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Google Planning New Undersea Cable Across Pacific? 144

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the stranger-things-have-been-sponsored dept.
tregetour writes "Google is planning a multi-terabit undersea communications cable across the Pacific Ocean for launch in 2009, Communications Day reports: 'Google would not strictly confirm or deny the existence of the Unity plan today, with spokesman Barry Schnitt telling our North American correspondent Patrick Neighly that "Additional infrastructure for the Internet is good for users and there are a number of proposals to add a Pacific submarine cable. We're not commenting on any of these plans." However, Communications Day understands that Unity would see Google join with other carriers to build a new multi-terabit cable. Google would get access to a fibre pair at build cost handing it a tremendous cost advantage over rivals such as MSN and Yahoo, and also potentially enabling it to peer with Asia ISPs behind their international gateways — considerably improving the affordability of Internet services across Asia Pacific.'"
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Google Planning New Undersea Cable Across Pacific?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:15AM (#20710491)
    So will the NSA tap it at the google datacenter with their permission ala AT&T or will the Navy have to tap it will one of those fancy subs we keep hearing about that lifts the cable off the seabed and can splice without interruption?

    Because you know there's no way "homeland security" is letting that happen without monitoring.

    You know with these kinds of resources, if Google ever did turn evil, we'd never figure it out until it was far too late...
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:24AM (#20710565)

      ...can splice without interruption...
      For copper, sure, but not with fiber optics.
      • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @11:08AM (#20710879)
        Considering that the US Navy in conjunction with the CIA was tapping Soviet copper phone cables as far back as the 1970's [divingheritage.com] I wouldn't find it all that unlikely that they now have the technology to tap fiber cables. Yes, I know that splicing into fiber is extremely difficult in the best of situations, but if braniacs could figure out how to locate and tap underwater copper cables almost 30-40 years ago then I wouldn't hold it against modern-day braniacs to figure out a way to tap fiber cables in this day and age.
        • The perceived difficulty with tapping fibre seems to be from the assumption that any interruption in data transmission will be noticed and instantly treated as suspicious. I think it's possible that a quick fibre cut and splice on an underwater cable could be perceived as nothing but a temporary and unimportant glitch by Telco's.

          But the NSA probably have spies amongst Google's data centre empoyee's anyway. So it doesn't matter ;)
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            There is no need to splice the fiber, just tap one of the many repeaters.
          • The perceived difficulty with tapping fibre seems to be from the assumption that any interruption in data transmission will be noticed and instantly treated as suspicious. I think it's possible that a quick fibre cut and splice on an underwater cable could be perceived as nothing but a temporary and unimportant glitch by Telco's.

            It may have been done before [zdnet.com]. And what are they going to do if a tap is detected? Rip up the whole thing and start over or just ignore it?

            As the AC points out a repeater is probably a good point to tap. But then what do you do with the connection? You will need to run another cable the same size from the tap to a shore based facility to monitor the traffic. Now that would be noticeable!

            Maybe the NSA tells the operators that they have a choice;
            1) You can give us access at the end point (like AT&T [wired.com]).
            2)

            • by PPH (736903)

              Maybe the NSA tells the operators that they have a choice;
              1. You can give us access at the end point (like AT&T).


              No choice is available. Federal law requires that all telecom operators make their facilities available to law enforcement for the purpose of wiretapping. Option #1 should read "You will give us access..."
              • They can always have the cable come ashore in either Mexico or Canada. Or they can fill any unused capacity with crap, and then encrypt it all.

                • by PPH (736903)
                  Eventually, something has to cross the US border. That's where the tap goes.
                  • "Eventually, something has to cross the US border. That's where the tap goes."

                    2 words: Quantum Entanglement

                    2 more words: Laser Transceivers

                  • by PPH (736903)
                    2 words: current technology.


                    2 more words: Federal law.


                    If ever quantum cryptography is ready for implementation on fiber optic links and as a result the feds cannot monitor telecommunications, it will not be permitted.

