House Republicans have managed to pull off a
high profile rejection of a key tech-related component of the Obama
administration's initiatives. In control of the House for the first time in four
years, Republicans have voted to overturn so-called
"net neutrality" rules proposed earlier this year by the Obama
The rules had previously been approved by the
Democratic House, but were stalled in the Senate as Republicans awaited the
prospect of regaining control of the House in the new year.
I. What's Net Neutrality and What Did
This Bill Mean?
In the early 1900s the American Telephone and
Telegraph Company (AT&T) basically
held a monopoly on phone service in the U.S. It owned all the
lines and it sought to crush or buy out any small competitors entering the
market. Its tactics are viewed in retrospect as
"anticompetitive", but at the time the government did little to act.
Today cable internet service providers don't enjoy
the same kind of monopoly, but they do enjoy a market in which there are only a
few players. Most people have access to only one to three cable internet
service providers. The rise of tethered
internet has helped the market become more competitive, somewhat,
adding a few wireless tethering options to the mix.
At best, though, most people enjoy four or five
3G/cable or better internet options.
Worse, the cable and wireless companies tend to
make decisions about pricing and services in mass. Take for example the trend
towards cutting "unlimited" data plans on cell phones -- AT&T and
Verizon both made the switch and now it looks like Sprint and T-Mobile may
follow. While there's laws against collusion (companies making joint
decisions in a loosely populated market), the government can only prosecute
companies if it proves they met and worked out the decision together.
That's typically too hard to prove, so they don't bother.
As a result cable providers typically underdeliver
on their promised speeds and overcharge customers, as they can work together
with their handful of competitors to keep rates high and service quality low.
Further, some companies are eyeing the potential
to gain further revenue by offering faster access to some sites like The
New York Times or Google Search -- who might be willing to pay to give
customers faster access. To get this faster access, independent sites
that didn't pay would
be relegated to slow connections.
And telecoms also wanted to "throttle"
the connections of users who
make full use of their data plans. These busiest users would see
their connections slowed to prevent them from using as much data.
In the face of all of this, the net neutrality
movement was born. Its aims were multifold:
All of these measures were seen as ways of
remedying the relatively uncompetitive internet market, and prevent those in
power from abusing their dominant positions.
The Obama administration's Federal Communications
Commission appointees proposed a series of net neutrality rules that covered
much of those points. It however, cut some deals with the communications
industry that frustrated net neutrality advocates. For example in only
prevented the throttling of "legal traffic" opening the door to
throttle P2P and torrent connections. It also exempted mobile operators
from certain rules and restrictions.
The bill was tacked on to a spending bill that was passed on
December 21, 2010 by the Democratic House. A copy of the FCC's
published rules is available online [PDF].
II. The Death of a Bill
On February 17, 2011 (Thursday), the new
Republican 112th Congress voted to overturn the spending bill before it could
reach a Senate vote. With the death of a bill comes the death of the
legislation to give the FCC power to regulate net neutrality.
Federal courts have already
ruled that current legislation does not give the FCC this
power, so essentially unless another bill passes; the effort to legislate net
neutrality is dead.
Republicans claim net neutrality restricts the
free market. States Republican Representative Steve Scalise,
"We think the FCC overstepped their boundaries. This is something that
should be done and solved in the halls of Congress."
Many Republicans, such as Senator John McCain
(R-Ariz.), argue that any legislation to regulate net neutrality is
an affront to capitalism. They argue for a laissez-faire approach to
Democrats are devastated at the loss of the net
neutrality bill. Democratic Representative Edward Markey says that
telecoms and cable providers are now free to squash small competitors and user
rights, much as they did during AT&T's monopoly era in the early 1900s.
He states, "Verizon's not going to invent anything new. What they
want to do is squeeze competitors."
(The statement appears to allude to the legal
challenge from Verizon in January against the bill, which was filed with
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.)
III. What's Next for Net Neutrality and the
Republicans seem dead set against preventing
internet service providers from throttling traffic or slowing/speeding up
website access. They also tend to oppose on a state basis allowing local
communities to spend their government dollars to set up independent municipal
internet access -- even if the citizens in that community want the service and
are paying for it with their own tax dollars. They have championed
several efforts to stop
municipal internet projects.
