Net Semi-Neutrality

The FCC’s announcement of new net neutrality regulation is getting a big thumbs down from Al Franken, because it trades fairly decent wired net neutrality for a bunch of loopholes for wireless providers. Franken’s right that there’s a real possibility that Verizon will block some applications in order to make more money, and in general it’s sad to see that the wireless industry will continue to be a giant consumer fucking machine. But I also think that the new net neutrality rules are a product of some fairly shrewd maneuvering by FCC Chair Jules Genachowski.

The real danger with net neutrality is that the telecom industry would be united in their opposition to the new rules, crank up their lobbying machinery, and persuade Republicans and corporocratic Democrats to enact legislation to clamp down on the FCC. During the eternity that he took to push out new rules, Genachowski dodged that bullet by selling a compromise that let the big dual carriers, like Verizon and AT&T, get enough sugar in their wireless bowl to allow them to swallow the bitter pill of wired neutrality. The Comcast and Time Warners of the world, who are also getting into the wireless game, have decided to tolerate a fairly decent wired net neutrality rule because they can make a buck by exacting a toll on Netflix and other big net users instead of blocking them outright.

Despite all the Republican whining, this compromise is, as usual, pretty sweet for corporations, and their pro-forma bitching is merely an effort to set the stage for repeal of the new rules if Republicans win the presidency. As for the rest of us, it’s perfectly reasonable to be “outraged”, as Franken is. Or you can take the same view of net neutrality as most of us have adopted about HCR: it’s the best that the Obama administration could do, given a political landscape where corporations completely control Republicans, and where it takes superhuman efforts to get most Democrats to vote against corporate interests. I’m choosing to hate the game on this one, because at least we’re getting a vestige of wired net neutrality that would be inconceivable under a Republican administration.






54 replies
  1. 1
    kdaug says:

    A realist push toward the “perfect”.

    Overton windows, long arcs, and all that.

  2. 2
    vtr says:

    And, of course, the right blames this on the commies.

  3. 3
    Bruuuuce says:

    Here’s some analysis done at the beginning of this month explaining why it’s so important to get a strong rule now:

    Getting a rule for its own sake is pretty meaningless. In fact, that’s what the carriers would like in the ideal world — a rule for its own sake that’s pretty meaningless. I expect the ideal for carriers would be something like the pathetically ineffective system the FCC set up to protect independent cable programming networks. Everyone in the cable industry knows the process is a total joke, and that the FCC would rather gnaw off its hand at the wrist rather than enforce it. [Just ask Sky Angel, still waiting on a Media Bureau decision on whether Sky Angel is covered by the statute, or the folks at WealthTV and MASN, still waiting for the full Commission to review their various internal appeals.] But because there is a process, independent programmers get no sympathy in their complaints that the largest MVPDs use their market power to beat the crap out of them. “Well,” say MVPDs and staff at the FCC, apparently in all seriousness, “If you really have a case, why not bring a complaint?” Then they rush out of the room to giggle hysterically at this incredibly funny suggestion.

    Here is an article outlining four basic principles that together comprise net neutrality. It’s a shame the FCC Commissioners couldn’t have actually, you know, included all of them.

  4. 4
    Jay C says:

    Republicans and corprocratic Democrats

    Not sure about the spelling there: but it DOES work, as I read the word as “coprocratic”, or, more-or-less, “rule by shit“. Which, when referring to Congress, is certainly appropriate.

  5. 5
    victory says:

    Getting neutrality on wired means it will be easier to push down the road for it on wireless?

    Not getting neutrality on wireless means it will be easier for corporations to push down the road for less regulation on wired?

    Half empty or half full?

  6. 6
    WarMunchkin says:

    Resignedly agree with the whole “best you can get” thing, but it sure is getting pretty old. It seems like there is no possible thing you can do that would make corporations have anything less than a every day being a sunny day, except for an occasional cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky.

