back to article FCC puts final nails into net neutrality coffin. In a week, America will vote on whether to bury or open it up again

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put the final nail into America's net neutrality coffin on Tuesday, approving an order that ties up loose ends from its 2018 decision to “restore internet freedom." Yet in a week’s time, the United States will have an election that could well lead to the order being overturned for a …

  1. steviebuk Silver badge

    Hopefully

    The orange one gets voted out and this gets reversed. Not only that, its going to be real entertainment watching him trying to fight his loss.

    1. six_tymes

      Re: Hopefully

      clueless and fueled by meaningless hate. you do wonders for society.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hopefully

      Don't be so glib or so sure Trump will lose.

      The Supreme Court, led by Kavanugh, just ruled that ballots can only be counted if they are received by election day. In effect he's telling Postmaster DeJoy that if he delays delivery of some mail in ballots, they won't be counted. Putting DeJoy in control of whose vote counts.

      A democracy where a political appointee can wipe out a large number of votes at his whim!

      Perhaps you don't think they'd go that far?

      Can I remind you that 2016's false flag operation was a video of blacks attacking a car with a 'Vote Trump' flag on it.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37696205

      Whereas 2020's false flag operation is a far right Trump supporting terrorist group called the Bugaloo Bois, KILLING COPS and burning police stations, so that 'Blue Lives Matter' Republicans can label their opponents as cop killers.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53076159

      I wonder if there was a focus meeting where the killings were planned and the blue line flag was approved since both killers and campaigners are from the side of politics.

      You see how far down the US has departed from democracy already? Kavanaugh, Amy Cohen Barret , and John Roberts were all Republican operatives in Bush v Gore seeking to find ways to stop Florida counting the ballots.

      If you haven't voted already, and still want to use mail-in ballots, place your ballot in a Republican area mail-box. If you can vote early in person, do so. If you can use a ballot drop, do so. Despite the marketing of a man attacking those drop stations, they are the most likely way to get your vote in. Despite Republicans attack videos of people dropping off two ballots (presumably husband and wife votes), that is legal in most states.

      There are control orders for Covid that expire end of October limiting the number of people at a location to 50. Covid will be ongoing, so those orders will be renewed. Here's Georgia's control order:

      https://www.ajc.com/politics/kemp-extends-georgias-coronavirus-restrictions-until-oct-31/LBSXSGYVLZHKFKP5VQC4VVPVGQ/

      i.e. Kemp will have a legislative control tool to prevent more than 50 people gathering at a polling station on election day.

      So which polling stations will have big queues in Georgia?

      https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/voting-precincts-closed-across-georgia-since-election-oversight-lifted/bBkHxptlim0Gp9pKu7dfrN/

      "voters trying to preserve their local precincts are losing the war as voting locations are vanishing across Georgia....That figure means nearly 8 percent of the state’s polling places, from fire stations to schools, have shut their doors over the past six years.....Of the counties that have closed voting locations, 39 have poverty rates that are higher than the state average. Thirty have significant African-American populations, "

      Democrat voting ones.

      This pattern is right across the board in Republican states. They closed polling stations in likely democrat voting districts. They intentionally spread Corona virus, and now they have control orders in place, ready to renew, that let them close busy polling stations.

      So you were saying "[when] the orange one gets voted out", but that is really a glib statement here.

      They can't vote him out, if they cannot vote.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ahh Republicans are so predictable

        https://www.txcourts.gov/supreme/orders-opinions/2020/october/october-27-2020/

        Texas Governor Abbot, wins his case and can limit drop off locations to a single location per district. So, Democrat voting counties like Travis and Harris counties, with 823,000 and 2.3 *Million* eligible voters gets *one* location to drop off ballots each, and a small rural Republican towns with 200 voters also gets *one* drop off location each.

        One ballot drop off location for 2.3 million eligible voters. *one*.

        "In their opinion, the justices wrote that Abbott's order "provides Texas voters more ways to vote in the November 3 election than does the Election Code. It does not disenfranchise anyone."