Together these stances serve to cement the power
of a handful of telecoms and cable providers like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon
Wireless, etc. And that means a fat payday for these players.
Republicans are being rewarded handsomely for
their loyalty. Various telecoms raised millions for John McCain's 2008
Presidential run and they provided free service to his personal ranch.
Many other Congressional Republicans enjoy similar perks, albeit on a
This mean that over time customers can expect to
see slower access to independent sites on the internet, though access to big
corporate sites may speed up slightly. And those who fileshare with
torrents, etc. or who use lots of bandwidth streaming Netflix, etc. will likely
see their connections slowed. Last, but not least, customers may find
themselves having to pay their cable company monthly
fees to access websites on a per-site basis.
Along with the push for metered internet plans,
all of this means that customers will be paying more, while getting less --
less website access, less speed, and less traffic types.
Of course cable providers aren't stupid.
They fought hard for this bill to be overturned. They will likely
try to slowly sneak in these changes to prevent public outcry.
quote: Auto Insurance
quote: I'm not convinced that "net neutrality" would increase service and lower costs. History has shown, time and again, that whenever the government gets in the middle, service declines, and prices go up. Deregulation of telecommunications in the 80s has led to massive competition and lower costs. Airlines, Auto Insurance, etc are other examples.
quote: Throttling at its simplest form is charging you for 'unlimited' data but 'capping' it instead.
quote: your connection gets knocked to 2 Mbps and you're videos now take longer to load and have interruptions.
quote: It also opens the door for them charging you for a la carte site usage.Want to use Google instead of Verizon's free search? Fee.Want to use Facebook instead of Comcasts networking site? Fee.
quote: and the real problem then becomes the issue of collusion. Telecoms have clearly been colluding in terms of pricing and service plan provisions, but good luck proving that...
quote: With cloud computing for Joe Schmoe on the horizon, netflix full library on demand, IPTV etc. this country is gonna have a rude awakening when it comes to IP infrastructure.
quote: Want to stop illegal traffic? Prosecute those that send or receive that illegal traffic. Don't make the "bit pipe" do it for you.
quote: What kind of nightmare do you want us to live in?!
quote: We are in debt; serious debt!
quote: Along with the push for metered internet plans, all of this means that customers will be paying more, while getting less -- less website access, less speed, and less traffic types.
quote: Monopoly is, however, a logical end result of raw, unregulated capitalism as a particular player in a market gains enough economies of scale and capital to acquire or force out other players.
quote: Force Democrats to pass $160 billion over 2 years of tax cuts for the wealthy
quote: Take for example the trend towards cutting "unlimited" data plans on cell phones -- AT&T and Verizon both made the switch and now it looks like Sprint and T-Mobile may follow.
quote: Actually, it's BOTH democrats and rebulicans that have destroyed this nation. Politics in general have ruined everything. We should have stuck to the wisdom of our founding fathers; especially Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington.Lawyers and lobbyists run this country now. Enjoy :)
quote: Sharon: "Stan, you came back. Does that mean... you learned the importance of voting?"Stan: "I learned that I'd better get used to having to pick between a do*che and a t*rd sandwich because it's usually the choice I'll have."
quote: B) For people to become more educated so as to develop the ability to understand and reason out complex issues and come to their own conclusions
quote: maybe it's time to build a new political party.
quote: Insurance and medical costs can be reduced if more people have insurance, which increase the insurance pool to offset the high risks individuals, but since it intrudes on my liberty, it shouldn't be done.
quote: Even though TORT reform can also reduce the insurance cost by limiting the payout for pain and suffering as a result of malpractice, but since it limits the amount of money I can receive, no way I'm supporting that.
quote: I think what you are overlooking is that well over half of the recipients of medial care do not pay for it (the taxpayers do.) Furthermore, the taxpayers in this country are outnumbered by the non-tax paying citizens. How is this sustainable? Also, health-care is not a God given right; it's a privilege. What's next; does everyone "deserve" a car?