  7. 7

    DADT will be signed into law tomorrow morning at 9:15 so we needed something new to be outraged about! I’m still trying to figure out the “This is great news for John McCain” angle. But quite frankly as long as they don’t fuck with the free p0rn sites why should anyone care?

  8. 8
    mistermix says:

    @Jay C: Hah! Yeah, I think another “o” is warranted, so I added it.

    @victory: I think there was a minor justification for holding back on wireless for the short term, which is that wireless spectrum is limited, so a few more net restrictions might be needed in the short term as providers build out their networks. The proof case will be when Verizon does something awful – if the FCC sits around and does nothing, then the compromise wasn’t worth it.

  9. 9
    homerhk says:

    outrage is good for one thing and one thing only – making the person outraged feel a little better. It doesn’t move policy, it doesn’t make the impossible possible. It’s just self-indulgent.

  10. 10
    Resident Firebagger says:

    This analysis wouldn’t bother me so much if you’d at least admit that corporations also completely control the Obama administration.

    But that’s me, expecting too much again…

  11. 11
    JGabriel says:

    mistermix:

    The FCC’s announcement of new net neutrality regulation is getting a big thumbs down from Al Franken, because it trades fairly decent wired net neutrality for a bunch of loopholes for wireless providers.

    There are two major problems with this:

    1) There’s no good reason to make a distinction between wired and wireless.

    2) Over time, wireless will become dominant over wired because it’s infrastructure will be a LOT cheaper to install and maintain (no wires to string all over the place). That means any concessions made to wireless over wired will — pretty quickly too — become the default standard for ALL internet communcations as wired becomes increasingly obsolete.

    .

  12. 12
    MTiffany says:

    Shorter mistermix — Re Net Neutrality: Hooray for mediocrity and half a loaf of shit!

  13. 13
    Jeff says:

    I have come to the conclusion that Obama and his advisors believe that the Citizens United decision changed the game irreversibly. Watching 70 million dollars get dumped into the game anonymously must have been a sobering experience.
    So their actions are predicated on either keeping big corporations in the Dem camp, or at least on the sidelines.
    We may not like it, but it is what it is .

  14. 14
    General Stuck says:

    And here it comes, like clockwork. Obama caves nonsense. Compromise in a democracy is not only required, it is a useful weapon to slow down the boomerang effect from over reach by one side or the other, at any given point in time.

  15. 15
    mistermix says:

    @JGabriel: I think the FCC is also banking on whitespace wireless to open up another venue for the general public/small companies to create area networks that will compete with the big cell providers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spaces_(radio)

  16. 16
    mistermix says:

    @MTiffany: The alternative is a draconian clampdown on the FCC attached to a giant omnibus spending bill that Obama can’t veto. Choose your flavor of shit sandwich.

  17. 17
    Alwhite says:

    So you are saying the Republicans & their Blew Dogs allies are setting the stage to fuck America over?

    In DC I think they’d call this Tuesday.

  18. 18
    General Stuck says:

    Or, for now, the FCC is creating a safe harbor for the average citizen regarding home wired services. And apparently leaving open to some degree the wireless mobile aspect to occupy and sate the corporate instinct to profiteer, from an activity that would tend to favor more affluent consumers who are likely more able to play with mobile devices, and able to pay some extra. In a capitalist system, it is wise, imho, to have controlled feedings of the beast, making it less likely to devour everything in sight.

  19. 19
    paradox says:

    Currently I’m at 85% of The Master Switch by Phillip Wu, a most excellent history of telecommunications/entertainment/information networks in the United States. Great holiday book for a political junkie who might need some detachment practice. [coughs]

    Go easy on Mistermix and Obama. There has never been a time–not even remotely close–where a new network emerged that was not outrageously clamped down or severely compromised by corporate interests, often actively abetted by the US government.

    The open internet as we know it is a great abberation. The Obama people have watched this bubble up and done everything possible not to be called liberal over it, as usual, and little else. Not a bad record at all for this crew.

