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First published on my blog Occam's Razor.

Upset by proposals by the Federal Communications Commission to create “express lanes” on the Internet? If the current proposal now out for public comment becomes a rule, it would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast to charge a fee to those web sites that want faster content delivery.

This is the opposite of net neutrality, which is the principle that all web content should be delivered by an ISP at the same speed. (Actually, it’s at the same bandwidth, since all network traffic is effectively at the speed of light.) The argument goes that without net neutrality, those companies with deeper pockets, particularly those who are already established, such as Netflix, have an unfair competitive advantage over other services or start ups without such deep pockets. It’s a concern I certainly share, so much so that I first blogged about it in 2006. Bottom line: I am still concerned and I think this proposal must be fought.

What I didn’t write about back in 2006 was that there was no net neutrality back then either. Effectively, bandwidth is already discriminatory because it is based on ability to pay. It’s just based on your ability to pay, not the content provider’s. For example, Verizon has basically four tiers of Internet service from it’s “high speed” service (actually it’s lowest speed service) where content delivery does not exceed 1MB per second to its “high speed Internet enhanced” service where you can download at up to 15MB per second. It’s hard to quantify what the cost of the 1MB/sec plan is compared to the 15MB/sec plan, because it depends on many factors including what bundle you may or may not choose. Suffice to say if you want a 15MB/sec service, you will pay more than a 1MB/sec service. So if streaming Netflix is critical to you, consider their 15MB/sec service. (Of course, this assumes that the port between Verizon and Netflix can handle 15MB. If it can’t then there is no point in paying Verizon the premium.)

You can think of the Internet connection from your ISP like a water pipe. If the water pipe is big (and the water pressure is high enough) you can get more water per second through a bigger pipe. What the FCC is proposing is to take this pipe and put two pipes inside it. One is a fat pipe that will serve certain content very quickly, the “fast lane”. The other smaller pipe is for those who can’t afford to pay ISPs these premiums, i.e. the “slow lane”. Since I live in traffic-congested Washington D.C., I think of the “fast lane” as the pricey HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes on the beltway, and the “slow lane” as the toll free and usually congested other lanes. It’s not hard to imagine the Internet feeling a lot like it did in 1995, when the hourglass is principally what you saw in your web browser. Pages took forever to load, if they ever did. For those of us who remember those days, revisiting them sounds quite frightful. ISPs would have every incentive to throttle the slow lanes, because it would mean that web content providers would come to them and negotiate to use their fast lanes. In addition, they would have little incentive to increase bandwidth for their customers overall, but plenty of profit to funnel back to stockholders from those that pay for fast lanes. It is the antithesis of what the Internet is about.

So already there is no net neutrality of content delivery, unless you have an ISP that provides a “one speed for all customers” plan. The issue is not content delivery; it is the speed of particular content distribution within the ISP’s network. Which brings up another less noticed way that the Internet is not equal. It has to do with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

If you access my blog with a browser you will notice it takes a while to render a web page. Why is that? It’s because I don’t pay for a content delivery network. I did a test from home on accessing my web site. I had to go through 13 routers (switches on the internet) between my home computer and my web host:

1  wireless_broadband_router (192.168.1.1)  0.525 ms  0.244 ms  0.216 ms
2  l100.washdc-vfttp-93.verizon-gni.net (173.66.179.1)  7.083 ms  7.095 ms  8.161 ms
3  g1-5-3-0.washdc-lcr-21.verizon-gni.net (130.81.216.76)  9.435 ms  12.101 ms  12.305 ms
4  ae7-0.res-bb-rtr1.verizon-gni.net (130.81.174.208)  9.731 ms
    so-12-1-0-0.res-bb-rtr1.verizon-gni.net (130.81.151.230)  27.151 ms
    ae7-0.res-bb-rtr1.verizon-gni.net (130.81.174.208)  8.855 ms
5  0.ae1.xl1.iad8.alter.net (140.222.226.149)  10.166 ms
    0.ae5.xl1.iad8.alter.net (152.63.8.121)  9.396 ms  10.254 ms
6  0.xe-8-3-1.gw12.iad8.iad8.alter.net (152.63.37.14)  9.610 ms
    0.xe-8-0-0.gw12.iad8.alter.net (152.63.35.134)  9.693 ms
    0.xe-10-1-0.gw12.iad8.alter.net (152.63.35.102)  10.872 ms
7  customer.alter.net.customer.alter.net (152.179.50.206)  8.733 ms  10.023 ms  9.717 ms
8  he-2-4-0-0-cr01.ashburn.va.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.83.65)  10.252 ms
    he-2-6-0-0-cr01.ashburn.va.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.83.73)  14.819 ms
    he-2-5-0-0-cr01.ashburn.va.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.83.69)  12.388 ms
9  he-4-3-0-0-cr01.56marietta.ga.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.89.150)  39.468 ms  42.618 ms  37.101 ms
10  he-1-12-0-0-cr01.dallas.tx.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.88.234)  42.852 ms  45.176 ms  44.283 ms
11  be-22-pe01.houston.tx.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.85.174)  50.270 ms  49.438 ms  50.270 ms
12  as8075-1.2001sixthave.wa.ibone.comcast.net (75.149.230.54)  49.692 ms  85.009 ms  50.379 ms
13  216.117.50.142 (216.117.50.142)  49.597 ms
Electrons still travel at the speed of light, but they are thirteen stoplights between my computer and my web server, at least for me. You can see how long my request took at each stop. For example, hop 13 took 49.597 milliseconds. Add up all the milliseconds to see how long it took for me to get to my site. If you do the same thing, the number of hops will probably vary, along with the access time. In short, it’s relatively slow to get to, which alone may explain why my traffic is down. People are impatient when they click on a link to my site from a search index. So they go elsewhere or get an effective CDN by using a subscription service to read content like Feedburner or feedly.com.

This is not much of a problem if I go to google.com. Here is the route:

1  wireless_broadband_router (192.168.1.1)  0.557 ms  0.229 ms  0.202 ms
2  l100.washdc-vfttp-93.verizon-gni.net (173.66.179.1)  6.919 ms  8.588 ms  7.432 ms
3  g1-5-3-0.washdc-lcr-21.verizon-gni.net (130.81.216.76)  12.248 ms  12.530 ms  9.252 ms
So basically Google has figured out a way for its servers to be “close” to me, usually geographically, so I get their content more quickly, or at least with fewer stoplights between their servers and my computer. This magic is done through a content delivery network. I’m pretty sure Google rolled their own, and that takes a lot of money, which Google helpfully has.