        As programmers, can you tell the difference between class and instance? Because the Republican appointed Texas judges here are pretending they cannot.

        See that man that tried to burn a ballot drop off box? Can you imagine the focus meeting "how can we close all these ballot drop off locations and force ballots through Postmaster DeJoy's vote sorting offices so he can select the valid votes??... Well suppose one of those boxes got attacked in some public place with cameras rolling so Fox News can do an attack piece on these boxes....."

        Is that how it went Republicans?

        Let me show you Abbot's "Gatherings of more than 100 people outdoors " restriction order:

        https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/EO-GA-32_continued_response_to_COVID-19_IMAGE_10-07-2020.pdf

        Signed October 7th, notice it limits gatherings of more than 10 people excluding things like churches, schools and local government document offices like marriage registrations and driving licenses but does not mention *voting*.

        Republicans really are so predictable.

        When they close polling stations, remind yourself that Republicans kept the virus going with their maskless super spreader policies. Now suddenly they're concerned about all the dead people!? Almost as if they planned it that way!

        So be glib and pretend you can vote Trump out of office, even as his enablers are trying to undermine the vote.

      2. DS999

        Re: Hopefully

        Yes, republicans are doing everything they can to limit voting. The problem is that Trump telegraphed this early on so democrats have been telling people to send in their mail in ballots well in advance or early vote. Now they are telling people "it is too late to trust the mail" and if they still haven't sent in their ballot they need to put it in an official drop box or personally drop it off at their election/registrar's office to insure it is counted.

        The volume of early and mail in voting has broken all records, and while some of that was inevitable due to the pandemic making people not want to vote in crowded precincts on election day I'm sure a lot of it was because democrats have been telling anyone who will listen to not wait until the last minute to send in their mail in ballot.

    3. Earth Resident

      Re: Hopefully

      It will be the congress that makes the final decision, Trump is powerless and the Democrats will probably blow it and give up if they receive sufficient bribes from the service providers..

    4. DS999

      Re: Hopefully

      If they do reverse it, I hope they don't try to do it via rulemaking. Having the FCC go back and forth depending on who is president is stupid. They need to just pass a law and be done with it. In order to get around the republican filibuster throw them a bone and allow states to pass laws opting out of net neutrality for their state.

      We need to get back to the parties making compromises, and get away from "my way or the highway". Having some states with it and some without would allow creating an impromptu "experiment" so the truth of claims on both sides can be tested.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah. America

    Home of the fast buck and the brown envelope. A third world country if ever there was one, just with more money than most others.

    1. six_tymes

      Re: Ah. America

      and the new brown shirts.

  3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    But.. But..

    “I support net neutrality,” she began. “I believe the FCC got it wrong when three years ago it gave the green light to our nation’s broadband providers to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content.” She didn’t reflect on the fact that none of that has really happened as yet,

    Well, other than de-platforming, censoring "news" because it may or may not be "fake news". Censorship is all the rage these days. Or at least amongst information services like Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps more importantly, Google. If various "conspiracies" are true, Google can use the power of it's algorithms not to block websites, but make them vanish.

    But such is politics. The information services seem happy to play the games they lobbied for 'Net Neutrality. All content is created equal, unless it's content the information services providers don't like.. Which may or may not lead to the FCC jumping in to regulate that more closely, which will probably be a Bad Thing(tm). Or it'll help drive popcorn sales watching the bunfight between FCC, FTC and any other regulator which wants to pile in on Big Tech.

    Meanwhile, the real 'Net Neutrality debate is lost in the noise, or autogenerated lobbyist's astroturf. So how best to regulate bandwidth & interconnect to ensure reliable communications, and avoid significant market power asserting dominance.

    1. six_tymes

      Re: But.. But..

      "She didn’t reflect on the fact that none of that has really happened"

      that is true

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We'll fix this next week.

    (All over but the counting for me, mailed my ballot in weeks ago.)

  5. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Who's getting paid?