              • No choice is available. Federal law requires that all telecom operators make their facilities available to law enforcement for the purpose of wiretapping. Option #1 should read "You will give us access..."

                In theory the Feds can only temporarily snoop on a case by case basis, with a court order (again in theory). In this case the Telcos control the data flow not the Feds.

                What is being speculated is that the NSA would want constant (and covert) access to all communications on the cable much the way they are rumored to do with other forms of communication [world-information.org].

                Again, this is mostly tin foil hat stuff but you never know.

                • by PPH (736903)

                  In theory the Feds can only temporarily snoop on a case by case basis, with a court order (again in theory). In this case the Telcos control the data flow not the Feds.

                  You are thinking about communications within the United States. If Google is installing an "Undersea Cable across the Pacific", Hawaii aside, I'm assuming that means international. The same laws don't apply.

                  Try driving across the border from Canada or Mexico sometime and asking the Customs agents who are about to tear your car apart for t

            • by eh2o (471262)
              Why not just encrypt the entire link?
          • by smallfries (601545) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @03:03PM (#20712919) Homepage
            Splicing is not actually necessary. No cable has perfect internal reflection and so some light escapes naturally. A tap can sample this light without disrupting the cable, or being detectable. There was also a method a few years ago that involved encasing the cable in something that reduces the refractive index of the glass at the boundary and so allows the signal to be read - but this can be detected by the network operator. Newer methods are undetectable [computing.co.uk].
            • You would never get a stable signal. This is a multi-terrabit fiber connection remember.
              Getting that amount of data out intact without splicing is rather difficult.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          but if braniacs could figure out how to locate and tap underwater copper cables almost 30-40 years ago
          I don't think I saw that eposide?
        • There's evanescent field coupling but I think that can be detected.
      • by Trillan (597339)
        Doesn't that just mean you need to splice it while it's still dark? This thing isn't going to be built instantly.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        That's not a big problem.

        Break the cable in two spots the way a trawler net/earthquake/shark/etc would break it.

        Start splicing in the middle. You will finish before the ISPs etc fix the cable in the two broken spots.

        Alternatively you can just break the cable in one spot and splice somewhere not too far and not too near. You'd probably finish splicing before they start doing the TDR stuff to figure out where the cable is broken.

        But I am not one of those spy people so what do I know.
    • by AHuxley (892839) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:28AM (#20710587) Homepage Journal
      Its already set up via the NSA's Kunia Regional Security Operations Center in Hawaii.
      NZ, Australia, Japan and now something extra in Hawaii. Asia is now so tapped.
      Google is of no interest, the NSA can tap at any point they want.

      http://cryptome.org/google/kunia-us.htm [cryptome.org]

    • So why not encrypt the data on the cable?

      Even with the enormous amounts of data going through it, it shouldn't be difficult.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        Why not just take responsibility for your own data and encrypt it yourself. Would you really trust that they were really encrypting it, and not leaving any back doors for the government, or the mafia? The solution is simple. If you're worried about them tapping the cable, then just encrypt your data end-to-end.
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @02:03PM (#20712347) Homepage
      You are assuming that google is not an NSA front. Think about it, they monitor and record your web browsing habits, your travel plans, they scan your email, they want you to use their online word processor, ... That wanting to know everything about you and your behaviors and interests for the purpose of directed commercial advertising is a beautiful front. ;-)
  • Do no evil .... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:19AM (#20710523)
    ...And allowing it to (dis)allow oppressive governments to continue to block/monitor Internet access.

    This may have been a brilliant move on Googles' part. Fully cooperate with the Chinese governments' "Great Firewall" until they could put themselves in a position to undermine that authority.

