Drawn to Knowledge: Net Neutrality

By Shamus
on Dec 13, 2010
Filed under:

Here is my latest in the Drawn to Knowledge series. I have also created a YouTube channel, just for this show.

Link (YouTube)

Share and enjoy. Next time I’ll cover something a little less divisive.

Going into more detail…

I really did try to represent the views of the two sides evenly. (There is a third side – that of the Tier 1 providers – but I made no effort to articulate their point of view. They can make their own dang video if they like. (Actually, I guess you could argue that the US government is a fourth side, but their position is basically, “What? An internet? Is that the thing that pays taxes? No? Why not?”)) This strays into politics, which I normally avoid here, but I’ll allow a bit of it if we can keep it on topic, and civil.

Having said that, I really hate this debate. Both sides are fighting for a free internet, they just disagree on whether corporations or governments are a bigger danger. They’re allies who disagree on methodology, not enemies with opposing goals. This is an important discussion about how the network should work in the future, but that’s pretty hard to tell from the rhetoric.

The pro-neutrality camp is a mess of lazy sloganeering and irrelevant class-warfare stuff. Oh no! The industry fat-cats are getting rich and locking the poor out of the internet! This is a horrible way of framing the argument, because it implies that tampering with traffic flow would be okay if it didn’t lead to rich people making money. It’s an emotional stand, not a principled one. It drags the debate away from the core concepts, which has a needless polarizing effect. They might see some converts from the other side if they framed this in terms of technology instead of rich vs. poor.

The anti-net neutrality camp has two major points:

1) Personal Liberty: The government is more dangerous to freedom than corporations.

2) Private Property: The government shouldn’t force these carriers to use their hardware in unprofitable ways or forbid them from selling their services as they see fit.

Point #1 is where this debate should be taking place. Governments would love to be able to monitor and control the flow of information. I’m on record with the position that neither companies or governments should be fiddling with looking at packets and sorting them according to anything beyond the TCP/IP protocol. However, if denied that ideal I don’t blame people for leaning one way or another with regard to companies vs. governments. Both offer some ugly scenarios.

But point #2 is a response to the rhetoric of the pro-neutrality camp. It’s basically a misunderstanding of the problem. They argue (and I agree) that a government shouldn’t just point guns at a company and say “offer your services at price X”. And it often sounds like this is what the pro side is advocating. But that’s not what we’re facing. What the Tier 1 providers are talking about doing is messing with the established routing logic of the internet to make packets go fast or slow based on something besides the size of your connection. If I was making my case to the anti-neutrality folks who were using point #2, I’d point out that the carriers own the hardware, not the data. A mail carrier isn’t allowed to hold a sack of letters at ransom, threatening to deliver them a week late unless someone gives him money. He’s also not allowed to throw away all the birthday cards, or love letters. He just takes the mail from A to B, and any further messing with his payload – for ideology or profit – is an attack on the system.

The carriers argue that with the rise of people mailing lots of phone books (net video) they have to charge more. Fine, but they already do that because they already charge by the pound. (Or are free to do so, and can charge what they like for a load of mail.) They are saying they want to root around in the mail, looking for stuff they don’t like so they can put it on the slow truck, or throw it out. Again, that’s an attack in my book.

The anti-neutrality folks might also make the point that by passing a preemptive law we could end up with the worst of both worlds: The Tier 1 providers sorting traffic for fun and profit, with a bunch of regulations that would hinder anyone else from entering the business and competing with them. Ted “the internet is a series of tubes” Stevens isn’t some mutant among lawmakers. I’m betting he’s fairly representative. (I didn’t even notice that pun until I typed it. I am sorry.) When you have that much ignorance going into making a law, the number of ways things can go wrong goes up dramatically. We could end up with some sort of “Internet Reform Act” that only addresses half the problem, plus regulates a bunch of tangential stuff, plus introduces a smattering of new net taxes, plus delivers a bunch of completely unrelated stuff crammed in there (like school funding or somesuch) that will make it difficult to oppose or debate without sounding like you’re “against education”.

Sigh. What a mess. No matter how this plays out, I don’t see any positive outcome for net users in general. The best-case scenario is that things will stay as they are now, and even that is a long shot.

Now before we have our big throwdown in the comments, I’d like to remind everyone to keep cool and keep it civil. Very, very few people outside of the industry are actually supporting the regulation of traffic. We’re mostly on the same team, but differ on which scenario is the worst-case one. I also feel sorry for people outside of the USA. In my video I made the “which country” idea sound like an open question, but in truth most of the users of the internet – basically everyone who isn’t a US citizen – will see this battle play out one way or the other, beyond the reach of their votes and voices.

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From the Archives:

  1. Zak McKracken says:

    The web neutrality debate also does take place in Germany, but on a much lower level. And I don’t think any of the politicians dealing with it are aware of what it means.
    One guy (representative of the parliament committee on internet stuff) said lately that it should be punishable to disguise your identity on the internet, since you’re not allowed to enter a bank with a sock over your face, either. Everyone should only be allowed to say anything on the internets after identifying themselves. OK, I know that’s not gonna happen, but the ignorance is hurting me. Problem is that most voters who don’t know anything about the net and its workings will simply believe what he says and go for it :(

    Which brings me back to my old idea that any politician with responsibility on a certain field should need to have some sort of qualification on the topic. Right now it’s like having a traffic minister who’s never seen a car. Or a train. And doesn’t know what airplanes are, either. But does know about this one time when something happened, I think it’s called “accident”, and then people died, so let’s make some potent laws against that. Right: Anyone who makes an accident should be punished in advance. That’ll teach ’em.

    • MintSkittle says:

      Blizzard tried this with RealID, and the Internet backdraft was huge. While I understand the desire to make people responsible for what they say on the web, there’s the unintended consequence of putting out your real name for the world to see, opening yourself to possible RL trouble from troublemakers. A quick search for my real name has revealed a frightening amount of info on the net for me, like where I live.

      If I couldn’t hide behind a discontinued candy product, I’d probably stop posting altogether.

      • Mersadeon says:

        I am basically not to find on the internet with my real name – only one website from a theatre that I once played in mentions me. And I really, really hate the thought that every douche can read my name when I post. It’s not about being an idiot behind a mask, its about being who you want to be. On the internet, nobody judges me because I am “only” 18, nobody judges me because I can’t run fast or anything. On the internet, I am worth just as much as everyone else. I can have a delicious discussion about quantum physics with a 60-year old from Russia if I want to. He doesn’t know my name, and I don’t know his, but we still have a good talk. Why would you force people to do otherwise? Because it is NOT like entering a bank with a sock on your face – you are then entering a bank with a sock, thereby implying you are going to rob it. That’s not possible on the internet. YOU CAN’T ROB THE INTERNET. This is more like a public place, with marketplaces, parks, libraries… and if someone in the library asks for my name, I don’t have to answer. That’s pretty much it – if you have to identify yourself on the internet whenever you post anything, this will be like having to wear a sign on your head with your name, address and telephone number on it.
        They basically want to take away one of the most important freedoms that the internet brought – the freedom to not be tracked down for every darn comment you make.
        Also, Zak is right here – the german politicians know even less than the american ones, if that is possible. Just look out for “Stasi 2.0”, aka Schäuble. I hate that guy.
        I also like the idea that politicians have to make a test to show that they know what they are talking about. That would help our country a lot. Although, my position, as always, is that nearly all problems of this country could be solved if they just asked the people (das Volk!) more often.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          The thing that worries some (and that is actually part of the actual problem of people misbehaving in public fora) is that if I meet someon in a pub or talk to someone in a shop, they see my face. They don’t know anything else about me, but that’s enough. So if I met them somewhere else, they’ll recognize me. In case I start a fight, the police will at least have a clue.
          On the web you’re completely incognito if you want to, so you’re not really accountable for a lot of things. You can troll the hell out of your neighbour in a chatroom, met him at the front door, complaining about that stupid guy in that chatroom last night …

          The problem with how the web works these days is either someone gets actual power over you or nothing at all, there’s very little in between. There’s no equivalent to “I think I remember your face maybe” on the internet.

          Germany is now introducing new personal ID cards that are able to identify you anonymously. I.E. a website (that first needs to apply for it…) can ask for identification, you put your ID on a reader, and it will only send a checksum to the website that’s constructed out of the data on the card and the public key of the website. No other data. So they’ll know you are the same guy as last time, but nothing else. Nice system, actually. You should take care, though, not to link your anonymous profile at a website to your actual identity … This will only work in Germany on German websites(eventually, I hope. It only started last month), but it gives me hope that not all is lost.

          On the topic of incompetent politicians: They were elected for what they represent, and most try to do what will help them get elected again. Poeple like that come to power because they are favoured by the current system. If you want smarter politicians you need smarter voters first. And smarter members in the political parties.

          • Simon Buchan says:

            OpenID already exists, unfortunately for them. Almost all governments are trying to get in on this with their own flavour, but it’s pointless – governments have no special ability to prove you are the same person better than anyone else. Now if I could choose to prove that I *am* Simon Buchan to someone, that’s where they could help.