    Ajit Pai(d).

    I suggest that it isn't a political party, but a certain individual at the head of the FCC that's the problem.

  6. six_tymes

    if obama was still pres. and this was being implemented just the way it is now, demonrats would be cheering it. antifa and blm could be (correction, are and have been) out stabbing, shooting, murdering, burning down businesses and you support it.

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      "antifa and blm could be (correction, are and have been) out stabbing, shooting, murdering, burning down businesses and you support it."

      The problem with your country has never been that there was too much violence against the established system.

  7. jason_derp Bronze badge

    Strange

    Every time I read an article on the Register about the USA, a tiny voice behind me starts whispering "failed state" over and over. It's very uncanny.

  8. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

    Is there any serious definition of net neutrality? Generally whenever someone tries to explain it to me, they can't do so without contradicting the basics of the technology that the internet runs on. The net isn't neutral, and can't be.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Generally whenever someone tries to explain it to me, they can't do so without contradicting the basics of the technology that the internet runs on. The net isn't neutral, and can't be.

      It can be, but it's been a huge bunfight over politics, commercial interests and simple technology. As the article says-

      Today's order came about after an appeals court asked the commission a year ago to look at three specific issues arising from the regulator's "internet freedom" decision, which reclassified broadband internet as an “information service” from its previous "common carrier" classification.

      Technically, my broadband connection isn't an "information service". It's a BT provided fibre that allows me to access the Internet and information services. Like this one. Common Carrier is an old, established principle, eg from wiki-

      A common carrier holds itself out to provide service to the general public without discrimination (to meet the needs of the regulator's quasi judicial role of impartiality toward the public's interest) for the "public convenience and necessity."

      So using my broadband connection, I can access any Internet site, subject to any technical limitations. Ok, so there is some 'discrimination', ie some websites are blocked, generally for the common good, ie IWF's blocklist of child pornography. That kind of interference is arguably a Good Thing(tm).. But it's also been a bit contentious. So for example I was at a LINX meeting where the new IWF chief rather insistently demanded the IWF's remit to be expanded to include blocking 'hate' sites. The LINX members pretty much unanimously voted against that, because who gets to decide what 'hate' sites are? That's been getting murkier given the number of online extremists, and some sites do get blocked because they expouse ideologies that aren't good to share. But generally the decision is 'political', in the sense that legislation deems the content illegal. That's pretty much always been an exception to 'common carrier', ie they don't have to transport anything illegal.

      So broadening the definition from simple common carrier to information service muddies the waters. Especially if the information service providers (Google, Facebook, Twitter etc) aren't acting as common carriers. And especially because the information services (content providers) have been lobbying intensively for 'net neutrality, yet aren't acting neutrally. Which also raises the prospect of the information services being more tightly regulated.

      But like I said in my other post, there's the technical aspects. That's where the politicing started. So pro-neutrality argue that all packets are created equal, and ISPs can't favor one packet over another. Which then translates into not blocking or restricting traffic to information services, and also demands for 'neutral' interconnect policies.

      IMHO, there are sound technical reasons to be non-neutral. And I've implemented broadband networks that aren't neutral. So one example was developing a new broadband network for an incumbent that had 64Kbps notched out for real-time traffic. The retail arm of that telco pointed that traffic at their voice gateways, the wholesale customers could do what they want with it. That telco was pretty thoroughly regulated, and the regulator approved the design, along with heavy hints that other operators should probably use it for their voice. And my BT connection at home includes an ATA in their GPON terminal that lets me do voice in much the same way.

      So that's I think a good example of not being neutral. The Internet sucks at congestion management, but voice is a safety-of-life service, so making sure people can dial 911/112 is a Good Thing(tm). But in strict a strict 'net neutrality sense, it's non-neutral because it obviously favors one traffic type over another. But then there also needs to be safeguards, ie many countries allow things like number portability so customers aren't locked in. It's also possible to 'abuse' technology, ie try to prevent or degrade use of an alternate voice service. That's where regulators can (and do) step in, especially if the abuser is the (or an) operator with significant market power, or monopoly power.

