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Net Neutrality Seen Through the Telegraph 249

Posted by samzenpus
from the doomed-to-repeat-it dept.
James McP writes "Ars Technica has a write-up on the unregulated telegraph of the 19th century, which gives a view into what could happen to an internet lacking any regulation mandating neutrality. The owners of the 'Victorian internet' used their control of the telegraph to prop up monopolies, manipulate elections, facilitate insider trading, and censor criticism."
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Net Neutrality Seen Through the Telegraph

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @03:59AM (#30308282)

    Why do you think certain groups are so pushing against it? Telcos, news networks... It's no coincidence that the ones pushing to abandon NN are also the ones dealing in information.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hitmark (640295)

      also, cable tv wants to use internet as a value additive, while not cutting into their existing services.

      telcos wants to become cable tv, via that other cable...

      in either case, sites like youtube provides for free, what the wants to be payed by view...

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GrpA (691294) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:33AM (#30308394)

      Actually, I think it's just because they see it as another revenue stream ( ie, Why should google make all that money from using our services, without paying us for the privilege. How can we charge them?)

      I don't think the average telco exec is bright enough to see the myriad of ways that they can abuse the situation until they actually manifest. After all, being truly machiavellian is an art rarely practiced outside of government.

      GrpA

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        oh those guys aren't stupid. they rely on buffoons like you to think they are...
        • Buffoons? Those guys are so damn good at appearing to be stupid, you have to really look very carefully to see the intelligence behind their plans. It can be almost impossible to see. Like Rupert Murdoch. Last month he appeared to be an out-of-touch, C.M.Burns-ian senile old man but he made Google play right into his hands. That old fucker is one smart, evil son of a bitch.

          Plus, it's hard to tell a brilliant plan from dumb luck when each step appears mind-bogglingly stupid. It's like cartoon scenes with
      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wall0159 (881759) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:16AM (#30309376)

        "being truly machiavellian is an art rarely practiced outside of government." ...and a million executives howled with laughter, patted each other on the back, and spoke their congratulations about the latest advertising campaign...

      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Informative)

        by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:31AM (#30309452) Homepage

        After all, being truly machiavellian is an art rarely practiced outside of government.

        Definitely not true. In fact, there's a pretty good book [amazon.com] (as well as quite a few imitators) on the very subject of how Machiavelli is incredibly useful for understanding modern business.

        • by kamapuaa (555446)
          I tried to apply the techniques of Machiavelli to my career and I must say I am dissatisfied with the results. I faked my own death to throw off my enemies, then when I came back I didn't even get my old office back!
    • But... (Score:3, Funny)

      by conureman (748753)

      we've learned so much in the last hundred years. We won't let them do that again. Right?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BubbaDave (1352535)

        We've repeated the error of the french in the 1700's (or was it 1800's) of destroying out financial system by allowing the re-packaging of worthless securities to 'eliminate risk', so I'd say, yes, we are going to let them do it again.

        Or more accurately, we won't be able to stop them.

        Dave

    • by phlinn (819946)
      You know, it's funny. Currently, the only google link for the phrase "Hayessociated press" is the source article. Are we sure the article isn't making up it's story about the telegram out of whole cloth, or at least spinning the actual events?
    • by mea37 (1201159)

      "the ones pushing to abandon NN are also the ones dealing in information."

      Excuse me? Perhaps you mean that the ones pushing for the status quo are also the ones dealing in information.

      Those who oppose network neutrality also include those of us with the common sense to know that legislators and regulators shouldn't try to set technical policy.

      There are other approaches to solving the problems NN wants to address, and those other approaches have the added benefit that they might actually work.

  • ... it's the thin end of the wedge.
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:48AM (#30309558) Homepage Journal

      There was a quote in TFA that caught my eye:

      Our founding fathers understood that it is government that takes away people's freedoms, not individuals or companies

      If they understood that, then they were shortsighted indeed, but history itself puts the lie to it. Government didn't hold slaves, corporations and individuals did. Including individuals in government. And they still do - ever hear the term "wage slave"? There are other things besides guns and whips that can make a person do your bidding.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:04AM (#30308296)

    Comparing the Internet to the Telegraph?

    I would have chosen a more appropriate comparison like the regrowth of injured legs on starfish, but maybe that's just me.