You can imagine if a company wanted to create a new amazing search index, it would be at a significant disadvantage if it didn’t have a content delivery network. They probably won’t roll their own like Google, but use one of the networks out there that do this for profit, like Akamai and Level 3. The technology behind this is interesting but I won’t detail it here. The linked Wikipedia article explores it if you are interested. Suffice to say it does not come free, but there are times when it is justified. The U.S. Geological Survey where I work uses a commercial content delivery network. Whenever there is a major earthquake they push the content out to the CDN, otherwise their servers would get overloaded and it would be like a massive denial of service attack. It also gets this data out more quickly to the public, as the typical customer probably only has to traverse three hops instead of thirteen to get the information.

We like to think that the Internet is free, but of course it isn’t. We all pay for access to it. Even if we don’t pay it directly, we pay indirectly, perhaps for the cup of coffee at Starbucks while we surf on their wireless network, or through taxes if we use Internet kiosks at our local library. Doing away with net neutrality is just another means by which ISPs hope to make gobs of money from having a monopoly on the last mile between the content you want and your computer. This may be due, in part, by our refusal to pay for their pricier tiers of service. The only difference is that this time you are not directly paying for it but other content providers will be. (You would think ISPs might cut you in on the deal and discount your rate, but that assumes they are benevolent, and not the profit-obsessed weasels they actually are.) As we all know, nothing is free, so these costs will certainly be passed on to you if you are a subscriber, and that profit will go to the ISP.

Given that bandwidth to the home is a limited commodity, giving discriminatory access to web content providers that can afford to pay must by necessity mean that others will get less access. In that sense, the latest FCC proposal is smoke and mirrors, and it is in everyone’s interest to get off our lazy asses and oppose it.

You can leave a short comment to the FCC here or a long comment here.

Originally posted to Guy Noir on Fri May 16, 2014 at 06:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very informative diary (14+ / 0-)

    Is there a country that has true "net neutrality"?

    Is there a country where the "back bone" is controlled by politics?

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri May 16, 2014 at 06:19:05 PM PDT

    •  Not that I know (5+ / 0-)

      But I might move to it.

      Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

      by Guy Noir on Fri May 16, 2014 at 06:27:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This was going to be my first question. (6+ / 0-)

      Aren't companies charging different rates now. THANK YOU FOR THIS DAIRY!!!!.

      •  As a customer, I get a multi-tier plan for (7+ / 0-)

        receiving my internet coverage, from .5 to 5 mb/s.  Yes I have the fastest plan my wire will hold.  If they had fiber in my neighborhood, I could get up to 40 mb/s.  

        And they won't, as there is NO incentive to put the bigger pipe in.  They won't do a thing until the whole thing breaks down and everyone jumps ship to a new provider.

        "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

        by doingbusinessas on Fri May 16, 2014 at 10:04:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Check out Chattanooga. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama, StrayCat, rduran, Shockwave

          Our town, which is not Chattanooga, bought itself a $14,000,000 workout building.

          For $1,400,000 surely we could have put in Chatty's 1-gig Internet service for the whole place. They charge $70/month for the gig.

          (Still, "Nice pecs !!!")

          And that's a 1-gig download speed, not a misread.

          "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

          by waterstreet2013 on Sat May 17, 2014 at 04:25:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I tracert google.com in 13, dailykos.com in 8 hops (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      caul, Shockwave

      1 ms is .001 seconds and none of my hops to dailykos.com are more than  25 ms so my total wait to connect is less than 1 second. Am I really expected to pay more for a faster connection?

      Would I win more tank battles if my frames per second went up from 30 to 300 fps? I don't think my eye can process that fast.

      What happens with wireless connections in cities, does your cell phone just grab the closest repeater and then does it depend on what the repeater has for a mux, or whether its using digital demultiplexing or a pdr?

      Do we see all those hops because providers are using chained mux's

      "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

      by rktect on Sat May 17, 2014 at 01:28:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm no expert (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, Gay CA Democrat

        But I do know enough about digital technology to guess that the differences in effective speeds are caused by many factors and not just a subscriber's access speed to the nearest ISP server, but also how many nodes packets have to go through to reach the servers of the web sites they're using in BOTH directions, the quality of the routers and servers at each node in terms of processing power, buffer capacity and speed, how much traffic they're each handling, etc. There's also the time it takes for one's browser to render each page or frame, which is also dependent on the device it's running on, etc.

        The down/up speeds we're supposed to get from our ISPs (and that providers are supposed to get on their end, which are obviously orders of magnitude higher than what we get) represent ideal maximums, and are not indicative of actual or effective speeds, which are constantly varying and far lower. The important thing about net neutrality is that everyone, on the subscriber and provider end, must be guaranteed a certain minimum average speed that more than meets certain reasonable speeds necessary for meaningful internet use.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:37:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry for the late reply (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie

          I didn't realize the diary got into the community showcase.

          Each router decides which next router should get the packet of data, based on its measure of traffic at the time. It works out pretty well overall. Network engineers at places like Google make sure their hosting centers and network connections are close to prominent ISPs. That takes research and money, which gives them a competitive advantage.

          Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

          by Guy Noir on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:04:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Would it be possible (0+ / 0-)

            to develop an internet optimization process whereby network traffic analysis servers would continually monitor network traffic patterns and let routers that are capable of receiving and handling such information know where to send incoming packets, with these same routers being the source of traffic pattern information that these servers use? It would help these routers make smarter guesses since they can't otherwise know what things are like downstream.

            Undoubtedly someone's thought of this already, perhaps on a more ad hoc level, such that the network WAS the server, with the proper software.

            "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

            by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 09:19:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I think that you have misunderstood the timings (8+ / 0-)

    traceroute tries each hop three times and reports the roundtrip time for each try. It only tried the final destination once and the total round trip time was 49.597 ms.