      There are other examples where technical, non-neutral behaviour could be a Good Thing(tm), ie using TCP/IP's TOS bits to prioritise video traffic as that's more time/congestion sensitive. Sort of. In reality, most video services like streaming use buffering and error checking to deal with congestion, so don't necessarily need priority. Video calls however are more sensitive, and we've been doing more of that in our Covid era.

      But video is also where content provider's lobbying is perhaps a little disingeneous, ie arguing for 'neutral' interconnects. The problem with that is really commercial rather than technical. It costs money to deliver packets, and with content, the traffic flows are highly asymmetric, and the delivery costs loaded onto the broadband connections. It can also be very expensive to spin up an interconnect, ie 100Gbps routers and interface blades are stonkingly pricey. Traditionally interconnects (peering) has been a private matter between the parties, but has also often lead to peering disputes over who pays to upgrade/resolve highly congested links. Obviously content providers don't want to pay more for their traffic, even though it's their traffic driving up ISP's costs.

      That's again an area where regulators could step in, and has been traditional in the voice world with settlement agreements between originating & terminating operates based on cost recovery.. Which in an Internet sense, could mean content providers paying ISPs based on traffic volumes rather than 'free' peering. Obviously the content providers don't want that, but without those kinds of agreements, the only people to charge are the end users.. Who expect low cost broadband connections.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        "pro-neutrality argue that all packets are created equal"

        Quite. But they aren't.

        I still don't see what net neutrality is supposed to mean, unless you're agreeing that it's nonsense.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >I still don't see what net neutrality is supposed to mean,

          That your cable TV company that is your only choice for broadband - isn't allowed to block Netflix that is destroying its business.

    2. jason_derp Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      "Is there any serious definition of net neutrality?"

      It just means that traffic can't be prioritized in a way that artificially and commercially favors certain traffic over others. Normally that means that, since the US loves monopolies, somebody like Comcast can't prioritize Comcast-provided content on your Comcast-provided internet acces. That becomes an even bigger issue because Comcast might be the only possible internet provider for an area thanks to very anti-competetive practifces. It'd be like somebody owning a private bridge over a river and then roadblocking the other bridges with rubble so that you have no option but to use theirs.

      Sometimes it's brought up that Comcast and other companies should be allowed to do that because they own the physical cabling required to provide internet access, but that's also false because even people in Idaho who've never directly connected to cables in New York have actually paid for both of them through their taxes, per the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

      This is like, some of the most simple of stuff to look up. Comically easy in fact.

  9. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    ..somebody like Comcast can't prioritize Comcast-provided content on your Comcast-provided internet acces. That becomes an even bigger issue because Comcast might be the only possible internet provider for an area thanks to very anti-competetive practifces.

    Therein lies the problem. So Comcast has it's own video service. Comcast's customers expect that to work because they're paying Comcast $$ for 4K UHD. To get pixels to punters, Comcast needs to provision it's network to keep it's customers forking over $$ for both Internet, and TV. And because both share the same bit-pipes, it becomes contentious.

    So Comcast customers have contracts to deliver both Internet, and TV. To meet TV SLAs, it might want to prioritise it's own content, or customers might cancel. So enter the 'free rider' challenge. Comcast's Internet customers may choose Netflix over Comcast's TV. If there's congestion within Comcast's network, or at the edges (peering or transit), then Netflix content might be degraded because Comcast's giving priority to it's own traffic.

    On the one hand, that's fine, because the Internet is fundamentally best efforts, and Comcast's Internet customers have a contract/SLA that has minimal recourse in case of packet loss.. Which is technically sensible given an ISP has no real control over any congestion that occurs outside it's network. On the other hand, Netflix would argue it's unfair, and that Comcast is degrading it's traffic.