  • by caluml (551744) <slashdot&spamgoeshere,calum,org> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:11AM (#30308318) Homepage
    If you ever thought about learning Morse, you can do it at this very good site: http://www.lcwo.net/ [lcwo.net]. .-.
    • by caluml (551744)
      That should have been a K on the end, rather than an R!
      -.-
      It's awkward typing Morse.
      • Not CT?

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by jaggeh (1485669)

          i wanted to write to you all in glorious morse code but slashdot doesnt like it
          Filter error: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MichaelSmith (789609)

            Its not really a written language anyway. It works with sound and pulses of light. I am glad I learned CW even though I never got my radio license. Who knows? One day I might be trapped in a sunken Russian submarine.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      If you ever thought about learning Morse,

      Why would you do that? The Droid/Milestone has an app for that.

    • by tagno25 (1518033)

      If you ever thought about learning Morse, you can do it at this very good site: http://www.lcwo.net/ [lcwo.net]. .-.

      --- pause .-. stop
      -... pause ..- pause -.-- stop
      .- stop
      -.. pause . pause -.-. pause --- pause -.. pause . pause .-. stop
      -.-. pause --- pause .. pause -. stop

      Pause and stop because of "Please use fewer 'junk' characters."

      • You could always encode it in binary and type it out in ascii... I just wasted like a full minute deciding how I would do that. Morse code can be written as base 3 then converted (since length has meaning) which takes a full byte per character... Or you could use a bitflag to denote the length for the 1st 4 bits and the have the -,. in binary for the last 4 bits. Which still takes a full byte but conveys more readable information.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OldSoldier (168889)

      My preferred way to learn morse is to install a keyboard clicker that taps out the morse equivalent of every keystroke I type. Every few years I look for such an app but haven't found one yet. Anyway... I am very interested in the meta-learning aspect of this. If I just have this tapping in the "background" of my daily computer life, how long will it take to sink in?

  • by iamacat (583406) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:20AM (#30308350)

    The bottom line is that you are being screwed. It's a mistake to interpret constitution as only giving us protection against federal government. Any entity with significant power over individuals must be prevented from restricting freedom of speech or any other basic rights that we consider important. ISPs must not be allowed to discriminate against any legal but unpopular content, or against use of particular protocols like BitTorrent. Companies must not be allowed to fire people based on private Facebook posts.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      This is why the Comcast deal to buy 51% of NBC Universal could run afoul not only from competing cable systems, small-dish satellite TV providers and other cable content providers, but also could get a LOT of scrutiny from Congress, FCC and FTC.

      The fear is simple: Comcast could shut out other cable content providers on Comcast cable systems and/or pull NBC Universal-owned channels from competing cable systems and small-dish satellite providers (the current spat between DirecTV and Comcast-owned Versus chann

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:39AM (#30308414)

    A lot of people seem to allow this to slip by, but the "free market" is composed of "actors", or PEOPLE.

    When you remove law enforcement from an area people revert back to their "natural" state, robbing, pillaging, raping, and assaulting. For references, see looters in natural disasters, crime reports during blackouts, etc.

    In the marketplace, without regulation, people with more power will perpetrate this in people with less.

    People who provide internet services will abuse any way they can to gain more money, power, and control. (the same goes for software, medical insurance, mass media, commodities, you name it)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Luckily most firm's and consumers hold a marginal amount of market power. Hence we would model the market closer to perfect competition that we would monopoly. In the case of a natural monopoly, the market structure you're suggesting, there is a fair amount of debate about what it's state is, as it can act as either. However, most of the markets for internet access around the world are closer to an oligopoly, where the firms are given special privileges which swing more power their way, on top of being a mo

      • Luckily most firm's and consumers hold a marginal amount of market power. Hence we would model the market closer to perfect competition that we would monopoly. In the case of a natural monopoly, the market structure you're suggesting, there is a fair amount of debate about what it's state is, as it can act as either. However, most of the markets for internet access around the world are closer to an oligopoly, where the firms are given special privileges which swing more power their way, on top of being a monopoly.

        this is disproven in one word: Microsoft.

        there are others too. Standard oil, Mah bell. I suppose the consumer wants a billion different ways to screw you on a cell phone bill too.

        Without regulation centralized corporate power squeezes millions of disorganized and powerless individuals for all they will bear in money AND consumer rights.

    • Uh, and just what the hell do you think the government is comprised of? Deities who are always neutral and never do anything wrong? It's made of people too, but they're privileged people who are making the laws, which makes them even more dangerous than the free market you so baselessly despise.

