Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Networking

Bandwidth Fines Bad, But Not Net Neutrality Issue 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-me-streaming-hd-or-give-me-death dept.
Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes with his take on the recent Time Warner Cable fiasco: "Net Neutrality crusaders at FreePress.net recently called attention to Time Warner's plan (later rescinded) to impose fines on users for going over bandwidth limits. I agree generally, but I think this is easily confused with the reasoning in favor of Net Neutrality, and it's important to keep the arguments separate." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

On April 13th I received an e-mail from FreePress.net, one of the organizations that led the fight in favor of Net Neutrality:

Just as we're suffering economically, Time Warner Cable is trying to squeeze us even further, forcing millions of customers to pay steep fees for exceeding an absurdly low monthly limit on Internet use. [...] The company's scheme would cost customers $15 per month for one gigabyte — the equivalent of one 30-minute HD television show — with a penalty fee of $2 for every additional gigabyte over the limit.

Later, FreePress.net triumphantly announced that Time Warner had reversed their position. Now, I would appear to have painted myself into a corner on this issue, because I wrote in an editorial two years ago arguing in favor of Net Neutrality:

[Net Neutrality is] not about how much a service costs, but about the ethics of double-billing for it. [...] If vastly more people start trying to stream CNN over the Internet 24/7, and fully using the services that ISPs have "only been pretending to sell," as Brad Templeton put it, then ISPs may have to charge more for users who consume too much bandwidth, encouraging people to stay at today's average levels by rationing themselves and perhaps watching 24 on their $5,000 TV sets sometimes instead of downloading it off of BitTorrent to their laptop every week because it makes them feel like a haX0r. Much as we all love our unmetered connections, it wouldn't be a violation of Net Neutrality for ISPs to charge users for bandwidth hogging, to keep everyone from going too far above today's levels.

And yet, even after writing those words, I still think there is an argument against letting ISPs impose bandwidth fines, at least under some conditions. However, I think the argument is completely separate from the argument in favor of Net Neutrality, so it's important to derive both of them independently of each other.

I would try to make both arguments by deriving the conclusions from first principles. This might seem pedantic at times, but I think it's helpful to have a precise mathematical-style "proof" of why a conclusion follows from its premises, because then you can see how changing one premise would change the conclusion.

To me the simplest argument in favor of Net Neutrality follows from three assumptions. You don't have to agree with the assumptions, but I think that all three of them are obvious because the opposite would be untenable.

  1. An ISP that blocks (or slows access to) certain websites is defrauding its users UNLESS either (a) the ISP has made its users aware of the filtering, or (b) it's overwhelmingly clear that the filtering protects the users or improves their experience (so more experienced users would assume it is taking place anyway). If your ISP has told you that they're selling "Internet access" but they're silently blocking some Web sites, then this is straightforward. You're paying for one thing, and the ISP is selling you something else that is inferior. In the incident that I wrote about, ISPs like Rogers.com that used AboveNet as their upstream provider, were actually blocking their subscribers from reaching certain websites, even though their customers thought they were getting unfiltered Internet access. Now if the ISP advertises that its Internet connections are filtered, as some "family friendly" providers do — so that virtually all users knew about the filtering — then this would not be a violation of Net Neutrality. And if the ISP is blocking mail from actual spam sources, then this is something that protects users and improves their experience, and so is usually not considered a violation of Net Neutrality either. But if the ISP is silently blocking access to Web sites, or blocking mail from servers that are not sending spam but simply because the ISP owner has a political disagreement with those server owners, then that would violate this principle.

  2. "Make its customers aware" means just that — make its customers aware — and not bury something in the Terms of Service. Imagine if the opposite principle were accepted — that websites and software vendors could do anything they wanted as long as they put the right disclaimer in the 23rd paragraph of their site's or program's "Terms of Service" that nobody reads. Scam artists' eyes everywhere would light up with dollar signs thinking of the possibilities: Create a popular program and get people to install it, while putting a clause deep in the TOS that permits them to remotely take over your computer after you've installed their software! Or for a real-world example, Yahoo! once tried to amend the GeoCities Terms of Service to give Yahoo! the copyright on any content uploaded by their users. Yahoo! reversed itself after a public backlash, but even if they hadn't, it would have been good public policy for a court to say that Yahoo!'s copyright claim on their users' content was invalid. You can, of course, strengthen your legal rights by putting the right language in your Terms of Service, but it would mean total chaos if companies could bury "gotchas" in your TOS that are wildly contrary to what users are reasonably likely to assume.

  3. If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well. Some of AboveNet's defenders argued that they mostly sold Internet connectivity to ISPs, not to the public, and the ISPs knew that the connections were filtered. Even assuming this were true, the ISPs still would not be able to re-sell the service to the public without representing it as "regular Internet access" — nobody would pay full price for a broken or degraded connection when a competitor could offer a regular connection for the same price.

So, an ISP that blocks or degrades access to certain Web sites, when users think they are getting full unfettered Internet access, is cheating customers (or, in the case of a backbone provider, complicit in the downstream ISPs cheating their customers) in violation of the principles of Net Neutrality. QED. I would tentatively call these assumptions airtight; at least, I cannot think of any corporate behavior that violates one or more of these principles and should be allowed under good public policy.

By contrast, the argument against Net Neutrality — that the free market will ensure that ISPs provide effective service without the need for government regulation — relies on assumptions that might sound reasonable, but have loopholes, and the loopholes are precisely where Net Neutrality violations can slip through. An anti-Net-Neutrality editorial by Sonia Arrison, for example, argued that "consumers would never stand for blocked Web sites." However, in the case of AboveNet's filtering, downstream users did of course "stand for it," because they didn't know about it, and the natural assumption, when the user sees a website not responding, is to think that the site is down, not that their provider blocked it.