    •  True tracert timings r measures of node latency... (0+ / 0-)

      Evidence that contradicts the ruling belief system is held to extraordinary standards, while evidence that entrenches it is uncritically accepted. -Carl Sagan

      by RF on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:06:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There are a couple issues with the traceroutes... (0+ / 0-)

      First, like you said, the time is at each hop. The total time is 49.597ms (round-trip)...not all the hops added up, which would be something like 300ms. That should probably be corrected, since even the US west coast to Australia is only 150ms round-trip.

      In that example, the traffic is also going somewhat far: DC to Atlanta to Dallas to Houston. (Hop 12, which claims to be at the Westin building at 2001 6th Ave in Seattle, a large peering point, is actually mislabeled: you can tell from the latency that it's also in Houston.) Comcast's network is pretty slow at getting from DC to Houston, but that's because they're using crappy fiber paths, not because they're purposefully slowing each hop down in this case. (I have seen traceroutes/mtrs where Comcast is overloaded at a peering point, which they ARE doing on purpose lately. Very different situation, though.)

      The second traceroute stops before it actually gets to the end. "g1-5-3-0.washdc-lcr-21.verizon-gni.net" is not Google. It's a Gigabit Ethernet interface on a Verizon router. (By naming convention, probably slot 1/5, port 3, with no vlan, thus "-0".) If I traceroute it from elsewhere to confirm, it goes to Verizon's network, not Google's. Were there extra filtered hops past that, or something? (The "* * *"ed ones.)

      It's certainly possible for Google to have a server 3 or 4 hops away from you, depending on where you are and where they peer. (The number of hops isn't that much important though; more hops tends to be slower, but not always.) The central point is correct of course: if you have money, you can pay for your content to be on a CDN and close to lots of users.

      This is a good diary, but it would be nice to see the technical details fixed up. :)

      •  Here's Comcast purposefully overloading peers: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catilinus, Gay CA Democrat

        I saved this one the other day to go with my other FCC complaint material. This is from my home connection to a random server in Europe I was trying to get to. But this is an example of REAL slowness in Comcast's network, on purpose, not just because a server is far away.

        Here's a Level3 blog post (really worth a read.) They don't name Comcast outright, but "Congestion that is permanent, has been in place for well over a year and where our peer refuses to augment capacity. Five of those congested peers are in the United States and one is in Europe. There are none in any other part of the world. All six are large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market."

        You can see the % of lost packets go up from 0% to 15% when it goes from hop 6 to hop 7. That is because Comcast seems to be purposefully overloading their peering connections with Level3 and other providers.

        A "normal" % of packets being dropped is < 0.1% or so (some providers will claim 0.5% is okay.) Past 1 or 2%, you'll start seeing significant slowness, because packets have to be resent. More than 5% starts becoming unusable.

        6. he-2-5-0-0-cr01.newyork.ny.ibone.comcast.net        0.0%    79   18.8  19.5  15.7  27.5   2.5
         7. ae12.edge1.NewYork2.level3.net          16.5%    79   50.9  37.8  33.1  90.4   8.7
         8. vlan51.ebr1.NewYork2.Level3.net          15.4%    79  119.2 120.8 118.0 129.0   1.8
         9. ae-46-46.ebr1.NewYork1.Level3.net          15.4%    78  124.0 121.9 119.2 129.6   2.4
        A different view of the same thing. The "?" means a dropped packet, the ">" means a packet with high latency (compared to other packets.)

        This is a time-based view, with one column per second: the left column is about a minute ago, the right column is the most recent test.

        6. he-2-5-0-0-cr01.newyork.ny.ibone.comcast.net         ..........................................................
         7. ae12.edge1.NewYork2.level3.net         ..??..???.????....??.??...................................
         8. vlan51.ebr1.NewYork2.Level3.net         ?....>??.>...??????.???..................>..>...>>.......>
         9. ae-46-46.ebr1.NewYork1.Level3.net         ?.?.?.?.??>??.?...??.?>.>>>>...........>....>.>.......>...
        10. ae-42-42.ebr2.London1.Level3.net          >?.?>......?...>?.?.?.........>..>.>................>.....
        11. vlan101.ebr1.London1.Level3.net         ??.?>???.?.?..?.??.???..>>........>>..>..>......>...>.>>..
        (Some technical detail left out; it's not just icmp being dropped here.)
      •  I'm at the internet hub (0+ / 0-)

        Near Herndon, Virginia. We have hosting centers all over the place. I'm not surprised Google is three hops away.

        Thanks for the more detailed explanation of traceroute. I do software development, not network engineering, so my knowledge is not perfect.

        Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

        by Guy Noir on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:06:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Data caps are also a problem (15+ / 0-)

    I just stumbled on this diary about Comcast, net neutrality, and data caps that I wrote back in 2008. (how are we still talking about this??)

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Instead of throttling Bittorrent, providers like Comcast will get the green light for implementing monthly data caps. This sounds all well and "net neutral" in theory, until you realize that data caps specifically cripple video.

    This means that users will think twice before watching a political video, and they'll think twice before downloading a TV show from iTunes or renting a movie from a Netflix online service.

    But hey, if you really want to get lots of video content, just include Comcast cable TV service with your Comcast cable internet service.

  •  end user will still pay (6+ / 0-)

    even though the ISP collects a fee from the content providers.

    the content provider will then charge a fee to their content so they can provide faster access.  

    So in the end the end user has to pay for what "use" to be free access.   in order for the sites that use to be free to stay in business.

    example daily kos charging monthly fee, so it can keep doing business in order to get access to the faster lane, so it can stay functional...

    If they want to stay in the game that is they start charging fees they did not before.

    •  Except DK is mostly text (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, caul, waterstreet2013, Wee Mama

      And a very small mouse in the python's gullet.  The revolution will be in unicode and ascii!  

      Netflix won't as cheap though.  

      ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

      by jessical on Fri May 16, 2014 at 09:41:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And astonishing Moral Mondays flyers. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat, jessical

        "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

        by waterstreet2013 on Sat May 17, 2014 at 04:29:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's possible to significantly degrade (5+ / 0-)

        access even to sites that are mostly text, since it's not just about burst speed, which is what your ISP's quoted plan speeds represent, but latency as well as packets transit through each node from provider to your device. Make them travel through enough nodes, or make even one node slower than it should be, and even a text-only site can be painful to visit.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:40:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  eh (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie

          I have run extreme latencies over RF from remote locations.  Obviously they could throttle things down to where a site which has been developed with low latency and fast speed would be painful and icky, even if it was truly all text, not text and pix and sometimes video...but I don't think that latency as such screws things up for a site like this so much as latency + ajax  (request, reply, request, reply, all supposed to be invisible to the user and pretty son you're talking serious time).  So in practical terms you're right but it could be adapted to.

