back to article Net neutrality, Obama, FCC, Title II:Your ESSENTIAL guide to WTF is happening

President Obama ploughed into the net neutrality debate on Monday by demanding reclassification of "internet service under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunication Act." What does that actually mean? And why are some for and some against this as a solution? First, some very quick history: The Telecommunications Act [ …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's ok with "less government regulation"....

    .... as long as it doesn't mean more "company regulations" to extort as much money as they can from customers...

  2. dan1980

    The original Telecommunications Act had a goal - to address the existing monopoly of Bell and ensure that a fair service was provided to all. The revised Act had a goal - to address the new providers before they became monopolies by creating a landscape that would encourage competition amongst the new providers and ensure a fair service was provided to all.

    The original act worked because it accepted the realities of the situation - there was a monopoly - and realised that without intervention there was a danger that this would lead to people paying more than they should and having less choice.

    The amended act aimed to avoid the situation that the original act had been created to address. In other words, it aimed to prevent the monopolies forming as had happened with Bell. To that end, it was decided that less regulation would allow new providers to enter the market and provide services and thus encourage competition, thereby increasing choice and driving down costs.

    The goal was a good one but the plan just didn't work. If it had, we simply would not be here.

    The situation now is therefore similar to the one that prompted the creation of the Act in the first place: there are monopolies in place and there is a real danger that, without intervention, people will end up paying more than they should and have less choice.

    So, there are three questions:

    1. Is it desirable to have affordable services for all?

    2. If so, is the current situation conducive to this?

    3. If not, what changes are required to address this gap?

    One of the big problems is that addressing such a gap is difficult. It requires work and strength and, at least as it stands now with the near complete integration of corporate lobbyists (and their money) with Congress, the willingness of politicians to put the interests of the people above their own.

    On the surface, this would seem to be the very job they were elected to do, as - how naive - servants of the people. Unfortunately, in reality, little could be further from the truth.

    1. kierenmccarthy


      Good points, Dan. Wish I'd made them in the story.

      Unfortunately it looks like a lot of the discussion has got swept up in the usual repeating of terrible things that Washington-ites say to keep up their profile.

      We shall see.


  3. William Donelson

    United States of Corporate America

    One nation, under corrupt politicians, with liberty and justice for corporations alone.

    1. RedneckMother

      Re: United States of Corporate America

      @ William Donelson

      "One nation, under corrupt politicians, with liberty and justice for corporations alone."


      FTFA: "...look forward to continuing to receive input from all stakeholders..."

      Well, certainly the Corporate ones...

      Wheeler is getting the corp money's worth (for them). The 'Net (and all us'ns) will probably (no doubt?) pay the price...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: United States of Corporate America

        In Rabelais (mid 1500s) it is unkindly suggested that the outcome of law cases is simply decided by the amount of gold put into the scales on each side. I guess that counts as "input from stakeholders".

  4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    This is the single most rational and well explained overview of this whole mess yet published. Have a pint on me, Kieren, and my sincere apologies for the public pantsing the Randian religious types will now attempt on you.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      I think this is the *only* explanation of what Title II is that I've seen outside of 2600 (who could be considered to be, um, biased). Another beer for the author.

      1. kierenmccarthy

        Beer accepted

        Thank you Gene, beer accepted. Likewise Trevor. Two beers for me. More always welcome.

  5. An0n C0w4rd

    Example of how well the laws work

    Some of the late 80's/early 90's legislation opened the doors to having more than one provider in an area, e.g. if Comcast was the incumbent cable company then someone else could come along and build out a cable network and compete with Comcast (or VZ, or Cox, or AT&T, or SBC, etc).

    This, in theory, was a great idea

    In practice it had major issues because while the FCC let it happen at a national level, it could fail at a local level (but not always)

    A company I know of tried to get permission to build out a competing network in Baltimore, MD. Despite multiple submissions to the city leaders, the decision got repeatedly delayed. And delayed. And delayed more. They were never explicitly told "no" from what I understand, but they were never told "yes" either. Why? The Comcast head office at the time was literally *across the street* from the city offices.

    End result? Baltimore never got competing services.

    There are other stories I've heard too about local interference for petty political reasons, ultimately to the detriment of consumers. Such as the incumbent cableco in another area didn't have an obligation to provide service to the entire county, but when a competing provider applied to build out service they were told they had to run cable to every property in the county. Fair? Don't think so.

    Light regulation only works when everyone plays nicely together and has equally big bank accounts. When one provider is significantly bigger than another, regulation is needed to stop the big guy squishing the little guy like a bug on a window of a high speed train.

    The last mile providers think they own the eyeballs and that since there tends to be no effective local competition they can do what they like to protect the revenue/profit stream they've set up. They need to be shown the error of their ways.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Example of how well the laws work

      This is a place where Republicans have repeatedly offered a solution, but Democrats have snapped at the proffered hand. As this clearly falls within the purview of regulating interstate commerce, Congress could pass a national law pre-empting all of those local zoning regulations that prohibit competitors from moving into un- or under- served areas. But it won't happen because it wouldn't put Congress in control of the businesses.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is not with the cable part of these cable companies...

    It's with their ownership of content. Like TimeWarner Cable--see that, two sources of content right in the cable company name. And how Comcast now owns NBC and the various movie and TV studios associated with that.

    These integrated companies don't want OTT competition coming in over their cable networks and preventing people from seeing Time or Warner or NBC media. Instead, if you are Comcast you want NBC to pay you a cable and internet bill so they can spoon feed you NBC media content and make more money off of advertising and premium channel content related to that NBC media.

    It's tough running a data network when everyone wants to stream the season premier of Game of Thrones. It's tougher when you run that data network and everyone is streaming Game of Thrones and corporate headquarters is calling you up to complain that you are allowing people to watch Game of Thrones when GoT is not part of the corporate media empire.

    I say move to a model where a home can purchase a higher bandwidth service if they want, but regardless of that the cable company treats all content the same within the bandwidth that is available. That gives people who love streaming video a chance to pay for the network traffic they drive, and the person who largely checks the internet for news and email a chance to get a cheaper lower bandwidth package, and the content is treated the same.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: The problem is not with the cable part of these cable companies...

      I say move to a model where a home can purchase a higher bandwidth service if they want, but regardless of that the cable company treats all content the same within the bandwidth that is available.

      A home can only purchase a higher bandwidth if there is one on offer. In other words, much of North America is not going to have an adequate modern connection. For example, the Canadian Government has defined broadband as 5mbps, and are wishing for everybody to have that, but it's not happening yet and it doesn't look likely to happen any time soon. So, how is your model going to address that? Things don't just develop out of thin air.

      Another problem is that with the way the big guys work right now, they want to charge more for a commodity that is in demand than spend money to provide more of it.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: The problem is not with the cable part of these cable companies...

        In some areas near Salt Lake City we are hoping for CenturyLink to extend decent broadband to our area, or for Google to treat us like Kansas City, having pretty much given up on a multi-government consortium to bring fiber that ran into delays and overruns that pretty much brought it to a halt some years ago. So we might be justified in skepticism about the benefits of government activity in this area.

        Meanwhile, we get along with Comcast, which is decent, but fairly expensive.

  7. Robert Helpmann??

    The Internet Was...

    ...promoted as "a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity." It's hard to imagine anyone could write that with a straight face in 2014.

    Just add "and pr0n" to this and any similar statement and you will get nods all around.

    Good article and good discussion.

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