    The 'free ride' is that Netflix may not be paying Comcast anything to deliver it's traffic. There's 2 contracts, customer to Comcast for Internet, customer to Netflix for content. It can also get more complicated when intermediaries are involved, ie Netflix pays a 'Tier 1' ISP for transit, and that ISP has settlement free peering with Comcast. And it's much easier/cheaper to build a transit network between peering locations than it is to build out broadband distribution networks. It can also get a little more complicated at the interconnect level. Traditionally 'free' peering has been based on roughly symmetric traffic flows, and if ISPs can't meet the criteria, they're forced to pay for transit with that 'peer'. But because content is highly asymmetric, ISPs can be effectively forced to pay the transit ISP to deliver that ISP's customer's content... Which economically is kinda bass-ackwards.

    But that's really the crux of the debate, ie the skewed relationship between costs and revenues.. And it's been ongoing pretty much since the first content provider's popped up at Internet exchange sites and offered 'free' peering.

    It's also an area where there's some regulatory gamesmanship. So if you're a 'broadband' provider, you could choose to deliver services as Ethernet, then drop seperate VLANs for voice, your own video, and Internet. The Internet VLAN remains best efforts, and may drop packets when there's congestion, but the voice & video has higher priority.. And is semi-legal given provisioning's via an Ethernet link, and thus outside of Internet Neutrality regulation. Regulators (and content providers) aren't stupid though, despite appearences to the contrary so lobby for redefinition of Internet to become 'broadband' and try to capture any layer-2 shenanigans.. But that's also a challenge when connectivity becomes redefined as information services rather than plain'ol Internet.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      That's a pretty succinct explanation for people who are unaware of how the internet works at those levels. The only thing that I would add is that you might have understated the importance of the asymmetry in content delivery--if the ISPs are forced to treat every packet as equal, then they become the beasts of burden for likes of Disney & Google. Until they leave the business, because there is no way to make money like that, except by raising prices so high that the local authorities revoke their sweetheart deals from the 80's.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Yup. I still think there are two issues, maybe three..

        1) Technical. TCP/IP sucks at congestion management/avoidance, especially between networks. IGPs (Interior Gateway Protocols) can do some of this, but EGPs (Exterior Gateway Protocols), notably BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) can't. It shares routing information between ISPs and is pretty dumb. So can lead to fun situations like a peering connection being heavily congested, the BGP keepalives dropping, then the BGP session drops, networks attempt to reconverge, congestion goes, BGP attempts to re-establish the peer, congestion comes back and process repeats until flap-dampening kicks in and 'the Internet is down'. This is FUN!.

        That can also be compounded by BGP dumbness. There may be mutiple connections between peers, but BGP load balances about as well as a sumo wrestler on a pogo stick. Most routing protocols work by picking the 1 best route, until topology changes. For BGP working between networks, that can lead to asymmetry, ie I prefer to send traffic via one location, but my peer prefers another. So that leads to inefficient resource utilisation, or congestion across one link when others are sitting idle. Content companies can get around that issue by using CDNs, but control over traffic flows is asymmetric, ie it's easier for the CDN to direct traffic than for the ISP to request redirection.

        From a regulatory POV, regulators could set rules around interconnects to reduce some of those issues, or say routing traffic is critical priority.. Which it usually is within ISPs. But back to technical, defining policy is easier to do than implementing it, ie replacing BGP with something smarter would be FUN!

        Then there's general best practice for traffic management. So CoS (Class of Service) has been around since the Internet switched over from UCCP to TCP/IP. TCP has some congestion stuff, and 3 unused bits in the header that could be used for CoS, but the Internet is being moved away from TCP in favour of less reliable protocols. Go figure. IP was more interesting because RFC791, which announced it to the world included 3 bits for precedence, and 3 bits for type of service. Mainly because the DoD understood that not all traffic is created equal. Then after several RFCs, those bits morphed into DiffServ, because Internet engineers understood that not all traffic is created equal.

        (Network engineers then <shrugged> and created MPLS making it easier to copy IP precedent bits, and leave all the Diffserv bits as someone else's problem. Often marketing, which led to some amusing Diff-waving over how many traffic classes their VPNs offered, up to the full 64. On the network, you still only get the first 3 bits..)