          To continue in the contrary vein (small smile) I put 5-10 gigs a day through my current connection (among other things I'm managing a small fleet of VMs for my employer right now) and the advertised rates (crummy as they are) seem to hold, for both upload and download, over very long operations.  I do live about a mile from the POP, am surrounded by hospitals and major businesses, and the infrastructure is sufficient to support a new ISP offering gigabit speeds for 45 bucks a month.  So my results may not be representative (but they are empirical).

          ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

          by jessical on Sat May 17, 2014 at 09:36:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The broader point being (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jessical, Brown Thrasher

            that "speed" is about much, much, MUCH more than the down/up speed you're supposed to get from your ISP or the average transmission speed of even the slowest and narrowest link between you and the content you're getting. It also has to do with the nature and complexity of that content, what kind of processing needs to be done at the server, at each transfer node, and on your device, what other loads and demands each device has to deal with, how well-designed the hardware and software is at each of these, etc. I mean, even a personal T3 line isn't going to make rendering a text-only web page load any faster if the host is using 10 year old PC connected to the internet via a 500kbs DSL line. Basically, it's complicated, and the only thing the FCC is addressing here and really can address is that part of the complex collection of servers, software, routers, "pipes" and end-user devices that compromise the internet that ISPs actually own or have control over.

            "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

            by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 10:54:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  what they said (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brown Thrasher

          and has happened to me.

  •  All true (7+ / 0-)

    It is disheartening to see how fuzzy the discussion is.  Of course Level 3 latency numbers cost more and always have.  But you get something for your money (nothing so cool as geology in my case, but I've had to set up a voip rollout on a system I designed.  The only thing wrong with the Level 3s of this world is how big a player you have to be to get in the door.  But you can get it from people who get it from them).  We already pay Comcast and Verizon an obscene monopoly profit for horrible service, and now they get to turn around and screw content providers for that last mile.

    Presumably they will find a way to bundle this in a reasonable way -- if I rent a quarter rack, the sales dude at the freaky bombproof facility will have a way to add 50 bucks a month and get some decent bandwidth via the provider.  But what do I have to give the ISP?  Source IPs?  DNS they resolve and then use the IP for packet inspection?  Giving Comcast commercial encouragement to put their nose that far up our butts and then charge us for it is wretched.  If the last mile was really uncompensated, or they were extending themselves to provide excellent rural service, then this bit of pie might make sense.  As it stands it reeks of cheap and venal corruption.  I don't think it will "end the internet as we know it" but it definitely makes our government look like a series of crude payoffs between self important men (and a few women) in suits.

    It does make me wonder how tight the contracts are from POP to home.  In Seattle, the Westin is in microwave distance from my apartment.   There is surely a market limit on how much they can charge before people decide there is profit in an alternative.  My guess is the end result is a big fat payment from the Netflix and Amazons, some crummier but still effective bundling for lower end providers, and a boost in the market for all that great high speed packet sniffing gear the NSA paid to develop.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Fri May 16, 2014 at 09:38:04 PM PDT

  •  One thing about the comparison to 1995 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2013, StrayCat
    It’s not hard to imagine the Internet feeling a lot like it did in 1995, when the hourglass is principally what you saw in your web browser.
    Most people were accessing the Internet from home via dial-up modem.  About 56k baud rate if I remember correctly.  Job hunting in 2001 with that slow connection finally prompted me to go broadband at home.

    And FWIW, the plurality of home users were probably using AOL in 1995 which didn't have a web browser at that time IIRC.  

    Speaking of telecom anachronisms.  So, my wife gets a nifty new Win8 ultrabook. As is common these days, no internal DVD drive...and not even a Ethernet jack!  Wireless is the only onboard way to connect.

    Yet what is Microsoft still bundling with Win8?  A fax device.  And it requires a telephone modem for connectivity.  What am I missing here? I haven't seen an onboard modem on a new computer in ten years.

    •  Don't you mean a fax app, not device? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phoenix Woman

      Some people still use fax modems, especially on desktops. God knows why, but there are fields, like law, that are years behind the times technologically and still use faxes. So MS simply continues to provide a bare bones fax app with Windows. Doesn't mean that your actual PC has a device that can use it, or that you'll even want or need to use it (although you can still buy external fax modems that plug into a PC's USB port).

      Btw my 4+ year old laptop doesn't have an internal CD/DVD drive and I have never missed it. I did buy a cheap external drive just in case, but only used it a couple of times and now it's just gathering dust somewhere. And I rarely need to use its ethernet jack.

      "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

      by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:46:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just wonder why fax even exists. (0+ / 0-)

      It's been a few years, but I remember being required to fax something to a company I was working with.  I had already eliminated my home phone.  What's wrong with a copier and email?  Apparently, that was too advanced.

      Fax should be as dead as teletype.

      I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

      by tle on Sat May 17, 2014 at 07:43:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for a good explanation of a very (7+ / 0-)

    complex topic.

    I agree that the real issue is making sure consumers have cheap and fast access lanes onto the info highway.

    Folks need to understand the difference between the physical net (the highway) and all the content providers like Daily Kos and Google.

    It is the basic connections that must be accessible to us.  When radio and TV were getting started the airwaves owned by We The People were tightly regulated and to a certain extent they still are.  The telephone physical network is the same way.  The physical internet should also be classified as a Common Carrier so it can be regulated for the Common Good of We The People.

    In most countries the telephone network was and still is run by the government.  The US was unique in having private corporations run the network.  But it goes further back to the railroads.  In other countries the government still run and own the rails.  As the telegraph became a means of nationwide communications those lines were run along the railroad rights of way.  In the US our telegraph lines ran along the tracks and later those lines were converted to telephone.  The orginal fiber optic networks around the US are generally subsidies of the railroad corporations.  Sprint was an off subsidiary of Southern Pacific, etc.