      And are you seriously comparing an ISP's rightful regulation of its internet traffic to robbing, pillaging, raping, and assaulting? Give me a fucking break. I want sysadmins regulating their company's services--w

      • by FranTaylor (164577) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:02AM (#30308718)

        The Internet and the gear that runs it is a source of Power to whoever runs it.

        This power WILL be taken and abused by whoever controls it.

        Take off your blinders and understand that our economic system and our society exist ONLY because there are government regulations to hold it together.

        You speak of corporations acting freely but you fail to realize that it is the power of government that allows them to have this freedom in the first place.

        You are INSULTING and WRONG to paint everyone who disagrees with you as hating free markets.

        Again you FAIL to understand that free markets DO NOT EXIST without government regulation to keep them free.

        Here let me fix one of your sentences for you:

        "Yep, history sure has shown how pure, fair, reliable, trustworthy, and incorruptible corporations are. Uh-huh."

      • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:01AM (#30309108)

        Uh, and just what the hell do you think the government is comprised of? Deities who are always neutral and never do anything wrong? It's made of people too, but they're privileged people who are making the laws, which makes them even more dangerous than the free market you so baselessly despise.

        except the government is bound by a constitution, and subject to at least SOME form of public accountability.

        And are you seriously comparing an ISP's rightful regulation of its internet traffic to robbing, pillaging, raping, and assaulting?

        OMG HYPERBOLE, obviously that means my point is invalid, and that people aren't really being stripped of their fundamental rights to privacy and choice, that theyre not being defrauded, that freedom of speech is not being abrogated.

        Could some of you stop giving the government so much power, please? We get it, you hate free markets and think government power solves absolutely everything by magic.

        No, I believe in the government stepping on corporate toes, and the the people stepping up to the ballot box to make sure the government doesn't go too far.

        Yep, history sure has shown how pure, fair, reliable, trustworthy, and incorruptible the government is. Uh-huh.

        Let's ask the millions of jobless about which they'd rather have: ANY government beurocrat or the CEO's of AIG; shall we?

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:59AM (#30309332) Homepage

        The key difference between government and corporate power: governments are ultimately answerable to their citizens, whereas corporations are ultimately answerable to their shareholders. That means among other things that corporations can and will ruin the lives of their employees or residents of the surrounding area (via pollution mostly) if it increases their profits, can and will bilk their customers if they can get away with it, and don't really mind a large population of unemployed, broke, desperate people.

      • A rebuttal (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonaskoelker (922170)

        And are you seriously comparing an ISP's rightful regulation of its internet traffic

        No, I think your parent is more worried about the wrongful regulations.

        I want sysadmins regulating their company's services

        That's fine, as long as the company providing those services advertises truthfully what the sysadmins are actually doing to your packets.

        And, of course, as long as the two internet providers in your zip code (only one of whom offers service to your house) don't collude and offer a deliberately neutered product (i.e. no bittorent, no streaming video, no voip, no [etc.]) when they could just as easily offer the better version just because

      • by sorak (246725) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:03AM (#30310250)

        Uh, and just what the hell do you think the government is comprised of? Deities who are always neutral and never do anything wrong?

        We are not arguing over who should be allowed to throttle internet traffic. We are arguing over whether anybody should be allowed to.

        I want sysadmins regulating their company's services...not bribed politicians who are above the law and will cater to every big financial donor's wishes.

        Not an option. The policies will be set by the people who run the company. They also happen to be the same people who are attempting to bribe politicians. Who do you trust more. The politician who may be getting bribed, or the guy who is definitely doing the bribery?

        The internet isn't a right or a life necessity. It's a convenient service you pay for, like having a car or a television,

        The car analogy is close to correct, because if you cannot find transportation of any kind, then you cannot go to work. The internet is much more than a luxury. It is something that many of us, myself included, must have as terms of our employment. It is also something that society as a whole needs to assure that the next generation of children will be competitive in the information-based economy that the first world is moving toward. (BTW, one person can get buy without internet access, just as one person can get by without electricity or running water. That does not diminish its' importance to society).

        and the free market keeps abuses in check because a company's livelihood depends on your dollar.

        There is no free market when it comes to internet access, in many, if not most, areas. Your choices are "broadband through one ISP. Take it or leave it".

        A government, on the other hand, already forces you to pay it through taxes, and it makes its own special rules for itself so that it's not beholden to the law like the free market is. There's no incentive to please you as a customer.

        Politicians can be voted out of office.

        You're a citizen who will do what it says.