          • Mersadeon says:

            Of course we need smarter voters! But the thing is, most people just don’t inform themselves about a topic. Also, with this kind of parliamentary democracy, you’ve got to choose a “package” when you choose a party – you can’t just say “I like the thing you do with subject A, but not the part about subject B, so I only choose your solution in subject A.” That would afford a much more direct democratic way, but for that we would need political change, and so on. I just wish the future will be better. I am trying my best, but everyday I see people that just are too dumb to think about anything besides their basic needs. *sigh* Well, I’m getting into politics again, so I should stop here, or otherwise I will get angry and write angry posts all night.

            But, on the topic. I know what you mean. It’s not so much about doing something illegal, it’s about being able to do something socially unacceptable – you can be rude in a chatroom, but being rude in reallife has severe consequences.

            Well, I am very “un-rude” in this world wide web, but it’s just that I want to have my privacy. I hate it when people say “well, if you don’t do anything illegal, you have nothing to hide!” because that justifies EVERY kind of Orwellian surveillance. (Or, as Rutskarn has put it in the Fallout 3 LP: “an overzealous, orwellian overseer” ^^)

      • PurePareidolia says:

        A search for my real name reveals that a lot of people who aren’t me but have my name, have personal websites. Turns out I might as well not even bother because I’m already using several pseudonyms.

        Not that I’m about to stop for any reason other than I hate every alias I’ve ever used.

      • Blanko2 says:

        im invisibul on ther net!

  2. Josh R says:

    Hadn’t even heard of this issue :S I’d best start reading papers again.

    • Zeta Kai says:

      It’s been simmering for years now, but the Tier 1 guys are getting closer to (maybe) doing something bad, so the issue is finally getting more attention. When Obama was running for president, one of his minor talking points was his support for Net Neutrality. It’s a strange issue, because is awlays seems like nobody is actually against NN (except these faceless corporations which don’t mind looking like evil empires), but nothing can seemingly be done to guarantee that it continues. It’s like trying to preserve a waterfall; sure, it’s a known issue, but no matter what anybody tries to do, it’s just gonna keep slowly erroding upstream.

  3. Sucal says:

    I’m not an American, so I didn’t actually know that something like this was currently being debated. So if I accidently make a wrong call or judgement, feel free to delete and or mock this post.

    First of all, I want to express my surprise that this doesn’t seem to be bigger news. Or at least bigger news outside of America anyway. Something like these debates, even if only theoretically occurring in America, will have quite a large global impact. Which is something that shamus briefly touched on, but I hope he doesn’t get offended if I try and offer a spur of the moment, and possibly rather nonsense opinion on.

    Currently, I hail from the land of Australia. That place of wonderful beaches, good looking women and disgusting game prices. At least two of the things I just said could be considered up for debate, but I wont go into that. One of the problems I see with these possible regulations coming up, is that despite living something like 16 or 17 hours away by flight, I will still be affected by this. I mean sure, theoretically I’m Australian, but on the net, I might as well be American, considering the location of the majority of the servers I visit are.

    Yes, I’m sure that last part might cause some controversy, but anyway. The main problem I am viewing right now, is less on the two sides approach, and more on a slightly personal and just a touch of nationalistic one. Which Shamus Touched on. Otherwise known as the ‘Who are you, to slow down my packet flow, When we aren’t even in the same countries.’

    I’m looking at this debate right now, and wondering whether or not its fair that someone in another country, might actually be given the power to do so. This is ignoring the point about how one country might regulate, with all the rest will follow in suit. This is me wondering, if internet data will become the next big tax haven. Will we end up seeing big companies and similar, moving their data oversea’s, to smaller, less regulated countries, in order to prevent massive amounts of slow down.

    I mean, look at Blizzard and all of the World of Warcraft Servers. The very vast majority of them are indeed based over in america. They must make a pretty penny for the people who are regulating those servers. But if they did try and enforce the extra cash/slow down extortion thing, what would happen if Blizzard moved those servers over to a ‘Net Haven’ lets say RegFree.

    The Tier One providers lose their server maintance fees, and since data isn’t crossing streams, they don’t get any extra money from it either. Blizzard doesn’t care, since their servers are now located in a reg free area. Even the various customers wont be losing that much, since they seemingly wont have to be paying protection money.


    It seems to me that doing this is the Tier One Guy’s way of asking for a government Bailout, after their loss of business and driving people to use off shore servers works against them.

    Anyway, back to my earlier point. Will Net Neutrality seemingly become the next ‘free trade agreement’. Will it require someone like the UN to pass down some kind of ruling, after various countries use this argument to completely choke off access to overseas’s and external information sources. Hell, can anyone, anywhere seriously be considered to have the power to even think about regulating this.

    I mean, nobody is seemingly even reporting this, outside the small community of people it would directly effect.

    Sigh, this is depressing me to the point where I lost my chain of thought. Bugger it, time to throw another shrimp on the BBQ and MineCraft.


    • Sucal, that’s an excellent point. Many people might worry about increased latency and reduced performance if servers were moved to other countries but it’s not that bad for MMOs normally so Blizzard could probably do it without a noticeable loss in performance and only a minor technical inconvenience. And that would just be a time-zone/staffing issue more than a technical one.

      I live in Europe (Germany, Sweden, Estonia, and Russia) and play LOTRO, DDO, WoW, and occasionally Runes of Magic and Anarchy Online. Almost all of them (and all of the paid ones) are hosted on servers in US data centers (mostly in California and Massachusetts). I rarely have any trouble with latency and when I do (and it’s bad enough I look into it) it’s almost always with servers in the New York area.

    • Strangeite says:

      While I have not had the fortune to meet a statistically significant sample of Australian women, the ones that I have been lucky enough to “know” have certainly been very attractive.

      I have no opinion on the quality of your beaches or game prices.

      • ehlijen says:

        The game prices are extortion, pure and simple. BUt that seems to go for all entertainment products. And no, if shipping costs were the culprit, it wouldn’t be cheaper to order and ship a product in from the US or Europe 90% of the time.

        The beaches make Australia worth it though.

        • Mersadeon says:

          Would be too hot for me. I like cold areas. Also, it’s Australia, basically natures little experiment of a whole island made to kill everything with poison. Heat and poison? No thanks! (Just kidding.)

          Although, I was always fascinated with Coober Pedy and I always wanted to visit it. Also, I want to learn the australian accent. (Actually, I want to learn how to imitate ALL english accents.^^)

        • Veloxyll says:

          It wasn’t so bad when the AUD only bought 60-70 US cents, but now we’re sitting at nearly parity, it’s entirely ridiculous that games costs twice as much here as in America.

          The beaches are pretty swell though.

  4. lupis42 says:

    An excellent summation.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You say that handing the reins to the government is a bad thing,but then you mention the post office.Isnt it regulated by the government,and not tampering with mail is a governments law?I know that post isnt a perfect service,and that mail gets lost,slowed down,etc,but none of that is the problem you are mentioning here.The post office delivers your package regardless of what it is,or whom it is going to,you only have to pay more,or wait more,depending on the size and distance,which is basically what you want for the internet.So how come government oversight is bad in this regard?

    And though it is true that spam mail isnt filtered like spam email,wouldnt you prefer having everything delivered to you and letting your browser deal with spam(with you sifting through the leftovers),than having your data tampered with?Personally,Id like it if providers were law bound to leave the data alone,and spam should be addressed in a different law.

    • Shamus says:

      “So how come government oversight is bad in this regard?”

      For all the reasons I mentioned above: The system is more complex and technical than mail, the lawmakers are less informed, and then there are all of those pesky free speech issues. Cyberbullying, porn, Wikileaks, copyright battles – a lot of people would love to get in and regulate the “bad parts” of the internet away. Then there are the taxes they would love to levy. And regulatory oversight that could prevent new providers from emerging.

      As for the spam stuff: They already battle spam as a matter of self-defense. And the “other threats” I mentioned were things like DOS attacks. If the law was 100% “no tamper, ever”, they would not be allowed to defend themselves from DOS attacks, which means the attacks could go on forever.

      Making a law that prevents them from messing with traffic for $$$ but allows current (and possible future) defensive behavior is complicated. I’m not knowledgeable enough to author such a thing, and I’ll bet I’ve got more expertise than anyone in congress.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I agree there. If youre politicians are at all like ours (I bet they are) you can bet on them to either get it completely wrong or do whatever some tier 1 lobbyists whispered into their ears.
        Still, I think it’s possible to find a law that solves the problem for good, but I’ve no idea what needs to happen to get it written and passed.

        Completely unrelated: I was surpried that you pronounce “Tier” exactly like a German would :) I was abslutely sure it’s pronounced “Tie-er” in English … something learned today!

      • wtrmute says:

        I disagree that land-mail is more complex than electronic. In fact, because the mail addressing scheme isn’t uniform, it’s a bit more complex than email. But assuming you’re not sending an international post, there is a number (the ZIP code) that is used in routing, and the “last mile”, that is, the actual address within the ZIP code is done by the mailman. By comparison, email also depends on a number (the IP of the SMTP server) and the “last mile” is the triage of mailbox, authentication, and whatever else we have to fulfill SMTP and POP transactions.

        In other words, I disagree that government regulation would *really* be worse than industry regulation. At any rate, I’m not inclined to trust an employee from an utility any more than I am inclined to trust a government bureaucrat. But American culture does hold that public enterprise is inherently worse than private, so I understand why you would think that.

