Net Neutrality Fairytales

The big wired Internet providers are swearing up and down that yesterday’s net neutrality ruling, which threw out an Obama Administration rule requiring wired providers to treat all network traffic equally, won’t change the way they do business. That ruling was in an appeals court, which means the Supremes will either take the case or the ruling will stand.

Those providers, who are almost all cable companies, are full of shit, because with their lagging TV business, they’re all scrambling to find ways to (a) kill off Netflix and substitute their own streaming offering and (b) charge hefty usage-based pricing for their internet service, which has roughly 95% profit margins already. Here’s how they’ll do it:

  1. The coming of “4K” streaming, which is a super high definition stream on next generation TVs, will use 3-4 times the amount of bandwidth that today’s high definition streams use. 4K users will blow out the caps that providers like Comcast have in place, opening the door for the cable boys to charge premium premium for users who have 4K TVs.
  2. The streaming services of the cable providers will be exempt from the bandwidth caps, so users who don’t want to pay more for bandwidth will have an incentive to switch to Comcast’s version of Netflix.
  3. Streaming providers who want to sell video to customers without busting the caps will be allowed to provide what AT&T Wireless calls “Sponsored Data”. This means that the streaming company will pay the cable company for the bandwidth their subscriber uses. The streaming company will pass on that cost to the consumer. (Note that AT&T can provide “Sponsored Data” without regulatory issues because wireless is exempt from net neutrality regulation.)

That’s the plan, they’re executing it slowly but with grinding efficiency, and the roadblocks the Obama Administration are throwing up in their path are getting overruled. And, by the way, they won’t be investing in their aging infrastructure, except in places where Google or some other fiber optic provider starts competing with them. This is how corporatism will make slowly but surely leave us in the dust behind countries that make Internet access a national priority.

76 replies
  1. 1
    randy khan says:

    You do understand that the rules that were thrown out didn’t prohibit usage caps or exempting your own video services from those caps, don’t you? (There was an exception for “specialized services,” which would have covered a cable operator’s streaming of its own video.)

    If you read the decision closely, you can see that the FCC won much more than it lost – it’s got the power to regulate broadband providers and the court gave it a roadmap to re-adopt the two rules that were overturned if it so desires.

  2. 2
    negative 1 says:

    Not that I’m that old, but when I was younger I remember the deregulation fights. Obviously all of the competition after deregulation was going to improve service and pricing. Seems to be working and all.

  3. 3
    Kropadope says:

    It’s tragic too few people know about this issue. Worse, the only person I know who does is of the (G)libertarian breed and insists that it’s government regulation, including net neutrality laws, that will allow this to happen.

  4. 4
    Hal says:

    No one wants to sign up for 10 different streaming services.

  5. 5
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    This is how corporatism will make slowly but surely leave us in the dust behind countries that make Internet access a national priority.

    As it should be, because FREEDOM, GODDAMMIT, FREEDOM!! You don’t wanna be a goddamned commie, you libby piece of crap, do you?!

    But seriously, christ all..we really are just dead ending at this point. And piss off on all the conservatives claiming these monopolies are all the fault of ‘regulation’ and spouting how free market fetishism would ensure all that vaunted competition.

  6. 6
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    @randy khan: Yes, I know the caps exist today. The point is that 4K makes the low caps even lower, pushing consumers into higher levels of service.

    Do you mean “managed services”? That was always an area of dispute. Providers who did IPTV could devote part of their pipe to their IPTV service, but that’s different from restricting specific streaming services.

    I have not read the decision but the media coverage (e.g. the WSJ article) seems to think it was a setback. Do you have a link to analysis that shows otherwise?

  7. 7
    NotMax says:

    Honestly, if the post were any more off-base it would be outside the ballpark.

  8. 8
    Kropadope says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik: Can we please stop calling that mindset “conservatism?” Or else, please explain to me what it is they want to conserve.

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    @randy khan: Well, I noticed that the ‘reaction’ articles in the NYT and WaPo were remarkably unclear.

    What does seem clear is that universal inexpensive broadband isn’t gong to happen if we rely on Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, and the problem is political and financial, not legal or regulatory. As for the legal details of exactly how consumers get screwed right now… that’s why the big ISPs have lawyers.

  10. 10
    kdaug says:

    @Kropadope: Profit.

    Next question.

  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    @Kropadope

    Or else, please explain to me what it is they want to conserve.

    $$$ über alles. For the 1%, primarily.

  12. 12
    Kropadope says:

    @kdaug: Conserve profit? No, they want to be able to rake it in, ever faster, with no regard for how it effects others or even their own company’s future. They want the government out of the way, if not to have them clear the way. This is not conservatism, but in fact a fairly radical form of liberalism.

