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Despite enjoying monopolies across much of the country, ISPs continue to look for new ways to increase their profits. One promising candidate is throttling certain kinds of traffic to cut the cost of bandwidth on "unlimited connections". A U.S. federal court has ruled that the FCC is powerless to stop ISPs from throttling.  (Source: CFC Oklahoma)
Uncontent with mere monopolies or duopolies, ISPs hope to use throttling, "speed lanes" to further increase profits

Is net neutrality dead?  The idea of protecting against the creation of internet "speed lanes" and discrimination against specific types of traffic -- such as P2P connections -- certainly still has powerful supporters, like Google.  However, the movement has been dealt several recent legal defeats which may in effect make it possible for the government to enforce net neutrality, leaving ISPs free to steam-roll the movement.

A D.C. federal Court of Appeals has overturned Federal Communications Commission sanctions against Comcast stemming from 2007 throttling of P2P traffic.  The court was highly critical of the FCC, grilling its lawyer.  It said the sanctions were "aspirational, not operational" and pointed out that the FCC couldn't identify a "specific statute" Comcast violated.  The judge commented that the FCC "can't get an unbridled, roving commission to go about doing good."

The FCC is likely to appeal the ruling.  They also are looking to give net neutrality a legal backbone.  FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has been one of the movement's most outspoken advocates and is currently working with Congress to craft legislation that would make protections against data discrimination the law of the land in the United States.  President Barack Obama included net neutrality in his 2008 campaign platform and he's pushing Congress to complete legislation on the issue.  Obama's 2008 presidential race rival Sen. John McCain is one of the biggest opponents of net neutrality.

Such legislation, though, may still neglect to protect certain kinds of traffic such as P2P connections.  ISPs complain that these connections are frequently used to commit copyright infringement.  More importantly to them, they take up a lot of bandwidth.  The public opposes metered connections, so many ISPs want to throttle P2P traffic as a more subtle means of keeping bandwidth on "unlimited" connections to a minimum.  This could increase their profits greatly, if rolled out across their entire network.

ISPs may be pressed harder by new competition, though.  The FCC has announced a plan to offer speedy 100 Mbps national broadband, to 100 million American homes.  The plan, basically a jumbo version of municipal internet efforts, would increase competition in theory.  Currently ISPs enjoy a monopoly or duopoly on services across much of the country, and consumers have been forced to endure higher prices.



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Misleading Headline
By tdawg on 4/7/2010 11:41:57 AM , Rating: 5
The ruling did not grant Comcast the right to throttle traffic, but rather ruled that the FCC overstepped its bounds of regulation.

Congress can pass legislation to guarantee net neutrality, or they can grant the FCC these sorts of regulatory powers of the internet.




RE: Misleading Headline
By AntiM on 4/7/2010 12:35:31 PM , Rating: 5
You are correct. The FCC is a regulatory body, not a law enforcement body. The FCC should stick to its original mandate... to manage sprectrum and regulate how the airwaves are used. The Internet is not wireless.
If Comcast is offering (advertising) "unlimited" data, or offering a certain minimum bandwidth, and then throttles that bandwidth, then it should be a matter for the FTC, since it is false advertising.


RE: Misleading Headline
By Krotchrot on 4/7/2010 12:54:42 PM , Rating: 5
The FCC has always been charged with regulating interstate communications. Wired and unwired.


RE: Misleading Headline
By AntiM on 4/7/2010 2:22:59 PM , Rating: 2
I was refering to the Federal Radio Commission, established via the Radio Act of 1927 to oversee the radio broadcast band.


RE: Misleading Headline
By walk2k on 4/8/2010 12:46:18 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed this is yellow journalism at it's worst.

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with ISPs cutting off access to competitors (aka so called "net neutrality" as if that really exists...).

It has to do with an ISP keeping its network FUNCTIONAL for the majority of customers! Realize that 1% of customers use something like 60% of the bandwidth (let's be honest most of it is ILLEGAL file sharing). They need the power to regulate their own networks just to keep them RUNNING!

Get back to me when any ISP actually starts throttling or cutting off access to a competitor's service because so far that has NOT happened EVER. What kind of service would it be if people couldn't get to Netflix/etc, they would cancel in droves, nobody is going to shoot off their own foot like that - tinfoil hat black helicopter conspiracy theories aside...