        • Veloxyll says:

          The difference in mail and internet is in the bad stuff that can happen via internet.

          DOS attacks and spam being the two major ones. It’s impossible to knock my mailbox offline by relentlessly sending me letters. I can’t cripple a business’ mail system by sending it endless streams of junk. There’s also greater filtering of what goes INTO the mail system. Every letter has to be stamped, or it gets junked at the start of the system. On the internet, data doesn’t get junked until the system or the recipient do it, which usually happens at the end.

          For the mail, it’s fairly simple to legislate ‘don’t touch my stuff’. I can pretty much dot point it as “do not tamper with packages or letters” and “All packages are to be delivered in a timely and efficient manner.” To which there’s probably been an addition of “Packages may be scanned to ensure the safety of contained goods” (ie Postal officers can check for bombs) but besides that, there’s nothing more that needs legislation. Legislating the internet would be more akin to writing legislation for the whole roadsystem, pedestrians included. And, if they get something WRONG, it could take years for it to be corrected. Add that in with it being politicians making the decisions, and I’d rather have it not legislated.

          • Nick says:

            “I can’t cripple a business’ mail system by sending it endless streams of junk”

            Of course you can, try sending 2000 letters a day to a company with only 10 employees, they will spend a significant amount of time sorting through them if you disguise them enough so they can’t recognise them from the envelope.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          In principle I (not being from the US) don’t think that way, but in this case there’s the added problem that internet company employees mostly know how the internet works, while you can’t say the same about politicians.

          So if you leave it to the government, chances are that either tier 1 lobbyists will be writing the actual law or it will be some useless mixture of 1984-type paranoia and incompetence. Or maybe it’ll work reasonably, who knows?
          If you leave it to the industry, they’ll act more predictably (always go after the money), so there’s the chance they’ll want to keep you as a customer. There’s also a chance that the market doesn’t work as well as everyone (except the market itself) wishes and all goes wrong, monopolies form and all goes downhill.

          That said: Protecting civil liberties and putting them into law should be one of the main government tasks. Unluckily, “freedom” seems to be confused with “it’s your own fault if you have problems” lately, not only in the states. Or with “we’re protecting you by analysing everything you do or say”.
          Which is exaggerated, but right now I wouldn’t trust my government either to do well with such a task. They’d probably pass some hilarious joke of a law that will be stopped by the supreme court. At least that part of our government is working remarkably well :)

          • They’ll always go after where they THINK the money is. Given the amount of information that’s limited in access or just not known, that’s actually fairly unpredictable. Contrary to popular belief, markets are actually not that easy to model…

      • Dys says:

        I wonder how much of it is ‘Government regulation would be bad’ and how much is ‘US Government regulation would be bad’.

        The US seems to become less and less able to pass law for the public good without making it a political catfight.

        I certainly have no fondness for the UK gov, but I would trust them to pass laws without using the process to score points nobody outside the halls of power would ever care about.

        The distinction between regulation for security purposes and regulation for less noble reasons is a valid one. It seems unlikely that any law could be effective at stopping one without impeding the other. That seems to me to be the major issue at hand.

    • Pav says:

      Wouldn’t the problem with government oversight in regulating net neutrality be the regulations? It could be risky as to whether the regulations would be too strong and become a method for the government to introduce censorship through the internet or if the regulations weren’t done right then you could have problems with the providers not having problems or even gaining an competitive edge over either new introductions to the backbone or from the tier 2 or tier 3 providers.

      Also wouldn’t the provider want to stop spam mail when they get it on the border or inside their network since the spam mail could use up a lot of the available bandwidth as well as making it easier for some or even most end users who don’t want to deal with hundreds of spam messages.

    • Greg says:

      I reckon the following are factors:

      It takes less people to interfere with net traffic than with mail.
      It takes less time to do the same.
      It takes less money to do the same.
      The potential profits are greater.
      The people doing the regulations understand the net much less well than they do a mail service.
      The sort of tampering discussed would be more difficult for most people to detect on the net than with a normal letter.

      In short tampering with net traffic is easier and cheaper to do, reaps greater rewards and is easier to hide.

      I’m not arguing against govornment regulation here, it might work. I’m just arguing that it’d be insufficient to say that success in regulating mail implies that there would be success in regulating the net.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        @All 3:

        Sure,internet is more complex than mail,and easier to misuse,and current people in the government are not really that knowledgeable about it.But those are not the reasons against government oversight.Those are reasons against current government oversight and against implementing the same system we have with mail.But lets remember that mail was new once,and that government was new once,and people designing both had no prior knowledge about how it works.We still can lay the foundation now,and refine the law as time goes by.In fact,thats what we are doing with everything else,even the oldest of laws.

        I dont agree with statements that corrupt and/or government means government as the system is bad.So if people regulating the internet have no clue about it,then those people should be replaced,and not the regulation.

    • Kdansky says:

      We have this thing called space (that really long button on your keyboard), and we generally put one behind every punctuation, like so. It makes you posts more readable and shows you care for the reader.

      As for the topic itself: I would not trust a goverment with laws about net neutrality when they cannot get any law pertaining the internet right either. It’s like giving them a flamethrower after they burnt down the block by playing with matches.

      • Felblood says:


        Self-regulation is not an optimal scenario. I loathe ISP packet shaping and the associated hassles and threats (I suspect that my bandwidth is getting throttled whenever I stream video after 9PM, but maybe they just don’t have the capability to deliver the level of service I’m paying for at peak times). Yes, I know the debate right now is more about backbone providers than local ISPs, but I don’t think lawmakers are going to differentiate.

        However government regulation is an even worse scenario by far. Look at this proposed law banning sites that are dedicated to copyright infringement. Realize that back when Shamus was an anti-DRM firebrand, just starting out, this law could have been used by guys like Starforce to shut him up, and no-one in government would have been able to tell that wrong had been done. Since it’s a court order and not an actual criminal charge, he has to fight it out of his own pocket.

        That’s the kind of thing that horrifies Americans. Shoddily written censorship laws that suppress truth and give the powerful more means to push down a new player.

        • Except at least he would have been able to seek ANY kind of response. Under the private model, Starforce would just ask Provider A or B to throttle Shamus’ bandwidth to nothing, and the same effect would happen but Shamus would have almost no legal recourse, not even a First Amendment one.

  6. Henebry says:

    I’m in favor of neutrality, so I was surprised when your mail carrier analogy struck me as cutting against that side. Mail carriers can and do route packages according to how much people are willing to pay: Express Mail, Priority Mail, First Class, Third Class, Book Rate.

    I’m surprised that you’re not responding to the “I’m a private corporation” argument with “you’re a utility with a monopoly” response. The phone company and the electric company are granted sole access to a market with stipulation that they play by certain rules. TV and radio broadcasters face even more stringent regulation because they make use of a public resource (the airwaves), a license akin in certain respects to the public resource which is the internet.

    Now I’m going to go watch the video. The last one was fantastic, so expectations are high.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Mail carriers can and do route packages according to how much people are willing to pay: Express Mail, Priority Mail, First Class, Third Class, Book Rate.”

      Sure,but internet providers do the same:Pay for 1mb,5mb,10mb of traffic,unlimited or limited data per month,etc.If you pay for regular mail,or express mail,the difference will be only in the time it gets delivered in.No one will open it,or lose it on purpose if you dont pay extra.

      • Correct.

        Priority Mail remains priority mail, regardless where in the world it travels.
        If suddenly a US Priority Mail got re-classified as slow bottom feeder mail in the UK then people would damn well complain.

        Which translates well to the net neutrality issue.
        If someone has 10mbit then they expect 10mbit best effort from point A to point B,
        just like they would for Priority Mail from point A to point B.
        If suddenly a UK net provider started throttling data to/from the US, then people would be pissed.

        A UK computer and a US computer, both with 10mbit lines should under ideal situations give close to 10mbit data rates.

    • Nathon says:

      I’d like to second the “utility with a monopoly” point. The people who own the fiber are actually the same people as the phone companies. Last mile ISPs usually rent that cable from companies like Verizon and Covad (at least in New England.) The reason cable companies allow themselves to become so universally hated is that they have no competitors. And Comcast recently took an anti-competitive, anti-neutrality step.

      I also still haven’t seen the video, since it’s a video. Maybe I’ll have something more insightful to say later.

      Also: Ted Stevens died this year in a plane crash. He wasn’t some mutant among lawmakers.

    • Dys says:

      It’s not the class of mail that’s the issue. It’s the content.
      The mail carriers will not slow your mail because it’s from a rival company.

      • Vagrant says:

        Under this scenario whats to say they wouldn’t? If it made their competitors lose customers and they were able to regulate as they saw fit. Of course they would.

  7. chuko says:

    I don’t really understand your argument here. The way I’m reading you, you support net neutrality, as a principle.

    Surely the way that some supporters frame the argument is irrelevant to whether you agree. And even so, your characterization of them seems a bit off. They don’t seem to be against someone making money, they’re against established industries stifling competition. From their FAQ: “Without Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.”

    As far as arguing that a law would inevitably be poorly written, why not wait for it to written before arguing against it? Otherwise it just comes off as ideological, I think.

    The legislation could be pretty simple after all. All required would be to classify cable as a telecommunications service (instead of an information service), and so subject to common carrier laws, already in place. This is what everyone assumed the internet would be anyway, prior to the FCC reclassification in 2005.