        Could some of you stop giving the government so much power, please? We get it, you hate free markets and think government power solves absolutely everything by magic.

        This has absolutely nothing to do with the free market. Not a damn thing. Until the cable companies stop respecting each others fiefdoms, and start competing for my business, this is not about capitalism, the free market, or any other pseudo-patriotic catch-phrase you can come up with.

        Yep, history sure has shown how pure, fair, reliable, trustworthy, and incorruptible the government is. Uh-huh.

        And history has shown that unregulated markets can be even more unfair, untrustworthy, and corrupt.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:25AM (#30310538) Homepage Journal

        I don't get this worship of the "free" market. I encourage you to RTFA, it's an eye-opener.

        I have no pull whatever over Comcast. If County Market pisses me off, I can go to a different grocery store. If Comcast pisses me off, I'm fuX0red. There is no competetion, and where there's no competetion the corporation is NOT beholden to its customers in any way, shape, or form. There is no free market when it comes to utilities!

        My electrical utility is run by the city (and makes a tidy profit). If rates go up too far, or service declines, the Mayor will lose an election. They are beholden to their customers. As a public utility I can vote the CEO (Mayor) out. I can't vote Comcasts's CEO out, only its shareholders can do that. Comcast doesn't have to worry about me, the customer, at all.

        Monopolies need FAR more regulation than, say, a grocery store, and even then, you need regulations to keep them from selling me poison food. Which, by the way, food suppliers get in trouble for this type of assault (people have died) and robbery all the time.

        Government isn't the problem, our system of determining who governs is. For one, it's easy to bribe legally with only two parties. I've been pushing for some reforms (tilting at windmills) that willl never, ever happen.

        1. I should not be able to contribute to more than one candidate in any given race. If I "contribute" to both, it's a bribe, period.
        2. I should not be allowed to contribute to any candidate I'm not registered to vote for.

        Having campaigns publically financed would be even better, but that's even less likely to happen.

    • by qazsedcft (911254)
      Generally, I'm against the free for all suggested by libertarians, but here I must disagree with you. Information is the key to power. The proper way of handling this is to hand the power back to the people. What we need is to redesign the whole thing so that it's completely unblockable. For example, suppose devices were communicating directly with each other and you had just a bunch of interconnected wi-fi routers forming a global network with no large-scale infrastructure. This is the kind of thing we sho
    • by fryjs (1456943) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:18AM (#30308766) Homepage
      I (as a free-market advocate) consider law enforcement and regulation as two very different things. Law enforcment being the retaliatory use of force by the government against people who have violated the individual rights of another (theft, violence, etc) by initiated the use of force. I consider law enforcement a fundamental requirement of a free society (protection from looters and thugs), but regulation the antithesis of a free society (initiating the use of force to control people).

      In my view, regulation is not law enforcement, it is the initiation of force by government against people who have not (and are not reasonably predicted to) violated anyone's rights, with the intent of getting that individual or organisation to behave in a desired manner. Now this doesn't seem so bad, when it is applied to something like net neutrality which seems like a good idea, however the principle is appalling to me: using force to get what you want. This is especially true when you have a government known to be at least influenced (if not controlled) by a few powerful people and organisations.
      • by Ma8thew (861741)
        Do you regard the FDA as regulation, because the FDA call themselves a regulator? Do you believe that drug companies should be able to sell any useless or dangerous drug to consumers? Or is your definition of regulation and law enforcement just some arbitrary distinction you came up with to justify disagreeing with laws you don't like?
      • Again let me fix that for you:

        "however the principle is appalling to me: using force to get what you want. This is especially true when you have a corporation known to be at least influenced (if not controlled) by a few powerful people and organisations."

        GET A CLUE. The power is THERE and it WILL be grabbed. It is only a question of WHO.

        I would rather that the government have the power. At least then there is at least some vague way for the people to have some sort of control over it.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:56AM (#30311014) Homepage Journal

        Regulation keeps the local restaraunt from selling me poisoned food. OSHA regulations do, in fact, protect workers from violence -- my grandfather died because Purina was too cheap to put doors on its elevators (1959, long before OSHA).

        Before the Clean Air Act, you could NOT drive through Sauget [wikipedia.org] with your windows down, even on a blistering hot summer day (they didn't put AC in cars back then). I would consider Monsanto's noxious fumes a direct assault on my person, and regulation stops that assault. Only government regulation keeps Monsanto from violating my right to travel through Sauget while breathing.