RE: Misleading Headline
By marvdmartian on 4/12/2010 3:46:58 PM , Rating: 2
Might actually be easier to simply pass a law stating what sort of penalty a company might face if they don't follow along with the FCC's lead first. Then pass Net Neutrality once everyone's afraid to oppose it, for fear of being fined.

Worked for income tax! ;)


fyi
By Spivonious on 4/7/2010 11:40:38 AM , Rating: 5
All this ruling means is that no law exists currently that lets the FCC regulate how Comcast does business. This is the whole point of getting Congress to pass a net neutrality bill.




RE: fyi
By Lerianis on 4/9/2010 10:40:01 AM , Rating: 2
But Congress has refused to that for the past 4 years.... what makes you think that they are going to change their minds now? Especially since even the Democrats don't support net neutrality as a whole.


My biggest issue is
By etshea on 4/7/2010 1:01:37 PM , Rating: 3
The same companies control TV and Internet. So it's in Comcasts best interest to block Hulu/iTunes/Netflix. Or worse going to a tier plans Like Cable TV. That will destroy the internet.




RE: My biggest issue is
By zombiexl on 4/7/2010 5:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
Except doesn't Comcast own Hulu? I think its more likely they would offer preference to this data and charge other providers / users to carry / watch it.


Comcast Wins
By Mitch101 on 4/7/2010 3:05:26 PM , Rating: 3
Comcast Wins and I'm suddenly interested in trying to convince Google to put Fiber in my home town.

http://www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi/




RE: Comcast Wins
By Jackattak on 4/7/2010 6:25:51 PM , Rating: 2
If Google puts fiber in your hometown it will be for sale to the highest bidder (i.e. if Comcast is in your hometown currently: them).


One thing I like
By Kurz on 4/7/2010 11:36:54 AM , Rating: 2
Protection against throttling of certain internet traffic is a plus. However, its the only thing I like about this Net neutrality business.

Though all these problem stem from the fact Local Governments force monopolies on its citizens.




RE: One thing I like
By Lerianis on 4/9/2010 10:36:48 AM , Rating: 2
No, they do not 'force monopolies on the customers'. In fact, most of the local regulation is meant to get MORE people into the arena. The real issue: prohibitive costs to get into the market, which is not from the regulation, but from Comcast and their ilk being allowed to set sky-high the rates they charge to use their fiber and copper.


Untrue Title
By Jackattak on 4/7/2010 1:01:01 PM , Rating: 2
"U.S. Federal Court Rules Comcast Should be Free to Throttle Traffic"

In no uncertain terms did the US Federal Court rule in this way. The ruling pretty clearly states that the FCC didn't have the power to stop Comcast. That in no way, shape, or form means that the court thinks "Comcast should be free to throttle traffic", Mick.




RE: Untrue Title
By Jackattak on 4/7/2010 6:23:19 PM , Rating: 2
You can rate me down but the title's been changed, so I rest my case.


Mick Mick Mick.
By icanhascpu on 4/8/2010 4:59:13 PM , Rating: 2
You should start writing for TheOnion. Because your stupid-ass sensationalist titles render the content of your articles (if anything good exists) a joke.

You're fast becoming the online joke of tech related journalism. Keep hiding behind "blog".




By sorry dog on 4/7/2010 12:10:21 PM , Rating: 1
While I don't like the effects of this particular ruling, (i.e. allowing Comcast, TW, etc. to screw with groups of customers who now have little recourse) the overall court decision was the right one. If they had allowed the FCC to to procede under their attorney's arguments, that would have a set a expanding precedent for the FCC to regulate almost anything that they could reasonable call under their umbrella. While this seems like a loser a for consumers (and it is in this case) over all this helps to draw limits for the FCC to act on regulations versus legislation. Regulations is where the devil in the details tends to show up so any limit on this I see as a good thing.

As previously mentioned, the real solution to Comcasts of the world is for efforts to breakup monopoly situations to succeed. Although, us bandwidth hogs are in the minority of users, the ISP's will be more hesitant to screw with us if their is are other choices. This is especially true since we tend to affect the word of mouth marketing to a great extend. I indirectly work for a large cable company, but if they throttle I'll be the first to put them down in my expressed opinions.

Anyway, as much as I applaud the FCC for sticking up for customers, they should have seen this one coming, and all the trouble it will cause them. Their broadband initiative plans are now half garbage. By the time they unbooger all the legal implications of this on the broadband initiative, there will probably be another group in the white house and new faces in the department.