    • Shamus says:

      From their FAQ: “Without Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.”

      See, this is overreaching. This is one POSSIBLE outcome, but by no means certain. They talk very little about the principles and a lot about the eeevil rich peeple.

      “As far as arguing that a law would inevitably be poorly written, why not wait for it to written before arguing against it?”

      Why write a law at all for a problem that doesn’t yet exist? Why not wait until the carriers actually DO something before legislating against it?

      • chuko says:

        Pointing out that large corporations are going to use their clout to reduce competition is hardly class warfare. Corporations are there to serve the interests of their shareholders. That’s not a moral judgment against them, it’s what they’re supposed to do. So of course they’re going to do whatever they legally can to make the most profit. Competition isn’t good for business if you’re already on top.

        There are several reasons to do it now instead of waiting. Here are a few:

        1. It allows businesses and individuals to make plans and investments based on a known legal framework, instead of guessing what legislation might be in the future.

        2. A neutral framework supports the increased competition. That’s good for consumers, it’s good for markets, it’s good for innovation.

        3. The longer that corporations make investments in a non-competitive market, the more interest they’ll have to keep it that way, and the more power they’ll have to ensure it.

        • Shamus says:

          “Pointing out that large corporations are going to use their clout to reduce competition is hardly class warfare. ”

          The “entrepreneurs” they’re talking about aren’t competition to the Tier 1 companies. They’re talking about selling special high-speed access to a company so its website runs faster. This type of thing already exists, and it’s actually good for “entrepreneurs” – which would include me. I’m against it because it involves tampering with routing, but it’s entirely possible this will NOT be harmful to startups or individuals. I’m glad I can buy space on a modest shared server with a limited pipe. Someone else might need bigger pipes, and they pay for that. It all works pretty well with price points going from $beermoney to $OMGillions.

          EDIT: To clarify, when I said “this already exists” I meant it exists in the form of pipe size. I wasn’t saying they’re already mucking with routing logic.

          • chuko says:

            There’s a very real difference between buying selling different amounts of bandwidth and preferential packet sorting, especially under common carrier laws where carriers are obliged to sell what bandwidth someone wants.

            Clearly these telecommunications companies who are against net neutrality have some purpose in mind for it. It seems pretty clear that one thing they’re going to do is make deals with companies to enhance one companies traffic and downgrade another. What else would they do with it? As a consumer then, instead of making a choice based on the quality of the service, your “choice” is going to be dependent on who offers the most money to the ISP because that company’s material will load faster. Bandwidth doesn’t work this way; each company can pay for as much bandwidth as they see fit.

            Think about how this would effect an entrepreneur (I’m one too) whose business depends on sufficient bandwidth, who doesn’t have access to massive capital, and who is in competition with some company that does have access to capital. Maybe this entrepreneur’s company produces a better product, but the competition has the capital to pay ISPs to lower the entrepreneur’s packet priority compared to the cash-rich competitor. Now the entrepreneur’s company suffers because users have to wait longer for those pages to load, even if the company has sufficient bandwidth for the business.

            • Shamus says:

              Again, sure. But you don’t know the degree or extent to which this would occur (Will your business be seriously hurt if it’s just 5% slower, or 2% more expensive?) or what changes will happen in the market because of it. (For example, I buy preferential treatment packet sorting and then resell it to the little guys.)

              I’m not saying what they’re doing is right, or smart, or good for the net. (The opposite, in fact.) But this long thread between you and I is exactly why their rhetoric is wrong: It frames the argument wrong, predicting arguable outcomes, and leaves room for rebuttal. It will also trigger a dismissal from free-market types who think you’re just looking to have the government keep prices down via force.

              It’s not wrong because we don’t like the possible economic outcomes, it’s wrong because it’s wrong. If they stuck to core concepts their case would be stronger, shorter, more airtight, and more appealing to a more diverse group of potential supporters.

              • Atarlost says:

                It’s precisely free market types formulating the argument this way. Tier 1 ISPs are insulated from competition. You typically have only two ISPs available to any consumer, one over cable and one over phone. Worse, because routing protocol is blind, you have no choice at all who will handle your packets before they reach their destination.

                In the absence of customer choice the free market breaks down. All of its virtues rely on customer choice. Unregulated monopolies on utilities are effectively in a position to usurp the government’s powers of taxation. If they provide an important enough service they may be in a position to usurp other governmental powers, in the case of ISPs the power to usurp the government’s power of law enforcement.

                This is bad. The ISP is not bound by the need to get a warrant before engaging in wiretapping. Since internet connectivity is effectively a necessity for businesses ISPs can effectively levy corporate taxes. The ISP can punish people by depriving them of service without trial. They can refuse or degrade service to companies in competition with their affiliates. Each of these possible abuses must be individually regulated.

                Or we can use the parcel post model. The existence of a heavily regulated USPS prevents UPS and FedEx from engaging in abusive practices. Even if they were in cahoots with each other consumers could fall back on the postal service. The trick is that the government service provider must provide either inferior or more expensive service. It’s there not to succeed but to act as a ceiling for corporate corruption.

                • Yeah, I definitely am pro-net neutrality (of course assuming the law is written tolerably) not out of blind class warfare/anti-corporatism but out of INFORMED class warfare/anti-corporatism. Companies with that kind of power behave exactly like tyrannies (they already are basically internally tyrannical). I absolutely respect and understand the idea that governments could use this regulatory power either incompetently or vilely. To those who think they wouldn’t: Remember illegal wiretaps? Monitoring of Arab-American and peace groups? Etc.? I’m sure the CIA, FBI, etc. would LOVE to get a hold of the Internet. But I find those risks far more contained and far less problematic than corporations running roughshod over free speech.

          • Christopher says:

            If you’re big enough you can get faster service as well, you just have to balance your traffic between multiple NAPs through some form of DNS magic. Akamai is the most famous provider of service like this, but they’re far from the only one it it’s certainly possible to do it on your own, provided you’re big enough to put data centers close to multiple NAPs.

            It’s also possible to imagine a situation coming up where it would be objectively desirable for you to muck with delivery priorities in your routers, even without shady profiteering behind it. I’m not sure how many tier-1s pay attention to QoS headers on packets, but I can certainly see a desire to slow down response for packets marked unattended-bulk-data on a congested link to get control or interactive traffic through.

    • Blanko2 says:

      “Surely the way that some supporters frame the argument is irrelevant to whether you agree.” that is a dangerous statement right there, mostly because it isn’t true.
      just think, someone could say:- or actually just read this:
      frames my argument much better than i do.

      plus it’s funny.

  8. Riesz says:

    It seems the tier 1 companies are caught in some variant of the prisoner’s dilemma. If one company gets greedy and starts messing with its competitors data, what choice do the other companies have but to follow? From the perspective of the companies, I can understand that if another provider blocks your content and you still freely allow theirs to pass… you’re being suckered.

    However, I am sightly more hopeful about a less-Orwellian resolution because most of the major providers must realise the same. Either they are going to be very hesitant about making the first move or, if someone does get greedy and the thing escalates, it’s going to turn into a major regulatory mess that offers no real benefits either. If the latter happens, I imagine that the most important companies will figure out some system to reimburse each other without blocking or throttling any content outright.

    Of course, this probably entails end-users footing the bill in one way or the other. But then, what’s new?

    • Greg says:

      Historically prisoners dilemna situations haven’t been resolved particularly well.

      I’m still holding out some hope on that environment one though.

      • Will says:

        The problem with prisoner’s dilemma situations is that the correct answer depends entirely on what the other person does. Although you can state the statistically correct answer by assuming an equal chance that the other person goes either way, in reality that chance is not remotely equal so it comes down to how well you know that person and can predict what he will do. Unless you know him really well (close friend or family well), you will not be able to predict what he does with any kind of accuracy.

        Now throw in the fact that the person is trying to decieve you and is deliberately working against you and good luck improving the odds significantly beyond ‘blind luck’.

        • Except in iterated prisoner’s dilemmas, you can get a feel for their behavior pattern and even use simple retaliation mechanisms to give them an unambiguous signal. This is certainly an iterated prisoner’s dilemma-style game.

    • Nathon says:

      Almost totally off topic: the best entrant to Axelrod-style tournaments that’s been found has been tit-for-tat with forgiveness, and only nice strategies win.

  9. Lame Brain says:

    The problem to me seems to be one of ego. Tier 1 providers perceive themselves as having too much power. They should be like my garbage company, or the water company. They provide just another utility.

    Essentially, I think that the only people who own the internet, and who regulate the internet, should be the people who use the internet.

    The idea that we are taking the last truly free space on Earth and arguing about who gets to be in power over it frustrates me to no end.

  10. chuko says:

    I don’t really think the main potential problem with the legislation is going to be uneducated lawmakers. It’s going to be that the same people who have already been lobbying against net neutrality are going to do their best to bend the legislation to their advantage, when it should be simple.

    I also have concerns about government intervention and censorship in the internet. But this isn’t a choice between supporting government meddling or corporation meddling. Net neutrality is against both.

    Maybe you’re right, maybe we’re screwed either way. Still, it seems to me a better choice to fight for neutrality — we’re screwed if we don’t, but if we try, there’s a chance of success.