    Currently the US has very high consumer access costs compared to most of the rest of the world.  There are huge profits being made by the few corporations who hold the local monopolies for consumer service.  In a few places the monopolies have been rejected and citizens have set up Municipal Systems with huge savings for consumers.  ALEC is working hard to block this and have been successful in many of the Southern states.

    Congressional elections have consequences!

    by Cordyc on Fri May 16, 2014 at 10:23:25 PM PDT

    •  Chattanooga is a spectacular example. (0+ / 0-)

      "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

      by waterstreet2013 on Sat May 17, 2014 at 04:31:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wrong about other country telephone network run (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mbayrob

      by government.  While this is still true in Cuba, North Korea, and a few very poor nations, Telephony and Internet is mainly private companies for most all of the world.

      Governments that once had government owned telephone and Internet companies switched to private companies through a combination of selling the government owned companies and new companies.  Examples of this happening include China, India, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Mexico, etc..

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Sat May 17, 2014 at 07:12:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  nice diary, recommended, but electrons don't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2013

    travel at the speed of light, though they do travel pretty fast.  The portion of the trip where the signal is an electromagnetic waves (to and from a satellite) does go at the speed of light.  The portion in fiber optics, almost.  The portion in copper, not so much.

    Speed of electricity on wikipedia

    •  but even in copper, the speed of the signal is way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      waterstreet2013

      higher than the speed of individual electrons, and is of the order of magnitude of the speed of light (about 2/3 in the case of 24 gauge telephone polyethylene insulated cable  at 5 MHz, per the
      Telegrapher's equation).

      •  I only recently found out (0+ / 0-)

        that actual electrons travel very slowly, so slowly that a baby could outcrawl them easily. It's the signal that they transmit by oscillating back and forth at various rates that travels close to the speed of light.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:49:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  1/16th Speed of Light (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rktect, StrayCat

      Even though most Internet packets (especially intercity) spend most of the distance travelling at the speed of light through fiber, because they are encoded in light modulation, their routing and other processing requires transfer to electronics and back to light, several times. Eg. a 250 mile trip NYC to DC takes over 21ms, in which time light travels about 3912 miles.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Fri May 16, 2014 at 11:37:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK That's clear (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        waterstreet2013

        What I'm curious about is whether time is money to such a degree that the next step in technology is to eliminate the middle man.

        Particularly where many states are now following the groundwork of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and bringing Broadband to every small town in America.

        Whats the minimum necessary number of hops to get to my destination and how do I select that route? What do I need for a cellphone that gives me the same speed as my laptop?

        "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

        by rktect on Sat May 17, 2014 at 01:53:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not As Clear (0+ / 0-)

          In business, the next step is always to eliminate the middleman if you can. Or, if you're a middleman, to insert yourself wherever you can. And usually it's reduction for efficiency, or insertion for added value. Telecom is no different. Carriers inside their cartel do compete with each other. Though their first strategy is always to protect the cartel - from new entrants, and from any choice outside the cartel.

          The cartel has fought for years to stop the public from deploying broadband, whether wired, long distance, or WiFi. It's had mixed results, depending on local corruption. Many Democrats have been just as bad as Republicans in siding with the cartel.

          The "minimum number of hops" question is like asking "what's the minimum number of highways my convertible needs to get to my destination". Right down to the basic irrelevance of the type of car. Except if it's a truck, because of its size and rules to improve traffic flow there are special routes sometimes, which can change the entire routing because the special route doesn't connect to the regular route. It's a very complex problem, that thousands of network engineers work to maintain every day on a very dynamic basis.

          And since that complexity represents choices and options, it's probably better than the simple version. Which would be a monopoly telco that can give the true minimum hops covering the country - or the world. Because then there's no choice.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Sat May 17, 2014 at 08:01:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think you answered my question (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DocGonzo

            Having high bandwidth broadband in every small town in America eventually disenfranchises right wing talk radio which is left with the truck route and the potholes.

            In Red States where people are used to getting rather limited amounts of facts served with their sermons broadband provides the sort of epiphany you had the first time you looked at porn.

            Complexity will be hard to monopolize just because there are so many choices and options

            Along with the sudden influx of choices and options comes the realization that the people whom you had trusted before about things like Obamacare, climate change and jobs trickling down from tax breaks for the wealthy and tar sands in your aquifer were lying to you.

            "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

            by rktect on Sat May 17, 2014 at 08:32:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I know (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      codairem

      I am guilty of simplifying things assuming a general audience, not generally the case here. It depends on the medium but anyhow it's damn fast and close to the speed of light.

      Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

      by Guy Noir on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:16:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not Really (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, lotlizard, StrayCat

    The Internet has always (since the 1990s, when it was largely privatized) required each network on it pay per-bandwidth to the next network for passing traffic between them. That is not a problem, as the past decaes have shown.

    The new regime is a doublecharge ripoff. Not only do networks charge the network next door, but they extort extra fees from distant endpoints, whether small consumers or (more likely) big publishers. In addition to the next-network charges. That is an obvious problem. And it has no real basis in costs, as the networks are already paying their way to the networks next door. It's just a ripoff, because the Tier 1 telecom cartel leaves insufficient bandwidth to rout around them since they control the overwhelming amount of capacity.

    PS: Internet traffic isn't "effectively speed of light", as your own traceroute shows. The light is routed between long distance (and inside network operations centers) light fibers by transcoding to electrons, so they can be processed by electronics, then recoded into light. If I ping whitehouse.gov in DC, about 250 miles away, it takes 21-25ms (now, in light Internet traffic). Light travels about 3912 miles in 21ms. That's about 16x the speed of light overall.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Fri May 16, 2014 at 11:33:45 PM PDT

  •  We Should Own the Last Mile (5+ / 0-)

    That's a good description of the situation.

    But what I want is for the government to nationalize the last mile and provide traffic on it without any preferences for particular sources. In most places there's no competition, and functionally never will be.

    The Internet is and always has been a community. There's no guarantee that your path to a resource will be just a few hops. The theory is that each of the routers will route the traffic on an equal basis. I think the proposal we're seeing is to allow them to give preference on a router based on the source of the traffic. That might make it impossible to get to resources that don't pay, effectively shutting off communication from those sources.

