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The fight for net neutrality on the internet—the concept that all content and all applications are treated equally by internet service providers, regardless of the source and without either favoring or blocking specific products or websites—has been going for a well more than a decade now, because, well, there's a ton of money to be made there. It's America, why else? Internet service providers—the big ones like Comcast and Verizon and AT&T—like money. A lot. If they can squeeze more out of this whole internet adventure by charging someone extra to push that content through, you damned well know they're going to try. So they've weighed in with the FCC, and the FCC appears ready to break net neutrality for them.

But what does that really mean for you, sitting there reading this on whatever screen in front of you? If you haven't been glued to the issue for the past decade and a half, you might want to catch up. The video above is a quick guide from CGP Grey that lays out just how this all works, why it works with net neutrality, and what's at stake if it's lost.

[P]reserving this rule for the Internet has much wider impact than just if some company takes more of your coins. Not to be overly dramatic here, but preserving data equality may be one of the most important issues in a generation. Because without this rule Internet providers could cripple competitors they don't like. […]

Having the pipes treat all data the same lets one guy with a good idea and a bit of programming knowledge make something today that's seen by millions tomorrow. But only because his data is treated equally with everything else in the pipes.

An Internet that treats data equally is an internet that continues to shower us with wonder. But an Internet where middlemen pick and choose what comes through the pipe is an Internet of stagnation for all and profit for few. Which is why some Internet providers will always want that control, so the cost of preserving our awesome Internet is eternal vigilance on the part of good citizens to defend Net Neutrality.

Read the whole script below the fold, but before you do, help us stop the FCC from crushing net neutrality. Please sign our petition.

Hello Internet,

Enjoying your Internetting session? Perhaps watching this video with lots of tabs open and full of interesting things to check out. The Internet is amazing and that's because of the rules which govern how it works, an important one of which is Net Neutrality: treating all data equally.

But some Internet Providers want to ditch this rule to insert themselves betwixt you and your data as the most meddlesome middlemen in human history -- to their benefit and our detriment.

How? Well think of the Internet as a series of pipes. Some are ocean-and-continent spanning pipes through which vast rivers of data flow.

You don't get access to those -- they're very expensive, and you couldn't handle it anyway.

But you do have a little pipe that connects to the big pipes, through which you can pull down and send out data. Your pay your Internet provider to maintain this pipe.

This rule means that your little pipe, cares not what flows through it: cat videos, discussion forums, calls or games. Whatever you're doing, you're using the whole pipe to do and no website gets preference over another.

Everyone wants faster Internet, but that requires more metaphorical pipe in the ground, the building of which is slow and expensive.

Now you may have heard your Internet provider on the news talking about how this rule prevents them from building 'fast lanes' for special kinds of data -- they want you to think they're expanding your access to the information superhighway. But removing this rule also gives them the power to speedbump the existing roads and charge more to use the 'fast' lane that was just what you had before.

The power to preference some data over others is the power to favor one video site over another and to limit a tiny part of the pipe for the video you're watching right now or trying to anyway.

We've been through this before: and constrain other companies in similar ways. Take the electricity. You pay for a certain amount and when it arrives in your house you can do with it what you wish. The electricity company doesn't get to decide that rather than build more power plants it's going to dim your bulbs and then offer a 'brighter bulbs' monthly subscription. And so it should go with the Internet. Watts are watts and bits are bits and we'll always need more and more.

And preserving this rule for the Internet has much wider impact than just if some company takes more of your coins. Not to be overly dramatic here, but preserving data equality may be one of the most important issues in a generation. Because without this rule Internet providers could cripple competitors they don't like.

Ever notice the same company that sells you internet also sells Cable TV and Landlines -- stuff The Internet totally replaces? Without data equality your Internet Provider could narrow the pipe for competitors until they either go out of business, pay the meddlesome middleman, or both.

It's like if one store in town super-promised to pay for fast roads everywhere as long as the town gave them absolute power over all the roads no backsies. If you agree to that deal don't be surprised when years later all traffic to them is fast and free while the roads elsewhere are slow and neglected.

This town is basically the Internet without net neutrality which some Internet Providers would love, but actual Internet citizens, not so much.

Having the pipes treat all data the same lets one guy with a good idea and a bit of programming knowledge make something today that's seen by millions tomorrow. But only because his data is treated equally with everything else in the pipes.

An Internet that treats data equally is an internet that continues to shower us with wonder. But an Internet where middlemen pick and choose what comes through the pipe is an Internet of stagnation for all and profit for few. Which is why some Internet providers will always want that control, so the cost of preserving our awesome Internet is eternal vigilance on the part of good citizens to defend Net Neutrality.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:14:50 PM PDT

  •  You might want to link... (6+ / 0-)

    ...to the article I posted about yesterday from Vox.  It has a great explanation, with visuals, about what Net Neutrality is and what the proposals on the table actually do to it.

