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UK's Two Biggest ISPs Rip Up Net Neutrality 225

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the battling-the-inevitable dept.
Barence writes "The UK's two biggest ISPs have openly admitted they'd give priority to certain internet apps or services if companies paid them to do so. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on net neutrality, senior executives from BT and TalkTalk said they would be happy to put selected apps into the fast lane, at the expense of their rivals. Asked specifically if TalkTalk would afford more bandwidth to YouTube than the BBC's iPlayer if Google was prepared to pay, the company's executive director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, argued it would be 'perfectly normal business practice to discriminate between them.' Meanwhile, BT's Simon Milner said: 'We absolutely could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service above best efforts,' although he added BT had never received such an approach."
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UK's Two Biggest ISPs Rip Up Net Neutrality

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:03PM (#33726552) Homepage

    You know, not every bit of software is an app...I'm getting really tired of that term becoming so ubiquitous. You would think someone in such a position within a tech-centered company would know this (actually, on second thought...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Isn't it just short for application?

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        Etymologically, yes...but it's used (or at least is supposed to be used) to describe small applications downloadable to phones. I noticed it really take hold with Apple's App Store, although its been around longer than that.

        There's no written rule saying it can't be used to describe all software, but it pisses me off in the same way it pisses me off when someone says "put it on the floor" when they're standing in the middle of a forest, or call a truck a "car".

        It's wrong. It's WROOOONGGGG. /Cartman

        • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:19PM (#33726822)

          There's no written rule saying it can't be used to describe all software, but it pisses me off in the same way it pisses me off when someone says "put it on the floor" when they're standing in the middle of a forest, or call a truck a "car"

          You must be angry a significant portion of the time if trivial things like that set you off. You are using the English language, it's a very flexibile language that allows for a wide variety of 'errors' while still conveying the intended message.

          Restated:

          You must be fuming a bunch if you make mountains out of molehills. English puts up with a lot of meddling. It can be bungled up and still convey the same meaning.

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH

            But seriously though, it's just a slow day at work :/

            • AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH

              But seriously though, it's just a slow day at work :/

              To be fair, I thought the same thing, until I remembered when I was getting angry at everyone calling MP3 players iPods and regular web served audio recordings as Podcasts.

              On a related note, ever notice how each company or organization will use a different term for a Powerpoint Presentation?

              Slides
              Charts
              Foils
              etc.

              I've seen debates on THAT! One of those things you never notice until someone points it out to you. Then you can never unsee

              • My problems are doubled - my player, though it does play mp3s, is primarilly used for playing vorbis, so calling it an mp3 player is, to me, almost as wrong as calling it an ipod. This technology business is complicated stuff...

                • by rogabean (741411)
                  I can see your point on the fact we call every portable device that stores/play music these days an MP3 player... I can't remember when I last used an MP3 file... then again I don't think I call my iPod an MP3 player... I call it an iPod. On the subject of apps though.. I just assume they mean appetizers. I'm still waiting on my phone to give me those damn mozzarella sticks I asked for.
              • by cjb658 (1235986)

                That's not the least of it! I have people every day call desktop PC towers "hard drives", web browsers "the internet", LCDs "flat screens", DVD discs "CDs", and disk space "memory."

                Don't even get me "started" on how difficult it is to get people over the phone to click the "start" button in Vista and Windows 7, now that it doesn't say "Start."

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  The problem is that half of your grievances are a result of you being a tech-hipster. LCD's *are* in fact flat screens. DVD's *are* Compact Discs, granted they are a specific type of disc, and Hard Disk space *is* memory, its not RAM, but it is memory.

                  look, i understand these are pet peeves because they dont conform to the vernacular you're used to, but being frustrated about the way people say things when they're technically accurate... well thats a sign of deeper issues.

        • Etymologically, yes...but it's used (or at least is supposed to be used) to describe small applications downloadable to phones.

          Bullshit. The term was in use before mobile phones even existed.

          it pisses me off in the same way it pisses me off when someone says "put it on the floor" when they're standing in the middle of a forest, or call a truck a "car".

          It annoys you when people use language wrongly, but insist they're correct?

          Pot, let me introduce kettle...

        • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

          I'm getting really tired of that term becoming so ubiquitous.

          Don't be such a whiner.

          but it's used (or at least is supposed to be used) to describe small applications downloadable to phones

          No, it isn't.

        • by digitig (1056110)

          Etymologically, yes...but it's used (or at least is supposed to be used) to describe small applications downloadable to phones.

          Supposed by whom? I've been calling programs "Apps" since the mid-1970s, long before there were mobile phones that you could download software to. Just because you want to change the language doesn't mean anybody else has to follow.