By egadsno on 4/7/2010 12:17:40 PM , Rating: 1
They have every right to do it, but major isp like Verizon and Level3 came out over a year ago to say that P2P traffic (the highest residential usage) will not effect their performance as they have the infrastructure to support it. In fact they welcome it and do not throttle.




While we're at it..
By Heinrich on 4/7/10, Rating: 0
this
By Chiisuchianu on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: this
By LyCannon on 4/7/2010 4:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
umm...wow

I can't believe people think that there should be no regulation in anything, you know, cause corporations are so honest and ethical when dealing with their customers...

While I do agree that the free market can fix many of the problems, it will not work in this case.

The main driving goal behind a free market is that companies will compete with each other for customers. And it works great when the cost to enter or exit an industry is fairly low. However, the exorbitant cost of setting up even a town-sized broadband network prevents newer and/or smaller competitors from crating businesses. This prevents competition.

When will Comcast stop throttling their users and capping the bandwidth? When they lose enough customers so that the profits lost exceeds the cost of upgrading their network.

When will this happen? It won't! Why? Because there is lack of competition in many of the places where Comcast operates. Without competition, users have no choice but submit themselves to the whims of a company. Either you go with Comcast, get dialup, or not get online.

Government regulation in this case keeps the company from screwing it's customers from the power of its oligopoly (Google it if you don't know what it is).

Regulation is a good thing, when used in the manner in which is was designed for.

In the case of Comcast, the solution is simple...Allow the company to traffic shape/cap/whatever in areas where there are at least two other MAJOR broadband companies providing service. In places with only one or zero competitors, prevent any type of traffic shaping. If Comcast can't handle those areas, let them leave that area. A new business will be able to pick up.


RE: this
By zombiexl on 4/7/2010 5:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
The problem in this case is regulation. It is almost impossible for a new cable company to start in an area. The local government's are the one's who decide which cable company they'll allow to operate in your community. They do this to get that little kickback called the "Franchise Fee". Look at your Comcast (or other cable) bill, you'll find it.


RE: this
By Lerianis on 4/8/2010 5:13:44 AM , Rating: 2
The problem isn't the regulation in that case. You are saying that it is BECAUSE of the regulation that businesses cannot get into this arena.... that is not the case in the slightest. The PROHIBITIVE COSTS are the problem here, not the regulation.


RE: this
By foolsgambit11 on 4/8/2010 11:37:13 PM , Rating: 2
So you're saying the federal government should enact regulations on the scope of local government.... When you say "the problem in this case is regulation", you mean the lack of regulation?


No regulation
By chmilz on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: No regulation
By Shig on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: No regulation
By Shig on 4/7/2010 11:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
The true problem is the monopolistic barrier of entry of laying fiber optics in the ground.

Remove that barrier of entry with government subsidation (like every other infrastructure in the country has) to private entities and you'd see more competition. I'm not saying the government should pay for 100% of it, and I am saying that making private companies pay for 100% of it is stupid. It should be split in some fashion with the private companies paying a portion and the government subsidizing the other portion.

But the super telecoms love those barriers of entry, no one can get enough money to even compete unless they have 10's to 100's of millions of dollars to invest. With major networks costing in the billions.


RE: No regulation
By Shig on 4/7/2010 11:58:06 AM , Rating: 1
Net neutrality isn't even the main problem, it's a micro problem to the bigger macro picture that the telecoms don't want anyone to address, ever.


RE: No regulation
By Yawgm0th on 4/7/2010 5:36:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Remove that barrier of entry with government subsidation (like every other infrastructure in the country has) to private entities and you'd see more competition. I'm not saying the government should pay for 100% of it, and I am saying that making private companies pay for 100% of it is stupid. It should be split in some fashion with the private companies paying a portion and the government subsidizing the other portion.
This is actually a much better argument for nationalization than subsidization. Even if ISPs operate as management companies analogously to utility companies (and really, Internet is practically a utility), there is no economic reason to have more than one providing the same type of connection, just as there is no economic reason to have multiple power companies lay down multiple lines and compete.

Even the oligopolous markets we see with two to five providers giving either different or re-leased service have better pricing than two competing fiber carriers laying separate lines to the same homes.


RE: No regulation
By invidious on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: No regulation
By MrBlastman on 4/7/2010 12:17:21 PM , Rating: 5
I say we throttle Comcast... with a baseball bat, upside their head. :(


RE: No regulation
By HalJordan on 4/7/2010 12:44:00 PM , Rating: 5
1) Government okays ISPs to throttle network speeds.
2) Citizens outraged.
3) Government offers "National Broadband", with no throttling, for free!
4) Citizens flock to free government provided broadband.
5) Government in control of information, and communication.

