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Comcast court win deals blow to Net Neutrality -- I'm happy

Ok, why would I be happy about this? Because the court ruled that the FCC doesn't have the authority to enforce Net Neutrality rules. I'm all for Net Neutrality as a concept, but God help us all if the FCC gets full governing authority over the American Internet. THAT'S what I'm happy about re: the court victory.

The net has basically prospered because government here has essentially been somewhat hands-off. Give a government agency some power, and the next thing you know you've got taxes and fees up the wazoo, and all kinds of other policies that might suit someone's politics over someone else's. Who needs that crap?

Let the marketplace decide on this one.

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Except this isn't the "free market"

Your position might have some merit if Comcast and Time Warner didn't build their gigantic cable monopolies on the backs of government contracts that allowed them (and only them) to provide service via public rights of way. The governments are already involved whether you like it or not. The free market this isn't. And when you are given exclusive rights to operate your business on public land there will be strings attached. You can't have it have it both ways.

If Comcast truly wanted to operate in the "free market" then they could. Like the landline phone companies before them, they could open up their lines and let them be treated as a utility that all competitors have equal access to (their own services would not be exempt). But notice it took the government to make that happen as well. No company is going to give up the the golden egg they have been handed.

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Sorry...not buying that argument

Comcast and Time Warner don't have monopolies on broadband internet access.

And this is interesting...in your world, apparently, the Comcasts and Time Warners should spend billions on infrastructure (cabling, head-ends, and any other hardware, plus personnel to manage it) and then just "open the lines" to some johnnny-come-lately who didn't have to make that on-going investment? Sweet deal for johnny! And in that scenario, should the johnny network be able to siphon off as much bandwidth as its users can take, or should they --gasp-- pay for the bandwidth that's used?

These "monopolies" as you call them weren't carved from anything the federal government allowed. They were done on the municipal level. Cities and towns made their own agreements for cable service. It wasn't dictated by Washington.

I'm in NYC, which was primarily served by Time Warner. Well, guess what? Verizon has made a big push with FIOS here. And how are they doing it? By laying their own fiber and building out their network. People have a choice, and there's competition. I have Time Warner, could get FIOS at any time, and I use an ISP (not Road Runner) that's made a deal with Time Warner to provide access over its lines. Hey wait...that sounds like what you're talking about! So, it's already happening...hmmm.

Plus, now there's 3G and soon to be 4G wireless coming, which is a game changer. Many areas now have WiMax. A case could be made that soon the cable co's of the world might not even be necessary as these wireless networks mature.

I really don't think net neutrality is really about ISP access. It seems to me that it's mostly about data traffic management. Why shouldn't some heavy bandwidth users and services pay more for what they use? Why should bitorrent hogs affect my cable speeds on a shared network? People and services should pay for what they use. Why should Google --selling tons of ads on youtube-- not have to pay more for the extreme bandwidth demands its service requires?

And if some giant ISP decides to put their own offerings ahead of competition, that's just an idiotic business model. They'll end up paying the price for it as disgruntled customers find alternatives, which there are.

So FCC? No thanks. Anyone who still has a traditional landline phone bill needs to take a good look at the taxes and fees that sometimes double the actual price of the phone service. And that's what people want? Doubtful. But you give this government agency governing authority over the internet here, and you've got a real mess in the making. You want the FCC to dictate profanity rules such as are in place in over-the-air broadcasting?

I'm not here to say "rah rah for Time Warner!" If they piss me off enough, I'll leave. And I've come close at times. I don't have any great love for them, or Comcast, et. al. But I have a lot less trust in government than some here apparently do. The FCC governing body is made up of political appointees, people. That means an agenda. No thanks.

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In 90% (or more) of the US

Comcast and Time Warner DO have monopolies. They have exclusive contracts with municipalities (ie "the government") to provide cable service that forbids other cable companies from competing in those markets. One company controlling a market in a given area is very much the definition of "monopoly".

DSL is just not a valid competitor. If you want (or need) anything hjgher than 1-3 Mbps then cable is pretty much the only game in town.