        Yes, use as much force as you want to keep Monsanto from ruining my lungs, or a drug company form selling me drugs that contain impurities, or from selling poison peanut butter. [msn.com]

        On the other hand, law enforcement tries to stop me from gambling, soliciting a prostitute, or smoking a joint. None of these activities harm anyone without their consent. You might want to rethink your position; you've been brainwashed by the corporatti who would love nothing more than to remove the regulations that keep them from assaulting you.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      When you remove law enforcement from an area people revert back to their "natural" state, robbing, pillaging, raping, and assaulting. For references, see looters in natural disasters, crime reports during blackouts, etc.

      If you think that's our species' natural state then I hope to Odin you don't live anywhere near me as you sound like a sociopath (after all, people tend to think others will act just like they would in the same situation).

      Or maybe you've never lived through a blackout or natural disaster and don't really know, first hand, how people react. My experience with both is that people become more friendly to each other, not less, after such an event. I lived through the LA quake in '92, and for days afterward it w

      • When you remove law enforcement from an area people revert back to their "natural" state, robbing, pillaging, raping, and assaulting. For references, see looters in natural disasters, crime reports during blackouts, etc.

        If you think that's our species' natural state then I hope to Odin you don't live anywhere near me as you sound like a sociopath (after all, people tend to think others will act just like they would in the same situation).

        Or maybe you've never lived through a blackout or natural disaster and don't really know, first hand, how people react. My experience with both is that people become more friendly to each other, not less, after such an event. I lived through the LA quake in '92, and for days afterward it was so much more pleasant driving around Los Angeles than ever before or since. People would actually wave each other through stop lights that were still out. In LA! The city famous for its freeway shootings.

        You may want to rethink your view of humanity. It's seriously out of joint with what I've seen of the world.

        new york blackouts, new orleans aftermath, hurricane andrew aftermath, the entire country of somalia, need I go on.

        (after all, people tend to think others will act just like they would in the same situation)

        I would not treat people that way, but I've seen enough of it, and enough public record of it, to know that's how people would act, and I'm not stupid enough to venture out without defensive armaments in such a situation.

  • Deja Vu. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:30AM (#30308598)
  • by wuji (956131)
    It's interesting enough that according to that article, the reason for the existence of "monopolies" on the telegraph was the government itself. Because there are no monopolies unless the government can protect those monopolies. And that is exactly what this is about. Somebody decides that someone should regulate the whole Internet because otherwise it will be abused by the powerfull entities inside it. And the best solution that that "Somebody" can come up with is to hand it over to the government? That go
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Because there are no monopolies unless the government can protect those monopolies.

      Strictly untrue. Any system where rule of law enforces personal property rights enables a small group of people to exercise monopolistic control over a limited resource. If you're excluding such systems, they still can exercise such control, but they enforce it themselves.

      Unless you're envisioning a government that suppresses people's ability to protect their own property but refuses to enforce property rights?

  • As a direct result of the lack of regulation, criminals ran things from behind the scenes with bribes and even worse tactics even later on in history. Things were much worse in the early part of the 20th century. A fellow with the nick name of "Dutch Schultz" easily created a gambling and money laundering communications empire by thoroughly corrupting the industry from within. His shtick was so slick that most did not even know to what extent it went on. You essentially had to pay "The Man" if you wanted
  • What decade was the fax machine first patented?

    The 40s.

    The 1840s.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The concept was there in 1846, but it was not commercially available until 1865. From wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

      Scottish inventor Alexander Bain worked on chemical mechanical facsimile type devices and in 1846 was able to reproduce graphic signs in lab experiments. Frederick Bakewell made several improvements on Bain's design and demonstrated his device at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. However, Bain and Bakewell's systems were rudimentary and produced poor quality images. They lacked synchronization between the tran

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:10AM (#30309360) Homepage

    > The owners of the 'Victorian internet' used their control of the telegraph
    > to prop up monopolies, manipulate elections, facilitate insider trading,
    > and censor criticism.

    And it would have been so much better had the government done that instead.

  • we need a disruptive technology right now... such as mesh networking or white space
  • Which is worse... the analogy between telegraph and internet; or the assertion that because one particular arrangement that didn't include "network neutrality" regulation led to abuse, therefore "network neutrality" regulation is the only way to prevent abuse (or would even be sufficient to do so)?

    When we try to regulate technical procedures, we fail. If we want to win, we should look instead at regulating business practices. "Without NN companies can double-charge"? Ok, regulate double-charging. "Witho

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