    •  Almost all the costs of the system are last mile (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brown Thrasher, Liberal Thinking

      And whoever owns it, it needs to not be folks like Comcast, who are using it as a choke point.

      Bandwidth, once you pull the last mile out of the equation, is very cheap, and getting cheaper all the time.

      Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

      by mbayrob on Sat May 17, 2014 at 04:28:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  CDNs evidence a larger issue than Net Neutrality (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    guyeda, tle, cany

    I'm disturbed by the recent hyper-politicization of the poorly defined terms "net neutrality" and "packet discrimination" which create in the listener the illusion that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and computer networks work by magic and that they have discrete physical devices called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" into which traffic might be plugged into depending upon the precise state of remuneration:  this is a gross oversimplification and we deserve better.

    In any sort of pure sense, there is really no such thing as "net neutrality," there never has been, and there never could be, because "packet discrimination" is fundamental to how computer networks work.  THIS is the reason that when asked to define these most crucial terms, most proponents either just repeat the metaphors they have already been provided to use or try to change the subject.

    Network engineers, network administrators, and network operators have a very difficult job to do, adapting to a very dynamic and rapidly changing environment on a daily and even hourly basis, so very hard in fact, that in general they are barely able to keep up and do an adequate job.  For example preventing packets with forged source information from being passed along their networks as part of a DoS attack may complete allude ISPs, and even if they did plug that hole another would emerge almost immediately.  Computer networks are figuratively held together by spit and chewing gum and we expect them to adapt to ill-defined net neutrality rules, without everything falling apart?  Ha!

    I've also heard that Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are sometimes not considered a factor in determining "net neutrality."  I am unsure about this and the following is why.  CDNs are where content providers set up their own high-speed servers at multiple locations and pay ISPs to be directly connected to multiple internet backbones, the result of which is faster pings, no matter where the end-user is located.  The problem is that CDNs make a profit for ISPs by virtue of the fact the ISP is slow and congested--if an ISP was better maintained and had blazing fast speeds then there would be no need to pay that particular ISP to establish a CDN.  So even if CDNs are not part of the "net neutrality" issue (which I don't concede), because they provide a major financial incentive for ISPs to provide slower, congested networks, they are still a part of the larger problem.

    And what's that larger problem?  Well, the larger problem than net neutrality is that we pay far too much for really crappy internet speeds, and we do so largely because companies like Comcast have been allowed to geographical monopolies that stifle competition and innovation and have done so for years and years and years, and left alone will continue to do so.  The reason that this has been able to happen and the reason that this continues to happen is that internet broadband access is wrongly not classified as the utility it is in our modern Information Age.  What I would like to see happen is that the wires coming into my home connecting me to broadband internet be opened to competitor use--much the same way that telephone wires are--and the resulting competition be allowed to dramatically improve access to all content providers (even ones without "fast lanes") by virtue of having a better product to begin with.

    After all, "net neutrality" was never anything more than a halfway measure to try to give the consumer some of the benefits that would be come from the reclassification of broadband as a utility without actually getting us there.  But to be fair, allowing the government to regulate internet broadband access as a utility would put a very large administrative burden on ISPs (and not all ISPs are the evil Comcast that deserves any blows dealt to them).  So what I think should happen--and to be clear I am not a computer network professional and also my views are subject to change--is that we need a new government agency.

    When I write to the FCC during their open comment period over the next almost  120 days, and also to my political representatives, what I plan to do is ask that:  1) broadband internet access be regulated as a utility under Title II in order to provide the benefits of marketplace competition and choice to the consumer; and 2) a new government agency be formed and tasked with both assisting ISPs in conforming to the standards, minimum requirements, and fee structures to be established, and also educating and providing tools to the consumer to help them measure the performance of their ISP and make more informed choices.  A major challenge here will be to get such an agency funded and staffed with people with serious technical skills instead of just loading it with political appointments from ISP lobbyists, but I still think this is the best direction to go.

    I am still formulating my ideas on this subject and am very open to comments.

    Are you a Green who has difficulty telling Democrats and Republicans apart? Well, I have difficulty telling Greens and Maoists apart.

    by Subversive on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:07:16 AM PDT

  •  Does this rule only apply to speeds and rates (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    guyeda

    offered and charged to content providers (i.e. web sites), or also to those to subscribers (i.e. you and me at home)? Does the FCC have the power to require that all ISPs create a minimum access speed that all providers and subscribers would get that would be more than sufficient for 99% of web content, at reasonable rates, with anyone needing higher speeds and willing to pay for it able to get them? To use an analogy, I don't care how nice it is in first class, nor do I have a problem with there being one, so long as it's still perfectly comfortable in economy (which, of course, it's not these days, making this analogy an example of how we DON'T want the internet to be).

    Doesn't the provision of this proposed rule that requires ISPs to provide certain minimum speeds make it illegal for ISPs to throttle speeds, at least to the point where any of us would notice? Or is it so toothless and vague as to be meaningless and ripe for abuse?

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:27:03 AM PDT

    •  The FCC is looking to define a standard for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Subversive, kovie

      "minimum level of access," which I believe is what you're talking about when asking about minimum speeds (quotes below are taken from the FCC NPRM, beginning at ¶98)

      Requiring this minimum level of access under the no-blocking rule will ensure that all users have access to an Internet experience that is sufficiently robust, fast, and effectively usable.  This includes both end-user consumers and edge providers of all types and sizes, including those content providers who do not enter into specific arrangements with broadband providers. In short, our approach will enable consumers to access the content, services, and applications they demand and ensure that innovators and edge providers have the ability to offer new products and services.
      They propose three examples but are open to considering others:
      1. Best Effort:  "One way to define a minimum level of access is as a requirement that broadband providers apply no less than a 'best effort' standard to deliver traffic to end users."
      2. Minimum Quantitative Performance:  "Another way to define a minimum level of access is through specific technical parameters, such as a minimum speed."
      3. An Objective, Evolving “Reasonable Person” Standard:  "Another approach to defining a minimum level of access to broadband providers’ end users is to think of it as the level that satisfies the reasonable expectations of a typical end user."

