Censorship, the Super Bowl, and Net Neutrality

Government price controls are always harmful.

Reuters reports that there's so much interest in the annual Super Bowl TV extravaganza that organizations are suspected of submitting ads that they know won't make it onto the air just to get free publicity by claiming that they were discriminated against by those heartless capitalists at CBS or whichever network is showing the Bowl this year.

With a price tag of almost $3 million for 30 seconds, it can be just as effective for those submitting ads to have a spot rejected as inappropriate and use the attention generated from that to drive visitors and business to their websites.

"A whole cottage industry has grown up out of trying to make use of network turndowns," said Martin Franks, executive vice president of planning, policy and government affairs at CBS Corp, which is televising the NFL game this year. "It can happen in the middle of July, but obviously this is a wonderfully high-profile opportunity."

CBS rejected an ad for a homosexual dating site; advocates are claiming discrimination, censorship, or both.  These words are abused so much that it's worthwhile to look at how dictionary.com defines them:

Censor (n):

  1. an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.

  2. any person who supervises the manners or morality of others.

Discriminate (v):

  1. to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality: The new law discriminates against foreigners. He discriminates in favor of his relatives.

  2. to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to discriminate between things.

Given CBS' sympathetic treatment of homosexuality in virtually every other aspect of their corporate undertakings, it can't be that they objected to the topic of homosexual dating on moral grounds.  Therefore, by definition, they weren't undertaking censorship: they see nothing wrong with homosexuality, and thus couldn't be said to be censoring the ad.

They appear to have discriminated, however, by noting differences between the ads they accepted and the ads they rejected.

CBS Is A Business!

When choosing ads, CBS has no interest other than making money.  Individual executives and reporters have their own personal political prejudices, of course, which are almost exclusively liberal; all else being equal, CBS will take the furthest-left feasible position 99 times out of 100.

They still have to make money, however, or they'll wind up in the fix of the New York Times and MSNBC: maintaining ideological purity, but slowly dying financially.  CBS knows that the only way to build the value of Super Bowl ads is to build the audience, which means increasing the number of sports fans.

Although there are exceptions, most sports fans become fans as children.  If a high-school graduate isn't already interested in a particular sport, the chances of his becoming a fan later in life are small.

Thus, CBS wants very much to do nothing that would keep parents from letting kids watch future Super Bowls.  It's likely that an ad for homosexual dating would lead to widespread parental censorship of the show on their moral grounds.

Much though CBS staffers find these moral qualms repulsive and as energetically as they're attempting to change them by pro-homosexual programming elsewhere, at this moment, CBS has no choice but to avoid parents yanking their kids away from the screen at all costs.

Focus on the Family also stirred controversy by asking that CBS air a pro-life ad featuring college star quarterback Tim Tebow, whose mother chose to exercise her "right to choose" by rejecting advice to have an abortion even though she was told that the pregnancy was hazardous to her health.  After CBS rejected the ad initially, Focus on the Family softened the message so that CBS agreed to run it, but the pro-aborts weren't satisfied.  As the Washington Post put it:

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to.

His critics find this intrusive, and say the Super Bowl is no place for an argument of this nature. "Pull the ad," NOW President Terry O'Neill said. "Let's focus on the game."

The NOW gang can scream all they like, but the fewer women abort, the more children there'll be who might grow up to be sports fans.  Airing this ad is clearly in CBS' long-term economic interest.  They can't officially promote a woman's right to choose life, however, because politically-connected feminists are only interested in a woman's right to abort and want nothing to do with women who choose to give birth.

The Power of Fairness to Destroy

Our Federal Communications Commission has a great deal of power over television networks.  Offended feminists, as is their wont, are suggesting that the government intervene to make sure that the process of selecting Super Bowl ads is "fair" to their advantage.  Regardless of your feelings on abortion, this is not a good idea - the government's power to declare what is and is not "fair" has caused huge damage over the centuries.

Government intervention in the economy generally hurts the economy whether in the name of fairness or on any other grounds.  Advocates for government involvement claim that government land grants helped get the railroads built.  True - but in general, the land-grant railroads were built by politically-connected people who did a shoddy job and weren't able to run the railroads profitably.

Private investors built the first profitable railroad to the coast.  This road offered lower shipping rates on goods intended for export, which made it easier for our manufactured products to compete in foreign markets.