  13. 13
    TriassicSands says:

    This is how corporatism will make slowly but surely leave us in the dust behind countries that make Internet access a national priority.

    The relevant parties in the US don’t care about this at all. The whole point is to allow a small number of people to become enormously rich (richer), while everyone else does what they’re told.

    This is the business plan that the SCOTUS and Congress would have us believe is required by the US Constitution.

  14. 14
    C.V. Danes says:

    The NSA destroying Internet security, and the cable companies fire-walling the Internet, are definitely poison pills for the whole “cloud computing,” “Internet of things” meme, me thinks.

  15. 15
    muricafukyea says:

    Lol,…glorified reddit poster muckymux is making predictions again. The guy who brought such hits as “Palin is going to run in 2012” and “Don’t underestimate [fat bastard] Christie”. Along with his constant masturabations during the 2012 election.

    Please continue.

  16. 16
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @Kropadope:

    The status quo. Of course.

  17. 17
    Walker says:

    Google’s fiber strategy is precisely for this outcome. Google will become a telco.

  18. 18
    C.V. Danes says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix):

    Yes, I know the caps exist today. The point is that 4K makes the low caps even lower, pushing consumers into higher levels of service.

    I suspect that the issue will not be the caps so much as the bandwidth needed to stream this much data without buffering every few minutes. I just had to upgrade to Road Runner Ultimate to get the bandwidth for 1080 HD without having to buffer every 20 minutes or so.

  19. 19
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    @Kropadope:

    Or else, please explain to me what it is they want to conserve

    Free market capitalism. e.g. profits for corporations.

    Are you stupid?

  20. 20
    RareSanity says:

    @randy khan:
    @NotMax:

    Here’s what I know, and I don’t even need to read the decision to know it…

    Any court ruling where the likes of Verizon and Comcast are victorious over the FCC, in the current climate of providing content over broadband, and when Republicans in Congress are are saying things like this:

    “In the Internet’s infancy, the commission made the right decision to leave it free from the interference of government regulators. Today’s ruling vacates the commission’s attempt to go back on this policy and to smother the Internet with rules designed for the monopoly telephone network,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said in a statement.

    There is no way in hell it can be a positive thing for consumers at large.

    The way that all of them are trying to use verbal slight of hand and make “telephone service” analogous to “last mile connectivity” is fucking infuriating. This is about a monopoly, but is isn’t about “service” at all…it’s about the two companies that have a monopoly on wired connections to homes, now wanting to monopolize what information is allowed to flow into those homes, and at what speed.

    If the telephone and cable companies want to be treated “like everyone else”, which are not benefactors of government sanctioned monopolies, the answer is simple…divest all of your ownership interests in wired, last mile infrastructure, then compete on a level playing field with “everyone else”.

  21. 21
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    Edit no workie. Beaten three times. My question still stands.

  22. 22
    Kropadope says:

    @GHayduke (formerly lojasmo): I already got to why I don’t think “conserve” adequately describes their desires with respect to profits. As you said:

    Are you stupid?

  23. 23
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    @C.V. Danes: Yeah, that’s the trick with Time Warner – be sure to use one of their DOCSIS 3 services. Those are delivered over different channels and are less congested. In my market, Extreme and Ultimate are all provided over DOCSIS 3. I believe Turbo is, too. I went Extreme because it allowed 5 Mbit up. I’m able to stream Netflix 1080p without interruption most of the time.

  24. 24
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Walker:

    Google’s fiber strategy is precisely for this outcome. Google will become a telco.

    Oh, joy. Not only will they have all the information about everyone, but will control access to the information, as well…

  25. 25
    Kropadope says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik: I don’t buy that they want to conserve the status quo, either. Regulated market capitalism is the status quo that I know. There has been a steady push to destroy (as in not conserve) that regulatory regime over my lifetime. Working more to the point where private industry wholly supplants the government (a rather radical, not conservative, notion).

  26. 26
    Violet says:

    @Kropadope:

    Can we please stop calling that mindset “conservatism?” Or else, please explain to me what it is they want to conserve.

    They call it conservatism. It’s what they call themselves. It’s wrong because they’re destructive and greedy and selfish–none of which are hallmarks of conservation or conserving anything. It’s typical rightwing behavior–take a word and change the meaning completely. Kay goes on about how they’ve completely changed what the word “reform” means. Their way of using it is nothing close to what it actually means.