quote: I agree with you that frivolous lawsuits of malpractice are also draining the system; but that's almost a grain of sand compared to the amount of people who are benefactors of medicare (without contributing their fair amount). [Don't even get me start on the illegal aliens that show up in the emergency room every other day and rack up thousands or millions depending on the severity] I work at a hospital, so don't tell me that doesn't happen; I watch it every single day.
quote: Forcing an optional service on someone is NOT an American value not matter how it's spun. Believe it or not, people do survive without medical care. If you don't believe me, then take a look back 200 years ago when there MIGHT have been one doctor in a 100 mile radius.
quote: Don't misunderstand me. There needs to be radical reform in the health care industry, but government needs to stay out of the way as much as possible. Socialized medicine is not an American value, as it forces you to go with the "government" option. [note: do you think the high rank politicians are going to accept the same level of care as everyone else? I laugh at the thought of the social elite waiting in line just like the average citizen haha!] This kind of regulation will lead to MASSIVE quality control and accessibility issues; that I can promise you.
quote: The only option we can actually reduce the cost is to increase the insurance pool. Anyone with a basic understanding of economy should understand that concept easily.
quote: But again, since "forcing me to purchase health insurance, which not only benefits me, but also others in the long run" is infringing on my liberty, so it is socialism.
quote: just because a part of the population does not pay for their fair share does not make the cost go up.
quote: Yes yes, because the American value we so cherish racked us up trillions in war debt, millions in poverty, and now millions without medical insurance.
quote: not only have the lowest life expectancy and above average infant mortality rate among all developed nation, but we're paying through our nose for the sub-standard medical care.
quote: Socialism means centralized planning of production of goods and services, where nationalized health care simply means increased amount of insurance pool to nation wide to drive the cost down. No one in the government tells the doctors which specialty they should practice, nor which procedure they should utilize.
quote: It's not the only option; it is only one option.
quote: Do you not see the downright illogical reasoning that you are using here? Going without running water and electricity also helps out my costs and the costs of the public, but that doesn't mean we should all stop flushing, showering, and refrigerating our food now does it? Forcing the sale of a service is NOT how this country was founded. There is not a single way to spin this. Health-care is an optional service . You are trying to post it such that people without health insurance are going to all spontaneously drop dead tomorrow.
quote: Where in the hell do you get these facts? ALL developed nations? No I don't think so; we pay a lot for our care, but I can assure you that it's among the very best in the world. I think you have mistaken our unappreciative state of luxury for a sense of entitlement. This mentality needs to stop.
quote: As I said, I work in a hospital that serves over 1.5 million people; so I am on the battle grounds. I have been to several conferences for this very issue, so I know what socialized medicine is, and it's far from the definition that you provide.
quote: You are probably over-thinking the issue... Forcing someone to buy something is unconstitutional; and I won't waste another sentence saying that.
quote: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/23/us-usa-h...http://www.joepaduda.com/archives/000243.htmlSo I assume ranking 7th out of 7th industralized nation is "considered the very best".
quote: Where is my freedom to make that life choice? ... I can't help but view your position as a "whatever the means justifies the end" approach...
quote: Anyone else have any ideas?
quote: If not I and a lot of others will not vote again.
quote: I will not vote again.
quote: The problem is that people like you think things can be helped if the RIGHT person is elected.
quote: Republicans are not smart and selfish ...
quote: **Wishes for edit**
quote: people who continue to elect people who couldnt careless about them are idiots and are causing the downfall of America.
quote: Most elected Republican officials are idiots and are causing the downfall of America. If this was the 1900s, they would have blocked the Sherman Act. The party as a whole has just been shooting America in the foot. They need to remove these ass monkeys and reinstall real Republicans.
quote: 1. To allow communities to vote and enact municipal Wi-Fi projects delivering faster service at a lower cost (telecoms have fought to outlaw municipal Wi-Fi projects). 2. To prevent telecoms from charging websites for faster access. 3. To prevent the throttling of internet connections.
quote: but the ISP's line from their switch to your home is the property of the ISP.
quote: And If I want to access a certain site it should be as fast as anyother site. Making sites pay for faster access will make for forced infomation - you only get what the provider wants you to get!
quote: Are you comfortable with the same people who like to enact social control (whether right-wing social-conservatives or left-wing liberals) deciding which political opinions, hobbies, and family-friendly content you're allowed to access?