No problem with the government controlling what we see and hear...just ask North Korea, and China...no issues there at all.


RE: No regulation
By invidious on 4/7/2010 1:09:21 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot a few steps there cowboy.

6) Citizens don't like increased censorship
7) Citizens switch back to private ISPs

No one is forcing anyone to leave their current ISP. You want lots of benifits then it might start to cost you. Sounds a lot like capitalism to me.


RE: No regulation
By Kurz on 4/7/2010 1:36:22 PM , Rating: 4
However if all the citizens switch to government ISP then the current private ISPs will shrivel up and die.


RE: No regulation
By Yawgm0th on 4/7/2010 5:42:46 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot two steps:

8)???
9)Profit


RE: No regulation
By Lerianis on 4/8/2010 5:03:59 AM , Rating: 1
You are making a big assumption that there would be increased censorship. Personally, I don't see that happening in the slightest. Every single time people have complained about 'increased negative anything' with nationalized services, when you look at the PRIVATELY RUN services, they have just as many problems.


RE: No regulation
By Lerianis on 4/8/2010 5:10:14 AM , Rating: 2
On another point, since I pressed post before I was done:

Just as many problems, but not always the same problems.


RE: No regulation
By knutjb on 4/8/2010 1:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You are making a big assumption that there would be increased censorship. Personally, I don't see that happening in the slightest. Every single time people have complained about 'increased negative anything' with nationalized services, when you look at the PRIVATELY RUN services, they have just as many problems.

You are making a moral relativism argument where it doesn't really matter who runs it both are terrible. In a lightly regulated market with a number of providers I can pick the best service for me and change whenever I want, when government runs it you have a number of bureaucratic problems and YOU DON'T GET TO CHOOSE.

Congress writes vague laws for the most part, go read the health care law or any other bill/law. http://thomas.loc.gov/ It the goes down the chain with each level writing what the bureaucrats think should be in it and they are usually faceless nameless entities. Finally you get whatever they decide.

I know this because I spent 21 years in it much of it having to look back up that chain to figure out how some crazy interpretations ended up handicapping the end user. Changing those crazy rules is not easy. It can take years to find out who did what and why, let alone fix it.

Much of the time someone was trying to fix a general problem in one specific area but it ends up applying across the board, due to a lack of understanding or concern with how it impacts downstream rules. Usually it ends up with a very painful, rippling affect.

If the government were to do what it is supposed to, that is, regulate lightly , not restrict the market to just a few cherry picked providers so some gov entity can earn a "fee" which is just another name for taxes.

Current government rules only allow a handful of companies to monopolize a market, are overreaching, and stifle the open market. They limit choice, prevent competition, and lock the consumer into our current predicament, crummy service for many through lack of choice.

Don't fall for the "government can do it better" socialism BS. Nothing is ever free because the money will come from somewhere and that will be you.

Before complaining about a system learn how it works.


RE: No regulation
By Lerianis on 4/9/2010 10:34:32 AM , Rating: 2
"Congress writes vague laws"

Do you know why they do that? A very simple reason: so if something that comes in the future that they wanted to cover under the law appears, they won't have to go back and make an entirely NEW law for the thing in question.

It's meant to save on complexity of the legal code, although I have to admit that a lot of times it has the exact opposite effect.


RE: No regulation
By BioRebel on 4/7/2010 1:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody here seems to have read the actual ruling which wasnt that the companies have the RIGHT to throttle, but that the FCC DOESNT have the tight to enforce net neutrality currently. Congressional legislation currently in the works would grant the FCC the ability to enforce such regulation.


RE: No regulation
By Yawgm0th on 4/7/2010 5:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
You're skipping the part where the government already knowingly and willingly tapped lines illegally. Honestly, is there really a practical different in a private carrier controlling the lines as far as privacy and security go? If anything, a government agency might be more likely to take a step back and say "hold on" when another government agency comes in and tries to tap our lines.

Either the government acts legally or illegally. A private company isn't going to effectively stand between that any more than a government agency will, at least in this context.