    God help us if Congress writes the rules, as everyone knows they should have. Congress is hopelessly captured and the little people will be massively fucked if they allow a monopoly, walled garden, what have you.

    We’re probably going to watch some subversion of the internet, but the outrage will at least have complaining in loud real time this evolution. The internet and its emerging technologies is a hideously complex environment to try and control, Verizon and Google think they know of a way, well, all right. This isn’t a telephone network.

    Yeah we’re gonna get fucked to a degree, just like we get horribly screwed by automobile deaths and global warming to move around. Human systems often screw us, but at least the internet has shown an amazing ability to morph into unseen forces, good luck trying to control it, homes.

    We shall see. Merry Christmas.

  20. 20
    JGabriel says:

    General Stuck:

    And apparently leaving open to some degree the wireless mobile aspect to occupy and sate the corporate instinct to profiteer, from an activity that would tend to favor more affluent consumers …

    This is a technology that will spread and filter down to the less affluent pretty quickly — because the labor cost of stringing and maintaining wire is a lot more expensive than dropping a cheap wireless signal amplifier on a pole or rooftop.

    So differentiating between wired and wireless seems like a particularly short-sighted move at present.

    .

  21. 21
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    crank up their lobbying machinery, and persuade Republicans and corporocratic Democrats to enact legislation to clamp down on the FCC.

    Even sidestepping the whole debate about this new compromise (my nominee for word of the year) being too much, too little, or just enough, just stepping back and looking at the fact that we’re discussing whether corporate America and its bought-off politicians will “clamp down” on the FCC, rather than, you know, the other way around….

    Good gravy, something is fucked up with this country.

  22. 22
    rickstersherpa says:

    In this vale of tears, “it could have been a lot worse” is often a good starting point. We have got this so far, in a bad political climate. Lets get off our butts and work at getting other folks elected who will pass something against the corporate interests. We certainly are not going to get that out of the plutocratic Boehner Congress of the next 2 years.

    The whole Village right now is on whole austerity kick, (for thee, but not for us) with the designated scape goats and targets for resentment of most people being Government workers, immigrants, Muslims, and of course, the old stand-by in American politics, Blacks. Hence the celebration of Chris Christie on 60 minutes.

  23. 23
    Svensker says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Good gravy, something is fucked up with this country.

    You noticed?

  24. 24
    Karmakin says:

    FWIW I don’t think that Verizon and Google want to “control” it. It’s that they think that they feel that they need some leeway in order to create compression and routing strategies in order to improve wireless performance, as asking everybody to upgrade their wireless devices/towers is simply not practical.

    At least that’s my take on it.

    Also, the reason why net neutrality is more needed from a wired PoV is because of the monopolistic nature of the technology, where as wireless theoretically could be much more open to a variety of providers, minimizing anti-trust concerns.

  25. 25
    General Stuck says:

    @JGabriel:

    So differentiating between wired and wireless seems like a particularly short-sighted move at present.

    But the safe harbor remains for wired services, and as long as it does, folks can choose that safe harbor, or not, to pay more, or not, for wireless, and still have the choice of unfettered net neutral internet in their homes. I think this is a fair compromise for all concerned, that at once gives the telecoms an avenue to exploit a market, while leaving another protected, and the longer wired services remain protected, the harder it will be to change that.. It takes away the argument that they, the telecoms, are being stifled in toto, and makes it less likely a successful argument later on to capture the entire internet as a consequence.

  26. 26
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Svensker:

    You noticed?

    Long ago. It’s just outstripped hyperbole itself now, even “Great corporate advertising brain implant barracuda of Bermuda” doesn’t capture it, plus takes too long to write, so I settled for something more pedestrian, if somewhat seasonal.

    I mean, the parodies write themselves: After years of abuse by free wheeling regulators who turned the country into a Wild West of restraint, corporate America stepped in at the insistence of its corporate citizens (now including corporations themselves, who were given the vote recently) and “clamped down” on regulators…

    Oy vey.