    Or write a feature on it.  You get more eyeballs than I do.

    Everyday Magic

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    -- Clarke's Third Law

    by The Technomancer on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:23:44 PM PDT

  •  is the internet a public good (yet) (4+ / 0-)
    An Internet that treats data equally is an internet that continues to shower us with wonder. But an Internet where middlemen pick and choose what comes through the pipe is an Internet of stagnation for all and profit for few. Which is why some Internet providers will always want that control, so the cost of preserving our awesome Internet is eternal vigilance on the part of good citizens to defend Net Neutrality.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:24:39 PM PDT

  •  i apologise, but (0+ / 0-)

    my comment isn't about the specifics of net nutrality, or the greed of large companies, of the loss of democracy or the FCC.
    it's about the only thing that matters if we want to stop this from happening.
    petition the FCC if you will. but it'll be like petitioning the defense department to stop drones or petitioning eric holder to get tougher on the banksters.
    it all stems from obama.
    he could stop it if he wanted to.
    that's where the pressure belongs.
    thanks.

  •  Once again, barking up the wrong tree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    duhban

    There has never been a network neutrality rule applied to the Internet; information services are basically exempt from regulation. Bits on the Internet have never all been treated the same. That would be common carriage, not the Internet.  It is simply wrong to say that the FCC is taking away something that never existed; their Part 8 rules were enjoined, and never took effect; they were actually written with legal defects in order to ensure it.

    What we need is common carriage, but not of the Internet itself.  Common carriage was the rule for the circuits that ISPs purchased; the Internet is legally content, and thus protected by freedom of the press, which includes the right to not carry something.

    Literal neutrality means that spammers would have free rein,  because spamming is legal, thanks to the yes-you-CAN-SPAM Act. Literal neutrality means that Russian crackers, DDoS attackers, and other miscreants would have run of the net.  Those have always been blocked. Spam is reduced by a rule among ISPs called Mutually Assured Destruction (as in "the bomb") -- if an ISP sells service to a spammer, or even allows another such ISP to transit it, then that ISP is entirely cut off, no questions asked.  That of course is quite effective in ensuring no more "pink contracts".

    Arguing for regulation of the Internet itself is counterproductive. It never existed in the US, though I hear Mr. Putin is interested.  The access circuits (DSL, cable, fiber) should be regulated, to allow consumers a real choice (not just two) of ISPs. If there were a choice, then ISPs would block what their customers wanted blocked (spammity spam, and if and when necessary, HD video streams that block everything else). They'd put resources where it did their customers the most good. THIS WORKED.  We had this until 2005.  Instead we now have companies trying to game the system to get cheaper connections by making up stories about "neutrality", often when it's just a peering dispute (they don't want to play by the Internet backbone's market-oriented rules).  You don't want a regulated Internet -- it would have many of the problems of the telephone system (hello long distance, more taxes, etc.), but be less reliable (the phone system was designed around regulation).

    What we need is open access, so the retail Internet becomes truly competitive again. Then the illusion of neutrality, the magic trick that we've all enjoyed in the past, of the good without the bad, can continue, and probably with lower prices and better service to boot (monopolies aren't usually so great).

    And the Courts have made quite clear that applying Title II common carriage to those access circuits would be well within the FCC's rights.  Regulating the whole Internet would be a real stretch, likely to lose in court again.

    •  Good points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      duhban

      But the only way this can work is if you treat the network as a utility and subsidize in some fashion the vast amount of money needed to keep the network fast, reliable and growing with bandwidth demands. Someone has to pay for the network, run the network, maintain the network, upgrade the network and so on. This takes vast amounts of capital OPEX and CAPEX. The carriers are being swamped by content providers who pay nothing to use the pipes yet force providers and users to pay more and more just so these content providers can get to their clients. This is not an easy issue to understand unless you understand the intricacies of the business. If I spent millions investing in routers, switches, CPE, accounting software, billing software, fiber, copper, trenches, trucks, tools, CO's and so on, I expect a return on it or why do it? Everyone on the content side of this debate wants free access to the world. Guess what, nothing is free.

      Do facts matter anymore?

      by Sinan on Tue May 06, 2014 at 04:23:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you kidding? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat

        Free? You think Comcast et al are providing free service to their customers? No, the customers pay for the service...and pay dearly compared to the rest of the world. The ISPs are already receiving payment from their customers for access to the "free" and paid content. It's the ISP's job to maintain not just the last mile but also their interconnects in order to provide the service their customers already pay for.