But the argument against bandwidth fines is different. While "broken" Internet access could never be sold to the public without some sort of misrepresentation, it is conceivable that people would still pay for Internet access even if the price were $15 for the first 1 GB and $2 per GB after that. However, it would still be good public policy to prohibit two variants of this scheme: (a) ISPs silently racking up charges, scummy-cell-phone-company style, against users who may not realize what charges they're incurring, and then shocking them with overage bills at the end of the month; and (b) ISPs charging draconian bandwidth fines in cases where they have a monopoly, or near-monopoly, on users' Internet access options.

Prohibiting "shock" overage bills essentially follows from principles #1 and #2 above — users should know what they're getting, and sneaking something into the fine print doesn't count. If someone is approaching their bandwidth limit, and is on track to run over (and incur a lot of charges) before the end of the month, it wouldn't be too much trouble to send them an e-mail or an automated (or live) phone call to warn the user what's going on. If the ISP objects that this would cost them too much, I'd say I'll happily pay $1 for the trouble of them placing a call to my house if it saved me $20 in surprise overages.

Prohibiting bandwidth fines in the case of monopoly situations simply follows from the principle that without competition, the bandwidth overage fees are likely to be much higher than they would be in a competitive market. It may not be the motivation of the ISP simply to make as much money as possible; perhaps they want to discourage high-bandwidth usage for other reasons. As FreePress.net theorized about the proposed Time Warner bandwidth surcharges: "This trick is designed to make customers think twice before switching off their cable TV and finding the shows they want online." But whether it's to squeeze subscribers for extra money or to stop them from streaming content from the Internet, either way, the plan could not be sustainable if users can find higher bandwidth at a lower cost from other providers. For most of its subscribers, Time Warner doesn't have a pure monopoly — in some areas, you can get only one cable Internet provider and only one DSL provider, but the two still compete with each other to provide "Internet access," and other areas have a choice between cable providers. However, in a situation with only a small number of competitors, companies can still keep prices higher than they would in a purely competitive market, because there are fewer chances for an upstart competitor to find ways to provide a more efficient service at a lower cost.

What if neither of these conditions were true? If an ISP actually did make sure that its subscribers knew about the bandwidth limits, and users got warnings if they were approaching those limits, and there were enough competing providers to ensure real competition, then in that situation it would be harder to make an argument against the bandwidth surcharges. (Admittedly, it may be something of an academic point, because there are so few situations where there are "enough competing providers" to guarantee healthy competition.)

But it's important to keep the arguments for Net Neutrality separate from the arguments against bandwidth surcharges. Bandwidth fines are bad mainly when there are few competing providers, because it will be hard for users to get a better deal somewhere else, and providers like Time Warner may have a vested interest in keeping users' bandwidth limits low to keep them glued to their TV. Violations of Net Neutrality are bad regardless of whether there are few or many competing providers, because users cannot avoid the harm if they're unlikely to discover what's happening in the first place.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bandwidth Fines Bad, But Not Net Neutrality Issue

Comments Filter:
  • by Alistair Hutton (889794) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:42AM (#27758555) Homepage
    Yes, a thousand times yes Can we not conflate unrelated issues at all and keep Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content. Everything else can go and find it's own banner to campaign under, probably one that says "Free Cake" because it does seem to me a whole pile of freeloader causes are trying to get some of that sweet, sweet Network Neutrality moral certitude.
    • by yuna49 (905461) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:54AM (#27759395)

      Even better would be dropping the whole "Net Neutrality" meme and returning to the time-honored concept of "common carriage." The FCC created this problem when it bowed to the wishes of the telcos and created an entirely new regime ("enhanced services") not governed by common carriage. Internet services fall into this category along with directory assistance and dial-a-porn. The consequences of not enforcing a clear divide between content and carriage are now apparent, particularly in the case of cable operators who have an obvious conflict-of-interest when it comes to the distribution of video programming over the Internet.

      • by causality (777677)

        The FCC created this problem when it bowed to the wishes of the telcos and created an entirely new regime ("enhanced services") not governed by common carriage.

        Yeah, when I see a corporation or a governmental agency use a term like "enhanced services" it immediately raises a glaring red flag in my mind. It raises the question "enhanced for whom?" Of course, they themselves don't answer that question because it's clearly not an enhancement for the customers or for anyone else who loves freedom and does no

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          If you ask me, and my pretty pretty hat, "Enhanced Services" was a way for politicians to separate themselves from porn content providers and still back the bills that gave away spectrum to the telco's. I find it hard to believe that the timing is just coincedence.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:55AM (#27759413) Journal

      Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content

      Not just content, but source and destination too.

      • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:35AM (#27759893)

        Net Neutrality to mean one thing and one thing only, agnosticism to packets content

        Not just content, but source and destination too.

        My impression was that Net Neutrality had absolutely nothing to do with content (which would more accurately be called Quality of Service, i.e. prioritizing HTTP or VOIP traffic over FTP or BitTorrent traffic), but solely with source and destination (e.g. prioritizing Google's HTTP traffic over Yahoo's HTTP traffic).

        • by MobyDisk (75490)

          I think content is part of it too. If my ISP inserts advertisements into pages, that's not being neutral. Let's apply the common carrier logic: Would it be fair for a common carrier to open a package, insert a coupon for a competing product, then reseal the package and deliver it?

          • I think content is part of it too. If my ISP inserts advertisements into pages, that's not being neutral.