        • You know, not every bit of software is an app...

          Isn't that why it said "and services"? Although...

          Etymologically, yes...but it's used (or at least is supposed to be used) to describe small applications downloadable to phones. I noticed it really take hold with Apple's App Store, although its been around longer than that

          That usage of the word apps especially "internet apps", web apps etc predates the mobile phone usage. Your reference is just the more recent trend even it if has been used for a while.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)

        Yes, and it's been used as a short form of "application" for decades. The fact that Apple has made use of the term has gotten some people to use it conventionally to mean iPhone applications specifically, but I remember people using it to mean "application" long before (e.g. people talking about having a "killer app" [wikipedia.org]).

    • You know, not every bit of software is an app...I'm getting really tired of that term becoming so ubiquitous. You would think someone in such a position within a tech-centered company would know this (actually, on second thought...)

      I suspect what he means is companies providing web-based SaaS solutions may wish to pay so that data relating to their service is prioritised, making their product faster.

      • by mbkennel (97636)

        "I suspect what he means is companies providing web-based SaaS solutions may wish to pay so that data relating to their service is prioritised, making their product faster."

        Or may """wish"""" to pay so that the data relating to their service doesn't have a sudden increase in ""accidental"" packet drops. Especially after their competitor was rumored to pay the network.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Que914 (1042204)
      I don't think that such is accidental, it's marketing. As we all know, there are legitimate reasons to shape traffic, i.e. VOIP is far more sensitive to latency that FTP. By calling everything an application they're hoping to confuse the legitimate traffic shaping described above with the crap that they're describing here. Technocrats aren't likely to fall for it but it will be very useful in confusing those with a vague understanding of the issues.
      • VoIP isn't a guaranteed service, but QoS protocols should be respected where the bandwidth is available. If you want to be known as a 'quality' ISP, you deliver enough bandwidth to support a low data-rate protocol, like VoIP and other QoS delivery systems. Beyond that, an ISP is prioritizing for money-- and the theory of net neutrality is to give no priority for monetary privilege. You play into their hands thinking in any other direction. ISPs are ex-telcos and PTTs that haven't figured out the Internet ye

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          You play into their hands thinking in any other direction. ISPs are ex-telcos and PTTs that haven't figured out the Internet yet, other than they want to control it for maximized profit to your disadvantage. They have a monopolistic behavioural profile, and instinctively want to control what should be a public utility like water and electricity.

          That's the most important thing that was said on Slashdot this month. A lot of important points condensed to a couple of sentences.

          Most internet users (and too many

    • The other exec used the word "discriminate," which to me seems like the bigger word choice gaffe. Granted, he avoided saying things like raping free speech, fucking over the little guys who can't afford our extortion, whoring your ability to access content out to the biggest spender, or comparing his own company to nazis, but I'd argue he probably didn't want point out that they intent to "discriminate." Seems like a bad PR move.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:03PM (#33726554)

    At least they're upfront and honest about this. No weasel words, no political doublespeak, just a flat out, "Yep, bigger payoffs, bigger pipes."

    • That only makes it scarier though, they aren't being honest out of some sense of altruism. They are admitting it like they don't think there is anything remotely unethical or wrong about it.

      They probably think it would be like a water company building bigger pipes for premium customers so that they can get more water (though you would have to increase the pressure for the whole system).

      Rather it would be like redirecting pressure to another customer because they paid a premium, and anyone under that tier wo

    • by MBC1977 (978793)
      Not sure this is flamebait, as it is truth-in-advertising (for once).
  • And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:07PM (#33726616)
    As a business whose sole existence is to make money and pay their shareholders, is anyone surprised at this? Hell, does any reasonable person expect otherwise? It makes perfect business sense to prioritize websites that pay you. This is why people should not expect businesses to promote net neutrality.
    • And I'm bloody outraged!
      One of the purposes of the water/gas/internet providers is to, sure, earn a buck and get paid for their time. I get that. But another reason for their existence is to get me my effin water, gas, or internet. If they failed to do that or the quality was really piss poor, for whatever reason, there would be outrage. I And on a deeper, non-personal level, they are destroying the internet. I'm not one to really cozy up to tradition, and I'm aware that all is transient and change in ine
    • by julesh (229690)

      As a business whose sole existence is to make money and pay their shareholders, is anyone surprised at this? Hell, does any reasonable person expect otherwise? It makes perfect business sense to prioritize websites that pay you. This is why people should not expect businesses to promote net neutrality.