  11. Ed Blair says:

    I would say that the service providers are more like a commercial delivery entities (Fed-Ex, DHL, etc.), not the USPS. The for-pofit commercial entities all have different shipping pricing structures that are based on quantity, size/bulk, contractual relationships, delivery speed and other factors.

    • Shamus says:

      I considered sorting the differing schemes, but I was afraid it would just bloat the video and move away from the “quick overview” idea I was going for. But I see the Tier 1 plans to fall into 3 categories:

      1) Selling of special “fast lane” services.
      2) Blocking of traffic based on content. (Hey! These are voice-chat packets! Let’s block them!)
      3) Blocking of content based on destination. (We won’t deliver video content to people in other networks.)

      The first one is the most benign. We already have this in the form of different sized pipes. The only problem is the slippery slope and the fact that they shouldn’t really need it. (Just change the pricing structure of the pipes, why mess with traffic?)

      The last two are the dangerous ones in my view.

      So I agree that “express shipping” analogy above holds reasonably well and isn’t really a cause for huge immediate concern, except that it allows them to start making up their own rules regarding routing.

      • MogTM says:

        I’m not sure if they currently do, but FedEx engaging in 2 and 3 wouldn’t really bother me. Consider:

        2) Refusing packages based on contents. FedEx guy says, “Oh, we won’t ship those explosives to the Myth Buster set. Find another way to deliver the explosives.”

        3)Refusing to deliver packages based on destination. FedEx guy says, “oh, we don’t deliver to that poor rural county in south Alabama. There just aren’t enough paying customers who ship there for it to be worth sending a truck.”

        Now, both of these actions would make me less likely to do business with FedEx — after all, I have relatives in south Alabama and want to be able to send them presents. But I wouldn’t feel like it was wrong for FedEx to act that way.

        What is the flaw in this analogy? Or do you have different intuitions about FedEx?

        • Atarlost says:

          The use of explosives as an example is disingenuous. Explosives present real danger to the medium of transmission (in this case FedEx’s air freight) The only equivalent would be a packet that can cause routers to self destruct. There is no such thing.

          FedEx refusing to deliver to south Alabama is acceptable only because the USPS also exists and is required by law to deliver packages there and has their price schedules regulated.

          • Let’s say that the explosives somehow couldn’t hurt their vehicles. It still would be bad for them to send it. But that’s because the content is dangerous and might expose them to liability. The analogy here is much more like viruses and spam: ISPs already control those. We want no content PREJUDICE. It’s like the distinction between not hiring someone because they’re black and not hiring someone because they don’t have relevant job experience. ISPs should only be controlling content that is DANGEROUS, not harmful to their pocketbooks. They can control all content like that however they please.

            • Will says:

              The use of explosives is still disingenuous because explosives harm people. A better analogy is FedEx saying “Oh, sorry, we won’t ship these books by [AUTHOR] because [AUTHOR] has a deal with one of our competitors.” Or refusing to ship items to certain areas because their competitor operates in that area.

              It’s not a case of ‘this content is dangerous’ or ‘this isn’t worth our time’ that worries people, it’s the fact that if Tier 1 providers are allowed modify packets they can and will use that to ‘wage war’, so to speak against each other.

              I don’t much like the idea of discovering i can no longer access http://www.shamusyoung.com because the website is hosted on severs belonging to the competitor of my T1 provider.

        • Hitch says:

          I think it’s kind of like if FedEx didn’t deliver to most end users. Instead who you saw delivering was Local Package Delivery Service. Now you know LPDS contracts with somebody. But it might be FedEx or UPS or DHL and you don’t necessarily know without digging. Now each of these companies (who you don’t deal directly with) can make deals with other companies (that they don’t tell you about). Now if UPS has a deal with Amazon.com to expedite their shipments, but the LPDS you use contracts with FedEx, then anything you order from Amazon could come much slower. Now Overstock.com might have a similar deal with FedEx, but again, you don’t know that. Add to that the possibility of not being able to choose an LPDS associated with every major shipping company in your area and you end up with a morass of not knowing who to go with for local delivery or who to order from for the best service. Shipping Neutrality in this case would mean that all shipping companies treat all shippers and all LPDSs the same, so the consumer benefits.

        • Blanko2 says:

          from my meager understanding, it would be more like you sending a package off to a generic MAIL SYSTEM then the mail system says hmm this goes to FEDEX, without your knowledge or choice, so you cant TELL it to go to fedex or ups, it just goes.
          then fedex grabs it and says, ‘eh this is a video-call, i’ll deliver it next month.’
          or worse, ‘eh, i dont do these.’ and tosses it out.
          so you wouldnt even be able to say ‘no, i dont want to use fedex’ or, at least, not very easily.

        • Sasbot says:

          “There just aren’t enough paying customers who ship there for it to be worth sending a truck.”

          …I’m sorry, but you seem to have compared the internet to a big truck.

          we all know that this is simply not the case.

  12. CerithP says:

    Thanks for the video, it should make explaining net neutrality to people with no idea about computers/the internet easier.

    On the issue of regulation though, there is a simple way of keeping neutrality without draconian or overbearing legislation. Simply require that if an ISP is engaging in selective packet delivery then they have legal liability over everything passing through their networks. If they’re going to decide what packets get sent and at what speed then I’m assuming they’re going to be checking the content of said packets, if they’re not checking for illegal activity when they are able to then they are complicit in the crime.

    If they aren’t checking and selectively routing however, then they’re not really aware of what’s going on on their network so they’re okay. But that’s far to simple, and I’m probably missing something on the technical side of things.

    • Shamus says:

      That’s a really interesting position.

      “Okay, go ahead and do selective packet delivery. But then you’ll be held accountable for all spam, DDOS attacks, and piracy going on inside of your network. Or would you rather wash your hands of all that and go back to blind delivery?”

    • Zeta Kai says:

      That’s the smartest & most elegant solution to the issue that I’ve heard so far.

      “Sure, you can route through the mail, & even discriminate against people based on the contents. But if you find a bomb, or parts for a bomb, or plans for a bomb, or a note that says someone might wanna make a bomb, or a clue that there is a bomb threat that could only be understood in hindsight, then you are considered a co-conspirator in any crimes commited using that bomb. Good luck keeping your hands clean.”

    • Nathon says:

      That’s brilliant.

      The only problem I can see is: what if someone decides to do it anyway? Absent any particular interest in what’s being transmitted, it makes zero business sense. However, a last-mile company like the now-defunct AOL-Time-Warner (wow, that’s a silly name) might decide that it’s in their best interest, since they’ve already got mini legions combing the tubes for copyright violations. It would be simultaneously horrible and ineffective. The bad guys and the paranoid would continue using PGP (or maybe that’d get filtered out? SSL too?) and everyone else would get all of their traffic monitored. On the plus side, demand for the (security) products I work on would go up.

    • Cybron says:

      I think this may be the most elegant solution to net neutrality I’ve ever seen.

      Good job.

    • Brilliant solution. The problem becomes, though, that a lot of times, this is already the case. Various forms of mail fraud are already illegal but they’re done nearly constantly. Companies routinely violate laws and regulations, eating the fines, and sometimes, they try to claim to the IRS that the fines should be deductible! What I think would happen is that companies would call the bluff and just use political influence to scuttle enforcement.

    • Glazius says:

      Actually, what you’re describing is in line with the idea of ISPs deciding whether or not to function as “common carriers”, much as telephone companies (or, yes, the public mail) do.

      There is a body of law defining the rights and responsibilities of common carriers already, but it’s also true that ISPs have tried not to come under this umbrella. I don’t know why.

      • Felblood says:

        Because right now, they basically answer only to their business partners (who I’d like to believe would break ties with anyone who flagrantly violated net neutrality, but let’s be realistic). Common carriers have clear responsibilities to their customers with precedent cases and everything, but your ISP is beholden only to the parts of the contract you can hold them to (basically nothing to an end user like you or I).

        If government regulation starts depriving them of rights offered to common carriers, you can expect them to reverse their position on this one and start demanding protection. Corporations have the handy ability to believe whatever is convenient, by simply replacing the heads of the legal defense and lobbying teams.

        • Blanko2 says:

          wait so right now what happens is they have the rights of common carriers but none of the obligations?
          or did i misunderstand. because if that’s it then…just… what.

  13. Greg says:

    I’m not sure that I understand the technology that underpins this well enough.

    Back at the dawn of time, when the mountains were mere hills and life had begun to emerge from the oceans, we plugged out computers into phonelines to get internet access. When we did that didn’t we just send tones down the existing infrastructure that, besides being unintelligable to people, were indistinguishable from a regular phonecall?

    My understanding is that phone companies are not allowed to give the sort of preferrential treatment that we’re discussing now, so back then net neutrality was regulated? And now because the technological implementation is different it’s not?

    I’m putting question marks over everything because I’m not really sure what’s going on at the technological level anymore. I’m just curious whether a possible response should some of the worst case scenarios occur would be to go back to the phonelines.

    Not that it’d be practical, I don’t remember the internet being fast in those days, but the idea amuses me.