    • by r2q2 (50527)
      The ends justify the means.
    • Re:Do no evil .... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ChronosWS (706209) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:39AM (#20710667)
      I assure you the Chinese government doesn't suddenly have less authority because Google has fiber in the Pacific.
    • by desenz (687520)
      Yeah, but why would you think that the chinese government wouldn't just break the cable? If they're that hell bent on blocking access, it doesn't seem like a difficult step for them to take. They've already got the subs, and I'm sure a torpedo would do.
    • Bringing a cable there doesn't conclude much in the near future. No one country owns all of the pacific ocean. Not to mention the evil Commi party is probably many steps ahead of google politically.
    • This may have been a brilliant move on Googles' part. Fully cooperate with the Chinese governments' "Great Firewall" until they could put themselves in a position to undermine that authority.

      The Google office, all the data it collected on Chinese individuals, and one end of that cable all exist in Chinese territory. Google operates at the pleasure of the Chinese government. The day Google attempts to move against that government is the day all Google's property and data becomes property of the governmen
  • Great? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moehoward (668736) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:23AM (#20710557)

    I think it is great if it is true. I like the redundancy plan. But, since they don't specify the route, I am very skeptical. On the other hand, who am I to talk. I have never put a job opening on Monster looking for a "submarine cable negotiator." That is frickin' hilarious.

    Me? I would go up through Alaska, through Russia via the Bering Sea. Cap'n Sig would do most of the work for me on the Northwestern. I would avoid doing a Portland-to-Tokyo route because of the ring-o-fire thingy.

    I fell in to a burning ring of fire, I went down,down,down and the flames went higher. And my mod went lower.
    • Re:Great? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:51AM (#20710757)
      Me? I would go up through Alaska, through Russia via the Bering Sea. Cap'n Sig would do most of the work for me on the Northwestern. I would avoid doing a Portland-to-Tokyo route because of the ring-o-fire thingy.

      It's amusing that you would mention that, because the first transatlantic telegraph cable (well... the first project - there were a few abortive attempts as well as some attempts that stopped working soon after completion) was in direct competition with a "do it the long way" overland route via Russia that was being built by Western Union. The first long-lasting undersea cable eventually finished the race first in 1866, and the Western Union attempt was abandoned the next year.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transatlantic_telegraph_cable [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Union_Telegraph_Expedition [wikipedia.org]
      • by moehoward (668736)

        Thanks. Very interesting. I think I just saw something on TV regarding the anniversary of the first round-the-world telegraph link. And the Russian thing did eventually work out and was, obviously, a big part of it.

        I was able to actually touch some of the fiber cable that they lay undersea these days, and it is some amazing stuff. If the Martians vaporize the planet someday, I'm convinced that this cable will be the only thing left.
      • by nwbvt (768631)
        Well the world is a very different place than it was in the mid-1800s. Alaska is now much easier to access (hell back then it belonged to Russia), while the deep sea is in many ways still a mystery. I would be surprised if the costs were the same.
    • I would go up through Alaska, through Russia via the Bering Sea.

      Environmentalists would never allow the cable to go through Alaska. I'm sure it would have to touch some sort of pristine wilderness and the lawsuits would never end.
  • by ejito (700826) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:30AM (#20710601)
    Why are we trying to reduce the cost of Asian providers when the US' is still overpriced, unreliable, and underserved?

    Last time I checked, Japan and SK had amazing speeds (10-100mbit) for very affordable prices. It's still a matter of government intervention, not corporate meddling.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It's still a matter of corporate intervention, not government meddling and regulations.
      There. Fixed it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KrancHammer (416371)
      It's still a matter of government intervention, not corporate meddling.

      Geez. You managed to distill leftist philosophy into one sentence. That's impressive. South Korea and Japan's impressive availability is a matter of advantageous population distribution and relatively low cost of infrastructure because of that distribution. This situation will never, ever happen in the U.S., even if politicians try to wave magic Government-Issued wands.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:04PM (#20711305)
        This situation will never, ever happen in the U.S., even if politicians try to wave magic Government-Issued wands.

        Yes and no.