Not the best method of solving a problem
By Jeff7181 on 4/7/10, Rating: -1
By Chemical Chris on 4/7/2010 1:30:18 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
if you're hitting 250 GB/month, you're either doing something illegal or your needs exceed what a residential service offers

Actually, 250GB/month isn't unreasonable. Thats about 10 blu-ray discs (with compression, you could get about 10GB/movie, so 25 movies/month). But theres not that many movies you say, at least not sustainably. Well, yes, but there are TV shows. Most households watch lots of TV. I personally watch about 6 new, unique hours of TV media a week. At 5GB/hour for high def, that 120GB/month. I also have a roommate. I also download games occasionally.

Granted, not all of my usage is "legal", there are (or should be) legal sources for this. So, it is quite possible to consume >100GB month for a home user.
I know this is not indicative of everyone, but I only use internet, no cable, phone, etc. This is the direction the world is heading in, I would say.

In short, grandma may use 1GB/month, but I go through much, much more.

ChemC


RE: Not the best method of solving a problem
By Drag0nFire on 4/7/2010 3:44:36 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know where you're getting legal HD streams, but Netflix might make a good case study. Netflix HD streams have a use a 3.8mbit stream (for the highest resolution available).

http://blog.netflix.com/2008/11/encoding-for-strea...

This means that a 2 hour movie would use at most 3GB. At 1.5GB/hr, you could easily watch 150 hours (or 6 full days) of HD video and have plenty of bandwidth left over for other uses. If your usage exceeds this, maybe you should consider other options (I have FIOS).

I'm not saying I agree with a bandwidth cap, particularly if advertised as unlimited. But I do think it would be difficult for a user to legally exceed 250GB/month in most scenarios.


By Yawgm0th on 4/7/2010 5:00:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not saying I agree with a bandwidth cap, particularly if advertised as unlimited. But I do think it would be difficult for a user to legally exceed 250GB/month in most scenarios.
I have a lot of difficulty exceeding even 150GB regardless of the legality of the content. Even with my unlimited USENET access, I'd really have to go out of my way to do it.

Whoops, I broke the first rule.


By ClownPuncher on 4/7/2010 1:33:31 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
This is what Comcast is doing. There are people using Comcast's service to illegally share files and I think it's safe to say that if you're hitting 250 GB/month, you're either doing something illegal or your needs exceed what a residential service offers.


Or you have more than one person living in a home. With Hulu and Netflix Streaming, getting to that 250gb cap is easier than you think (for those of us that don't watch TV, but stream everything from their PC). This is 2010, people use teh intarwebs now.


RE: Not the best method of solving a problem
By Keeir on 4/7/2010 3:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think it's safe to say that if you're hitting 250 GB/month, you're either doing something illegal or your needs exceed what a residential service offers.


In my area, Comcast's new "basic" internet is 15 Mbps. 250 GB/Month is just 37 hours of full rated speed. Thats pretty shoddy "unlimited" cap.

Now, I think caps can be fair... but given that the average person watches ~2.5 hours of television or more per day... I think a cap less than 500 GB/Month is unreasonable. (2.5 x 30 x 15 Mbps)


By Yawgm0th on 4/7/2010 5:31:20 PM , Rating: 2
I really hate this, because I think there should not be caps at all, but I don't see 250GiB monthly as unreasonable. This is enough for any of the following:
-25 1080p 120-minutes films
-200 720p ~43-minute TV episodes (hour minus commercials)
-Virtually every Linux distribution worth using... twice
-Every version of every iteration of Windows XP, Server 2003, Vista, Server 2008, and 7, including SBS, R2, x64, x86, IA-64, Standard & Enterprise & Datacenter, etc.
-More porn than you can possibly imagine
-More Youtube videos than a person has hours in the day to watch
-Anywhere from 30 to 366 games, given sizes ranging from a full CD to a full dual-layer DVD.

Keep in mind I'm giving some examples of not-necessarily legal usage. I could see myself approaching the limit with a feasible, but unlikely combination of the above. I can't even imagine a person doing it with entirely "legitimate" needs.

Supreme nitpickary: It would be about 39.7 hours (are you using decimal GBs instead of binary GiBs? Comcast doesn't manufacture storage devices.)


RE: Not the best method of solving a problem
By keith524 on 4/7/2010 3:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm okay with throttling I just think they should be required to advertised based on the slowest throttled connection. So if they throttle P2P to 50kb/s their advertisement would be get Comcast High Speed Internet at 50kb/s (can be up to 6mb/s if not using P2P).


By Camikazi on 4/7/2010 8:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
You are asking them to tell the complete truth while advertising :P you can't expect them to tell the customers the complete truth, then they might lose the customers.


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