  27. 27
    rikyrah says:

    who thought they would get this much?

  28. 28
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @JGabriel:

    So differentiating between wired and wireless seems like a particularly short-sighted move at present.

    Everything will be wireless. Short-sighted is an understatement. I mean, I don’t know if Mistermix is wrong that the alternative to this would have been worse, I really don’t, but the argument that they’ve kept “half” safe is just nonsense. Sorry, Stuck.

  29. 29
    Maxwell James says:

    Despite all the Republican whining, this compromise is, as usual, pretty sweet for corporations, and their pro-forma bitching is merely an effort to set the stage for repeal of the new rules if Republicans win the presidency.

    I’d amend that to _established_ corporations.

    While very few people understand net neutrality, they do understand that the IT sector is a place where small entrepreneurs can become incredibly successful. Which makes the Republican stance anti-entrepreneur. Not a surprise of course – but this is one of the few areas where Democrats should be able to expand their support in the business community.

  30. 30
    General Stuck says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Sorry, Stuck.

    No need for that. The future is not yet written, and for now, wired services are firmly the norm for most internet users. And the longer it is, if and when home wired users are forced to wireless, then we are in a completely new dynamic, and rules can and will be re written with the input of the majority of voters pissed off that there now be toll roads on their internets. I don’t do dogma, especially when it includes reading the future.

  31. 31
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Maxwell James: Over and over I’ve been astonished at how Republican positions are not just evil, but actually much worse for business than those opposing them. Paul Krugman has done yeoman’s work chronicling just how bad for business supply-side myths have been, the entire economic collapse it caused just being the most obvious example.

    The problem these days is not that one side is pro-business and the other anti-business, the problem is that when a whole party is taken over by extreme ideology and myths, you’re arguing with people who are quite literally insane, and as dangerous to themselves as they are to the rest of us.

    Having said all that, I agree, Democrats should be able to make this point.

  32. 32
    liberal says:

    @Karmakin:

    It’s that they think that they feel that they need some leeway in order to create compression and routing strategies in order to improve wireless performance…

    Bullshit. They could do that using technical criteria that don’t discriminate on the content and provider but rather just on the demands placed on the system.

    It’s simply a gold rush: who gets to collect economic rent?

  33. 33
    liberal says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    …but actually much worse for business than those opposing them.

    Depends how you define “business.”

    The banksters are doing well; they got bailed out and their bonuses are sky-high now (can’t recall if they’re breaking records). Bondholders in bankster corporations got bailed out, too.

  34. 34
    Lee says:

    @Karmakin:

    FWIW I don’t think that Verizon and Google want to “control” it. It’s that they think that they feel that they need some leeway in order to create compression and routing strategies in order to improve wireless performance, as asking everybody to upgrade their wireless devices/towers is simply not practical.

    I work in the telecom industry and that is a very good summary of the reasoning.

    Wired providers also want to implement strategies that improve performance without actually increasing bandwidth. You want to let the wired providers do some network shaping but not so much that it degrades (or eliminates) some services (e.g. P2P).

    Also part of the reason is that a very very small % of all internet users are wireless.

  35. 35
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @liberal: Yeah, it gets into a semantic argument to some degree. Those particular businesses did well yes but only because the government bailed them out, otherwise without that, they had killed themselves along with everyone else by pure greed.

    A little story: I live in France, and when I returned home from the US right at the height of all this in 2008, a guy in the newsstand in Paris selling me the Herald Tribune pointed and said something like “1.5 million Euros” or something, I forget the figure now. At first I thought he was just kidding about wanting to charge me that much for the paper, but then we got chatting and I realized he was saying that this was the amount that it cost every person in the US to bail out the banks and etc.

    He went on to say that during a big, somewhat similar crisis here years earlier, the Credit Lynonnais scandal, every French citizen was hit to the tune of 1.2 million. “So” he concluded, “the USA is now more Communist than France!”

    So, whatever else one can say, right wing supply-side policies are good for Communism.