  27. 27
    Zifnab25 says:

    @Hal: You can give me Netflix or Hulu, but I’m not going to buy both. I should also note that my cable company had to bribe me with a giant bag of carrots and sticks to get me to subscribe to cable for a mere month. And now that I’ve perused the offerings… meh, back to just internet.

    But if you’re interested in yet another internet horror story, my mom is currently on Comcast’s lowest tier plan using a modem that don’t even make anymore. The modem breaks, and Comcast refuses to fix said modem unless she switches to a more-premium internet/cable package. I spent 3 hours over two phone calls *discovering* exactly why Comcast couldn’t replace her modem, couldn’t change her service plan, and couldn’t tell me what her actual bill had been for the last year. Bonus points: Apparently, we’d been subscribed to HBO for six months, but weren’t actually receiving the service.

    So it’s back to AT&T, where we can get buttraped by a complete different set of assholes.

  28. 28
    WaterGirl says:

    @NotMax: interesting comment. Please say more. Otherwise, it’s pretty useless to someone like me who would like to better understand the implications of this ruling and where we are headed.

  29. 29
    cmorenc says:

    IF you are fortunate to live in a location where e.g. AT&T sees a profitable market for hugely upgraded bandwidth (AND there’s intense local competition with a big-time rival having substantially overlapping coverage areas) – THEN you may be a lucky duckie and be where they are both investing in substantially upgraded bandwidth infrastructure. FOR EXAMPLE, in my particular North Raleigh neighborhood, for years all AT&T offered was standard DSL/3Mb/s, while Time-Warner cable began surpassing them with double, triple, or quadruple that. But AT&T recently laid fiber-optic lines enabling up to 18Mb/s to support their U-Verse offerings, and the technician installing a U-Verse upgrade to our house at that speed informed me that in the near future, the lines feeding our neighborhood would be upgraded to 100Mb/s (Time-Warner now offers a 50Mb/s “business class” of service). In order to entice me to go U-Verse on the TV and drop Time-Warner, AT&T made me an offer (which I accepted) where I’m now paying $100 less per month for a combined phone/internet/TV package (with a substantially more sophisticated/capable home network) than I was before with AT&T providing DSL/phone and Time-Warner providing TV cable service separately. And Time-Warner has its own roughly comparable package deals.

    PROBLEM IS: you have to live in a place where the combination of sufficiently affluent/demanding demographics, density, and competition force the telcos to invest in the infrastructure, and they can’t get away with mediocre or outmoded service offerings. One of the factors working against Netflix isn’t merely the potential bandwidth discrimination; it’s that the telcos are providing such an expanded range of channels and streaming options in their packages that it reduces somewhat customers’ incentives to use Netflix for the same content – Netflix’s advantage is that their potential offerings are still more numerous and diverse than the telcos.

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like the potential for bandwidth discrimination or forcing “sponsored bandwidth” for which providers like Netflix must potentially pay AT&T or Time-Warner to carry at the same speed as their own content. It would have been far better for a Telco’s communications infrastructure to be treated more like a public utility, and the content provision divisions thereof to be on an entirely separate free market competition model (what net neutrality was aiming at essentially). If either AT&T or Time-Warner emerge from their local competition as the overwhelming winner, I don’t trust them to not rest on their laurels and boost up fees substantially. We have a second house down the beach where there’s a single telco serving the area, providing phone, internet, and tv cable and boy howdy – even though most residents don’t want or need any land-line phone service, even though TV cable with the bandwidth for at least medium-high speeds e.g 18Mbs exists to all households – the ONLY way you get internet is to have a land-line with DSL going to your house. On top of your TV cable bill, with crappier, more expensive service than towns served by Time-Warner toward the other end of the county. It’s a situation where I actually WISH Time-Warner was my local provider in my end of Brunswick County, much cheaper, better service (when did you ever think that would be true of TW?)

  30. 30
    Kropadope says:

    @Violet:

    It’s what they call themselves. It’s wrong because they’re destructive and greedy and selfish–none of which are hallmarks of conservation or conserving anything.

    Precisely my point. Are we going to let these people redefine words such as conservative, liberal, progressive, interrogation, reform, and god knows what else? Take the English language back.

  31. 31
    C.V. Danes says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix):

    I went Extreme because it allowed 5 Mbit up. I’m able to stream Netflix 1080p without interruption most of the time.

    That was not an option in my area, and the monthly cost between the two was only a few $$ per month anyway. I’m getting 50/5 down/up very consistently for now, no matter the time of day. For the non DOCSIS 3 connections, bandwidth was all over the place, and never consistent.

    Also, for some reason, FIOS will never come to my area. So much for free-market competition!