        •  My lord. (0+ / 0-)

          The people who I am talking about are the content providers who use Comcast networks and access their client base without paying a nickel to Comcast. Comcast does have content which they own which should be viewed as an anti-trust matter but that is a different topic altogether. I can assure you that the majority of the traffic on the network is from sources that are not paying for the network. Try the porn industry for starters.

          Do facts matter anymore?

          by Sinan on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:54:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who? (0+ / 0-)

            Who are the content providers who use Comcast without paying them? If they're business customers, they pay Comcast for hosting and traffic services. If they're residential customers, they presumably have some kind of "included personal hosting" service as part of their residential package, which they pay for and presumably don't generate much traffic anyway (few personal websites get enough hits to even be a blip on an ISP like Comcast).

            I can't imagine Comcast voluntarily providing hosting/colocation/etc services to a large commercial site without charging for it. So who are these content providers on Comcast's network who don't pay a nickel?

          •  And that traffic... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Krotor

            ...was requested by customers of Comcast, who sell people like me a service saying I can access the Internet, not some Prodigy/Compuserve-style walled garden relic from last millennium.

            Everyday Magic
            Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
            -- Clarke's Third Law

            by The Technomancer on Wed May 07, 2014 at 10:39:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  That number's not that vast. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat

        It would be if they were starting from scratch now, but the costs are largely sunk, and you get accelerated amortization on tech gear due to how short of a life span it has.

        I do understand the intricacies of the business, and I also understand that US ISP's aren't holding up their end of the peering deal anymore.

        Everyday Magic

        Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
        -- Clarke's Third Law

        by The Technomancer on Tue May 06, 2014 at 04:59:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No you don't understand the business. (0+ / 0-)

          If you did, you would not make this absurd claim that costs are sunk and that depreciation makes it affordable. You obviously have never got a bill from cisco for SmartNet. I design, build and sell telephone delivery networks for a living. I work with hundreds of telephone companies, CLECs, ISPs and carriers every day. I also know the lobbyists who try to keep the subsidized system in play and are failing miserably in their attempts to keep the current funding sources available to keep these telcos running. It costs way more than you think to run a telco.

          Do facts matter anymore?

          by Sinan on Wed May 07, 2014 at 09:58:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're misunderstanding me. (0+ / 0-)

            I can get ADSL or VHDSL where it's available from the line owner, or from an ISP or CLEC with access to those last mile lines.

            They need to replicate that model for the cable, because it is too expensive and disruptive to build out duplicate, redundant networks at the last mile like that.

            I understand the business fine, and I understand the costs involved.  It's pretty directly related to my living.  And it's still massively profitable thanks to scale.  To claim otherwise would be absurd, not my statements.

            Everyday Magic
            Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
            -- Clarke's Third Law

            by The Technomancer on Wed May 07, 2014 at 10:43:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Massively profitable to scale? (0+ / 0-)

              Not if you have to pay the fees to the networks for TV. Margins on broadcast, cable and premium channels are horrific. I don't know one single telco that makes money off that service. Not one. They do it to keep their clients on POTS and data services. So lets do the math. One FTTH network using GPON will run you 300.00 for the ONT that is on the side of your house. Add another 500 dollars per port for the OLT that feeds it from a 30,000 outside plant cabinet that has to be fed with a fiber that is buried at a cost of 50 to 200 dollars a foot to build. Then you have the head end, another million bucks or more, the softswitch, the routers, the middle ware, the set top box, the backend billing software, the 24 hour phone support, the installation crews, the management and so on.

              If you just do data and voice, that telco will get around 50-60 bucks a month from you. If you do the triple play, they might get 130 bucks from you a month. It takes years to get the payback and during that time they have to upgrade the core network and the link to the internet not because of the traffic from TV services but from traffic to sites they don't get a dime from. It is a tough business.

              My entire point in this thread is that the conversation here seems to be emotional with hardly any factual data provided or understanding of the business. It is knee jerk nonsense from folks who want to get access for free. Drives the industry nuts and unless you want them to go out of business, you need to start listening to them. Net nuetrality is a great idea but someone has to pay for it.

              Do facts matter anymore?

              by Sinan on Wed May 07, 2014 at 06:17:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  The wire used to be a utility (and should be) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Technomancer

        You have to approach the Internet as layers, not as one thing.  The bottom layer is wire (cable, fiber, etc.).  The next layer is telecom - lighting the wire neutrally.  That was a utility until recently -- telephone rates were regulated by public utility commissions.  The outside plant (wire, conduit, poles, buildings) was very expensive, and regulated on rate of return, like other utilities.