  36. 36
    Barb (formerly Gex) says:

    Once we get something on the books, hopefully abuses like the example provided will get consumers behind net neutrality.

    Ha ha ha. I guess I’m feeling optimistic today and thinking maybe the right wing rubes would actually like to stop getting screwed by our corporate overlords.

  37. 37
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    I’m a lot crankier over this than I was over HCR or the tax compromise, simply because I honestly believe we could have done better.

    I mean, we’re barely going to make an attempt at net neutrality on wireless? Then who gives a shit? It’d be like enforcing laws only on VHS tapes but exempting DVDs and Blu-Ray. Or something else that isn’t as terrible of an analogy.

  38. 38
    Thorn Plutonius says:

    I think it is cute that General Stuck, or anyone else, thinks “the voters” still have a say in anything in America.

  39. 39
    Bill Murray says:

    Why would anyone think that the Republicans and coprocratic Democrats won’t stop any new wireless rules when they come along? They are surely going to have more power in the near future and are likely to put considerable pressure on the FCC to kill net neutrality for wireless.

  40. 40
    Admiral_Komack says:

    “As for the rest of us, it’s perfectly reasonable to be “outraged”, as Franken is. Or you can take the same view of net neutrality as most of us have adopted about HCR: it’s the best that the Obama administration could do, given a political landscape where corporations completely control Republicans, and where it takes superhuman efforts to get most Democrats to vote against corporate interests. I’m choosing to hate the game on this one, because at least we’re getting a vestige of wired net neutrality that would be inconceivable under a Republican administration.”

    Franken can go punt. (see, I can use football terms, too).

  41. 41
    Fleem says:

    @General Stuck:

    Or, for now, the FCC is creating a safe harbor for the average citizen regarding home wired services. And apparently leaving open to some degree the wireless mobile aspect to occupy and sate the corporate instinct to profiteer, from an activity that would tend to favor more affluent consumers who are likely more able to play with mobile devices, and able to pay some extra.

    You forgot the people who don’t have access to wired internet, and who have two options:

    1) Dialup
    2) Wireless

    In my state this is between 15 and 20% of everybody, and is pretty common in LESS affluent rural areas. My house is three houses away from where the DSL ends. Nobody will come hook up cable, even if we offer to pay for it. This is really really creating a two-tiered tech culture.

    I am completely dependent on Verizon Wireless to get my work done. However, the existing Verizon 5 GB bandwidth cap on our data-only plan already makes traffic shaping practically moot for us.

  42. 42
    Fleem says:

    … continued, because the edit window ran out…

    This will contribute to perpetuating the disparity of access to the internet in more rural areas, and make usable connectivity (the ability to view rich content) out of reach for even more people.

  43. 43
    RobertB says:

    @Fleem – I feel your pain. The DSL stops literally one house away from me. Granted, that house is 200 yards away. I’m lucky 4G Sprint comes out my way now. Hopefully Sprint thinks they have bigger fish to fry than shaping my WoW traffic out of existence.

  44. 44
    General Stuck says:

    @Fleem:

    This is a problem, and we don’t know the final details of the plan, that Copps and others are trying to get additional protections included at the last moment, maybe for folks like you who need broadband internet service for their work, and depend on wireless. There are always cracks that exist in something like this, that people fall through, and it is not a given that restrictions, or higher fees will be applicable to the nature of your use. It will be like HCR, or a work in progress, and this will be only the first step.

    I still maintain that sometimes compromise from the get go will defuse arguments later on for the big corps to seize control of the entire internet. Though of course, I could be totally wrong.

  45. 45
    Fleem says:

    @RobertB:

    Even with Verizon I have to stick an antenna on my house and plug it into the modem to get any reception indoors. I got a mailer from Verizon for their 4g LTE service, and was informed I could request to be emailed when it became available in my area, which would DEFINITELY be by 2013 or so.

    This is just the wrong century to live somewhere (in the USA) that needs new infrastructure.