      Not really, no. As a customer of an ISP (i.e. an end user), I'm paying to have my packets transferred across their network. I'm not going to be happy to find that they're prioritizing the traffic of another

    • You're missing that this gives them a chance to complete the MAFIAA chain. "Torrents? Who the hell legitimately needs a torrent? That will be $750/Gig, thank you. HTML can go at a Dollar-Per-Megabyte". When you ask to audit then they can wave their hands and call it proprietary.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:30PM (#33727882) Homepage

      I hate this sort of argument. There are people who constantly use this excuse for every shitty thing that any company does, and it fails to take a few things into account.

      First, it's not clear that a business's sole purpose is to make money for shareholders. Businesses and corporations are artifices that society has created for the purpose to increasing productivity and fairness and economic growth for the sake of benefiting society as a whole, i.e. "the common good". We have laws that limit an officer of the corporation from acting against the shareholder's interests, but those are largely in existence to prevent fraud. They are not there to prevent businesses from acting out of moral/ethical responsibility.

      Second, your argument assumes (to some degree) that acting to please their customers and to cooperate with their partners and competitors would not be in the company's best interest. That's not a very clear issue. Certainly going against the best interests of your customers is dangerous over the long term, and the Internet is built in a way that assumes that many people are cooperating in good faith.

      So no, I'm not surprised that someone might choose to do this, but that doesn't make it appropriate, ethical, or wise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dutchmaan (442553)

      As a business whose sole existence is to make money and pay their shareholders, is anyone surprised at this? Hell, does any reasonable person expect otherwise? It makes perfect business sense to prioritize websites that pay you. This is why people should not expect businesses to promote net neutrality.

      And the precise reason it needs to be regulated.

  • by Dalzhim (1588707) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:14PM (#33726726)

    If I want my service to be fast just about anywhere on the web, I guess I'll need to make this kind of deal with >9000 ISPs?
    I guess I should do that as an individual as well, I'll pay so that all the traffic with my IP goes on the fast lane to the detriment of other customers in my area.

    I can see the company's point. Why improve on the infrastructure of the network when you can get customers to pay an extra to get a better share of the limited connectivity?

  • If the customer cares about Bandwidth to a particular service that is discriminated against, then given the availability of competition the customer will move on. Heck, maybe a particular customer agrees with the discriminatory choices -- in this way, it is a gain and a feature for him. The issue for me is not with network neutrality, it's if companies don't tell you up-front about their practices, and if government allows no competition in the space.
  • hosted maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:18PM (#33726810)
    If this ISP hosted the data, sure, that has always been the case, but if this ISP is saying that any data that passes over their wires can get prioritization by paying more, fuck you buddy
    • by aaandre (526056)

      The point is it's not important who hosts the data. It's important who owns the subscribers.

      "Owning" a large number of subscribers allows to manipulate what gets shown and how fast and therefore charge for it.

      I'm sure it would be also possible to charge to "disappear" certain sites, indie media outlets etc. from the "internet" as seen by said subscribers.

      Right now, AT&T can easily censor the internet for a huge number of iphones. Comcast, Verizon and Earthlink are not exactly beyond this either.

      Guess wh

  • somebody made the extremely astute comment that to do the kind of thing they are saying they want to do, the ISP would have to slow down everyone else. because there is simply no such thing as speeding up only one website selectively, there is only artificially slowing everyone down (except for those who pay up). this isn't capitalism, this is monopolistic blackmail

    everything on a network as TCP/IP currently works is being delivered according to factors that have nothing whatsoever to do with financial input. yes, you can use financial input to build network infrastructure or build more servers, but on an existing pipe, to make financial input a factor, you would need to do artificial things that would add to overhead and cost. you would have to

    1. proactively examine the headers,
    2. pick out the headers from companies that are paying you,
    3. proactively block all other headers

    ironically, the effort involved to do this proactive promotion of certain headers is an additional cost on the speed of your network

    so in other words, in a world where traffic priority is determined by who pays up, you are artificially hobbling the entire network for the sake of who gets priority in order to make the scheme work, and furthermore, the sheer effort of prioritizing headers hobbles your network even further

    its silly

    if i were a company and i wanted my traffic to get to internet consumers faster than my competitors, i wouldn't pay the isp to do that. i'd simply build more servers and place them at more nodes. much bigger bang for your buck, and you aren't buying into a bullshit system that creates an artificial rigged marketplace by ruining the elegance of how the internet works best

    in the real world, all these ISPs are doing is giving their ISP competitors a selling point: "we're faster, because we don't interfere". the ISPs would have collude against the consumer and the content providers to impose an artificial tax on the internet, that would also slow it down

    monopolistic and oligopolistic anti-capitalist schemes are alive and well. we learned nothing from the gilded age of victorian times. bust the assholes up and sue them into oblivion if any of them tries this crap

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Facile BS. Bandwidth is over-allocated, and at some point you need to decide "which packet goes through first, I've got 10 in line". There's no reason not to charge to allow someone to move to the front of the line.
      • by EdZ (755139)

        There's no reason not to charge to allow someone to move to the front of the line.