Eventually people complained that it wasn't "fair" for some customers to get a price break while others paid higher rates for shipping the same goods.  In response to the politics, the federal government made this sort of price break illegal, creating the Interstate Commerce Commission to ensure that the railroads were run to the satisfaction of bureaucrats, their political sponsors, and their constituents instead of the railroad's owners.

The railroad promptly ended the export discount as required by law.  With shipping costs up, our goods could no longer compete in overseas markets.  Jobs were lost, tax revenue dropped, and railroads lost revenue, but fairness reigned.

Over the years, the ICC was given more and more authority to set the prices railroads were permitted to charge.  As usual with government, the number of pricing categories multiplied, making determining shipping rates nearly as as complex as filling out medical expense claims.

There will always be more shippers than shipping firms, of course, so the politics and the rates tended to favor the shippers.  By the late 1970's, the nation's railroads faced bankruptcy because of competition from trucking lines.

Railroads had been arguing since the 1920's that federal regulations made it impossible for them to compete and that they would eventually be driven out of business; it finally happened when Penn Central collapsed.

Not long thereafter, Conrail, which was a combination of the railroads in the Northeast left over from the death of PC, had to be taken over by the government in order for it to continue operating.  President Carter's administration faced a $300 billion bill for bailing out the rest of the railroads.  Even Mr. Carter realized that it would be better to change the rules so that the railroads could operate profitably than to subsidize them forever.

In his message to Congress, Mr. Carter warned of a "catastrophic series of bankruptcies" and "massive federal expenditure" unless deregulation was allowed to "overhaul our nation's rail system, leading to higher labor productivity and more efficient use of plant and equipment."

Unions think of "higher labor productivity" as a plot to cut their incomes by making them work harder and didn't welcome the proposed changes.  Mr. Carter had to make many phone calls, but the 1980 Staggers Act ended a century of federal regulation that had started out as an exercise in "price neutrality."  Deregulation brought to the railroads back to profitability except for Amtrak which continues to swallow endless subsidies as a sop to environmentalists and what's left of the passenger railroad unions.

What Is Net Neutrality?

This leads us to the issue of Net Neutrality.  People who favor Net Neutrality argue that it would be unfair for a telephone company who owned a network to charge different rates to transfer different types of data across it.  The idea is that the network, and the Internet as a whole, should be "neutral" with respect to setting data exchange rates.

Google is one of the major businesses pushing the idea.  Google gets a huge free ride when people use its search engine because Google doesn't have to pay for the network capacity it uses to send the results back to the customer.  Google doesn't pay for the data it serves up either, but that's another issue.

Google is afraid that if, say, AT&T built a high-speed network and set up a competing search engine, AT&T might favor their search engine traffic over Google's traffic so that AT&T search results arrived faster than Google's.  If that happened, Google's customers would get tired of waiting and switch to AT&T's product.

Net Neutrality would require that AT&T treat Google's traffic on the same basis as its own traffic.  This sounds reasonable, but it completely ignores the concept of ownership.  If AT&T builds a fiber optic network, they own it, and they ought to have the right to set prices for various services so as to benefit their stockholders.

For comparison, Federal Express owns a vast network of airplanes, trucks, and sorting stations.  FedEx charges more for "next day delivery" than for "2nd day air."  If you aren't in a hurry, you can use ground transportation for an even lower price.

Net Neutrality would be like forcing FedEx to give all packages the same speed of service and require them to handle UPS shipments on the same basis as their own shipments.  How does this make sense?  How could they make a profit operating that way?

At this point, advocates of Net Neutrality would say that the difference between FedEx and AT&T is that consumers have no choice when it comes to accessing the Internet.  They would say that consumers can choose to use FedEx, UPS or a private courier, depending on whose features were most preferable.  While that argument was true at one time, it no longer is.

It used to be that consumers had one choice for Internet access - dial-up.  Older folks may remember the day when AOL became a dial-up colossus which swallowed Time-Warner.

AOL thought revenues would rise forever, but competition arrived and they couldn't cope.  Bandwidth went broadband, and one option turned into two - cable or DSL.  Then satellite dishes gave us three choices.

Now, consumers have fiber, in some cities mass-WiFi and some states WiMax via Clearmax and Sprint.  Mobile devices use 3g/4g to connect, so virtually every cell phone network is also an Internet provider.

The trend of increased competition is expanding, not shrinking.  Few and far between is the person who lives so far out in the boonies as to be served by just one Internet provider; at the very least, everybody has satellite-based Internet and almost every telephone system offers DSL.