            Modifying content as it comes across their wires is just plain wrong, regardless of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is exactly one thing: prioritizing traffic based on source and/or destination. The "neutrality" part is in reference to the content provider, not the type of traffic or anything else. Injecting advertisements should be illegal under wiretapping laws, with or without Net Neutrality.

        • Net Neutrality has absolutely everything to do with content. ISPs these days provide these so called "tripple play" bundles that include TV, phone, and Internet access. If an ISP offers me internet access, but limits VoIP to a 2kbps connection, I won't be able to use Skype or a SIP provider. Thus the ISP's phone offering will suddenly become more attractive. Likewise if they limit video downloads with a certain transfer rate, I will want to use their Video on Demand service instead of Netflix, or I will
        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          QoS/L7 handling only crossed into the area of net neutrality because when you shape traffic with those methods you can also examine it (content filter it). Now more than the original two camps have lumped QoS/L7 and content filtering together. One camp being "restrict what people can see" camp. The other "All your content are belong to us" camp. The argument that ISP's should provide what they say they are selling, bla bla bandwidth for bla bla money is not a moral question. It is cut and dry sell it fo

    • by mellon (7048) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:57AM (#27759441) Homepage

      No, no, a thousand times no! Disclosure is not neutrality. ISPs have monopolies. You can't choose a better deal. So disclosure makes no difference.

      Furthermore, bandwidth caps, particularly when they are asymmetric, mean you are a consumer of content, not a producer. How neutral is that?

      It's true that bandwidth sharing isn't *solely* a net neutrality issue--there are real problems with hogs. But when a desire to retain a cable franchise motivates an ISP to deliver a slow, capped connection, that _is_ very clearly a net neutrality issue.

    • by kimgkimg (957949) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:08AM (#27759597)
      So what do you call it when TW imposes caps which make say Netflix/Hulu/Youtube content more expensive to watch than TW provided content? Yes they don't explicitly single out those services, but by imposing expensive caps the end result is the same. So then people flock to the cheaper services like TW video-on-demand (which magically aren't encumbered by said bandwidth caps because it's a separate paid TW service --- which just happens to be cheaper when you compare it against busting through your download tier.)
      • Exactly.
        The voice and video services may be on a different band than the net service, but it's still the same pipe, and they're still competing for limited bandwidth.

        Call it pipe neutrality if you want to be pedantic.
        Fuck this article.

        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          That's idiotic, it's only the same pipe as far as getting to the home base. For regular cable and VOD service, that's as far as it has to go. For Netflix/Hulu/etc it has to cross into other people's pipes, and ISP agreements come into play.

          You guys aren't thinking things through.

          • You're idiotic.

            End users are having their internet service fucked over because competing services their ISP offers get special treatment.

            Choosing how to prioritize traffic should N O T take into account the source or destination. Prioritizing Skype over Hulu is fine. Prioritizing Skype over Vonage is not fine. Prioritizing the ISPs own voice service over Skype or Vonage is not fine.

            Just because they are on different bands doesn't mean their isn't prioritization going on. The frequency ranges dedicated

            • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

              End users are having their internet service fucked over because competing services their ISP offers get special treatment.

              That is not the case here. Though it uses similar transmition technologies, cable TV service (including VOD) is significantly cheaper to provide because of the distribution method. The difference between Cable TV/VOD service and full Internet service is equivalent to the difference between serving your own movies/music on your home LAN and accessing the wider Internet. It costs no more than the equipment and time setting up, plus the cost of the content, to serve as many movies as I want on my home LAN.

              • ISPs are behaving in a way that prefers one service over another, and prefers their services over that of competitors, which they carry since they are a infrastructure service.

                This may not be confined to the "net", but ISPs sure as hell are non-neutral with regards to services provided over the net.
                Therefore, it's a fucking net neutrality issue.
                Bandwidth fines are just a way to perpetuate the bullshit while claiming net neutrality. It's a fucking extension of the same collusive, monopolistic shit that the

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @02:05PM (#27762035)

        So what do you call it when TW imposes caps which make say Netflix/Hulu/Youtube content more expensive to watch than TW provided content?

        Er, sound business practice? It's much cheaper for TW to provide regular cable service because it is a multicast service. What that means is, when 1000 people want to watch HD show X, which requires 2gb total to send to their users, TW only has to send that 2gb once. Total bandwidth used over the course of a 1 hour show: 2gb.

        VOD falls somewhere in the middle, but is closer to regular cable in cost. Why? Because even though for 1,000 users they have to send 2gb each (2,000gb if you've been paying attention), TW knows exactly what it offers on VOD, and can cache all of those movies/shows locally. This means they they are sending that 2,000gb only on the legendary "last mile", which costs them almost nill.

        Now, when 1000 users want to download from Netflix/Hulu/Etc., they have to receive that 2gb 1,000 separate times, and send that 2gb out 1,000 separate times, that's 2,000gb of bandwidth burned end-to-end, compared to 2gb. Sending the data over their own lines is cheap. Receiving it via another major ISP's lines is expensive, relatively speaking. Granted, caching can aleviate some of that, but it is not even close to possible for them to cache the entire range of options, like they can with their own VOD service.

        You cannot expect a cable company to do the same for a service like Netflix/Hulu/Etc as they do VOD. Why the hell should they, they offer their own service! A service that almost certainly has less of a selection, I might add. It would be obscenely expensive to try and cache everything Netflix et. all have, and only serves to help the video companies, not the cable companies. You (the customer) would have to pay extra for that anyway, so why would they go through the trouble and expense for nothing?