        The Feds, over the past decade, did wave such a magic card at the Telcos and the billions of dollars that were inside that card that were supposed to be used for such a buildout just vanished. Gone. Never to be seen again. "Information superhighway" my ass.

        So the situation could obtain in the U.S. but only if we remove a major stumbling block: the major ISP themselves. Believe me, the investment capital would be available if the people willing to put up the money knew that they would receive a return on that investment. Interestingly, Google is investing heavily in infrastructure, but they're not giving it to the incumbents. They know better than anyone that it would be a waste of money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jollyreaper (513215)

          The Feds, over the past decade, did wave such a magic card at the Telcos and the billions of dollars that were inside that card that were supposed to be used for such a buildout just vanished. Gone. Never to be seen again. "Information superhighway" my ass.

          Boy, I sure am glad we have that grand and august institution, the US Congress, to investigate such matters and bring justice for the people. Surely this will be at the forefront of their agenda, right after condemning political organizations for exercising their free speech and rubber-stamping war budget requests. Gentlemen, we are in good hands.

    • by Dorceon (928997)
      Asia Pacific != Japan and South Korea. There's a lot of archipelagos in the Pacific.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by haulbag (1160391)

      Although it is really entertaining to read all of these conspiracy theories, they really have no basis in fact or common telecom practice. I have been in the telecom business for 15 years, and this is just one of many such deals that happen every few years. For example, check out Global Crossing's international crossings [globalcrossing.com] on their network map.

      This deal has nothing to do with making Internet access cheaper for anyone. What it is about is the ability to capture significant revenue by owning the transmission

  • Sounds good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Famous Brett Wat (12688) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:34AM (#20710635) Homepage Journal

    As I understand it, Australia (and probably everyone else, for that matter) has been getting reamed by the USA as regards Internet peering arrangements. Bandwidth costs have always been higher here, and it's not all to do with a lack of local competition, although that used to be a credible story back when Telstra was charging twenty cents a megabyte for permanent dial-up connectivity. These days the economic pressure is mostly conspicuous for the fact that local hosting services are so expensive. If Google busts up that cosy little oligopoly, I'll love them to bits for it. To gigabits, even. (Sorry. Preemptive pun. Someone had to do it.)

    Is this a part of Google's answer to the whole carrier sabre-rattling about non-neutrality and wanting a slice of Google's profits? There's no better way to ensure fair treatment than to provide your own infrastructure. Is this Google's way of saying to the carriers, "get over it, guys -- bandwidth is a fricken commodity now, and we're going to compete with you to make it so, so kiss your old monopoly profits goodbye." There's a high barrier to entry in this market, and you'd be mad to buy your way in only to compete all the profits out of it -- unless you happen to be a major consumer of bandwidth yourself, like Google.

    Must... not... get... hopes... up...

    • by Anpheus (908711)
      I think the TFA makes the point that because of the potential capacity in this new line, and Google's investment in it, once costs are met, it's virtually all profit from there on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SQL Error (16383)

      Bandwidth costs have always been higher here, and it's not all to do with a lack of local competition, although that used to be a credible story back when Telstra was charging twenty cents a megabyte for permanent dial-up connectivity.
      In 1997, Telstra were charging 19.5c per MB. In 2007:

      Additional usage charged at $0.15/MB, apart from members on the BigPond Liberty plans.
      Telstra are a bunch of thieves.
    • Bandwidth is the ONLY commodity being sold, not content. Therefore
      it is a price falling commodity, as it should be. The more you use,
      the cheaper it should be, like any other commodity. PORN!!! Cool.
  • has officially commenced.
    • by Cold-NiTe (968026)
      I'll take the coming "googlopoly" over the current mind-fuck our ISP's have put us in any day. Instead of looking at it like that, let's pray they'll set up a full infrastructure and offer service in our areas.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by rjamestaylor (117847)
        if your slashdot id was higher than mine I would have bowed in aquiescence, but sine it is not, FUCK YOU! :-) Live and learn.
  • Africa (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:47AM (#20710719)
    What about Africa? This is a continent that needs Internet access more than any other and a new undersea cable is embroiled in bitter political animosity [wordpress.com] IMHO Google could generate a lot of good will for itself focusing in the area that needs the most attention.
    • Last I heard, Africa has plenty of unused undersea fiber making a ring around the continent. I can't find the page anymore.
    • Re:Africa (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LineGrunt (133002) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @11:26AM (#20711053)
      Why not Africa?