        Broadband services were never price-regulated, but when the telephone company provided them, they were still common carriage.  That's what needs to be restored. This could be done by making just the wire/cable/fiber a utility, so anybody could light it.  The Telecom Act of 1996 started down that path but it was basically gutted.  

        But the higher layers, the actual Internet, the system of computers and connections in data centers, is not a utility.  It is still competitive (once you get there via access connections) and works just fine (in a regulatory sense; the technology is obsolete and dodgy) without regulation.

        •  The utility model is what I recommend (0+ / 0-)

          but it goes right up against the horizontal integration of access and content that has occurred over the last few years. IMHO, the physical network should be viewed as a public good, a utility, with standards, quality of service metrics, common bandwidth goals and so on. But it is not going in that direction. It is going into the direction of mobile carriers and a colossal battle between the telcos and the MSOs. Most every home has several physical connections to the world. The power plant, the water plant, the copper telephone plant, the coax cable plant and if you are lucky, a fiber connection by either the telco or the mso. Say you have a home that has Verizon FIOS and Comcast HFC to it. Both can provide the same services now with the advent of IP. Which one do you call the utility? Which one do you subsidize? Like I said, this is a very, very complicated issue.

          Do facts matter anymore?

          by Sinan on Wed May 07, 2014 at 10:03:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  This is actually not true. (0+ / 0-)

      From about 1968, when the FCC (shamed by the courts) let people attach dial-up modems to the telephone system,  to about 2002, culminating in the 2005 Brand X decision, data over phone lines was clearly a telecom service.

      •  The content wasn't (0+ / 0-)

        From 1968 (Computer I) to 2002, telephone lines, leased lines, packet services, and broadband access lines provided by telephone companies (but not cable companies) were common carriage, but that was the "basic service", roughly the same as today's "telecommunications service".  The "enhanced service" carried across the phone line was not a telecom service. There was a very bright line between content (basic) and carriage (enhanced/information), and the only reason the consumer Internet could exist was because it was enhanced service.  That allowed it to evolve very quickly without FCC intervention, while the telephone companies had to sell their circuits to the ISPs, even though the telephone companies hated hated HATED the Internet (and still do).

        (And for the record and without outing myself, I do have "expert" status on that.)

        •  So am I, and you're misstating things. (0+ / 0-)

          First, "basic service" is not roughly the same as telecom service.  Telecom service was clearly defined in the 1996 Act, and "basic service" referred to data riding on top of telecom service.  "Enhanced service" referred to data that got somehow modified by the network from end-to-end - as little as, stored and then later retrieved.

          A Compuserve user relied on a telecom service from the phone company carrying an information service from Compuserve itself.  

          What allowed Compuserve to evolve quickly, and then the Internet, was the Carterfone decision - an  act of regulating Ma Bell.  The Internet then took off when DARPA permitted it - AND when HTML was widely adopted, allowing standard, easy creation of web sites.  The Brand X and related decisions came much later (in Internet timeframes).

          The 2002 era decisions cut DSL free of common carrier regulation.  The FCC may have hoped that this would produce DSL technology to rival cable speeds: FAIL.  All it did was deny actual content providers equal access to the monopoly networks.

          •  You really don't get the Act (0+ / 0-)

            "Basic service" was defined in Computer II (1980) and it was the basis of the definition of "telecom service" later.  The term "telecommunications service" was created in TA96.  This is just a fact; the fact that you don't realize it tells me you are not experienced in this field.  I was doing telecom regulatory work in 1980 (I still do) and so I have followed these terms all along.

            You are right about Compuserve, since that was an information service, and it did evolve into an ISP. ISPs exist because they are deemed equivalent to Compuserve. DARPA however had nothing to do with the public Internet. ARPANET ended in 1987.  The NSFnet AUP ended in 1992; that opened their backbone to commercial use.

            DSL was relieved of common carriage in 2005, not 2002; that was when fiber was relieved.  Both were however mistakes, I'm sure you agree.

            •  You're playing word games and (0+ / 0-)

              you don't even realize it.  (Not just in the absurd statement that "DARPA had nothing to do with the public Internet.")

              Prior to the 1996 Act, telephone companies were treated as common carriers - especially after Carterfone. This common carrier obligation was later called "telecommunications service" but the set of obligations precedes the use of the term.  (The Act added obligations on existing phone companies to share infrastructure, going beyond the obligations on other telecom carriers. But the Act did not invent the telecom carrier model - it just applied a new name to it.)

              I'm frankly tired of your misplaced patronizing tone.  Goodbye.