As mobile access continues to expand, competition will explode and prices will come down just as telephone-call prices have come down.  If the precedent to regulate the internet is set now, however, while competition is still growing, it will continue long after regulation is no longer needed assuming it was ever needed.  The end result would simply be higher costs and worse service for everyone.

Similarly, it would be a bad idea for the government to get involved in choosing which ads CBS shows at the Super Bowl.  Government getting involved in setting railroad shipping rates nearly put the entire industry out of business, destroying many jobs along the way.

Where's the Broadband Revolution?

Mr. Obama claims to be disappointed that broadband Internet access hasn't become universally available.  It's true that a number of countries have higher rates of broadband availability than the United States, but that doesn't justify Mr Obama wanting to throw our tax money at universal access.

Network companies like AT&T stand ready, nay eager, to pull all the cable and sell us all the bandwidth we're willing to pay for, but regulatory uncertainty has them sitting on their hands instead of creating jobs.  Why spend billions to set up a network when you may be forced to let your competitors, who didn't invest a dime, use your network for the same price you use it?

Would have FedEx invested billions buying airplanes if the government were talking about forcing them to carry UPS freight?  Perhaps the executives at AT&T, unlike the members of the Obama cabinet, are familiar with the story of the Little Red Hen.

Mr. Obama's deficits, his business-bashing, and his talk about raising taxes have created investment uncertainty so that nobody wants to invest any money in business in general, that's why we're still losing jobs.  On top of that, he's talking about making it impossible to make money building network capacity in particular.

Why are we not surprised that we're falling behind other countries in broad band access?

The government has no business regulating Super Bowl ads, or FedEx rates, or shipping rates.  It shouldn't regulate network rates either.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Good one. I always thought 'censorship' was reserved for governments. Businesses can't 'censor' they can only discriminate.
February 8, 2010 8:00 AM
What?? Google doesn't have to pay for the network capacity?? And AT&T being like a shipping company? Do you actually know ANYTHING about this topic?

First of all, Google pays large sums to providers for its internet access, and has in fact also invested large sums in laying fiber itself. Google gets, by no sense of the word whatsoever, a freebie. In fact, there is no company that does. It costs money to be on the internet. You should be well aware of that yourself, since you have to pay hosting fees for scragged.com.

And yes, we already do pay different amounts, depending on how fast we want our connection to be and sometimes depending on how much data we send and receive. This is perhaps where your terrible shipping analogy would be most relevant, but has nothing to do with net neutrality.

So let's take an example where I'm paying AT&T for 10Mbps, and Google pays Sprint for 10MBps. Sure, I don't pay Sprint for the data I send, but Google does. And Google doesn't pay AT&T, but I do. In what case would it be ok for the speed or priority of the communication between me and Google reduced? And why should me or Google have to pay more than we've already payed to avoid this? Net neutrality means that AT&T must deliver that traffic from Google as if it was any other traffic. But you figure that the money I payed for my connection and the money that Google payed for their connection isn't sufficient for this to be the case?

That doesn't make much sense to me, but ok, let's ignore the fact that I've payed AT&T for access to Google. So now AT&T wants reimbursement (from Google) for completing the line of communication between me and Sprint. To stop this from happening, Google has to pay twice for their internet connection. (Why isn't it Sprint that should pay?) In fact, they would have to do this for every single ISP (thousands, at least) in the world that suddenly sees opportunity for an extra source of income. I suppose that wouldn't be a big deal, Google would be able to manage that task. What about Scragged? Suddenly you would face an expensive and difficult task of securing access to viewers on all of the 30+ ISPs in the US. That would be ridiculous!

If you insist on using the shipping analogy, not having net neutrality would be like me paying UPS for the privilege of sending and receiving packages, and you paying FedEx for the same. When I send you a package, I would have to know whether your shipping company is UPS or FedEx. In the case of it being FedEx, I would risk my package being unnecessarily delayed unless I payed an extra fee to FedEx. And this being despite the fact that you requested the package from me and in fact already payed FedEx to deliver the package to you.
February 8, 2010 10:14 AM

Your last paragraph is an entirely fictitious straw-man argument and is not, in the slightest bit, analogous to NN.