      Because businesses function on making money, not just fulfilling "needs."

      Undersea cables are hideously expensive and the company putting one in _needs_ to have a reasonable chance of recouping those costs.

      While Africa may "need" internet, the fact that companies aren't already in a race to provide Africa with internet is a de-facto signal that multiple companies don't think they have a business case to provide it.

      I need a "Ferrari" but the business community isn't in a hurry to provide ME with one either.
    • http://mybroadband.co.za/blogs/2007/06/11/google-favours-kenya-over-sa/ [mybroadband.co.za] With a Google data center in Kenya and its vested interest in expanding the world's infrastructure, we may see the day when a Google laid line gets dropped right off the African coast...
  • "...behind their international gateways..."
    You mean Firewalls, don't you?
  • Nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:51AM (#20710751)
    Now they wont even have to run their spiders anymore, nor use gmail to create targeted ads.
    They will just snoop everybodies traffic....
  • I guess that's one way to achieve net neutrality. Now they just need to run their own backbone to every major peering point and ISP in the rest of the world...
  • by mbone (558574) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @11:22AM (#20711007)
    Don't get the vapors, everyone. Google is buying one fiber pair. This will lower their costs, but only that. There will be, what, 200+ fiber pairs in that cable. There will be some to go around if anyone else wants to pony up.

    As for "considerably improving the affordability of Internet services across Asia Pacific,'" I don't follow that at all. Google doesn't sell transit. The new cable might do that, but not because of Google - because real ISPs will get other fiber pairs and use them to sell transit.

    Next, we'll get articles about how Google's corporate jets will revolutionize air transport in North America ! (At least, for Google execs.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bridson (713624)
      > There will be, what, 200+ fiber pairs in that cable.

      Actually modern submarine fibre-optic cables usually contain four or less fibres. The massive traffic capacity is provided by multiplexing wavelengths down the same fibres. A modern terminal can typically handle up to 192 wavelengths @ 10Gbps (hence the multiterabit capacity).

      Therefire ownership of a complete fibre pair in one of these things is a significant investment!

      http://www.alcatel-lucent/submarine [www.alcatel-lucent]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by thogard (43403)
        The new long haul stuff means you don't need under sea repeaters at all if you stick to the Pacific rim and avoid Hawaii. Under sea fiber armored fiber runs about $7/m but the repeaters run about $1 million each which is why there tends to be only one or two pair used. When you can reduce the undersea infrastructure costs from about $2 billion the old way to $200m using on land repeaters, the ROI make sense for many major data users.
  • Google is the NWO (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jihadist (1088389)
    The New World Order will unite all the world, breed us into a Grey Race, destroy our culture so we must get our values from television and malls, and then will make us all slaves to even more boring corporate jobs, but they'll be "happy" in the Apple/Google way.

    I almost want Microsoft to win, because at least they've got part of the fascist aesthetic down. This Nanny Corporate State NWO bullshit is just depressingly silly.
    • i can be 'unhappy' in a gray world of corporate google than the current what-the-hell-is-this world we are living in now.
  • In Asia Pacific? Well Japan has FTTH for cheap.. Um... I know the US has made sure India has cheap enough internet access... So forget Asia, let's make cheap broadband here. Not $40/month for 3Mbps or 5Mbps. How about $20? Or how about $40/month for 10Mbps? I know you like holding onto your money, but faster kthx
  • When did Google hire Randy Waterhouse?
  • "Saunders' presentation warned of the potential for the new cables to create a new trans-Pacific capacity bubble"
     