    • Nathon says:

      That’s not strictly true. Sure, the owners of the cabling that ran from your ISP (Prodigy? Compuserve?) to your wall jack were obligated to let whatever ran over them run over them, but the people who owned the modems at the other end were in just the same position as the people who run your cable (or DSL) Internet service today. They get to see all the traffic that gets to you and are responsible for the packet switching and their OC-3 (or today, OC-12) to the backbone.

      However, if you’re talking about the before-times, when it wasn’t the Internet but a BBS on the other end of the phone, then you’re right. But that wasn’t an Internet connection, just a direct modem line to some guy’s server.

    • Sean Coner says:

      As far as the phone company goes, before the breakup of Ma Bell, you could only hook up approved devices to the phone network (up until 1984, the year of the breakup, the only phones you could get were from Ma Bell; modems existed, but again, they were only made by, you guess it, Ma Bell, and they only went up to 300 bps; inside of ten years after the breakup (and the government mandating that the Baby Bells had to accept non-Ma Bell equipment connected to the phone system), 56k bps modems were available. Modem usage of the phone network breaks the assumptions made of phone usage. Gone were the average three minute calls; now the phone network, developed with the assumption that only a certain percentage of the network would be active, was stressed due to this oversubscription model (it never helped that the Phone Industry as a whole was in serious denial about the superiority of packet switching, but I digress).

      Another aspect of the little break up is that the Baby Bells had to make their infrastructure available to CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier), but with the provision that the CLECS had to pay for calls to ILECS (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier, aka the Baby Bells); but the same in reverse was (well, is technically) true—ILECS had to pay CLECS for calls to CLEC numbers. This billing infrastructure is immense, and basically, the majority of complexity of phone switches comes from this billing mechanism. And this is why, in the late 80s/90s, that most CLECs courted the BBS/ISP market, since most calls are to their customers, not the reverse. This simplified their billing, and stuck it to the ILECs, who forced this billing structure on the industry (why do you think long distance rates are falling? It’s because the billing overhead to track usage costs more than just letting the call go through).

      What’s funny is that in the mid 90s, when the Internet was finally commercialized many were worried about net neutrality (only then it wasn’t called net neutrality). Specifically, they were worried about the tier-1 providers billing for traffic. Back then, the tier-1s decided to forgo charging traffic amongst themselves, probably due to the difficulty and expense in doing so.

      Personally, I’m not terribly worried about net neutrality (or the lack thereof). There are many more peering points today than there were back in the 90s, and any one company that tries to will find the expense of implementing it is probably not worth it. Oh, so Global Crossing wants to throttle Sprint traffic? Okay, how to express that across the entire Global Crossing network? Well, that means setting quality of service or filtering on every cross over point on every router on their network. Why? Okay, Global Crossing is tossing Sprint traffic? Okay, Sprint then routes traffic for Global Crossing indirectly through UUNet. Take THAT, Global Crossing. (This is just an example and in no way represents the actual stances of Global Crossing, Sprint or UUNet).

      Remember, the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

  14. Strangeite says:

    I am a bleeding heart liberal (in both the modern American sense and the classical sense, which are not diametrically opposed as some believe) and therefore the argument of the “rich fat cats pillaging the poor” resonates with me emotionally.

    However, I am also a free market capitalist that runs a small business.

    These two components to my personality typically, but not always, fall into opposing camps. Therefore, I tend to be slightly better informed on basic economic theory.

    I honestly believe that American-style Keynesian capitalism is the best economic model humans have devised, yet. But even the father of Capitalism himself, Adam Smith, knew that governmental regulation in limited areas was not only important but necessary for a free market to functional properly.

    To quote Smith in the Wealth of Nations, “Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expence of carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with with those of the neighbourhood of the town. They are upon that the greatest of all improvements.”

    It was because of the extreme importance of the roads, canals and rivers, that Smith argued that these must be regulated by governmental authorities, despite his hating most other forms of governmental regulation.

    I would argue that at its core, the internet and its “system of tubes” serves the same purpose. The efficient and swift delivery of goods, services and information to geographically distinct regions.

    Is Congress up to the job? No, I don’t think they are. The FCC has shown a small degree of leadership in this arena, but in the end, the lobbying efforts by Netco are having a profound impact.

    To quote Smith again, “The government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatever.”

    Really, the only hope, is for citizens to become engaged and solicit their representatives regularly. I have worked for several political campaigns over the years and believe it or not, politicians actually really do listen to their constituents. An office visit has the most influence, followed by an actual real letter, followed by a phone call and last an email.

    If, and this is a big if, people really cared and started becoming engaged in their duty as a citizen on this issue, then a workable solution could be found. But if we continue to be laissez faire (haha, get it?) about the topic, then the Tier 1 providers and their army of lobbyists will be the ones having the final say.

    • Volatar says:

      You have a VERY interesting frame of view. (as in “What the hell?”) I wish I had more time to delve into your thoughts on economics.

      Anyways, @ the FCC: The Anti government crowd (which I am a member of) is far more scared of the FCC taking control and becoming the regulator than we are of congress doing so. Congress (supposedly) represents the people and can be voted out if we don’t like what they do. The FCC is a bureaucratic institution that we have no real influence over, and as such is far worse in our eyes.

      • Strangeite says:

        Yeah, I tend to be called a traitor by both sides, so I know that I need to do my homework first.

        Regarding the FCC: This is exactly the type of situation why we created the independent agencies of the federal government that exist outside of the federal executive departments.

        A highly technical, complicated and important function of society that is best handled without the burden of short-term political turf wars.

        Congressmen don’t write bills. 99% of the time, their staff don’t write bills. K street writes bills that benefit their group and gives them to their pet representatives. An opposing lobbying group will write a bill and give it to their congressperson. In conference rooms, congressional staffers (with the “expert” lobbyists sitting behind them) will select parts from each bill and then send it to committee.

        The problem with this method is that there is nobody representing you and me.

        No, the FCC needs to be the one to handle net neutrality and us citizens need to let our representatives know that they need to let the FCC do their job and provide cover from the Netco of the world as needed.

      • You DO have the ability to make your Congressmen scuttle funding or your President disband it. You don’t have either of those abilities with corporations. (Not your point, I know, but it is worth bearing in mind).

  15. Jarenth says:

    Another interesting video, Shamus, thanks. And I really dig the change in art-style. Is the (hypothesized) next video going to be lines drawn in sand? ;)

    On topic: the current situation of Net Neutrality seems to me, from what I’ve learned from your video (and I’m mildly ashamed to admit I wasn’t as up to speed on the topic as I feel I should have been), like a cold war of sorts. You argue that our current situation is the best possible outcome, and I’m inclined to believe that; but this situation can only last as long as none of the Tier 1 providers make the first move. Because any move made by Provider A is almost inevitably going to reduce profits for Providers B and C, who will then feel both prompted and vindicated to employ their own countermeasures. To which other Providers can and will respond, and so on, and so on.

    The Internet is less of a series of tubes and more of a house of cards, and we’re all just sitting here watching it and hoping our roommate Tier 1 Provider won’t slam the door when he gets home.

    • Shamus says:

      The most unstable system of all: A Nash Equilibrium where all of the actors are idiots.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      But surely they could just respond to Provider A directly, leaving innocents out?

      Oh, sorry. My optimism is showing.


      We’re doomed!

      • Jarenth says:

        Well, sure. But the point is that if you accept the notion that our current situation is the best possible one (hereafter referred to as the Candy Mountain hypothesis), every possible change is going to be downhill in comparison. And once the spectre of Not-Net Neutrality is out of the bag, there’ll most likely be no going back to the olden days.

        Say that Provider A, being a telephone company, decides to charge extra or restrict voice chat over their part of the network. Not only is this bad in its own right, but there’s not a whole lot Providers B and C will be able to do about — except maybe take a firm public anti-Provider A stance. And this is assuming that B and C are thinking

        Hey, Provider A is doing something morally reprehensible that threatens the stability of the Internet!

        instead of

        Hey, Provider A found a new and interesting way to bilk money from the hopeless net addicts crowding our networks!

        • Felblood says:

          Assuming the cards are all in the best place for them to be, we just need to glue them in place, with a formal agreement between all Tier 1 carriers to carry no traffic for competitors who violate net-neutrality. When the threat of government regulation loomed large over video games and comics, they created internal regulatory boards to make government oversight appear redundant. A formal agreement between carriers, to maintain the status quo, is the least intrusive way to make that happen.

          If A breaks the rules, B and C would just refuse to carry packets from A at all (or preferably just threaten to). Actually breaking ties would basically destroy the internet for a few weeks, costing all three companies a fortune, but with their combined marketing departments they could paint A as the instigator and inevitable loser in this net war, and steal a bunch of his local ISP customers.

          In this situation A has to either capitulate and restore net-neutrality on his network (the cost effective move that Candy Mountain enthusiasts would be hoping to force), or lay cable for an entire network, so it can support an entire competing internet. (Your local ISP would want to offer access to both internets, so this would just have some unpredictable impact on the price and little more.)

          While a scenario where there are multiple complete systems of tier 1 providers competing to move any given packet at the best price is certainly enticing, I don’t see building a redundant internet being cheap enough to be feasible for several decades. Rural fiber optics are still a pipe dream; why build two internets, when we can’t really complete this one? Besides, people like “The Internet,” and they like it to just work.