If you already paid FedEx to "send and receive" packages for you, they would deliver packages to you from others, regardless of whatever courier the other person used. Or, it would specify IN YOUR CONTRACT with them that "we do not deliver from other couriers without an extra fee from the sender" in which case you would be free to determine if that was something you wanted or whether you were only going to ship "in network" to FedEx customers. Either way, you would KNOW about it and be free to choose.

Competition is the key. Not regulation. And NN is solely about regulation.

The big thing NN advocates miss is - in a free market, competition fixes all ills. The author mentioned that in his article. If internet access was a monopoly, then your concerns would be well-founded, but it isn't. Competition has grown significantly.

There is no need for you or me to personally negotiate with 30 different ISPs (so that we have fast access to whatever server we are requesting data from) because it is in the best interest of a competitive industry to make their consumer's happy. Since internet locations are owned by different people at different times, the industry CAN'T keep restrict access to different consumers or they won't be happy. Again, we're talking about an industry with lots of competition.

Let the market punish greedy/draconian ISPs and leave the government out of it. That's the bigger point here. It might be harder to stomach dealing with a few greedy ISPs for now but competition is removing that quickly.

(Of course, Google pays for THEIR OWN network capacity. No one said otherwise. The point of the article is what CONSUMERS pay. Google does not pay for your and my bandwidth, when we access their website)
February 8, 2010 10:42 AM
Without NN any ISP could freely discriminate against any given website. We'll called it xyz.com.

You want to access xyz.com, however xyz.com has not negotiated with your ISP to allow traffic. Your ISP therefore reduces the connection to 56k, if it allowed it at all. To access xyz.com you have to deal with dial up speeds.

The market in this case would be hard pressed to deal with 'greedy/drconian ISPs' because there isn't any transparency. As the end user attempting to access xyz.com I don't know that its my ISP that reduces its speed. After a page or two of terrible download speeds I give up and move on to the next website. Further there is often very little competition for ISPs. In Lawrence, KS until last year there was only one broadband ISP for many of the homes. Some of the homes didn't have any access to broadband at all, even in side city limits, there were hardware reasons for this, the expense to upgrade the wiring connected to those houses was prohibitive, even with a virtual monopoly.

Where I currently reside (in a suburb of Kansas City) I have exactly two choices for my internet. With so few choices it will not be the ISPs that the market drives out of business for bad practices it will be the internet sites that do not have the ability to pay millions to the major ISPs.

The internet is not like a shipping company. Its like the interstate highway system. Without the freedom to move any where in the nation everything would be far more expensive. Information, just like cars, needs to be able to get from any where to any where.

There is a time and a place for governmental regulation. The internet is clearly an aspect of interstate commerce so it falls within the constitutional powers of the Federal government. If NN is not put in place it could well be the death of small websites, from my video game website to political websites like Scragged.com. If no one can get to you its just like you were never there.

If you were never there how would anyone know that they were missing anything. The theory of capitalism relies on perfect knowledge by all members of society. In such a society regulation would never be needed, since we lack perfect knowledge that is a time and a place for governmental regulation. Net Neutrality is needed.
February 8, 2010 2:55 PM

You make some good points, but, with respect, I think you are seeing it from the wrong perspective.

As long as there is any healthy competition at all - and you say that there isn't in may places which is a good point - but if there is, the perspectives of any ISP is not going to be "how can restrict access" but "how can I OPEN access".

The nature of business, provided that competition exists, is to always want to make costumers happy, not unhappy.

I think a lot of regulation stems from the erroneous perspective that businesses want to hurt people and so we need Some Big Thing to make sure that doesn't happen. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Now, you do make a good point - competition may not be good enough to allow this to happen everywhere. I don't know.
February 8, 2010 3:32 PM
Yes, my shipping analogy was a straw man. But that is my point. Any shipping analogy must be contrived and overcomplicated, which removes its usefulness. The shipping analogy in the article is also a straw man.

Other than that useless analogy, little is done to show that a non-NN internet is at all desirable, beyond the fact that all government regulation is evil, period.

It is suggested that NN is undesired because currently "Google doesn't have to pay for the network capacity it uses to send the results back to the customer," when in fact they do, having most certainly paid very large amounts to guarantee a certain upload capacity. And lfon promptly denies that being said.

How can competition work, when my ISP can, without any form for transparency, restrict the traffic of any of their competitors? They could even make it difficult for me to visit a competing ISP's website, without me ever knowing! A non-NN internet is much too easy to abuse, and lacks any real consequences for doing so.
February 9, 2010 12:43 AM

True. That exact sentence is poorly worded. Technically, Google does have to "answer" requests from its servers by having enough bandwidth to deliver outbound TCP/IP packets.