And yes, I do expect these lines to eventually be opened up to competitors... just like with any other utility. That exactly what happened with landline phones in the 1984. AT&T previously had a monopoly. They were given exclusive government contracts to run their lines on public property. They milked this exclusive deal for years to amass a small fortune and then the courts said, "OK, now you've got to let other companies have access." The lines became a utility to which all competitors had access (including AT&T). Everyone paid the same thing for that access. AT&T had more than made back the cost of their infrastructure years ago and now the playing field had been leveled.

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The AT&T breakup is the exact reason we have numerous DSL

providers competing in any given market. Since all competitors are allowed access to the phones lines (phone lines that AT&T originally built btw) we have competition in the DSL space. The same thing needs to happen with cable.

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Come on, man...

How do you decide that DSL isn't a valid competitor?!?! You don't get to dictate what is and isn't "broadband" any more than I do. It's just as valid as cable is. My dad lives upstate and gets 3mb...from cable! So am I to tell him that he's not getting broadband?

Anyone who has access to a wireless cell provider that offers 3G/EVDO/4G/Wimax has broadband options. I see Verizon's map on commercials all the time. Sure looks like they have a lot of coverage there.

Weren't you the same person essentially touting the iPad for the user experience because it satisfies the needs of many who simply browse and use email? Well, the iPad isn't going to be tethered to a landline cable. So are all these users going to suffer because they can't get broadband? Or is 3G broadband by your definition? This goes directly to your "can't have it both ways" argument.

May I remind you what you said? You said "<The iPad> is the perfect computer for the casual home user who just wants to consume media and surf the web and do light email and look at pictures... which is a hell of a lot of users out there."

So who are the masses that "need" this extra speed that the invalid DSL technology or even wireless can't support?

I'll say it again: There ARE alternatives to cable already in the marketplace. Because one technology can offer more bandwidth than another somehow invalidates the smaller pipe? By the way, I'm sure you know that by and large, DSL has a dedicated pipe to the consumer, whereas cable is frequently on shared nodes, meaning if my neighbor is downloading all his pirated movies/games, my cable speed most likely suffers. So, there are certainly pros and cons of both. But DSL invalid?

Now, onto the government issue. What people are failing to see right off the bat is that this whole exercise points out what we can expect if the FCC gets involved. They were slapped down because they don't have the <current> statutory authority to exercise over Comcast or any ISP. In other words, it was a blatant POWER GRAB. And this is exactly what happens once the barn door is opened. Lots of people love the idea of everyone playing fair and nice, etc., and that somehow regulation will ensure that. But it absolutely never stops there. What's to prevent the FCC from imposing content regulations on the American net? They do it with broadcasters now, so there's ample precedent.

All that said, Congress can easily bestow the power upon the FCC to do just what it wants to do. It can pass legislation to give the FCC the authority it wants now. If you read the court ruling (I did...what a slog!) they in no way said the FCC couldn't at some point be granted the authority to do what they've tried to do. That's for Congress to decide, however.

My views on government isn't part of some "mantra" passed down from any generation. It's my experience in life that dictates it, and it's just as valid as your view, thank you. So, can we refrain from characterizing it that way? You're entitled to your viewpoint about government's pros and cons. I'll expect that my own views will be respected on that score. Trying to marginalize them because you hold a particular ideology doesn't cut it.

Here's a question I haven't heard answered well yet: If the major ISP's (Comcast/TW/Verizon, etc.) are forced to open their networks to any/all who want to provide services on them at some pre-determined rates, what, exactly, is the incentive for Verizon to keep laying fiber, or for Comcast to keep upgrading its infrastructure? Who's going to foot the investment bill? Why would they? I'm guessing the only answer is that the government would have to fund it somehow, and we all know where that money comes from.

As for your comment about AT&T making back its investment, how about this from Verizon: (NYTimes article) "Everyone understood that the copper wires of the phone system were being left behind by the faster networks of the cable industry. But why spend so much money on new wires when cellphones are becoming ubiquitous and profitable? Verizon rejected cheaper alternatives and decided to build the fiber system at an estimated cost of about $4,000 for every customer." $4K for each customer. That's a pretty big nut to swallow, but hey, let them eat that cost and let anyone and everyone use their fiber at cheap rates! That will surely give them the incentive to keep wiring...