          Maybe if the government built a complete network and then privatized it (there’s no way uncle Sam could turn a profit on this venture, so expect to pay for it with more taxes). It would have to be sold to companies who had no existing part in the tier 1 system (so probably in small pieces), with an agreement to keep net-neutrality, and not sell to an original internet carrier for say 5 years. No one else really has the capability to build such a thing except Google and Activision, and they could probably just buy the existing internet.

          • decius says:

            If a company were to charge rates at levels similar to current rates, how long would it take to pay off buying all the tier 1 providers?

            Perhaps what we need is something between a benign anarchy and a benign monopoly.

          • Blanko2 says:

            agreed, cept the fact that, if they blocked the packets to A, they would also be monitoring everyone’s packets, and ideally that is the thing to avoid. course it’s the preferred evil, in this case, since it would likely pull A back into the status quo (unless they were willing to bleed money to make a new internet, as you said. also that would validate everyone who calls the internet ‘internets’)

          • Jarenth says:

            That’s certainly an interesting proposition. I guess the feasability of it depends a lot on how easy (or at all possible) it is to switch Tier 1 providers, but I assume that in our case hypothetical Providers B and C will gladly point out to clueless consumers just how to get that done.

            And on a side-note: if all supporters of Net Neutrality would refer to themselves as ‘Candy Mountain enthusiasts’, the world would officially be a better place.

            • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

              But aren’t Tier 1 providers the ones who own the lines themselves? How many areas have more than one set of lines set up? If there’s only one, company A owns it, then during the whole process people under the areas of Company A have limited to no internet access.

              • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

                Oh yeah, forgot: “Candy Mountain” needs to become the official term used by sociologist or whatits and whoever to describe a situation where something can only go worse, or is believed to be such a situation.

                I wonder how many terms I’ve supported that have propped up by commenters. I think four, but I’ll have to make a general search of my comments some day to pick all of them up and collect them into a text file.

                • Jarenth says:


                  Also the fact that you probably can’t feasibly switch Tier 1 Providers is what makes the situation so volatile. In normal competition, businesses that blatantly go against their customers wishes lose those customers to other, better businesses. But if switching is impossible, there’s no viable business reason not to be a jerk about it, especially if you can make more money that way.

  16. Guthie says:

    Thank you for this video series, Shamus. ^^ In addition to just being a nifty-o tech demo, they are extraordinarily well-written and informative. As both a teacher and a tech-head, I know how difficult it is to create computer-related explanations that neither patronize with their simplicity nor overwhelm with their information volume; you’ve succeeded on both fronts and still included information that people like myself (who already know a bit about the topic) still find interesting. Kudos to you, and I hope you continue this series! ^^

  17. Taellosse says:

    Excellent points all (referring to you’re below-video text). I would point out that, as Nathon does before me, that former-Senator Ted Stevens of, “the internet is a series of tubes” fame died a couple months ago in a plane crash, and so should probably be referred to in the past tense.

  18. Tohron says:

    I’m not sure where you got your image of the pro-neutrality camp, but for basically all of the pro-neutrality people I know (including myself), the core issue isn’t people getting rich – it’s the potential for people in charge of the providers to influence the flow of information for their own benefit.

    Whether Congress can actually pass a law that simply prohibits discrimination with regards to the charge levied for transmitting a certain amount of data without doing a bunch of other stuff is up in the air (and with a very conservative House coming in, anything that could be remotely construed as anti-business will never pass for the next 2 years), but a simple anti-discrimination rule is all that’s needed, and the providers seem to be doing fine now with the same informal rules.

  19. silver says:

    I don’t know a whole lot about Ted Stevens, but when I heard him vilified for talking about the internet as a “series of tubes” I actually considered the context: he was talking to other congressmen, ones who don’t deal with network issues daily. If he said that to technical people, I’d be on board for calling him an idiot, but since he was addressing Congress, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and suppose that he was trying desperately to come up with a metaphor to explain it to them. Or maybe I’m too generous? (And, seriously, it’s not the worst metaphor possible. it could go a long way to helping people understand issues who aren’t technically minded, since they kind of “get” water pressure)

    On the topic of net neutrality: wouldn’t the internet treat attempts to thwart NN in the way it deals with censorship? I believe it the quote is “it treats censorship as damage and routes around it.” We might end up with some encryption system that disguises arbitrary data to look like “the right kind of packets” to pass through certain networks (“that’s not voice data, that’s letters from Grandma. She writes funny, but write she does”), but I can’t imagine with a million eyes on the problem, we couldn’t see a solution.

    In any case, I’m in agreement with previous posters who posit that a system which allows the corporations to have editorial control over packets means they could no longer have their current freedom of responsibility from the content. There’s even a sort of precedent, in that currently ISPs get away with not filtering child porn or whatever other bad things by claiming “we don’t control the content, we just forward it” – once they start taking control of the content, they become liable for the content.

    • Lanthanide says:

      The series of tubes metaphor by itself in the context he used it is probably good, and undeserving of such criticism. But that wasn’t all he said.

      He said something along the lines of “I received an internet the other day, but it was delayed because the tubes were clogged”. He was talking about an email.

      • Alan De Smet says:

        There was lots of good reasons to dislike Stevens. He was a corrupt, greedy, petty technophobe. But the tubes comment in particular wasn’t that off base. A network connection is frequently referred to as a “pipe,” and isn’t a pipe a tube?

        • Caffiene says:

          Ah good. I was hoping somebody would have commented on this already.

          Yeah… as far as “a series of tubes” goes as an analogy, its actually pretty good. Tubes or pipes are a transmission medium that can vary both in speed and simultaneous throughput and that people can easily visualise being routed and redirected.

          The senator by all accounts was quite clueless, but attacking him on that particular analogy is much like what Shamus was arguing against in the video – its a point that doesnt address the real issue and is open to rebuttal, for the sake of having something to attack.

          • Fists says:

            Another in support of the fact that that particular quote doesn’t make him ignorant, particularly when taken as physics the internet is pretty much a series of very tiny tubes, like those old internal air-tube-mail things from offices but rather quicker.

            That being said the man is still likely an idiot but indirect attacks on his opinions are exactly what bad politics (i.e., all real politics) is about.

            • Will says:

              The reason the ‘series of tubes’ comment gets so much flak is because it’s so close to being correct. If it was just wildly incorrect we’d just brush it off as another politician not knowing what he’s talking about, but the metaphor (and the note that it is not a big truck) is accurate enough to prove that he did some research, but inaccurate enough to show he didn’t do enough research.

  20. Abnaxis says:

    Excuse my relative ignorance in matters economical.

    A question, however: why not use a carrot, instead of a stick, to enforce net neutrality? Give companies who do not take advantage of their position as Teir 1’s status akin to not-for-profit organizations, since they are donating services for the common good.

    Instead of government asking “how do I control the internet?” (a highly technical question, not suited to politicians) they can ask “how much is Net Neutrality worth to my constituents?” (a highly political question, much more suited to poiticians). Any country can participate–or not–so the US isn’t passing laws that everyone else is stuck with. Companies have an economic incentive to keep the internet free. And if we’re really talking about a public service, the public should pay for it, no?

    • Galad says:

      that’s another excellent idea, sprung from a single video’s comments on this matter. I wonder how feasible it is in reality..

    • ehlijen says:

      But that would still require government oversight in order to ensure that the tier1co’s are true to their word when they claim this.

      Whether the government punishes the baddies or rewards the goddies, they’re still looking at the data, with all the dangers that implies.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Yes, but this changes the problem from “we need to write new laws to regulate everyone in the world” to “we need to have the IRS put an addendum in the tax code.” One the government has experience with. The other, they do not.

  21. MichaelG says:

    Some points:

    – the servers can move around the world to avoid (or take advantage of) regulation. A server farm is big, but over time, they can go anywhere there’s enough bandwidth, electricity, and a friendly government. It’s probably a mistake to assume the U.S. government can just wave its magic wand and get what it wants forever.

    – programmers have a say as well. If we switched to encrypted packets, deep inspection stops working. If we stopped using the “port number” system to address services (have the real destination inside the encrypted packet) then service-based discrimination stops working too. They can’t discriminate against traffic if it’s all opaque packets to port 80.

    – this is all about the death of legacy industries. TV is migrating to the net, and all the people living off that income stream are in a panic. They are looking for new fees to replace the old advertising and cable subscription fees. Given the job they’ve done on copyright law, and the fact that this is life or death for those companies, don’t expect this to go away.

  22. Excellent description of the topic. I’d just note that, while politicans THEMSELVES are often uninformed about 99% of what they’re saying, their AIDES AND STAFF are often really smart and well-informed, and can write really well-written laws. (I didn’t say GOOD, I said well-written. These people have agendas and their employers need to keep everyone from their corporate backers to their constituency to their richer constituency members to interest groups on all sides of the aisle happy). The question is, would they? Could meaningful debate occur? Would a net neutrality bill actually have enforcement with teeth? I’m actually far more concerned about government UNDERREACH in this arena than overreach: Them just not really doing anything while companies exploit pretty obvious loopholes with impunity.

  23. Slothful says:

    The real crazy thing about Net Neutrality is that there’s an awful lot of ruckus being raised over some pretty low-key censorship. It’s not like they’re burning books; they’re just being sluggish.