        Well, apart from destroying the concept of a transparent and reliable packet-switched network, that is.

      • So if your priority clients gets to the front of the line for every packet on this over allocated network, then your unpaying sites are going to start timing out. They are defeated. And then the ISP is going to start lying. The ISP is going to claim that there must be something wrong with the "unpaying site" because otherwise they would have to admit that they shoved the money in their pockets instead of buying more bandwidth.

      • by iammani (1392285)

        Would it also be fine if someone paid to slow certain packets (and may be even drop certain packets)?

      • by jimrthy (893116)
        Don't sell more than you can provide.
      • by vadim_t (324782) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @05:29PM (#33728590) Homepage

        Facile BS. Bandwidth is over-allocated, and at some point you need to decide "which packet goes through first, I've got 10 in line".

        Dropping packets without thinking much is easy. You can limit the buffer and drop anything that won't fit, or do something like RED. You can do this without looking at the packet itself.

        Dropping packets by customer requires examining the packet in detail, and deciding which priority it should have. This costs more effort, which means you need more CPU power to handle it.

        There's no reason not to charge to allow someone to move to the front of the line.

        The first company who pays will be happy, it will have noticeably better performance.

        The second probably as well.

        By the 200th or so, there will be so many "priority" customers that the situation will be effectively the same it was before, except they will be paying for that privilege of having any traffic delivered at all. If the link is so busy that priority traffic can take all of it, and it's indeed priority traffic, then everything else is going to get slowed down to a crawl if it gets delivered at all. And guess what, if you have a small website, or work at a small company, that's where your traffic will end up: at the very bottom of the pile.

        Think they'll upgrade the pipe? But why would they? There must be congestion for a priority scheme to make sense.

        The end state of this is considerably worse than what we have now, and in exchange for it we get no benefits. There is no reason for society to allow it.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:45PM (#33727212)

      this isn't capitalism, this is monopolistic blackmail

      Capitalism tends to monopolistic blackmail, which is why intelligent advocates of economic systems organized for the common good as far back as Adam Smith have argued against allowing economic policy to disproportionately favor the interests of the capital-holding/mercantile class.

      Oddly enough, the word "capitalism", originating in the 19th Century and popularized by Marxist writers using it as a label for the 19th Century system in advanced industrial countries that they advocated needed to be replaced is often used in a rather equivocal way to refer to that system, the economic system of modern advanced countries, and the economic systems advocated by classical economic theorists like Smith, as if those all were the same, or even similar, systems; however, its obvious to any sensible observer that those systems are completely different -- the 19th Century system to which the name "capitalism" was first attached was driven by policies of the precise types Smith warned against, and the modern economies sometimes labelled "capitalist" are, virtually without exception, systems which have thrived precisely because they adopted many of the proposals that 19th Century critics of capitalism demanded in the Communist Manifesto.

      monopolistic and oligopolistic anti-capitalist schemes are alive and well. we learned nothing from the gilded age of victorian times

      The "monopolistic and oligopolistc" schemes of Victorian times are the heart of the system the word "capitalism" was first widely used to describe, and they very much serve the interests of the capitalist class. They are not, in any reasonable sense, "anti-capitalist".

    • Wrong in every way. Bandwidth is not infinite, when a pipe is running at capacity you need to decide which packets to keep and which to drop. It's called quality of service, and it's been around for a looooong time...

      • Quality of Service means prioritizing protocols that require low latency over those who don't need it, like VoIP over FTP. Not about having VoIP packets from eg. Skype being always being preferred over other VoIP provider.

        • Actually QoS is a broader topic than that and includes choosing which packets to drop based on criteria not limited to latency.

          In the field of computer networking and other packet-switched telecommunication networks, the traffic engineering term quality of service (QoS) refers to resource reservation control mechanisms rather than the achieved service quality. Quality of service is the ability to provide different priority to different applications, users, or data flows, or to guarantee a certain level of p

      • You're wrong. Quality of service is about maintaining service quality for vulnerable or sensitive services, not discriminating against those who don't pay for "quality" and thus degrading service.