But I think the "fact that all government regulation is evil, period" is pretty much the point. At least for me.

A necessary evil? Sometimes, but very rarely. Usually just plain old evil that restricts businesses, consumers and everything in between.

NN gives the FCC its first taste for regulating the internet. I shudder to think what they're going to do when they figure out how much they like that taste.
February 9, 2010 8:14 AM
And thats a fine point. But then why wrap it in poor analogies and misinformation? It sounds more like you are trying to say that having a neutral net is a bad idea in itself. And yet you have not answered any of our arguments against the alternative.

Why not look at the necessity of government enforcement of NN instead? You say yourself that government regulation sometimes is necessary. Is this one of those cases? Maybe, maybe not, but you completely ignore that (much more relevant) discussion.
February 9, 2010 10:57 AM
The problems get even more complicated when you take into account that the website server and the ISP are not the only players involved. Having traced my connection once to a MMO server I found that my connection bounced through half a dozen nodes to get there.

A I played with someone in Ontario and another friend in Florida, I was in Kansas. The friend in Ontario and I had terrible lag, the friend in Florida didn't have any problems at all. When we traced the connection my canadian friend and I shared the last three nodes, the friend in Florida only shared the last two.

The one node, for whatever reason, made the game nearly unplayable. No fault of my ISP, no fault of the MMO. How do you deal with issues of this nature without government regulation?

Government isn't by its nature useless and destructive. There is a time and a place for government action.
February 13, 2010 5:11 PM
"Government isn't by its nature useless and destructive"

I totally disagree with that sentence. There is no greater destructive force in society than government. It is, of course, necessary, but left to itself, it is ALWAYS destructive.
February 13, 2010 7:59 PM
Venice became the strongest navel force in the Mediterranean and possibly the world. This was not a capitalistic society like Genoa. Venice was completely run by the Doge and the central planners. Every ship in its mercantile fleet (which doubled as its military fleet as many ships did in that time period) was owned by the government. We're not just talking about a city either Venice control a good amount of territory outside of the city of Venice itself.

The difference is that the leaders of Venice ran it as a business. Through out history you see numerous examples of not just good but great governments. The problem that you have with democracy is it precludes the possibility of a great government. That is the price of also greatly limiting the chance of a terrible government.

With authoritarian rule you have a government as good as its ruler. With democratic rule you have a government as good as the sum of its rulers. Which is nearly always mediocre.

Government can be a good, useful, and important part of a society if it is held to the highest of standards. Good enough for government work needs to mean that it is of the highest quality, not the lowest.

I don't see that happening in America any time soon, but government still does have a place and an important role and can be of great value or society.
February 13, 2010 8:10 PM
A good point, but what eventually happened to that Venetian government? Move through history a few hundred years and that area of world loses its bragging rights.

You can certainly find pockets of benevolence here and there, but they never last.

The children lose sight of the forefathers' vision. The once-objective business class starts to steal.

I agree that government has an important and necessary role, but I'm skeptical that you can ever set up a system that locks any government into anything permanently good (or even honest). My view is basically what William F. Buckley said about conservatism "standing atop history and yelling stop". We have to know government always wants to go bad and keep yanking back on the leash.
February 13, 2010 8:34 PM
'Permanently good' is not something anything can achieve, private or public sector. This is the benefit of the Confucian cycle that scragged has written about in the past. The rise and fall of civilizations on the large scale and of political parties on the small has kept the human race optimized. As with capitalism itself it isn't always pretty but it does ensure a vibrant and active growth of humanity's knowledge, skills, and ability.
February 13, 2010 9:00 PM
An article on BigGovernment.com lays out the case I was trying to make much better than I ever could:


The meat of it:

"Net neutrality rules enforced by the Federal Communications Commission would allow government bureaucrats to micromanage the Internet - thus sucking out the lifeblood of the digital economy and threatening the dynamism and freedom we've come to take for granted online.

Proponents of net neutrality claim that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) abuse their position as "gatekeepers" to the Web, and the public needs government to establish strict "rules of the road" to protect us from their scheming. Trouble is, the evidence of abusive practices by ISPs is anecdotal and thinner than an iPod mini. The digital economy is currently so dynamic and cutthroat that free-market forces work quickly to correct any undesirable hiccups that arise - all without any micro-managing of the tech industry by government.