    ...What?
    • by Dorceon (928997)
      Do you know what a housing bubble is? Or a bubble economy? It's like that for network capacity.
  • by fejikso (567395) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @12:49PM (#20711647) Homepage
    I was prompted me to look at the wikipedia and found this interesting article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_communications_cable [wikipedia.org]

    I particularly found very interesting the map with all the undersea cables in the world. Pretty cool.
    • Something is fishy about that map. On the West side there are 5 lines headed towards Asia, but on the Asian side there are only 2 lines coming in from the East. Do we have 3 cables only going to the mid-pacific? Also there is no explanation for the blue lines and the dotted line, what do these signify?
      • by jez9999 (618189)
        Also there is no explanation for the blue lines and the dotted line, what do these signify?

        That anyone can upload an image to Wikipedia?
      • On the West side there are 5 lines headed towards Asia, but on the Asian side there are only 2 lines coming in from the East. Do we have 3 cables only going to the mid-pacific?
        That's the secret under-sea military base / command center. Sit quietly while the men in black suits come to collect you.
    • Neal Stephenson did an article for Wired on the laying of global fiber optic cable about a decade ago. It's a long read but a good one (kind of like Snow Crash was). He travels around the world following the laying of FLAG (Fiber Link Around the Globe). He covers everything from laying the cable, to the landing points, to over-land connections, to telco monopolies, to everything else. If you're a geek and into submarine cable laying, then the article below is almost required reading. http://econ161.ber [berkeley.edu]
    • Don't miss this:

      http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.12/ffglass_pr.html [wired.com]

      It was posted (here I think) on a previous related story, it's very long, and I would not have expected to find the subject interesting, but the article makes it fascinating and very readable.
  • Why can't the USA get decent internet?
    Why am I stuck with 1.5m/384k DSL?
    When will FiOS get to Oklahoma!!!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zymergy (803632)
      As an Oklahoma resident, feel lucky if you even get DSL. Until Real Competition occurs, there will be no decent high-speed Internet in most areas outside medium cities. If a small town/rural Oklahoma region has even slow DSL, it is probably because the Law States they must have it order to be the telco monopoly in that area, etc... Though the phone company may claim service is available in my RURAL area, bridge-taps galore and 1970's equipment/wiring make this a non-reality. So.... I got a HAM Radio license
    • by DavidShor (928926) *
      Without government pork, most likely never. If you live in a rural area that makes certain types of infrastructure profitable, move. Don't ask me to subsidize your choices.
    • I agree, what I'm stuck with now sucks ass and I demand more. But the difference between you and me is that I get around 7-9 megabits (cable) at home, and roughly the same at school (they limit us to 10 mb/s on the switch so they don't have to do QoS or other real management). I suppose unless you're living in one of those lucky cities in Europe or Japan, there's always someone to be jealous of.

      That said, even if you get the bandwidth you seek, if you're a geek then you still won't be satisfied by the Terms
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @01:08PM (#20711815)
    They're going to build Rapture under the sea!
    • by Maradine (194191) *
      You think you're funny - every Google engineer I know is madly in love with that game.
      • Hey, I'm paying through for the second time (rescued the little sisters the first time, harvesting them this time and on a harder leevel).

        I'd totally move to something like Rapture, but I have to admit living in an apartment with big windows on the other side of which is the screaming crushing instant death of the deep sea might be a bit unnerving no matter how much tranparent aluminum is protecting me.
  • I think they may be preempting the net neutrality issue.

    See, if the net does not become neutral (i.e. tiered access), they would be seriously affected and have to pay the ISPs so their sites are in the top tier (think servers where Adsense is served from).

    If they now own the pipes, they can avoid this whole debate altogether.

    Then again, the net neutrality issue is about the last mile (provider to end user), so that may not be it ...

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