              •  I'm not playing word games at all (0+ / 0-)

                The law here is somewhat confusing but is based on very specific terminology and definitions.  And there are plenty of companies who try to game the system by twisting Title 47's somewhat badly written language.  So when you use the term "basic service", a legal term (from 47 CFR), to mean something that specifically was excluded from that definition (e.g., Internet service), you're the one playing word games, not I.

                The common carrier obligation goes back to the 19th century.  Carterfone had nothing to do with it; that simply permitted "foreign attachments" (the term of art at the time).  TA96 did not change it either.  Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 is titled "Common Carriers" and TA96 amended it, but it still was about common carriers.  That's why Internet is sometimes called "Title I", a nonsense term since that title describes the organization of the FCC and has the definitions (47 USC 153); it doesn't however regulate enhanced/information services.

                And BTW, DARPA had nothing to do with the public Internet. (I was on ARPANET back in the 1970s.) Only government agencies and contractors, including many universities (doing research), were allowed onto it.  ARPANET was not public at all.  Public Internet began in the early 1990s.  Yes, it can trace its antecedents to ARPANET, but Al Gore got NSFnet funded in 1987 and that got a lot more universities on line, which predated actual public access to the Internet. That's why its so insecure -- it was designed for a private environment where the network owners had all sorts of weapons....

  •  Simply Greed (0+ / 0-)

    Every serious problem in America is about greed --  Income inequality, climate change, political corruption, guns, and even racism.  It is about advantaging the few at the cost of everybody else.  Capitalism doesn't work in the long term and nothing is going to change until the 99% starts voting in their self interest.

    President Obama needs to be more liberal.

    by jimgilliamv2 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 03:59:38 PM PDT

  •  It is pretty agravating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat

    to watch Comcast take their immense profits and use them to buy up content providers instead of investing a penny in improving their marginal, as little as possible service.

    This is a political failure, and I don't see any politicians  fighting hard enough to prevent the creation of these vertically integrated monopolies.

  •  After we give da 'tubes to Comcast, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat

    I sez give the Interstate System to Exxon/Mobile. Then we won't have no damn speed limits!

    "the northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see. Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee". - Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon

    by Joe Jackson on Tue May 06, 2014 at 04:03:04 PM PDT

  •  Net Neutrality illustrates the difference between (0+ / 0-)

    radio and early television, when government “owned” the air waves and licensed certain frequency bands in certain regions for certain purposes and certain individuals and groups, versus cable television (or the telegraph/telephone), in which all transmission media is owned privately, and can be used only by its owners, versus Internet, which began with the government owning the media (back in the days of ARPAnet), and which was commercialized without due thought given to these differences. In the US, all commercial Internet is privately owned in a hierarchy of ownership that is determined solely by the profit motive, exactly like cable TV, yet, many make the case that it is a public resource that should administered for the good of the public, like the airwaves. It would probably have been possible, before its hasty commercialization, to figure out a better approach.

    My personal favorite was to turn it over to the floundering US Post Office. Today, there are probably more emails and equivalent communications delivered on Internet in the US in a day than were delivered in a year back in the days of the Post Office. Yet, the “USPS” continues to flounder, while mega-rich corporations make all the decisions about how our Internet should be run.

    Even the underlying TCP/IP protocol could have been enhanced in various ways to make it more useful in a commercial environment: for example, cost could have been charged back and could have been made to correspond precisely to the underlying resources consumed. (Consider the old French Minitel system, in which network usage costs appeared on the phone bill.)

    But, this wasn't done, and the moment may have passed forever. My prediction: given the existing anything goes, cowboy-like structure of the American Internet, I predict that net neutrality will soon be forgotten, like 64K RAM chips, 3.5 inch floppy disks, CRT terminals, dial telephones, and the Western Union boy.

  •  The FCC Wrote (Lied!) Back (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat

    Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet
    proceeding. We're hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this
    critical issue, and so I'm very glad that we can include your thoughts and
    opinions.

    I'm a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the
    internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

    Tom Wheeler
    Chairman
    Federal Communications Commission

    -------  Original Message  -------  
    From:      MyEmail
    Subject:   Do Not End Net Neutrality

    To: Chairman Wheeler and the rest of the Federal Communications Commission,
    We want action for democratic media, not platitudes as smokescreens for
    corporate domination of the Internet. We want net neutrality. Leave the Internet
    alone and stop looking for ways to "fix" it.

    REALLY!? I guess the "Open Internet" is the new label Tom Wheeler is using for screwing it all up.

  •  Thanks, Joan! Timely primer on net neutrality. nt (0+ / 0-)

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