  46. 46
    John Bird says:

    I hope you guys get paid for all your shilling, eventually. I like y’all better when you’re angry – frankly, I don’t see much point in Broderism by blog.

  47. 47

    @Fleem:

    You forgot the people who don’t have access to wired internet, and who have two options:
    1) Dialup
    2) Wireless

    Or 3) Satellite.

    Ok, stop laughing.

  48. 48

    […] rather like this framing of how Obama has operated during his first two years: It’s the best that the Obama administration […]

  49. 49
    PanAmerican says:

    The economics of rural last mile wireless are just as shitty as fiber/cable delivery. Subsidized fiber delivery (like electric & telco) is the only real solution.

    Widespread, non-mobile broadband wireless is the current incarnation of flying cars and supersonic planes. The physics and economics don’t hash out.

  50. 50
    Fleem says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    The awesome value, restrictive contracts & bandwidth cap of wireless plus the awesome speed of dialup. Who could ask for more?

    Hee hee. Ho ho. Hah hah. I’m done.

  51. 51
    Fleem says:

    @PanAmerican:

    Here in Maine truck drivers are going apeshit because their cellphones don’t work in like 2/3 of the state. That’s considered hazardous conditions these days.

  52. 52
    RareSanity says:

    @JGabriel:

    1) There’s no good reason to make a distinction between wired and wireless.
    2) Over time, wireless will become dominant over wired because it’s infrastructure will be a LOT cheaper to install and maintain (no wires to string all over the place). That means any concessions made to wireless over wired will — pretty quickly too — become the default standard for ALL internet communcations as wired becomes increasingly obsolete.

    I have to disagree with you, on both counts here. I am as militant about ‘net neutrality’ as anyone. I’m an engineer and therefore, anything that suppresses innovation, pisses me off.

    OTOH, I have been working in the wireless industry for 15 years and here’s where the disagreement happens…

    First, wireless spectrum will always be crowded, always. It will always be that, even as new technologies are developed, there will always be more devices seeking to use those new technologies and/or bandwidth. There will only be more demands put on any future capacity gained in the wireless space. For wired, once the rest of the “last mile” providers, just run fiber to everyone’s house, they will cease to have any future, technology based, capacity/bandwidth issues.

    Secondly, wireless bandwidth by definition, will always be less reliable and more susceptible outages and interference than wired bandwidth. I don’t see any technology on the foreseeable horizon, that would convince me that wireless internet could be an effective replacement for my wired home internet.

    Wired and wireless broadband are hugely different entities attempting to deliver the same thing. The ubiquitousness of wireless broadband is being driven by smartphones, netbooks and tablet computers. Their demands are different than what I am going to expect from my wired service, at home. At this point, I am willing to allow wireless providers some leeway for managing their networks in exchange for a “clean” wired connection at home. Especially with the knowledge that the parts of the new wireless spectrum will include restrictions against this very same thing.

    This agreement, while not optimal, is a good compromise, at this point. To quote Denzel Washington, in Training Day, “This shit is chess. It ain’t checkers.”

    Wireless providers get a little control now, wired ones don’t. The wired space won’t change much in the next 10-20 years, wireless will. Once the new spectrum begins to come online, it will enable non-limited providers to compete with the limited providers, that is a good thing.

    Let it play out. Getting the rules for wired internet on the books now is huge.

  53. 53
    NathanS says:

    Has anyone on the left ever considered de-regulating the electromagnetic spectrum? It seems a little absurd for the government to have the right to sell off frequencies of electronic pollution.

    -An Electrical Engineer

  54. 54
    Dollared says:

    The big carriers have huge advantages in the Internet Wars. They have the biggest advantage- ubiquity. Clear seems like a fantastic product.

    Now their advantages are set in concrete. Not only do they have advantages via their cellular network, they can run them more profitably by setting gating charges.

    Game over. Perfect example of how to use regulation to set and control a monopoly.

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