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      Right because

      'We absolutely could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service above best efforts,'

      There's no quality of service above best efforts.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Yes there is. Best effort is quite a common term, and not just in networking. Best effort means a task will be done as time allows, with no target deadline. It is not a statement of high priority. Basically it means that if you have nothing else to do you will work on that task. Everything of higher priority comes before best effort.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:32PM (#33727008)
    "We absolutely could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service above best efforts,"

    What's that got to do with it? I could absolutely see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay Assassins to kill their competition. That shouldn't be legal either.
    • How exactly do you get "service above best efforts"? Isn't "best" the maximum by definition?
      • You get "service above best efforts" by putting "best efforts" inside its own quotations.

        "service above 'best efforts'"

        There. Now it's obvious both terms are marketing speak and don't mean what they literally state.

  • by AndyS (655) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:45PM (#33727220)

    Not seen this mentioned yet, but in the UK we have local loop unbundling, otherwise known as line sharing.

    This means that any company is permitted to put their own equipment in the exchange and use the last mile as they choose. So in my house I have a choice between about 10-15 ISPs all of whom can have different policies.

    I still think that net neutrality is a good thing, but if Google started to slow down, or the IPlayer then most people would simply switch to a new provider - in fact it would be likely that other ISPs would absolutely hammer them in marketing if they started to make other sites (like the iplayer) slower.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus (737525)

      Not seen this mentioned yet, but in the UK we have local loop unbundling, otherwise known as line sharing.

      This means that any company is permitted to put their own equipment in the exchange and use the last mile as they choose. So in my house I have a choice between about 10-15 ISPs all of whom can have different policies.

      I still think that net neutrality is a good thing, but if Google started to slow down, or the IPlayer then most people would simply switch to a new provider - in fact it would be likely that other ISPs would absolutely hammer them in marketing if they started to make other sites (like the iplayer) slower.

      There are only about 15-20 ISPs who have unbundled services in the entire country, and none have every exchange covered. Even the most heavily unbundled exchange I could find (Battersea) only has equipment from 9 ISPs.

      However, it's very common for one ISP to offer their services wholesale to another - so you're paying Company A for broadband, all your bills and technical support queries are directed through Company A, but your actual connection is going over equipment owned by Company B. Several ISPs off

  • If they're saying they are willing to do it, bet your bottom dollar they have already done it or are already doing it. And, if they're being public about it, then they want those with the big chequebooks to open their wallets.

  • "We absolutely could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service above best efforts."

    What's better than best? Or are they acknowledging that they don't really make a best-effort at present?

  • by Tom (822) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:12PM (#33727672) Homepage Journal

    This was so obvious, I'm sure even the famous british bookers didn't take any bets on it.

    Of course a for-profit ISP will gladly take money to slow down the opposition (there's no such thing as speeding up "selected services" if you assume that they are currently delivering packets as quickly as they can). Who would not love a business model that consists of being the middle man in an exchange where you get money from both sides?

    However, most of us here know enough about networking that we realize that no matter what any kind of "priorisation" will come at the expense of everyone else. Even if you don't have saturation, your discrimination protocol is running and taking up router CPU time, adding to the latency, etc.

    As someone else pointed out last time we had the topic, "let the market sort it out" is (once again) not a valid solution. You can switch your ISP, but you can't choose what route your packets travel and you have no choice in the backbone providers it may travel through. So there simply is no way to vote with your dollars/euros.

    We need a law. One that says in no uncertain terms that network neutrality is the law and if you violate it as an ISP you lose your license to operate. Any less and they will tell their lawyers to go find the loopholes.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Even if you don't have saturation, your discrimination protocol is running and taking up router CPU time, adding to the latency, etc.

      Yet Traffic shaping [wikipedia.org] and QoS happens all the time in IP networks. For example, CloudGuard [cloudguard.com].

      You can switch your ISP, but you can't choose what route your packets travel and you have no choice in the backbone providers it may travel through.

      You could switch to an ISP that refuses to exchange traffic with "non-neutral" ISPs...

      I'll worry about "network neutrality" when someone actu

    • by Inda (580031)
      Bookies. The word is bookies. :-)
  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:54PM (#33728220)
    Two can play at that game. If I ever create something popular enough to require quite a bit of bandwidth (unlikely, I know, but it might happen...), I know which ISPs will get more "traffic shape"ed than others (i.e. this pair and Virgin whose top dick made similar statements a couple of years ago).

    "although he added BT had never received such an approach."

    Maybe the few companies interested in doing so though they would be told to get lost and didn't want to risk having their name found out for making the request if they got nothing out of said request. I can't be the only one who sees this statement from the ISPs as an invitation for providers to start making offers for priority over their competitors.

    • Ask Google how that worked out for them in China. (The issue there was censorship, but the tactic - take my ball and go home - is the same as you suggest and futile).

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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