Net neutrality advocates insist we need government to preserve an "open" and "free" Internet and claim the market has failed. But they cannot point to any market failures that make the Internet less open or free. In short, the Internet isn't broken. And it doesn't need a government fix. No matter. The left presses ahead, because the facts are irrelevant. The goal is to put government in charge of digital policy, taking away your freedom as a consumer to shape the Internet with your own choices.

This would stifle the enormous private investment and innovation that has created the modern Internet - in part, because industries would be relegated to playing "Mother May I?" with the FCC before releasing its latest innovation. And that's the best-case scenario. The Reason Foundation's Steve Titch argues that if government-enforced net neutrality rules were in place five years ago, the iPhone as we know it wouldn't exist. But on a more basic level, only a committed leftist could believe that more government involvement in...well...anything results is more economic dynamism and gains in personal freedom.

As noted in the video below, produced by The Heartland Institute, government isn't in the business of preserving freedom, but of exercising power to regulate industries and control people. And this is an important thing to keep in mind - especially since President Obama recently reiterated his commitment to have government enforce a net neutrality regime on your Internet"

February 15, 2010 12:14 PM
I certainly don't know the details of of the NN laws under consideration.

There are only two rules that I would like enforced.

1) No ISP nor public network hub can provide faster speeds for connection for a fee except as limited by the end user's internet connection contract and the host website's internet connection contract.

2) No ISP nor public network hub can block any websites except as mandated by law in the locality where they are operating.

No need for government regulation of the minutia.

Also I would point out that it would be very difficult for a ISP to be caught at present because, as previously noted, it would be very difficult for the end user to know that their ISP is in fact blocking a site.
February 16, 2010 3:11 PM
Reuters has a powerful argument AGAINST net neutrality, although they don't realize it.


points out that the bandwidth needs of smart phones are making us run out of capacity. They say:

Vittorio Colao, chief executive of the world's largest cellphone networks operator, told the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona that instead new business models needed to be created to cope with the demand for data services.

The comments added to the impression at the annual gathering that while handset makers, chipmakers and service providers are all flourishing from the rapid growth of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, operators are being left to worry about how they are going to profit when they must also fund the related improvements needed in network capabilities.

However, BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd said it was well aware of the problem, saying that smartphone manufacturers must start developing less bandwidth-guzzling products or risk choking already congested airwaves.

As users abandon traditional cellphones for netbooks, wireless modems and feature-rich smartphones, like Apple's iPhone, wireless data traffic has exploded and is threatening to saturate network capacity, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told Reuters in Vancouver before setting off for the trade fair in Barcelona.

"Manufacturers had better start building more efficient applications and more efficient services. There is no real way to get around this," Lazaridis said.

"If we don't start conserving that bandwidth, in the next few years we are going to run into a capacity crunch. You are already experiencing the capacity crunch in the United States."

Colao said the industry was at a key point in its development, as it adapts to the new economic realities of the smartphone and the ever-increasing amounts of data that consumers wish to consume.

In order to succeed the industry needs to allow operators, content owners, application developers, search and operating system owners to develop new business models, to enable the operators to continue to invest in new and faster networks.

They realize that the operators must be encouraged to invest in new networks. The best way to let them do that is to let them charge what they like and let competition work it out. If there are regulations, capacity will languish.
February 16, 2010 5:03 PM
I don't know all the details however I would say that the issue with smart phones is unrelated to the net neutrality issue.

The issue with phones' ability to communicate is between end user and phone company. Not with the phone companies ability to then send that data to the host website and then back to the phone company. There is only so much information that can be floating around in the air at one time. How that works however is entirely beyond my knowledge.
February 16, 2010 9:19 PM

There is no argument against net neutrality there at all...

All I see is that despite the fact that the networks are facing an increasing customer base, and can expect that customer base to increase significantly in the future, they are unable to capitalize on this. Or if they are capitalizing on it, they aren't doing it in a way that benefits customers. That doesn't exactly say wonders for the results of competition in that industry.
February 17, 2010 1:49 AM
Jamie's article does have an argument against net neutrality, just not the one he thought.