        So, to sum up, here is why Netflix/Hulu/Etc cost more to use:

        Regular cable: 2gb burned per 1000 users (multicast)
        VOD: 2,000gb burned, but only last-mile (serving content locally)
        Netflix/Hulu/Etc.: 2,000gb burned that must travel accross several ISPs, bringing sharing agreements into play

        The disparity between services is a bandwidth issue. The pricing is a monopoly/lack of competition issue. Now, if TW were slowing or blocking or otherwise restricting access movie streaming services specifically, THAT would be a net-neutrality issue.

        Honestly, bitching about pricing for a service you use (that's all you're doing, really) and then calling it net-neutrality is disingenuous at best, and completely dishonest at worst.

      • by kalirion (728907)

        That's the thing, pure greed and monopolies by themselves are not Net Neutrality issues. If they raised the bandwidth cap for Hulu users only because Hulu paid them money, that would be a Net Neutrality issue.

    • by flitty (981864)
      The whole problem seems to be a "truth in advertising" problem for ISP's, relating to both Net Neutrality issues and Bandwith Caps. If ISP's were more straightforward, the two issues would not be getting conflated.

      There is a fear that ISP's are giving their "own" packets (say TW doesn't count their own VOIP Packets in the monthy cap calculation) the same way that cell phone companies don't count the minutes for Inter-network phonecalls. This packet "cost" becomes intertwined in network neutrality, becau
    • by tomz16 (992375)

      I agree with you in spirit. Angosticism to packet contents is logically a separate issue from bandwidth caps. However, the practical ramifications of both to the consumer are pretty much identical.

      Time Warner sells cable TV, digital voice, video-on-demand, and run their own web portal (with videos, music, etc.) Presumably none of these service would be affected by their bandwidth cap. In contrast, hulu, youtube, vonage, netflix, etc. would be billed at $1/GB (at cheapest based on the current plan).

      So wh

    • by Dare nMc (468959)

      Can we not conflate unrelated issues

      I agree, except these are certainly related issues. IE the ISP's are trying to use both tools to stop competition with their related businesses. IE some DSL providers are using both tools to stop VOIP/Video chat from taking away their phone revenue, and Cable companies to stop video streaming... So these are both good examples of why regulation may be needed, and why the free market needs some regulations. I think the point of the article is valid, both don't need addressed by the federal government, on

    • by GuyverDH (232921)

      While I agree that getting what was advertised and paid for is not related to net neutrality, it sure as hell isn't trying to get free cake.

      It's irresponsibility and profiteering on the ISP's part that is now being called into question.

      If an ISP claims unlimited (you cannot redefine a word by throwing fine print at it) at a certain bps, then calculate what you can get downloaded in 365 days, divide by 12, plus a sludge factor for the good days when you get a little more than your *level*, and that should be

    • But they are related. It just requires you to look at the neutrality of the netwok as a whole rather than just the IP subset of it.

      Cableco networks are far from neutral and always have been. The cablecos TV service gets gauranteed broadcast bandwidth. Everything else (including third party TV services) has to put up with "best effort" IP unicast. Now they are making things even less neutral by capping the ammount of traffic a user can receive over that "best effort" IP unicast without paying (often extortio

    • You're right, charging for bandwidth isn't against net neutrality.... it's CENSORSHIP!! And it's THEFT!!! It's in invasion of privacy!!! I think I covered everything. No, wait, it's also BRICKING OUR CABLE MODEMS outside our control!!! That covers all the term misuse.
  • Please summarize (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:43AM (#27758573)

    "I bought an 'unlimited' plan that turns out to actually have limits. Now I don't want to pay because I didn't understand the contract I was signing. I think I shouldn't have to pay because I'm not a lawyer."

    • Re:Please summarize (Score:4, Informative)

      by PhxBlue (562201) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:20AM (#27758979) Homepage Journal

      "I bought an 'unlimited' plan that turns out to actually have limits. Now I don't want to pay because I didn't understand the contract I was signing. I think I shouldn't have to pay because I'm not a lawyer."

      You're presuming both that the limits were set into the original contract, that they haven't changed since the customer agreed to the contract, and that the Internet provider -- in the event that it changed these limits -- made a fair and reasonable effort to contact the customer. I don't think these are presumptions we can safely make in the age of click-through EULAs that often include phrases such as "We can change the conditions of the contract at any time with no notice to you."

    • Re:Please summarize (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:31AM (#27759109)

      Actually, in my country, a contract made up entirely of cryptic legalese is void. Contracts have to be made in a language that a common, educated person can understand and comprehend its implications (rough translation of the law).

      Before we had that you had a quite good chance to have a piece of paper put under your nose with lots of paragraph icons and some arbitrary numbers sprinkled on the paper, where the only words you really understand are "sign here".

    • by Harik (4023)

      UNLIMITED INTERNET ACCESS $49.99*

      <font size=-99>*usage charges apply</font>

    • by smoker2 (750216)
      Does it, anywhere in the contract, specify "unlimited data transfer" ? I assume you have an upper limit on your bandwidth, so unlimited data transfer cannot physically be correct. Therefore unlimited only refers to your connection, ie. they do not limit when you connect and for how long. Maybe you aren't old enough to remember AOL selling you 15 hours per month, but these days I can stay connected for an unlimited time with no extra charges. Don't try to complain that that is not what the average person wou
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pigeon768 (589860)

        My Time Warner contract does say "unlimited internet". Granted, my plan is not the $15 month plan outlined in TFA, but it still has a catchall (paraphrasing) 'Time Warner has the right to change the terms of this contract in any way they see fit for any reason' clause in there somewhere. Basically, it's no contract at all.