  32. 32
    Rome Again says:

    @MattF:

    What does seem clear is that universal inexpensive broadband isn’t gong to happen if we rely on Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, and the problem is political and financial, not legal or regulatory. As for the legal details of exactly how consumers get screwed right now… that’s why the big ISPs have lawyers.

    Exactly!

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    @RareSanity

    Shortest synopsis of the ruling is that the court specifically said the FCC has the authority to regulate ISPs, but may not wedge the square peg of the internet into the round hole of common carrier regulations absent that designation becoming applicable.

  34. 34
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Kropadope:

    Working more to the point where private industry wholly supplants the government (a rather radical, not conservative, notion).

    Not only that, but to be totally unaccountable, too. Just look at what is happening in West Virginia right now, if you want to see the future.

  35. 35
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    @WaterGirl: He’s just trolling. But if you want the the bright side of the court decision, here’s an analysis:

    http://www.volokh.com/2014/01/.....-decision/

    The bright side according to him is that the FCC retained their regulatory authority over broadband providers, and also that they still have the option of classifying broadband providers as telcos (“common carriers”), which gives the FCC far more authority over them.

    My response to that is that they had their chance when they made the net neutrality rules and they didn’t classify broadband as telco. I assume the reason is that they took the temp of Congress and figured they went as far as they could go without provoking Congressional legislation to rein in the FCC.

    I still stand by my view that the 3 steps I list above are what cable broadband providers would like to see happen, that at this moment things are going their way, and that this ruling is more in their favor than in the FCC’s.

  36. 36
    Rome Again says:

    @RareSanity:

    There is no way in hell it can be a positive thing for consumers at large.

    The way that all of them are trying to use verbal slight of hand and make “telephone service” analogous to “last mile connectivity” is fucking infuriating. This is about a monopoly, but is isn’t about “service” at all…it’s about the two companies that have a monopoly on wired connections to homes, now wanting to monopolize what information is allowed to flow into those homes, and at what speed.

    If the telephone and cable companies want to be treated “like everyone else”, which are not benefactors of government sanctioned monopolies, the answer is simple…divest all of your ownership interests in wired, last mile infrastructure, then compete on a level playing field with “everyone else”.

    Totally agree.

  37. 37
    Judge Crater says:

    Most of the developed nations in the world have far better internet services, in terms of speed and cost, than the U.S. Latvia, for god’s sake, makes us look like N. Korea. Cable companies are basically monopolies. Getting control of what comes down the pipe, in addition to owning the pipe, is their ultimate goal. Anyone who has dealt with Comcast knows that they don’t give a shit about anything but making a profit. They squeeze their employees, their customers and they’ll squeeze the content producers if they get a chance.

    If this whole thing does go to the Supremes it will be interesting to see how far Roberts, Scalia, et al, will go to serve their masters in corporate America.

  38. 38
    Violet says:

    @Kropadope: I agree with you. It’s not as easy as it seems. What are your suggestions for taking the language back?

    Personally, every chance I get I do not let “pro-life” slide by. I call them “forced birthers” and unless I’m in a situation where bringing up political topics is out of bounds, that’s the term I use. I call it like I see it.

  39. 39
    RareSanity says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix):

    Slight correction…DOCSIS 3.x connections don’t use “different” channels, they just use more of them simultaneously.

    DOCSIS 1.0 only used 1 channel each for upstream and downstream, 2.0 allowed for 2 channels to be bonded together for each, and 3.0 allows as many as 8 channels to be bonded together. This is the reason a new modem is always needed when there’s a new revision in the spec.

    I’m not sure what Time Warner does, but in my area, Comcast uses 2 channels for upstream and 4 channels for downstream on their fastest (BLAST?) service.

  40. 40
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Kropadope:

    Precisely my point. Are we going to let these people redefine words such as conservative, liberal, progressive, interrogation, reform, and god knows what else? Take the English language back.

    Unfortunately, when you only have 2 “legitimate” parties to choose from, this is what happens.

    I’ve long felt that the U.S. is just too large and diverse to only be represented at the Federal level by two parties. We need at least 3 or 4, with coalitions between them. When you only have two parties, the “extreme” or “fringe” wings of the parties are either marginalized, as is the case with the progressives, or they take over, as is the case with the Tea Party side of the house.

  41. 41
    Violet says:

    @Judge Crater:

    Most of the developed nations in the world have far better internet services, in terms of speed and cost, than the U.S.

    No kidding. One of my relatives who lives in the middle of nowhere in Scotland has speeds that are about three times as fast as what we’ve got. We’ve got the fastest speed available and he’s got the slowest speed available in Scotland. Crazy difference.