As screwed up as the level 3 stuff is already - network overload, zoning issues that don't allow switch houses to be upgraded or bigger trunk lines to be put in - adding a bunch of government regulation will only foul it up more. Right now, ISPs only fight with issues that physically relate to their infrastructure. Zoning, EPA, etc. But the government hasn't yet regulated what the ISPs do INSIDE their infrastructure. Once that happens, get ready for chaos city.

Again, I refer to that article on BigGov:

"Net neutrality advocates insist we need government to preserve an "open" and "free" Internet and claim the market has failed. But they cannot point to any market failures that make the Internet less open or free. In short, the Internet isn't broken. And it doesn't need a government fix"

Asking the government to fix something that isn't even broken is bad twice over. You're asking the government (the last resort for fixing market problems) to fix a problem that doesn't exist on the off-chance that it MIGHT exist eventually, even though trends show that competition is already making the problem go away.
February 17, 2010 8:10 AM
The issues are entirely internal and have to do with the over use of radio frequencies not with infrastructure. The release of radio frequencies from TV to cell phone companies helped the issue but in the end we need better methods of communication to reduce the bandwidth needed for applications on cell phones. Net neutrality should have absolutely no effect on the ability of these companies to capitalize on the use of their radio towers.
February 17, 2010 8:58 AM
I get that. My point was more macro level. There are already enough other infrastructure issues to deal with. That particular iPhone issues doesn't have the same infrastructure problems that Comcast has when it tries to upgrade a switch house. But they are both problems that ISPs (or cell phone companies) have to deal with on the outside. No need for the government to add problems on the inside too.
February 17, 2010 9:16 AM
Not exactly. In both cases it is in the companies best interest to upgrade the infrastructure at the local level. DSL companies want a line to every home. Cable companies need to ensure that they have enough local hubs to handle their customer base. (I don't know the technical term for the cable companies 'hubs').

These are contacts between the end user and the ISP, those lines are owned by the ISP and their use by other ISPs to offer service should not be allowed, except as negotiated between the ISPs of course.

Beyond the right of the ISP to charge the end user for using their lines the question becomes should the ISP have the right to dictate to whom that end user can connect. I pay $x every month, I believe this should provide me access to any and all websites on the internet and that this should provide me equal speeds to any and all websites or online services.

The part of the internet where those against net neutrality may have a point is in the middle. Launching satellites is expensive and if you can not charge for bandwidth going through that satellite you most definitely aren't going to. This equally true for intercontinental cables.
February 18, 2010 12:20 AM
Which is exactly what happens now - you get unrestricted access for $x per month.

Is your current ISP not doing that?

Are you having any problems - right now - that net neutrality will fix for you?

So why fix a problem that isn't broken and, at the same time, open the door to a new world of regulation?

The entire gamut of problems that net neutrality seeks to fix is nothing but a straw man. It doesn't exist. There's nothing but the fear that it MIGHT exist and the proposed solution is to let the bull into the china shop early.

If ISPs did any of the things you fear they might do, you might have a point.

February 18, 2010 7:36 AM
Has anyone ever considered that maybe the internet took off so well and is so dynamic and competitive precisely *because* there is a dearth of regulation? Everyone lauds the internet as the new great frontier: for e-commerce, for communication, for collaboration, for everything. Well, gee. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the government has kept its hands out for so long.
February 18, 2010 8:25 AM
There are many websites that I go to that don't work or are incredibly slow to load. I use StumbleUpon regularly so these are essentially random websites that I don't frequent.

Is my ISP blocking them? I have no idea. It might be. How am I to know if the problem is with my ISP or with the hosting server?

The internet took off not just because of lack of regulation but also because of free and unfettered access to information.
February 18, 2010 8:57 AM

That's the entire point! We have a neutral net, it seems to be working well, and that's how we want it to stay. A principle does not equal regulation. We are suggesting that net neutrality is a good principle, and you have nothing to suggest it is not. You seem to suggest yourself that the current system works well, and as far as I can work out, the current system is based on the principle of net neutrality. So stop insisting that NN is so bad!

"If ISPs did any of the things you fear they might do, you might have a point."
So as long as ISPs work by the principle of a neutral net, then NN is bad, but once they stop working by that principle, then it may be good?
February 18, 2010 9:00 AM

"The internet took off not just because of lack of regulation but also because of free and unfettered access to information"

You've just proved my point.

"Free and unfettered" access WAS inherently a lack of regulation.

Think about what you're saying. In the beginning, the only ISPs that existed WERE a monopoly, de facto. The only way to access the internet was through your phone company. You had one - if you were lucky - method and nothing more.