        I wouldn't expect an "unlimited mileage" warranty would cover my car if I used it in a demolition derby, nor would I expect an "unlimited internet" contract to cover my computer if I lau

    • Before I got broadband service, I had a dedicated phone line to be on dial-up (only 3 KB/sec even on 56k modems -- crappy phone lines here) for long time. EarthLink (ELN) said unlimited for $19.95/$21.95, but its TOS/AUP never said anything about every 24 hours straight there is a disconnection. I asked in public on their newsgroups/forums, why the disconnections. People talked about this and were annoyed. Even one support guy, said I should get a life. Umm, I am not always at the keyboard. I have to downlo

  • by brian0918 (638904)

    Imagine if the opposite principle were accepted -- that websites and software vendors could do anything they wanted as long as they put the right disclaimer in the 23rd paragraph of their site's or program's "Terms of Service" that nobody reads.

    Your whole argument for Net Neutrality hinges on this. Clearly there is a huge incentive for a company to read through these lengthy documents and bring this stuff to people's attention, so that people who don't have the time to read long contracts or ToS can know about it. If people choose not to read something before signing it, they are not being "defrauded" if and when the unexpected comes to pass. There is a free market solution to this. As VeriSign does for online security, and Underwriters Laboratori

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If you could even imagine the amount of liability that would involve you would never have suggested it. Such an organization can only exist if funded by consumers or by the government (heh) because it would exist only to say bad things about companies and it would have to defend itself in court continually. Absolutely the only way to resolve this problem is to pass a law saying that the contract must be written in plain and simple English. This would probably cause innumerable conflicts with the accepted le

  • False Neutrality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aranykai (1053846) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `resnogls'> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:46AM (#27758607)

    I regularly check the ToS of the two providers in my area, because they both suck, but some times one sucks less than the other. Both have big, broad sweeping claims that they are both supporting and adhering to net neutrality principles, yet they both also flat out state they prioritize VOIP service and degrade bittorrent traffic.

    To me these statements are completely contradictory. I don't recall my neighbors choice to use his internet as a phone making my choice to use mine as a TV any less valid, yet that is in effect exactly what they are stating.

    Am I wrong?

    • by Sockatume (732728)
      If they were degrading Hulu streams, you'd have more of a point. Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rasjani (97395)

        Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.

        I wouldnt want to be in the isp helpdesk on WoW patchday if my isp would even consider that 0)

        • Simply host the patch on your servers so your customers can get it extra fast.

          Call up Blizzard and they'll likely help you out.

          Or you know, just tell your employees to leave the Blizzard Downloader running while they play, to help out.

      • Re:False Neutrality (Score:4, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:25AM (#27759047) Homepage Journal

        No, that's still irrelevant. If you're an ISP you provide an internet connection, and the internet doesn't give a fuck about the contents of your packet so long as you got the IP part right. The only kind of QoS an ISP can do without being a fucker is the kind where interactive traffic gets bumped to the front of YOUR queue, but every subscriber should still have a fair shot at their percentage of the currently available bandwidth. If there's not enough bandwidth to do VoIP without QoS putting my VoIP ahead of your torrents then there is a serious problem. But the only kind of QoS that need be applied to protect your neighbor's right to his share of the bandwidth is the round-robin-by-subscriber kind.

        • Re:False Neutrality (Score:4, Informative)

          by Harik (4023) <Harik@chaos.ao.net> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#27759337)

          I've got to disagree here - it's a bad network design that treats bulk downloads the same as as time-critical packets. Your VoIP call should absolutely be prioritized above my bittorrent download - and it's easy to show why. In a congestion situation, proper QoS means that downloads may take a little longer - but VOIP STILL WORKS AT ALL.

          Now, throttling torrents to modem speeds is wrong, but traffic shaping isn't the same thing as queuing priority. And honestly, unless your neighbor is running a call center, your bittorrent client is only competing with other big downloaders.

          Streaming video (not video conferencing) is interesting as well - unlike VoIP it's not as time sensitive, you can have a 10 second buffer without significantly degrading the call. As long as you can sustain an average bandwidth within a given buffer-size window, your streaming video still works. It's a tough call, because it is time sensitive, but not AS time sensitive as VoIP is, and you have to distinguish between them.

          Of course, you also shouldn't oversell your bandwidth 100:1 or worse...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            I think you totally missed it. If you have packet queueing based on customer, and you deliver the packets round robin, then as long as you have 128kbps or so for every active customer, VoIP will still work fine. If you don't, then you're pretty well fucked anyway.

        • Yup.
          If you don't have the capacity, don't advertise like you do.
          Fucking around with choking people is a dead end, all it does is put off the "Maybe we'll upgrade ..." date further and further.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by causality (777677)

        If they were degrading Hulu streams, you'd have more of a point. Bittorent is just any old high-bandwidth file transfer as far as they're concerned though, and therefore low priority.

        I mean no offense but I think you yourself may be missing the point. I can't speak for everyone but I'll explain to you what I want and I hope that will elucidate the viewpoint. I want a completely neutral, disinterested carrier. This carrier merely delivers my IP packets on a best-effort basis with absolutely no regard for the content of those packets. They don't decide that one type of transmission needs higher priority and they don't decide that another type of transmission needs lower priority. The

        • Then buy a T1, T3 or other dedicated service. You'll get exactly the bandwidth you pay for, and you can use it 100% every hour of every day.
          Don't want to pay that much? Then deal with being pooled in with everyone else, or maybe you'll get a 128k connection you can use in the way you'd like.
          Personally, I want a 6mb connection that gives me 2-3mb most of the time. If my neighbor is downloading a torrent and using up OUR connection, I think my 100k VoIP call gets priority over his 6mb of traffic, leaving
    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      No your correct.