        So basically from the dawn of (Internet) time, CoS has been recognised as kinda useful to support services like voice, video & time-insensitive traffic. And from a technically neutral PoV, should be supported.. Much the same as it already is on 'private' IPVPNs. ISPs could publish their traffic marking and profiles, customers would get better/more reliable services. Technically, there are some challenges, eg for a few years, Windows marked all it's packets as the highest priority so there's some dependency on user kit playing nicely/fairly and marking traffic appropriately. But OSs have had the capability to do that for many years. But this leads into..

        2) The commercial stuff. So as you say, costs and traffic volumes are highly asymmetric.. Which is why the content lobby have been against CoS, possibly for good reason. So there's the fear that CoS could attract differentiated pricing, as it does on some VPNs. So as their traffic is almost entirely 'video', in a tiered charging model, they may have to pay more for their bandwidth. That's a reasonable concern, although most streaming services are smart enough to not really need it, ie buffering can smooth out transient congestion. This is also where the fear of degrading behaviour comes in, ie re-marking or de-prioritising traffic unless $$ changes hands. That's a simpler issue to regulate, so use standard tools like market equivalence. A broadband service includes say, 10Mbps for video. Don't care if that's Netflix or Comcast video, those packets will be treated equally.

        The bigger issue again is as you say, the general cost disparity between content provision, and access/broadband provision. Which also includes challenges around regulating 'neutral' interconnects, especially if that becomes 'must peer' or regulated interconnect settlement charges. So how to address the 'beasts of burden' challenge. And then..

        3) Other obligations. So many countries do stuff like charge telcos a fee for USO (Universal Service Obligation) that helps subsidise network to places that don't otherwise make economic sense. So basically creates funding for rural broadband.. Which is a big issue in the US on account of it's historical monopolies and just it's sheer size. Or just it's more generous size than more densely populated countries. It's no coincidence that broadband services tend to be better in those countries than the US, where even urban areas may be zoned for 1/8th or 1/4 acre lot sizes. So where access networks have distance limitations (ie copper), you get fewer customers per PoP, and the costs of replacing copper with fibre are higher simply due to the distance between customers.

        So that's a regulatory challenge. In the traditional networks, USO could be a charge levied per subscriber, but attempting to collect USO funds from content providers would be a more complex challenge.. And also potentially a direct cost, ie .50c on top of a typical Netflix, Disney, Prime etc subscription.

        But governments generally see Internet access as a 'public good', especially given Covid and the forced shift to home working. Plus the political bunfighting around Big Tech not playing fairly, so looking to repeal S.230 protections, tighten regulation, or even impose structural remedies to address real or perceived market abuses. So we live in interesting times.

        And finally as you say, unless some of the commercial issues are resolved, then the only people to pay costs are the end-users, which could lead to higher charges and increase 'Internet poverty'.

    2. jason_derp Bronze badge

      "Comcast's customers expect that to work because they're paying Comcast $$ for 4K UHD."

      I have to call "shenanigans" there because you're implying some sort of science-fiction world where people willingly want to pay Comcast for a product or service.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        I have to call "shenanigans" there because you're implying some sort of science-fiction world where people willingly want to pay Comcast for a product or service.

        I think in the business world, that's a distressed purchase. Or just a holdover from the way the US de-regulated it's market and created local/regional monopolies. Or just ironic given the Silicon Valley titans dumped an expensive problem on Comcast, and don't want to contribute towards fixing it.. But then from a regulatory PoV, there may be some... trust issues. But part of a regulator's job is holding their market participant's feet to the fire.

        (California is weird. It's tech central, yet has some of the most ancient & crumbling infrastructure I've seen in my travels around the world.)

  10. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    I actually agree with Kieren on something?

    "thanks to the issue of internet access being turned into a partisan political topic by the cable industry."

    First time for everything, I guess...

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021