  42. 42
    Kropadope says:

    @Violet: The prefix “faux-” before referring to them as conservatives works for me. Refer to them as radical liberals (liberalism here as its original meaning, a synonym for capitalism) and they will flip out as the well-trained monkeys they are. I refer to myself as both pro-life and pro-choice, sensible people understand that.

  43. 43
    tBone says:

    Here’s a pretty good article (despite appearing on Volokh) from someone who worked on the FCC regs. (EDIT: shit, beaten by DPM.)

    If the FCC grows a pair and classifies ISPs as common carriers (as they should have done originally), this ruling could turn out to be a boon for consumers. But that’s a pretty big if, unfortunately.

  44. 44
    jheartney says:

    My guess is that 4K will end up being a successful as 3D TV, i.e. not very. Unless you have a 60″ home theater, you won’t even see it. At our house’s largest screen (46″), given the usual watching distances, 720p and 1080p are indistinguishable.

    Without 4K, eventually you’ll bump up to the caps, but it’s not imminent.

  45. 45
    Violet says:

    @Kropadope: Don’t think “faux-conservatives” works because that means RINO in today’s world.

  46. 46
    beth says:

    @Judge Crater: We had Comcast out to the house last week to install some more cable outlets. I made some kind of offhand comment to the tech about his house being well wired up and his answer was “I can’t afford cable”. How shitty is that?

  47. 47
    Violet says:

    @beth: God, that sucks.

  48. 48
    RareSanity says:

    @NotMax:

    I guess my point is that they should already be classified as common carriers, not because of the services they provide, but because of the positions they are allowed to maintain.

    There’s only one entity that is allowed to run electrical lines into your house, they are highly regulated because of that. There is only one entity that is allowed to run gas lines into your house, they are highly regulated because of that.

    Speaking from a historical perspective…there has been only one entity that has been allowed to run wires to your house for phone service, and one entity that has been able to run wires to your house for television service. They should both be heavily regulated because of it.

    The fact that technology advanced to the point where those wires were able to perform numerous other services is irrelevant because the fact remains, the only reason they are there, was the previous single purpose that allowed them to be installed in every house.

    So either they only use those wires for the purposes in which they were granted monopolies, or they divest ownership interest in those lines so they can compete with others in the services that are unrelated to the single purpose of the limited monopoly.

  49. 49
    MomSense says:

    I fucking hate Congress and Comcast. Not sure which one I hate more, probably Congress, it’s such a close call.

  50. 50
    tBone says:

    @jheartney:

    My guess is that 4K will end up being a successful as 3D TV, i.e. not very. Unless you have a 60″ home theater, you won’t even see it. At our house’s largest screen (46″), given the usual watching distances, 720p and 1080p are indistinguishable.

    While I agree that 4K is mostly a marketing gimmick at this point, the first 4K sets are amazingly affordable and it’s a feature you can completely ignore if you don’t care about it. I don’t know if it will drive sales the way the industry is hoping, but it’ll succeed simply by virtue of not actively repelling customers the way 3D did.

  51. 51
    Kropadope says:

    Explain RINOs are the more conservative among Republicans. But dems are the truly conservative

  52. 52
    RareSanity says:

    @RareSanity:

    Replying to myself…in other words, if Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast want to “compete”, then all of their companies need to be split up into (at least) two completely unattached corporate entities. One entity devoted only to infrastructure and maintaining the network, which will be classified as a common carrier, and a second entity that will provide services and/or content.

    That is the only way this can work…this shit will never happen, but it’s the only real solution.

  53. 53

    Anti-lightbulb crusader Marsha Blackburn has already taken credit for this one, saying it’s a victory over socialism, a triumph of freedom, blah blah.

  54. 54
    dpm (dread pirate mistermix) says:

    @tBone: Good points. Predicting that some level of resolution is too much is always risky. I have a 40-something inch 1080 p TV and I’d like better resolution.

    4K sales will be pushed by people wanting higher res computer screens. My current monitor is essentially a 1080p TV. I’d rather have a 4K TV, if it isn’t crazy expensive.

    @RareSanity: In my market DOCSIS 3 uses different channel ids than DOCSIS 2. Which makes sense, btw. YMMV.

  55. 55
    RareSanity says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix):

    Because a bonded channel would have a different identifier than either of the channels used to comprise it.

    For example, channels 1 and 2 would be bonded together to create channel 3.

    EDIT: A DOCSIS 2.0 channel would essentially be two 1.0 channels bonded together, a 3.0 channel would essentially be two 2.0 channels bonded together…or four 1.0 channels.