      That ISP is NOT network neutral, they are either dumb or flat out fraudulent.

      I suspect those two statements might have been written by two different people, at least one of whom has their facts wrong. There's still no excuse though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by johnsonav (1098915)

        That ISP is NOT network neutral, they are either dumb or flat out fraudulent.

        There's a world of difference between QoS and network neutrality. The examples he cites are QoS related, and have nothing to do with network neutrality.

        • by Aranykai (1053846)

          The prioritized voice services are something they sell to you at additional cost, competing with services such as vonage. I fail to see how that is related to QoS.

          • In your original post, you didn't specify that the VOIP they were prioritizing was their own.

    • by Imagix (695350)
      As you have presented it, yes you are "wrong" under the definition of net neutraility that I prefer. (It seems you prefer the definition of pass all bits equally, which is probably an equally reasonable definition of net neutrality.) They're being source and destination agnostic, and doing traffic prioritization based on protocol. What you haven't said they're doing is prioritizing their own VoIP over general VoIP. That would be non-neutral.
    • by vux984 (928602)

      To me these statements are completely contradictory.

      They aren't. Network neutrality relates to degrading packets based on where they come from (and extracting payments from those external sources to restore priority). QoS relates to prioritizing packets based on what service they represent.

      Some services need better connections than others. Voip, First-Person-Shooters, etc need good connections. email & bittorrent don't. If the pipe is congested it makes perfect sense to drop email / bit torrent packets

      • by Aranykai (1053846)

        I call straw man. The reverse could be said of people who use voip to avoid paying for higher cost telephone service that doesn't have to compete with other traffic. If they don't want to pay more, they can use the internet instead and expect everyone else to slow their choice use of the internet for their latency?

        Neutrality means indifferent treatment of all packets, regardless their purpose, destination or source. Last I checked its not 'Selected Network Neutrality'.

        • by vux984 (928602)

          I call straw man.

          I wouldn't. It will make you look foolish.

          The reverse could be said of people who use voip to avoid paying for higher cost telephone service...

          1) as opposed to you who transfer files via bittorrent instead of ordering CD/DVDs of the data via snail mail the way it used to be? Or instead of dialing long distance to modems attached to the systems that have data you want?

          2) voip is the future; eventually there will be no dedicated phone service in a lot of places. And even today, a lot of POTS

          • Bandwidth is a limited resource. There are two ways of dealing with this.

            Don't be a freeper. The reason they're pushing for these caps and fees is to protect their TV business. They aren't hurting for capacity.

            Most ISPs have gone with b)[bandwidth cap] for now,

            Get back to me when comcast has a traffic meter so you can see if you're close and charges something close to reasonable fees for overage. I couldn't give a rip if my limit was 150G/mo with $.25/GB over that.

            Also, fix your quoting.

  • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:48AM (#27758629)
    As long as they don't factor in where the bytes are coming from when it comes to calculating usage then it shouldn't be a Neutrality issue. If some provider like Time Warner had an agreement that overages from Hulu were OK but overages from Youtube weren't then we'd be looking at a Neutrality issue.
    • by sumdumass (711423)

      I see what your saying and agree to an extent.

      My disagreement is within after the consumer gets what they paid for. What I mean is that if your ISP advertises Speeds up to 10M always on and Hulu strikes a deal to deliver at 15M, then as long as your ISP does nothing to restrict the delivery of YouTube to below their advertised speeds or limits in usage, then everything is fine and the consumer gets more then they paid for.

      Net neutrality is about purposely robbing the users and paying customers by taking act

    • by metamatic (202216) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:52AM (#27759365) Homepage Journal

      And that's exactly the problem.

      Time Warner already offer streaming ESPN. You can bet they won't be including those GB in your 5GB a month. So effectively, punitive per-GB data transfer fees are a way to violate net neutrality for video services.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:50AM (#27758653)

    If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well. Some of AboveNet's defenders argued that they mostly sold Internet connectivity to ISPs, not to the public, and the ISPs knew that the connections were filtered. Even assuming this were true, the ISPs still would not be able to re-sell the service to the public without representing it as "regular Internet access" â" nobody would pay full price for a broken or degraded connection when a competitor could offer a regular connection for the same price.

    Surely thats simply a case of 'if people aren't going to buy your product, why aren't you sourcing a replacement supplier?'

    If you are willingly buying the degraded product from your supplier, and the supplier is not hiding the fact that it is degraded in some way, then I don't see why the supplier should be complicit in the fraud that you willingly went on to conduct.

    The argument as presented in the summary just seems absurd in that regard.

    • You're assuming there's a replacement supplier available. In the case of ISPs, there are few choices, and sometimes no direct competitors (cable != dsl != fiber != satellite). And sometimes, there really is only one ISP that provides internet access with sub-second latency.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:59AM (#27758737) Journal

    The whole point of Net Neutrality is that an ISP can not treat packets differently based on their type or destination. Here are some examples of why Neutrality is a good idea:

    What is to stop TW from blocking or slowing packets related to Vonage's service in order to push their own? What would stop TW from creating their own search engine and blocking Google, Yahoo, and MSN?

    The whole point is that TW can create its own version of any service currently provided by the web and choke off their competition or charge extra for access to their competition. When there is only one game in town, that's monopoly abuse. That would be like your power company selling toasters with a special plug and charging extra or blocking users from buying a competing toaster.

    As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one. Unfortunately, Internet service is like a utility, or should be, and every utility is based on usage. This is why competition is good. Once a utility has competition, they are forced to compete and lose their monopoly status.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      The whole point of Net Neutrality is that an ISP can not treat packets differently based on their type or destination unless it is in excess of what the consumer is paying for.