      People have been focused on "fast lane" concept and that having one would require throttling traffic on the slow lane.  Under the proposed rules this would not be allowed.  The "slow lane" would likely be similar to access as it is right now.
      •  Which is why I'm confused (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        guyeda

        as to why some see this rule as so bad. Is it because they fear that it's vague and/or unenforceable enough that ISPs would be able to degrade speeds for users and providers not able or willing to pay for "fast lanes" below today's average speeds, while still technically being able to claim to not have done so, because an unrepresentative burst speed still matched those speeds?

        I'm ok with 2 lanes, so long as the slower lane isn't actually slow, but simply slower than the faster lanes, and no slower than today's average speeds (and preferably even faster), such that some people would experience even faster speeds (which most people don't really need and wouldn't benefit from), but most would experience perfectly decent speeds no matter what sites they visited and content they accessed (assuming that the providers had decent hardware at their end, which the FCC and ISPs have no control over).

        Additionally, there should be some useful standards for determining what a decent speed is, relative to the type of content people are accessing on the internet, subject to upward revision periodically as content inevitably becomes richer and more bandwidth-intensive (e.g. 4K video), as per your comment.

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 07:09:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm confused as well. I think part of the problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie

          is that there's a substantial amount of misunderstanding about how the internet functions, the players involved, and how they interact.  A good example of this is the recent Netflix/Comcast issue.  Most of the statements I've seen about that conflict are inaccurate and both Netflix and Comcast have their own interest in spinning that story to their own benefit.  For those interested, CNET has a pretty thorough report of the incident that is accessible for most people.  For those more comfortable with internet tech, Ars Tech. has a more detailed treatment.

          I think another issue is that people are arguing for different things under the net neutrality umbrella.  Some literally want it treated like a utility.  Some would like their transmission component treated like a common carrier that other potential ISPs could access and open up competition.  Some are worried that despite how good the rules sound, they might be unenforceable again.  Like you, I'm primarily concerned about potential degradation as a result of the fast lane.  If my access can be protected, I don't mind if other content is transmitted faster.

          •  The problem with the utility model (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            guyeda

            is that while rates are regulated and presumably kept to reasonable levels (which of course isn't the case for many people due to backdoor rate increases like base supply and delivery charges regardless of usage), it's a pay for use model, so the more content you access (or deliver), the more you have to pay for it, pricing many people (and providers) out of much content.

            To be honest I haven't thought enough about this issue, and don't know enough about it from both a technical and usage pov, to know what I really think about it, and what I'd like to see in terms of regulatory and pricing models, other than that there needs to be some base level of sufficiently fast access that everyone can afford, to non-commercial content.

            Thing is, what does that mean, specifically, in terms of access and delivery speeds and rates? What constitutes commercial access? Would a for-profit newspaper that doesn't charge for access to its web site be considered commercial since they're not making a direct profit on access? What about the percentage of the bandwidth used while visiting its site by advertisers? Aren't they commercial and if so should they or the paper pay something extra?

            Perhaps as in radio and TV, the advertising model will end up paying most of the bills for ISPs, making it possible for them to remain (hugely) profitable while not charging excessive rates to subscribers or providers, or throttling speeds to less profitable ones. But that would have to be regulated, as they would otherwise be an incentive to charge more to and/or throttle subscribers who don't click on ads and providers who don't have advertising.

            "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

            by kovie on Sat May 17, 2014 at 07:53:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not familiar with the utility model either. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kovie

              I think most people arguing to have the internet treated like a utility are doing so figuratively, i.e. like a utility, the internet should be tightly regulated.  Their argument is that the best path to enable this type of regulation is by reclassifying the ISPs as "common carriers."  It's a good argument.  In the weeks to come, I'm hoping people that have expertise in these issues dig in to the rules, point out the benefits and flaws, and propose potential solutions.

  •  Of course Verizon also offers CDN (0+ / 0-)

    with tiered pricing.

    Shall we go? Yes, let's go.

    by whenwego on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:43:07 AM PDT

  •  Let's look at this problem from the other side... (0+ / 0-)

    Do you have any idea how much of the available bandwidth Netflix is using in the evening hours?  Net neutrality allows any player to hog a good portion of bandwidth.

    Any service that becomes popular could, conceivably, hog a majority of available bandwidth.  Youtube and Netflix combined now take up about half at peak hours.

    So, at some point there will have to be a traffic cop.  

    And looking at it from, the perspective of the ISP's.  Why are they "evil" when they consider charging Netflix for use of that pipe?  Their customers not using Netflix are already being disadvantaged.

  •  Time Warner has 4 tiers of internet service. (0+ / 0-)

    One is "free" and is sllllooooowww.  The next is "Turbo" for an additional $10 per month but there is nothing "turbo" about it....there are 2 other tiers of $10 extra per month and $20 per month.....so you are absolutely correct.....

  •  Some points: (0+ / 0-)

    I'll start by re-iterating that customer-side data rates are to some degree not relevant. One pays for that rate, but actually obtaining that rate depends on a number of factors, some of which are outside the ISP's control.

    Jumping off from there:

    Content Delivery Networks are a good thing. They let companies that want to compete by delivering faster service, do so. A wide CDN is a bit like having more stores in a pizza delivery chain. CDNs are under the control of who pays for them (the owning company).

    Contrast that with ISP 'fast lane/slow lane'. These are not under the control of who paid for them. They're under the control of a middleman, who can jack up the price on a whim. Piss off a Verizon exec? Oops, your rates just went up. You're out of business. With no legal recourse!

    And the dangers of this go well beyond just the immediate legal-on-paper actions.

    That Verizon exec? Really, you didn't do anything to piss him off. But he mentioned his nephew needs a job. He's totally unqualified. Do you hire him? (Does this stink yet?)

    A non-neutral net will create these sorts of situations all over the place.

    BTW, I though this was worth re-iterating:


    ISPs would have every incentive to throttle the slow lanes, because it would mean that web content providers would come to them and negotiate to use their fast lanes.
    This. Exactly. There is money to be made by making the default horrendously slow: pretty much everyone would be forced to pay for fast lane access. And if there's money to be made, the ISPs will do it.

    This leads into my next point: the Comcast/TWC merger. What Comcast is really after here is leverage against content providers. To illustrate:

    Say you're a small ISP, and you go to Netflix and demand they pay extra to deliver their content at full speed. They'll laugh at you - you only server 0.01% of their customer base.