  56. 56
    Judge Crater says:

    @beth: The CEO of Comcast is Brian Roberts. He’s the son of the founder and is considered one of the most overpaid CEOs in the country. They recently took 100% ownership of NBC Universal which is a huge entertainment powerhouse.

    Once these cable companies get control of content, they will really have us by the balls. The internet can then be sliced and diced to profit them. They will figure out a way to get their finger into every profitable segment of the internet. Imagine Chinese government style firewalls that parse what gets out to the individual web surfer. Scary.

  57. 57
    slippytoad says:

    Well, if the boob tube industry wants to eat its own lunch, they are welcome to it.

    Making absurd, and quite arbitrary data caps for TV viewing will ensure that everyone sticks to the old standard. I do not believe 4k television will ever be a thing. It’s more resolution than is needed, ever.

  58. 58
    burnspbesq says:

    @randy khan:

    This, pretty much.

    The FCC screwed up, and the D.C. Circuit rightly called them on it. No administrative agency can define a thing as “not X” and then proceed to regulate it as though it were X.

    This can be fixed, if the political will to fix it can be found or assembled.

  59. 59
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Judge Crater:

    Once these cable companies get control of content, they will really have us by the balls.

    Actually, the only people who have you by the balls are the ones who control the food and water. Anything else is a matter of what you are willing to do without.

    Personally, I’m hoping this will cause more people to discover the pleasures of reading, and the great outdoors :-)

  60. 60
    burnspbesq says:

    @Judge Crater:

    If this whole thing does go to the Supremes

    It wouldn’t make sense for the FCC to petition for cert. They’re allowed to re-write rules to fix a problem that that caused a Court of Appeals to invalidate them (that’s the essential holding of a 2005 Supreme Court case called Brand X). Once the Supreme Court weighs in, re-writing a flawed rule becomes more difficult (the lesson of a case called Home Concrete).

  61. 61
    burnspbesq says:

    @RareSanity:

    Except that the existence of DirecTV and Dish pretty comprehensively (at least in my view) refutes the notion that cable is a natural monopoly.

  62. 62
    jheartney says:

    @tBone: The sticking point isn’t the TV hardware, it’s the content delivery. Sure, 4K could end up being the de facto standard for hardware, but unless 1. the studios start making actual 4K content available in quantity and 2. that content can be delivered without excessive PITA, it’s not going to affect data caps.

    Bear in mind that we live in a world where lots of HDTV’s end up showing stretched SD analog content. Many of those 120mhz and 240mhz sets never ended up using their refresh speed. For me (and I think a lot of others), if it’s a choice between paying more for content delivery vs. forgoing extra resolution that I can’t even see, forgoing the resolution is an easy choice.

    SD to HD (HD defined as 720p or better) was a dramatic move, and people wanted it once they saw it. Further, HD was easy to get via antenna, cable, disk, and (later) streaming. Moving from 1080p to 4K is only a subtle improvement, and comes at the cost of much higher data rates, and can only be delivered (for now) through streaming, on connections better than what most people have. Plus there’s no content even if you have the delivery capacity.

  63. 63
    JustRuss says:

    I was griping about Comcast with a buddy of mine the other day. Being a devotee of the Church of the Free Market, he’s sure that satellite internet will “eventually” improve to the point it provides the competition needed to get Comcast and their ilk in line. I really wish every conservative solution didn’t depend on “then magic happens” somewhere in the equation.

  64. 64
    slippytoad says:

    @JustRuss:

    Inform him that the speed of light makes that impossible, ever. Satellite internet will never, never, never replace a wire.

    It’s not how much bandwith the transmitter can handle. It’s the latency. There is an inherent latency in satellite transmissions (and these kinds of satellites have to be in a geosynchronous orbit), that you can never, ever, ever get rid of. It’s about 600 milliseconds, give or take, which makes anything with a response time requirement impossible. You would have to download a big header for your movie, and forget about gaming.

    I learned all this when I was trying to get someone’s virtual computer working over what turned out to be satellite, and after I did some reading I decided nobody will ever use satellite for serious data transfer. It is only for things that have already happened, that you don’t have to respond to.

    It has to be regulated. The “free market” cannot fix the kinds of issues required for a full, nationwide broadband network.

  65. 65
    liberal says:

    @C.V. Danes: sadly, first past the post means we’re pretty much stuck with two parties.

  66. 66
    liberal says:

    @C.V. Danes: nope. You also need land.

  67. 67
    pacem appellant says:

    My employer is one of the streaming companies mentioned as a target of broadband ire. My overlords are are aware of the situation and have been for some time. They do not intend to just let Comcast et al. walk all over them.