And lastly, I would bet you that I'm older than you are. I know the telecom history. The problem is that cable companies are not legally known as "common carriers". If that's to change, Congress needs to do it.

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If Netflix, Microsoft, Vudu, Apple, etc

can't steam their high def content reliably across a service like DSL (and already they can't), then yes, that kind of broadband-lite is not playing in the same class as cable internet.

Fiber, yes, but DSL no. And fiber just ins't getting the penetration necessary to provide real competition to cable in the vast majority of markets.

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Huh?

You're arguing for better compression algorithms. THAT'S what's needed. At some point, ANY company's infrastructure is only going to carry so much data.

The iPad has a Netflix app. Why? If it were useless, what would the point be? Right now I'm watching "Netflix Watch Instantly" over my wireless connection at home. It's fine. So what, I should expect that I'm going to get full 1080p streaming?

And again, no one is mentioning 3G/4G/EVDO/Wimax as options when I bring them up. Why not?

The Comcasts of the world are already on notice that people are watching and people are analyzing their network traffic. Were they to start prioritizing their own fare over competitors or any other traffic, word would get out quickly, and Congress would start squawking about it. Do they need that? No company wants to be under scrutiny like that.

I'm betting that eventually there's going to be some kind of compromise, where the big ISPs (and any ISP) will be able to charge more for bandwidth hogging users and services in return for opening up pipes for competing ISP's.

Now, if people here are going to argue that users (bittorrent junkies) and services (youtubes of the world) should be able to grab all the bandwidth they can --to the detriment of other users and services-- give it your best shot. I'll be interested in hearing the argument, lol.

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Two words: bandwidth restrictions

"And again, no one is mentioning 3G/4G/EVDO/Wimax as options when I bring them up. Why not?"

Because they are nowhere near being able to replace the kind of bandwidth that is required to deliver streaming media. Not to mention cellular data is a very young industry. Cable is over 50 years old.

Compression is not the answer to this problem. Lack of competition exists whether Apple or Microsoft or Vudu compress their content to death or not.

Comcast already gives their own VOD and Voip calls priority over their competitors. None of their own data applies towards bandwidth restrictions yet everyone else's data does (just wait till this happens in the mobile space where bandwidth restrictions are extremely low). Now that they are in bed with NBC there are just too many conflicts of interest going on here between content and delivery channels. The FCC has the duty to step in. If courts rule they currently don;t have the right to do so congress will make them have that right. If Comcast was not using public land and exclusive government contracts for their business the FCC couldn't say a thing. But this is not the case.

And why is Comcast not all that scared? Simple: money and lobbyists. They know that many politicians will just look the other way.

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As I understand it...

Comcast --if what I read is true-- does not prioritize it's own VOIP traffic as such. It appears that it has its own dedicated channel or data frequency segment. How is this different from offering television services on the same cable as internet? The TV data is segmented away from the internet data. Sounds like in Comcast's case, they segment away their own phone service. So what?

If that's true, how does that impact other VOIP services that were always set up to operate along with every other kind of net traffic on a normal internet pipe?

It would be a lot different if --and again, if what I'm reading is accurate-- Comcast was somehow mixing in its own VOIP packets with every other net packet, and then somehow prioritizing its own over, say Vonage's. But you don't hear Vonage making that claim. I don't, anyway. I do hear every now and then worries that Comcast, et. al., could summarily block services it doesn't like, but my point again is EVERYONE'S WATCHING.

I have a 3rd party VOIP service (Viatalk.com) that I get via my Time Warner connection. No issues whatsoever, and tons of features that TW doesn't offer on its own VOIP. I do my own QOS locally via my router, which has the "StreamEngine QOS" capability built in that automatically prioritizes VOIP and gaming packets. Again, where's the issue here?

If anything, you want to fly under the radar. Comcast knows that the FCC still wants to push forward. Why do anything that would encourage that? I don't care how many lobbyists some entity has. That's just an idiotic approach akin to "hey, go ahead and try to stop me!" I think business leaders are a bit wiser than that.

