort unearned and undeserved money from them. Have we forgotten, for example, what happened to Netflix?

    "there are always market forces in play"

    No, there are not always market forces in play. For example, my choices for ISPs are Comcast, Comcast, or Comcast. When Comcast increases their level of abuse, my only option is to not have access to the internet.

  7. rhcp

    Money Grab

    ""Chairman Pai will restore the long-standing bipartisan approach to the internet, which will help drive billions of new dollars into mobile broadband networks, boost our economy, and ensure that we continue to lead the world in mobile wireless services," said the CTIA, which represents wireless and internet providers, from Verizon to AT&T and Sprint."

    And where do you think these billions of dollars are going to ultimately come from????

  8. joemostowey

    Symptoms of a compromised democracy

    The half-backed pai is what happens in a country where the politicians are as corrupt as in America.

    Our politicians make the old soviets seem honest by comparison and have more in common with drug lords than with decent people.

    They call the money they rake in campaign contributions, but its really a bribe - one that allows them to purchase the best propaganda specialists to make sure they keep the power and perks that being "elected" in the United States provides them. The best lawyers, the best and friendliest "judges".

    One would gather from the McDonald conviction being overturned by the Supreme "court" that even the highest court in the land can be bought with favors, because if what he did was not peddling influence then world war two was a simple children's play date.

    The trump agenda seems to be driven by big business, and pai's role is to assure that sleazy companies such as Verizon, Comcast, cox and AT&T get their money's worth from all the political "contributions".

    The gerrymandered districts, which the Supreme "court" will uphold in the near future guarantees that the one person one vote is dead. That a representative government, democracy, itself is no longer viable, having been replaced with paid stooges that instead of money being directly placed in their hands instead are paid with years of power in office followed by a retirement plan that a richman would be comfortable on.

    pai's future income and well being are assured- so long as he satisfy's the people who actually run America.

    The GOP (party of Stu-Pid-Ity) tax plan and abolition of Net neutrality are simply the GOP's way of Pro-Qid-Pro for their patrons.

  9. doug_bostrom

    Maybe the world should help the US by making it swallow some unpleasant medicine, the exact same medicine on offer from the US oligopolies promoting this fiasco? After all, it's supposed to be "good for the consumer."

  10. Mark C 2

    "...and ensure that we continue to lead the world in mobile wireless services"

    You are having a laugh. The US has not lead the World in mobile wireless services for years and is unlikely to in the future with policy that removes competition and strengthens the position of the Telco / ISP monopolies.

  11. EastFinchleyite

    Be careful what you wish for

    The likes of Netflix, HBO and other content providers are a lot bigger and a lot richer than they were in a few years ago. They produce "must have" content. Then it could have been that the network providers/ISPs like Comcast and Verizon were able to demand more money from customers and content providers. Now I am not so sure.

    Netflix et al have become established players in the entertainment market. Customers expect (probably demand) them to be available. If NN is dropped, what is to stop the content providers from demand REDUCED prices for carrying their essential services or they would cease to supply. Customers (end users) with choice would walk. Possubly someone like Bezos or Musk wouldn't join in and set up alternative ISP partnerships with the Netflixes and make the traditional ISPs irrelevant.

    Nothing is forever in this game. Look at landline calls, Telex, Telegrams, Fax. Once all essential services and now dying or dead.

  12. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    FAIL

    Don't forget the rabid studios

    Deregulating Internet service that's provided by music and movie studios is extremely dangerous. They have armies of rabid copyright lawyers that would be allowed to do pretty much whatever they please to justify their existence. They could monitor traffic, block large encrypted streams, forbid codecs that can't be inspected, and forbid peer-to-peer transfers. Throw in the rabid marketing departments and they're going to ask competitors to pay commission on customers visiting.

    These aren't imaginary tactics. Some hotels monitor their guests and then demand commission from the shops they visit. CableTV and TV stations blackout shows during fights for commissions. Music and movie producers have a history of creating "Private copying levy" taxes on all recordable media. Sony distributed rootkits, has worked hard to make copyright infringement a severe crime, and even strangled to death their own line of home electronics in the name of studio profits.

    The Internet and tech companies are extremely resilient by nature. If it doesn't work in the US, it will relocate to a better country.

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