If there was any time in the history of the internet when the internet should NOT have been "free and unfettered" it was when only a few companies ran everything.

And yet still, somehow, it all worked beautifully. That beautiful ability to work, free and unfettered and without government regulation, is the beauty of capitalism.

February 18, 2010 9:32 AM

"We are suggesting that net neutrality is a good principle..."

The central difference here is that you're seeing the trees, and I'm seeing the forest.

You see NN as a good principal for the internet to run by (which I have never disagreed with) but fail to understand that something must IMPLEMENT that principal.

Principals are pie-in-the-sky until they are implemented. The implementation is just as important as the principal.

Now, that gives us two choices.

a) We can implement the principal by allowing the current, free-market model (which isn't broken or restricted) to continue the trend of increasing competition to give users the ability to switch providers if they find out that their ISP is monkeying around. At the moment, I have at least 3 different providers I can switch to if I find out that my current ISP is monkeying around. And since the blogosphere makes it impossible for bad companies to hide, I'll figure it out REALLY fast.

b) We can implement the principal by allowing the government - for the first ever - to step and start writing laws and creating rules. They'll tell every ISP exactly what is allowed and not allowed. And of course since they're telling ISPs what to do, they'll have to inspect, at taxpayers expense, if each ISP is complying. Since you need inspectors, that means you also need a Department or Division set up in some government building which will require more money and more rules. And before long, the same department will be setting up rules for what content is allowed on the internet and how site owners have to verify users' age and how or when they need to collect tax money on purchases.

Read a and b again. Am I being over dramatic? How so? If not, which one did you prefer. As I see it, my view of how the government works is perfectly rational.

The principal of NN is fine. It's the implementation that NN advocates push that stinks.
February 18, 2010 9:44 AM
jonyfries, you've fallen into an extremely common trap: accepting the underlying assumptions behind liberal thinking, which naturally and invisibly force you to "logically" reach the desired answer of a larger and more powerful government.

You define something as Good - in this case, Net Neutrality. You therefore leap to the conclusion that your Good Thing must be enforced, and who can do the enforcing but the Government?

Debating whether or not Net Neutrality is a Good Thing entirely misses the point. I happen to think that net neutrality as the Internet has enjoyed since its creation, is indeed generally good and useful.

But it does not follow that it should be enforced by the government! The only thing the government should be enforcing in the commercial arena is transparency and honesty. If a telecoms company claims to offer unlimited Internet access, they darn well ought to be doing so; not actually delivering what they promise is fraud, and it's appropriate for government to get involved in punishing fraud.

On the other hand, I have no problem with telecom companies offering non-neutral connections, AS LONG AS they do so openly and honestly! If they plainly and transparently say "We're going to throttle these websites", and you freely choose to accept their terms, what's wrong with that?

Why does this matter? Because if you don't like what one company does, you can GO ELSEWHERE - if all else fails, maybe you've identified a market niche that you can create a new company to fill and become hugely rich. If you don't like what the government does, too bad, you're stuck with it.

That's why ANY argument for additional government intrusion or oversight should be viewed with the deepest of suspicion, and in virtually every case, should be endorsed only when all other possible solutions have been tried and failed, leaving a major, obvious, serious, and clearly visible existing unsolved problem. Which we don't have here.
February 18, 2010 4:44 PM
Petrarch you are advocating a form of government regulation. Which will require just as much oversight as what I am advocating. You're talking about requiring labeling, the labeling required on food has gotten incredibly complicated. From a simple require. Anything can be a slippery slope.

The dial up era was anything but a monopoly. The phone companies didn't provide the access, numerous ISPs were extant. All but the most remote areas had many ISPs with local numbers. The cost to a new ISP to come into any area was, relatively, quite small. Today for a new ISP to come into an area it has lay completely new lines.

Where I live I have two choices for ISPs. Some of the apartments in this complex do not have a choice. Where my parents lived they did not hve choice either. Free market forces can't function without competition. I don't know how many choices you have where you live, however for many of us if an ISP didn't want us to see scragged.com there would be nothing we could do about it.
February 18, 2010 9:59 PM
How to Regulate the Internet Tap
Before the F.C.C. embraces stifling net neutrality regulations, it should look at the European model, which emphasizes transparency.

They neglect the possibility of not regulating it, of course, they are, after all, the NYT!
April 21, 2010 5:25 PM
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