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Its a clear conflict of interest

"CoSounds like in Comcast's case, they segment away their own phone service. So what? "

The "what" that concerns me is that this constitutes a clear conflict of interest. You can not control the pipes and the content and claim that you are competing fairly with other people delivering the same content on those pipes.

The situation is akin to this:

Comcast is a contractor that is chosen by the government to build new roads. They compete fair and square to get that job. They build the roads and in return they are given an exclusivity period during which they can collect tolls to help them regain their initial investment. This is fair to the contractor and yet it also accomplishes the greater public good.

40 years later they have long paid off these initial investments, yet they are still charging tolls. Only their business has now drastically expanded into new territories that could have never been forseen during the initial agreement with these municipalities. Now they are using these old exclusivity arrangements as a weapon to give their own new ventures a leg up. They have a trucking company that supply their own chain of discount stores. Their trucks, conveniently, get to travel for free on roads that were supposedly built for the public good yet which they claim they are "theirs". But every other discount store has limitations on the number of trucks that can travel on these roads.

Splitting hairs about whether their digital phone service is "VOIP" or not or whether their video on demand data is cordoned off for the rest of the data on the pipes is besides the point. The fact remains that they are using old exclusivity agreements that should have ended years ago to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage in new markets.

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It's not "splitting hairs"!!

They are not in any way I can see keeping any other VOIP service from operating over their network. If anything, the fact that they've segmented their own service away frees up bandwidth for other services! How is that splitting hairs? And this analogy about 40-year old roads is doesn't wash --even if they WERE roads. Roads need lots of maintenance!

Are you saying they've done nothing to improve their network and infrastructure and have not borne any costs over the time they've had their cable agreements in place? Maybe to the tune of billions of dollars?

What's to prevent other municipalities like New York from allowing other competitors to build out their own networks? I don't see any barriers.

See, what you want is for no other company to bear the cost of network building, but reap the rewards of networks (aka other's toiling) that are already in place. Like I said before, that's a sweet deal. How it could be considered fair is beyond me.

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roads aren't "owned" by private companies.
even if they WERE roads. Roads need lots of maintenance!

Notice how public roads are not "owned" by private companies? Companies who contract with the government don't get to scream "government interference!" whenever they are asked to uphold certain standards for the public good. Cable is and should be treated as a public utility.

What's to prevent other municipalities like New York from allowing other competitors to build out their own networks? I don't see any barriers.

Exclusivity contracts for one. In spite of fiber penetrating a few small markets, the vast majority of the country still award these contracts that stifle competition to cable companies. If a wealthy, tech savvy city like San Francisco still has Comcast as the only game in town, then its naive to think that fiber is any real threat to cable in the next decade.

See, what you want is for no other company to bear the cost of network building, but reap the rewards of networks (aka other's toiling) that are already in place. Like I said before, that's a sweet deal. How it could be considered fair is beyond me.

DSL providers lease access to the lines for a fair market rate. That ain't a free ride. Everybody gets the same price which is about as fair as you can get. Cable is laid for the public good, not just so one company can make a profit for the next hundred years.

You seem to be operating under some illusion that these cable companies paid for everything they have ever built out of their own pockets and that the government and the public have no rights here. This is a private public partnership, not a strictly private venture. The cable companies have been given exclusive access to PUBLIC land. No one else can play in their little sandboxes. That is not a free market arrangement. This kind of arrangements comes with strings attached.

There are numerous precedents for public-private partnerships that change over time. Toll roads that convert back into free public roads after their costs have been recouped and the developers has made a nice profit. University housing built an managed by development companies which revert back to the universities after a period of 10 or 15 years. Landline telephone companies that must lease the lines they built lines to any competitor that wants access to them. It is perfectly reasonable to expect exclusivity agreements to come to an end.
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So, governments are the problem?

Let me see if I have this straight: local governments that award exclusive francise agreements are the the real issue here, right? That has to be what you're saying. The very same governments that have elected representatives voted in on a local basis, not under some dictates from someone across the country who knows nothing of local conditions? Isn't that exactly what local governments are charged to do; make decisions like this?