      There, Fixed that for you.

      The problem is generally with what the consumer pays for. if they get extra, all is still fine. If another service is degraded or restricted in order to do that, then there is a problem. As long as the customer gets what they paid for, then anything extra is fine.

    • As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one. Unfortunately, Internet service is like a utility, or should be, and every utility is based on usage. This is why competition is good. Once a utility has competition, they are forced to compete and lose their monopoly status.

      The conversation shouldn't be going "From Unlimited to Caps!" but "From Unlimited to Per Unit!". With caps, if you use less than your cap, you're not getting the cheapest $/unit you could, (you "lose"); if you use more than your cap, you pay punitatively-high overages (you "lose").

      Either way, you lose. Either way, the supplier wins. The solution in the best interest of the consumer is a per-unit rate. Like the power company, you pay for what you use.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      As for usage caps. I really hate it, but I can't really find a good argument against this one.

      That's easy. Bandwith is not limited like a natural resource. We can make all the bandwidth we need. If the customers want too much bandwidth, make more and sell it to them at a fair price. Restricting supply just so you can charge exorbitant prices is cartel-like behavior. Charging excessive fees for overages only encourages the ISPs *NOT* to invest in more bandwidth.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could someone please boil this down to a non-sensical car analogy?

    Thanks.

    • by relguj9 (1313593)
      The Time Warner issue is like a gas company having given you an "unlimited gas" plan usable only at a fixed rate of consumption. Then planning to change their plan to charge you for a certain amount (say, 50 dollars for 25 gallons) and then an extra 20 dollars per gallon after you go over.

      The net neutrality issue would be like your car being designed such that gas from BP only pumps into your car at a rate of 1 gallon per 3 minutes, whereas Shell pumps into your car at 1 gallon per second.

      (Of course,
  • Biggest problem with "market-based" solutions to the issue: Most people don't care about most of the Internet.

    I doubt there is much "demand" for having access to the entirety of the Internet. So most people won't care if 95% of it isn't blocked, so long as they can still get to foxnews.com or npr.org.

    So suddenly that 95% of the Internet is useless as a vessel for meaningful communication. The number of outlets for people to get their information becomes minute and controlled by large corporations.
  • What we're ultimately talking about is censorship, either by content or volume. I'm having a hard time imagining neutral censorship.
    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      you're over-analyzing this. It's about money plain and simple.

      They don't care what you watch or download, they just want to get paid for it (again).

      This is about their networks being saturated, and not wanting to invest the capital to increase capacity.

      This is about monopolism. This is actually about neutrality for some.

      Comcast, et al, provide their own portals to content. They do not count downloads from these portals towards your cap. They are effectively preventing people from making their own choice

      • This is about their networks being saturated, and not wanting to invest the capital to increase capacity.

        Didn't their costs go down, and can't they double their users' speed for $6/household?

  • Although I am in strong support of net neutrality, the debate around it is not completely without merit. Having worked for a small local ISP I know first hand the difficulties of managing available bandwidth in an age of ever escalating average use load. Your ISP made promises of a certain amount of bandwidth at a certain price based on how much they expected the average user to use during peak times. There are costs associated with changes in these usage patterns and the issue of net neutrality is how to r

    • by Imagix (695350)

      Your ISP made promises of a certain amount of bandwidth at a certain price based on how much they expected the average user to use during peak times.

      And instead of putting those usage levels into some sort of wording in the contract, they took the levels, multiplied by some value, built the network to that level (we hope), and then advertised "unlimited"...

      Net neutrality legislation would not allow ISPs to a: shift costs onto content providers who are changing average usage rates

      No way. The ISP doesn't get to charge the guy 6 hops away. I pay my bill (to an ISP), Google pays their bill to their ISP. All of the ISPs in the middle have their own peering arrangements. The ISP next to Google's would have a cause to charge Google's ISP more based on the volume of traffic coming

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Charge more for your service, or offer less bandwidth, or cap monthly usage (only if you make it plain as day that it is capped though!). Good QoS delivery is important as well, and you can prioritize packet types (with disregard to where they were generated) to optimize bandwidth usage. Note that if done correctly, QoS improves internet service all-around, it does not restrict it.

      All of those are reasonable methods to improve the bandwidth/cost situation. Some people may think propper QoS is bad, but th

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:58AM (#27759443)

    My take on the bandwidth surcharge situation was that the insanely low caps and bandwidth surcharges were designed to fend off online video [techydad.com]. Think about it: If your favorite shows were available online legally (let's leave less-than-100%-legal sources out of the equation for the purposes of this argument), why would you need to buy cable TV service? So Time Warner sets the bandwidth limit low and charges for overages. If subscribers don't use online video out of fear of going over their limit, cable wins. If people continue to use online video and go over their limit (thus paying overage fees), cable wins.

    Network Neutrality could still come into the equation. Apparently, Joost is shopping itself to cable companies [dslreports.com]. One of the interested companies is Time Warner. If Time Warner buys Joost and reinstates their cap/overage plan (which they've already indicated they want to do), would Joost use count towards your bandwidth limit? Or would using Time Warner's own online video service be exempt from the same limits that YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc are subject too?

  • The real issue as I see it is that Time Warner is a cable company. And it is very likely that these caps have everything to do with stopping the growth of a competitor IPTV or video on demand.

    If you download a lot of content from hulu and netflix and amazon VOD you are going to run smack dab in to punitive caps with this type of service.