    Now, say you are Comcast TWC and you server 35% of Netflix's customer base. Now Netflix is fucked. They have to pay, even though they're getting nothing more, and their customers are getting nothing more.

    And it can get worse.

    Already, the big ISPs (Verizon in particular) are refusing to upgrade the network connections that are the heart of the internet. If net neutrality is erased, network upgrades and maintenance will wither: instead of network upgrades, ISPs will simply extort higher and higher prices from content providers. This is an existential threat not only to the free flow of information, but to the physical network itself.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Sat May 17, 2014 at 07:55:44 AM PDT

  •  You're missing a VERY important point. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shrike
    What I didn’t write about back in 2006 was that there was no net neutrality back then either. Effectively, bandwidth is already discriminatory because it is based on ability to pay.
    In terms of volume, you're correct; one pays more for 10Mbit/s bandwidth than ones pays for 2Mbit/s bandwidth.  

    (Non-technical folks - think of bandwidth as "how wide is the road to my house?" If you want a three-lane road instead of a two-lane road, you have to pay more.)

    In terms of relative proximity, you're also correct in observing that content providers can pay for content delivery networks that place some (but rarely all) of their content on the relative "edges" of the Internet, so that you don't have make the long trek to their data center for every piece of data.

    (Non-technical folks - think of this as "if they build a library branch across the street, I may not have to go to the main library to get the books I want.")

    What you're missing (and I suspect that ISPs really hope most people miss this) is the question of network prioritization as provided by routers.

    (Non-technical folks: think of routers as traffic cops at intersections, directing packets along the various paths that comprise the Internet. Your DSL/cable modem is very simple--one path in, one path out--but routers can scale up to hundreds of physical connections and thousands of routes.)

    Almost all routers support some form of prioritization; this simply means that when things get congested--and remember, most consumer ISPs in the US are congested every single day-- there's a plan for "who goes first" and "who has to wait."

    Here's where things can get ugly fast.

    The current 'best practice' for traffic prioritization is Differentiated Services, of DiffServ. Simply put, any network manager can set up a "priority list" for use when network links are congested. In the business world, this is usually implemented to protect either mission-critical traffic (e.g. traffic to/from a manufacturing floor) or time-sensitive traffic (e.g. voice, video, other real-time or near-real-time transmissions).

    (Non-technical folks - think of traffic prioritization as "if four cars want to drive to my house at the same time but my road isn't wide enough to let them all go at once, I have a plan for who goes first.")

    Now, consider the impact of this on your home. I have four kids, so there's a LOT of streaming audio/video (Pandora, Netflix, Skype, etc.) traveling on our home Internet connection.  If my ISP were to prioritize Netflix and/or Pandora, my traffic would take a back seat to their music and movies whenever my link was congested--and I couldn't do a thing about it, because I can only control traffic once it hits a router that belongs to me. (Trust me, the ISPs don't want you messing with the DSL/cable modem in your house - it belongs to them.)

    Bad, right? Well, it could be worse - much worse.

    Remember, almost every type of router out there supports traffic prioritization. This means that my ISP could implement "pay-for-priority" across its entire network. Consider that, once we get past the "first hop" devices that serve our homes, we're sharing routers with others. For instance, here's a simplified description of the local ISP's DSL Internet service in my small town:

    All DSL users in my neighborhood connect into the local telco central office (CO) (these are dedicated "last mile" connections, one per home). There, they hit boxes called DSLAMs (DSL Access Multiplexers). On the other end of that DSLAM box, all DSL subscribers are sharing one or two lines leading to the routers that serve my city. From there, all the ISP's subscribers in my city share one of two lines, each of which connects to a nearby city. From there, we get into the core of the ISP's network. So, it looks something like this (capital R = router):

    DSL---R-|
    DSL---R-|
    DSL---R-|--DSLAM--|
    DSL---R-|                |
    DSL---R-|                |                          
                                  |                
                                 R (my city)------R--nearby city 1
    other--R|------------|               |-----R--nearby city 2  
    other--R|------------|                        
    other--R|------------|                      

    If my ISP implements end-to-end traffic prioritization (i.e. across all its routers), it means that my neighbor's Netflix or the Hulu streams of the guy three blocks away are now getting priority over my traffic - and there's nothing I can do about it.

    Now, repeat this process at every step along the path between your home and the online destination you wish to visit. Ecch.

    Without regulation, there's nothing stopping ISPs from doing this very thing.  Right now, most of them don't anything more than minimal traffic prioritization because it introduces management headaches and doesn't really "pay for itself." If, however, they're allowed to charge content providers for this prioritization, they'll do it in a heartbeat - and it will impede everyone who doesn't use those particular services, because their traffic will be delayed in transit on a regular basis.

    That's why net neutrality is important - not so much for what I do, but to insure the quality of my service against what others may do and ISPs who want to elevate that traffic over mine.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Sat May 17, 2014 at 09:26:38 AM PDT

    •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

      It would have been better for a network engineer like you to have written the diary, instead of a software engineer like me. Networks are not my specialty. You are correct though that any router can be programmed with different algorithms for routing data, and likely are regularly based on traffic patterns at the moment. What we want is for ISPs not to program them in a way that discriminates on web content or content provider.

      Many an insightful opinion and observation can be found on my blog Occam's Razor. UID: 875

      by Guy Noir on Sat May 17, 2014 at 06:30:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You are very good at explaining this (0+ / 0-)

    Everyone else has left me scratching my head about this.

    Obama is the most progressive president in my lifetime.

    by freakofsociety on Sat May 17, 2014 at 09:28:57 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary (0+ / 0-)

    I wish there were a way this site could put keeper material like this in a reference library.

    The problem with this issue for many folks is that the usual ways of talking about the potential of the Internet are so technical sounding it is hard to see any urgency.

    Meanwhile the discussion aimed at playing up the urgency usually fails to be precise enough.

    Yours was a good model for how balance might be achieved.

    Thanks for taking the trouble to lay this out.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sat May 17, 2014 at 11:18:18 AM PDT

  •  Good diary, thanks, but... (0+ / 0-)

    …your goddamn blog takes too long to load. Get off yer ass and fixit, will ya?

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