Seems to me that if you really hate exclusive agreements, your beef is with the government entities that agree to them. And your remedy is to have Big Brother, aka the federal government that ALWAYS knows better, rule that such agreements are null and void. Oh wait, not the part about having to actually do upkeep and upgrades on the physical infrastructure --that's fine-- let the big companies still bear those costs. But let anyone and everyone glom on to the existing infrastructure.

Your argument suggest that there's no more space on the phone poles or underground conduits for more cabling and that the existing lines must be used. And what's the evidence for that?

I did a quick search,and easily came up with a Comcast Cable franchise agreement with a town in Pennsylvania.

http://www.mca-tv.com/franchise_agreement.pdf

You'll notice that the agreement specifically says "NON-EXCLUSIVE FRANCHISE". Here's a blurb:

"1.3 NON-EXCLUSIVITY

This franchise granted to Franchisee shall be non-exclusive. Nothing in this Agreement shall affect the right of the Township to grant another franchise to construct, operate or maintain a Cable System or for any other purpose."

Oh, and by the way, since the agreement they now also have Verizon FIOS in the town.

So come on...here's clear evidence of what YOUR municipality can do, just like NYC did.

And now we're at the typical point you and I always seem to get to, lol, so I'm going to bow out of this thread. We'll have to agree to disagree --as is seemingly our lot in life Happy

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You are right. We are not going to agree.

I believe, like many others, that now that the cable industry has moved out of its infancy it should be treated as a basic utility. Utilities are regulated by our government, as imperfect as it is, to ensure that the public good is being served.

Its going to happen eventually. The cable industry has been dodging this issue for years claiming they have not achieved significant enough penetration into homes to warrant further regulation. Of course this is BS but it was good enough justification for the Bush administration to look the other way. Its going to take an administration with some balls to call them on this. I think this new administration just might be able to do it.

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DSL is not a valid competitor

Because AT&T etc aren't bothering to invest it in.
In Australia, most DSL is 24mbit ADSL2+, and is a better deal than cable because there's more competition, hence lower prices and higher data caps. Government required the phone company, Telstra, to rent their equipment to ISPs. Now Telstra owns the cable internet infrastructure too, they have major monopoly power. They were not motivated to upgrade DSL infrastructure and kept it at 1.5mbit for ages. What happened is ISPs grew tired of this and brought in their own DSL DSLAMs into Telstra's exchanges. They wouldn't have been allowed to do this if not for the government denying Telstra the right to refuse the ISPs access.
The point taken from this should be, that because communication infrastructure is so expensive to build out, only a hand full of companies are going to be able to. Without government intervention you're going to have a couple of monopolies and a poorly functioning market with little competition. A couple of private monopolies are barely better than a government monopoly.

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Obviously you are too young to remember how expensive

landline phone calls were before the breakup of AT&T in the mid 80's. Long distance bills were routinely in the neighborhood of 50-75 dollars a month (in 2009 money that would 100-150 dollars).

After competition was allowed access to the same lines those process quickly came down. The FCC fees and taxes you complain about are nothing when compared to the savings we all recieved as a result of this "government involvement".

Cable companies, like all other government contractors, are given the right to exclusively profit off of infrastructure they build on public rights of way. But this exclusivity period does not last forever. Now those companies have more than made their money back and the exclusivity period must end.

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Internet is a vital communication technology today

Do you really have a problem with the FCC ensuring private companies don't censor it or favour one service over another?

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Its popular old canard in the US that

more government involvement is always bad. Its a horribly simplistic sentiment but it doesn't stop the it from being passed around certain circles as if it were the gospel truth. Its sort of an ideological mantra that gets passed down from generation to generation. I'm pretty libertarian when it comes to a free markets. But this ins't the free market. This is public infrastructure building involving exclusivity agreements.

The government (the FCC) has a duty to be involved when a cable company is building its empire on public land (land to which their competitors have no access). They are given the rights to built on this land (or to use the public airwaves) with of strings attached to ensure that the public good is upheld. Its a trade, they get to make money without competition and the public gets infrastructure built out. Eventually the arrangement must change, however, to let real competition bloom. I think the time for that change is now.

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