    For years the cable companies have been doing well by selling packages of channels and most people watch a very small percentage of those channels and thus it's not really a

  • by Sophacles (24240) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:49AM (#27760073)

    These discussions always seem to ignore one part of the equation. Specifically net neutrality stops GOOD QoS too. I worked at a small ISP. Over-selling capacity is strictly necessary in most cases where staying in business is a priority*. Most of the time no one notices. During certain peak hours however, everyone noticed. We received many complaints about voip and game quality.

    Our solution was to implement packet inspection and QoS. What we did was identify VOIP packets, and give them a very high priority. Same with game packets. A few others too, like syns and acks are very cheap, so we gave them high priority too (because it does matter and will enhance the end user experience)**. We also identified video from youtube, cnn, etc (all places where there are BUFFERING players). With those video sites we lowered priority after the first .5MB since buffering is intended to make jitter irrelevant. We did NOT slow video down, we just made introduced latency sometimes so gamers and voipers got a better experience.

    After doing that, our customers complained much less frequently, and many thanked us for getting more bandwidth.

    Essentially, bandwidth should be measured on 2 axis, Throughput and Latency. Some apps dont need much bandwidth when they have low latency (voip), others don't suffer from latency as long as throughput is good (torrents). Most cries I see for net-neutrality ignore this. I find it sad because I would not mind my isp guaranteeing low latency for voip and games and high throughput for downloads (if i would be a pal and let them add a 100ms delay here and there).

    I know that a lot of the issue hinges around the above being used to double charge, and other evil tactics, however legislating away the good because of potential for evil seems plain silly. Perhaps some sort of middle ground could one day be reached, in which destination filtering/prioritizing is strictly off limits, but content type filtering can be allowed as long as overall throughput remains at the rate sold. (not necessarily a good solution, just a talking point).

    *This refers to places where the infrastructure is not well built up, and metro-e is not available.

    ** DNS at highest priority is surprisingly important. The day we did this speed related call dropped a large percent, and stayed dropped.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chirs (87576)

      My own view is that violating net neutrality for QoS (like you're doing) is acceptable as long as your customers know you're doing it, know exactly what you're doing, and you're not doing it to preferentially push your own product.

      Arguably, however, it would be more honest to let the subscribers opt-in (or out) of your QoS filtering. If they opt out, then they get a certain (low) guaranteed bandwidth, and they get to do their own QoS for their own packets.

      • Arguably, however, it would be more honest to let the subscribers opt-in (or out) of your QoS filtering. If they opt out, then they get a certain (low) guaranteed bandwidth, and they get to do their own QoS for their own packets.

        So if they opt out, you just put them in a lower capped priority queue, why that's brilliant!

    • Specifically net neutrality stops GOOD QoS too.

      I disagree. I am a locked-in Comcast customer, and live in an area with no competition from DSL, FTTP, metro-ethernet or other non-cable broadband technology. I am constantly affected by what they call "traffic shaping". As many here know, Comcast uses a technology which artificially throttles the connection by sending RST packets to both ends of a connection, and thereby forcing TCP connections to break down. What Comcast and others are doing is not proper Quality of Service with priority queues. The

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        I have NEVER heard any net neutrality argument against using proper QoS to manage limited bandwidth. I expect a competent Network Operations Admin at an ISP to implement some sort of priority queuing. What I should NOT expect from an ISP is for them to launch a man-in-the-middle Denial of Service against me, when I pay for a service that I expect to actually use.

        You obviously didn't read all the comments on the way to the bottom of this thread then. ;)

        Part of the reason QoS is starting to be attacked by less informed people, is that they don't trust the telco's to do any traffic management at all, and it's hard to blame them. It's the "slippery slope" logical fallacy, and it would be easier to discredit if there were not telco's like Comcast actually doing inappropriate traffic shaping, and getting busted for it.

  • Bad premise. (Score:3, Informative)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @12:39PM (#27760821)

    If company A sells something to company B which company B then re-sells to the public, but company B almost certainly cannot resell the good without committing fraud as outlined above, then company A is complicit in the fraud as well.

    A: Company A sells to Company B
    B: Company B screws its customers.

    While ~A implies ~B, A does not imply B. Company A could sell to Company B and Company B could consume the product itself.

    A is not complicit. Bad premise.

  • I really don't. Read the contract. And net neutrality isn't the same thing as providing unlimited and unrestricted service. So your bittorrents are being squeezed, there are options open to you - or just deal with it at a slower speed. The option is that if you pay for their business level service, it's never limited. Consumer grade service is always limited and restricted in one way or another, because they aren't giving you a dedicated line.

    Just some companies are worse than others. But many choices

  • - How much spam reaches your inbox? Will the ISP apply their usage limits to your incoming mailbox as well? I guarantee you there is some bean counter who has already thought of this and is just grinning at the prospect!

    - How much do you get scanned? I'm sorry folks, but you are using a REAL IP to access the internet. And there is nothing to prevent ANYBODY from scanning that IP address. And I guarantee you that TW, ATT, Cox, whoever, is going to allow that packet through. Multiply by a few m

  • by HTH NE1 (675604)

    and perhaps watching 24 on their $5,000 TV sets sometimes instead of downloading it off of BitTorrent to their laptop every week because it makes them feel like a haX0r

    Well if KPTM Fox 42 would stop down-converting 24 to SD and stereo sound for 15 seconds at the bottom of its hour (and every bottom of the hour) to inform me of the time and temperature sponsored by the Omaha Children's Hospital (always during the show, never during the commercials) I wouldn't have to torrent a 43-minute episode to pick up the two words dropped from the broadcast on either side of those 15 seconds, cursing your station, your bug, and its sponsor.

    This is not the thinking of the children you

You are in the hall of the mountain king.

Working...