  68. 68
    tBone says:

    @jheartney:

    SD to HD (HD defined as 720p or better) was a dramatic move, and people wanted it once they saw it. Further, HD was easy to get via antenna, cable, disk, and (later) streaming. Moving from 1080p to 4K is only a subtle improvement, and comes at the cost of much higher data rates, and can only be delivered (for now) through streaming, on connections better than what most people have. Plus there’s no content even if you have the delivery capacity.

    Totally agree that 4K lacks the drool factor of the SD->HD upgrade. But basically everything else you said was true for HD in the early days too. HD was definitely not easy to get early on, in any format – when the first (ridiculously expensive) HD sets came out, there was essentially no content.

    A lot of people won’t care* or even notice, but the hardware default (which is what 4K will be going forward) eventually becomes the software default. (*Me being one of them at this point. I don’t have room for a set that would make 4K appreciably better than HD.)

    I don’t know what that means for end user costs for streaming, but despite all their bluster, the telcos are still sensitive to consumer backlash. If they weren’t, everyone in the country would have a 50GB/mo data cap, or lower.

  69. 69
    RareSanity says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Those two entities did not exist when telephone and cable companies were granted their monopolies/franchises to initially establish their current last mile infrastructure. Secondly, for matters of pure physics, satellite internet will NEVER be comparable to even wireless internet, let alone wired internet. If I were a lawyer, (which I am in my imagination) I would dispute that they were even competitors to the wired or wireless providers.

    There is no major market were consumers have access to wired or wireless broadband, that they choose satellite internet…it is that bad. As a matter of fact, I think I could argue…on technical merit…that satellite internet cannot even be classified as “broadband”.

  70. 70
    RareSanity says:

    @burnspbesq:

    …just wanted to add something.

    The reason I’m saying all of that is to say that Verizon and Comcast are attempting to use the monopoly they were allowed to establish for one purpose, to affect how they compete in completely unrelated market because technology progressed to allow that competition.

    While the satellite providers CAN compete with them in that previous single purpose, they CANNOT compete with them in the “expanded” purposes, so those satellite providers are at just as much of a competitive disadvantage as anyone else.

    Verizon and Comcast want to convince people that this point in time exists in a vacuum, it doesn’t. They are only in the positions they are in currently, to even make the demands that are currently making, because of special government status they received in the past that other companies were excluded from.

    If they want to “compete fairly”, the only way it is possible, is that they divest themselves of the assets that they obtained, that other competitors were excluded…by the government…from establishing or having access to.

  71. 71
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @dpm (dread pirate mistermix): Dell and a couple of other makers pre-announced low-cost 4k computer monitors at CES, around the $800 mark for displays with a 30″ diagonal or thereabouts. They should be out this summer. Downside is they’re TN and not IPS so the colour range isn’t that good compared to lower-resolution monitors costing the same amount but for spreadsheets, writing etc. they’re excellent value for money. I’d not use them for serious colour work like photo-editing, video etc. though.

  72. 72
    C.V. Danes says:

    @liberal: If you control the food and water, you probably control the land, but I’ll add it to the list: land, food, and water :-)

  73. 73
    C.V. Danes says:

    One thing to note in all of this, based on my own experience.

    I kicked the cable about 4 years ago, and used to rely heavily on streaming content from Netflix and Amazon VOD through a Roku box for content. Then, about 3 months ago, I purchased an HD antenna and a TiVo box. My streaming needs have dropped by probably 50%, because many of the shows I was paying for are available over the air, and I just set the TiVo up to automatically record them. I can also watch football (much to the chagrin of my wife) and other shows that were not available via streaming.

    May not be the solution for everyone, but it has worked nicely for me :-)

  74. 74
  75. 75
    Missyg says:

    The open internet was struck a terrible blow, so it’s now more important than ever to understand the issues. For anyone who wants a refresher, here’s a helpful mockumentary about net neutrality: http://www.theinternetmustgo.com/‎

  76. 76
    SB says:

    @Judge Crater: Your commentary “Imagine Chinese government style firewalls that parse what gets out to the individual web surfer. Scary.” couldn’t be more accurate. The below comment was previously posted elsewhere, but it’s fitting that I share it here so here it goes.

    ———————————————————-

    It is right that this move against net neutrality generally has the populace up at arms. Unfortunately people who (a) haven’t been subjected to wrongful stifling, (b) haven’t learned the dangers of limitations on free speech by studying history, and/or (c) aren’t critical thinkers might not see the potential dangers in this type of move until it is too late. This should be ended posthaste…and I don’t state that on a whim. History is full of bad acting influential entities that have abused power that they should have never had in the first place. Think about these couple of scenarios:

    1) A startup launches and its success is highly dependent on its ability to deliver various web content to the masses. However, a direct competitor owns and/or operates one or more metaphorical “internet pipelines” (or is an associate of an entity that owns and/or operates one or more metaphorical “internet pipelines”). No problem…just have the delivery of the startup’s web content degraded and/or charge the startup an exorbitant dollar amount. Ours is a fast-paced society full of people who are accustomed to instant gratification. That being the case it is a foregone conclusion that a startup that is subjected to inefficient and/or buggy web content delivery will fail if web content plays a significant role in its business model.

    2) A group is fighting against influential wrongdoers and the group is effectively and rightfully utilizing the internet during the course of their warranted and rightful battle. However, one or more of the wrongdoers owns and/or operates one or more metaphorical “internet pipelines” (or is an associate of an entity that owns and/or operates one or more metaphorical “internet pipelines”). No problem…just have the delivery of the group’s web content degraded and/or charge the group an exorbitant dollar amount. Again, ours is a fast-paced society full of people who are accustomed to instant gratification. That being the case it is a foregone conclusion that a movement against wrongdoers that is subjected to inefficient and/or buggy web content delivery will fail if web content plays a significant role in the movement.

    Those who have a problem visualizing the scenario outlined immediately above need do nothing more than look at corruption-plagued countries that are built upon cultures where censorship is par for the course. Of the many things that this net neutrality move might be, one of the things that it definitely is is a gateway to the implementation of an alternative form of censorship. I’ll repeat that so that it will sink in…a gateway to the IMPLEMENTATION OF AN ALTERNATIVE FORM OF CENSORSHIP.

    There are probably multiple other scenarios that could be listed above but the given scenarios are sufficient to make my point. Again, this is not the right move and IT SHOULD END POSTHASTE. Even if there are conceivably some significant benefits (not that we’re necessarily of the mindset that there are) the very real risks far outweigh any potential rewards. And just in case anyone is saying “if you’re in one of the two groups listed above then sue”, you are naïve. The victims—and make no mistake about it, in the scenarios outlined above they are VICTIMS—indicated in the above two scenarios are already fighting against nearly insurmountable odds and they don’t need any other problems piled on. In other words, in a manner of speaking they are already “down” and don’t need anymore “kicks” such as having their web content interfered with and/or being faced with exorbitant costs. Although some things are right about America, some things are definitely going in the wrong direction. People such as Hitler, those who conducted the Tuskegee Experiment, and those whom were responsible for disseminating smallpox infested blankets to Native American Indians (just to name a few) would have a heyday with this move if they were alive and engaging in their bad acts today. Reason being, it goes without saying that as it stands the internet is the average joe’s most efficient form of a mouthpiece. And let us not forget that in America (as well as in the rest of the world) some of the greatest achievements have been accomplished by determined average joes who spoke out to the masses as efficiently as was possible. Rest assured that this move will make influential bad actors everywhere rejoice…they are likely already planning ways to exploit it (assuming that they haven’t already planned a plethora ways).

    In case anyone somehow thinks that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I will state that I most certainly do. I am personally involved in a long-running, massive, warranted, and rightful fight against epic public corruption. I can tell you that it is an undeniable fact that that warranted and rightful fight has been plagued by civil liberties infringements carried out via wrongful attempts by bad actors to stifle our free speech. For the record the fight is called GATORGAIT and those who are unaware of it can find out more information at the damning, truthful, and lawful website http://www.gatorgait.com . Also for the record, the complete website and all of the website’s extensive content works perfectly and efficiently as of the time of this post (i.e. 01/16/2014). Additionally, there has been various other truthful and lawful Gatorgait-related content that has been posted online by us justice seekers and which has remained not interfered with…that content also works perfectly and efficiently as of the time of this post.

    Generally speaking I have lost faith in man’s ability to consistently do what’s right. Over hundreds of years of bad practices and policies promulgated largely by those who have wrongfully and shortsightedly used their gift of intelligence to increase their power and “line their pockets” at the long term expense of mankind and the world we have, as a whole, lost our way. Let’s see where this recent net neutrality move takes us. Just as we opposed the most recent attempt to pass the far too intrusive CISPA we strongly oppose this net neutrality move. Pay attention…close attention. As indicated above I’m jaded; therefore, I have no confidence that if there isn’t an abrupt about face that bad acting men and women won’t ensure that action becomes warranted. It may be soon or it may be later, but rest assured that serious action will become necessary.

    Best wishes to all,
    SB

    “Some people see a problem and do something about it. Others do nothing but sit on their a$$e$ and complain. Be a doer.”

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