    People seem to really get riled up over the principle of things, like when the British kept the Tea Tax on America, they had actually taken measures to make the British imported tea much cheaper than the untaxable smuggled tea that was all the rage at the time.

    Britain was also fully within its rights to be trying to get some money out of the colonies, since the colonies had recently dragged them into a very expensive war with France.

    • Jeysie says:

      Bit of a clarification here: It wasn’t the taxes themselves that were the problem, it was the colonists not also having representation in Parliament to go with the taxation that was their problem.

      That’s why “No Taxation Without Representation!” was the rallying cry, not “No Taxes!”

    • Mersadeon says:

      Well, as someone who’s less pragmatic… I can understand that. If you’ve got principles, ideologies that you want to stick with, you don’t want to make compromises.

      Also, that whole era was morally quite ambiguous – that land was never theirs. They just came and said “well, this is ours now. Everyone who lives here that was here before us is just a mindless animal that we can enslave and treat like dirt, and anyone who says this is not our ground will get shot.” Neither the french nor the british had any right to claim that land. But, again, modern moral wasn’t really there (that’s why it’s called modern, I guess. Duh. I’m dumb sometimes.)

      But to get back to topic… I am totally like those guys that get outraged by little stuff. Because it’s not about the actual thing that was done, it’s about the ideology behind it. Well, I guess it’s kinda like the “pragmatist/ideologist” problem. Your Mileage May Vary. I hate TV tropes. They ruined my life. TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Oh my god, I am thinking in tropes. -__-

    • Will says:

      What worries people is the ‘slippery slope’. If you can justify meddling with packets a little bit, it’s easy to justify meddling a little more, and then a little more, and a little more. Each step becomes easier than the last and it becoems impossible to work out where you draw the line.

      To quote Terry Pratchett: “If you can justify killing someone for a good reason, then you can justify killing someone for a bad reason.” If you can justify modifying packets for a good reason, then you can justify modifying them for a bad reason, safest not to modify them at all.

  24. Alan De Smet says:

    I think a key building block of any legislation regarding net neutrality should be transparency. The risk is that your ISP will secretly meddle with your data. Is your internet phone call choppy? Maybe it’s because SuperNetPhone is crappy software, or maybe it’s because your phone company and internet provider doesn’t want you using SuperNetPhone to save money. Detecting subtle tampering is extremely difficult. Small trickery like that can kill competition.

    Of course, add in the lack of competition and it all gets worse.

  25. Shadow says:

    Good job on the video, Shamus. I really like how you’re able to get the point across effectively and in a medium that’s suitable for laypeople to understand it.

  26. BenD says:

    Hey Shamus, nice work on the ‘main site page’ redo, with the pictures of features and all!

  27. David Armstrong says:

    I thought the whole point of regulating bandwidth was that it’s getting more and more expensive to run these networks, so instead of allotting Joe’s Blog the same amount of bandwidth as Google, the Tier 1 providers ration bandwidth out based on the website’s popularity, and by extension how much the website can pay.

    Google can afford to pay the higher bandwidth costs their website consumes.

    Joe’s Blog can’t, so Joe simply receives less bandwidth. Oh, his audience will still receive content from Joe, it’ll just take 5-10 seconds longer to load.

    And shouldn’t this be the ideal situation, for everyone? Shouldn’t the websites that consume the most, pay the most, and receive the greatest benefits from this service?

    Assuming the internet should stay free is basically telling the T1 providers to operate the least efficient system possible, so that a small smorgasbord like Twenty Sided get’s the same attention as IGN, or Fox News, or any other super-high traffic website.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the whole point of Net Neutrality was because with the Verizon 3G network, the proliferation of hand-held internet browsers (smart phones), and the gradual rise of tech-savvy persons, the Internet is getting crowded and bandwidth is fast becoming a scarce resource.

    The issue is not the right to surf the internet speedily, it’s a conflict limited and diminishing resources. No doubt technology helps, but we still come to problem with websites crashing from over-use. We do come to a point bandwidth is prohibitively expensive.

    • Felblood says:

      A tier 1 provider can always build more cables if there isn’t “enough” bandwidth, the issue is that cable costs money to install and maintain, and providers don’t want to build and maintain enough cable to support peak traffic times.

      They want a way to offload traffic that is less important (TO THEM) to times when their system isn’t running at maximum capacity. If this meant that peak time traffic cost your ISP more (raising your own rates in turn), or that TCP/IP was revised to tag packets for real-time applications as more urgent, this wouldn’t be a huge deal (until somebody started editing down packet headers from other providers, to game that system too), but that’s not how the issue is being approached.

      The providers want to move only the packets that are from selected businesses (usually businesses they own or get paid off by), and make everybody else wait until the pipes are clear. This means that an MMO company will have either shell out to each tier 1 company, or accept that their product will be too laggy to play after 9PM, in some regions.

      Blizzard-Activision could make the payments, but Free to Play MMOs would likely have to suck up the damage. No, it won’t be cheap enough for everyone to afford it; the whole point is to divide traffic into two groups. Maybe, alternative MMOs, and a competitive internet marketplace, are the price we’re willing to pay for cheaper internet service in our homes, but we’ll get what we’re paying for, and the cheaply made internet of tomorrow may cost us more in the long run.

      The real danger is that in trying to solve this problem, we could create something infinitely worse than just another market advantage for World of Warcraft. We could be handing the freest information exchange in the world over to the socialist, big-business, alien-clone infiltrators, down at the Illuminati bureaucracy. >P

    • (LK) says:

      Providers have had and always will have the right to charge proportionally to the bandwidth being used and they currently already do. Plans that support more bandwidth are more expensive.

      Yes the network is getting more expensive to run, because it’s supporting more paying accounts (making more money).

      The problem with regards to cost of maintenance is they basically want cram so many customers onto their network that it’s full during non-peak hours… without having to deal with the overload that causes during peak hours.

      The issue isn’t the expenses associated with growing use (that’s called market growth, it’s a very good thing), the issue is that they want to basically short-sell their bandwidth. When you’re trading in a service and you’re selling more service that you can actually provide and want to find ways to shift the burden of fixing that onto the customer, in other areas of law that would result in civil liability, but because it’s the internet they can use people’s lack of technical familiarity to obscure that they’re short-selling… and then they’re trying to get governmental consent to legally enshrine a right to short-sell.

      This is basically akin to the rolling brownouts that were practiced in California during the last energy crisis. When the system cannot supply what is demanded, some customers recieve temporary disruptions in their service, so that the grid overall can deliver service to certain priority destinations (hospitals, civil services) without interruption. except that because for the most part internet is not a metered commodity, people are paying the same price for their service whether or not such a “brownout” is in effect and regardless of how often it is subjected to brownouts. Because you pay the same for non-meteted internet no matter how many brownouts your ISP subjects you to, this would be as if during a brownout, attempting to use your microwave still made the power meter count kilowatt hours and bill you for them as if it was still working… even though it isn’t.

      If ISPs were concerned about bandwidth vs price to this extent they would just meter it as if it were power… and for things like 3g networks this is exactly what they usually do, but for home service this is a disincentive to innovation (as proven by AOL in the 90s) so the issue does get less simple, I admit.

  28. (LK) says:

    I’m not sure if you were aware, Shamus, but ISPs have actually done more than just talk about doing this.

    There was recently a minor scandal involving Comcast and Netflix. Netflix wanted to purchase service from Comcast to expand their streaming capabilities… but because Comcast had recently launched their own competing service they wanted to preferentially charge Netflix more for such an arrangement than they would normally charge some other business for the same deal.

    This is a good example to build on where we can see that perhaps some government intervention is acceptible if limited in scope, because to some degree this falls under pre-existing areas of government regulation. In this instance, this is an issue of anti-competitive practices, which are a well established area of regulation and one which has very limited capability to infringe upon individual rights when properly wielded.

    Personally I’m of the opinion that rather than making new laws to address net neutrality, we simply need to alter existing laws that may be relevant and applicable to the goals motivating providers to undermine neutrality.

    There are things that tier 1 providers are considering that arguably violate other, pre-existing laws covering the ways in which businesses interact with businesses or individuals. Net neutrality to my mind is primarily an issue of contract law and anti-trust law.

    • Shamus says:

      There was another case where it was discovered that one of the carriers was blocking P2P filesharing. I left that out my presentation because it seemed sort of tangential, and was done done in secret. (As opposed to be done openly, for profit.) But the Netflix deal you pointed out was new to me.

  29. Felblood says:

    My position on Real-ID:

    It’s a terrible and flawed idea, built upon a single deeply flawed idea.

    An internet handle is not a replacement for your real name, unless you’re like me, and actually answer to your internet handle in face to face conversations.

    An internet handle is more like your face, or due to the way some people change theirs, a mask (in this metaphor, actual visual avatars are more like t-shirts). You see a guy with a handle that seems familiar, and you wonder if it’s the same guy you used to hang out with at Tailsteak.com, or a different person who “looks” the same.

    In the past I’ve used a number of different handles (like for MMO characters or when user name and login name needed to be different), but this is has been my primary screen name for the past decade. It’s attached to almost everything I’ve said on the internet (much of it regrettable), but I maintain a single identity on the internet. People know me here, even if they don’t know my “real” name.

    This leads to a weird scenario where I feel compelled to tell people my “real” handle, even if I would never give them my “real name” or e-mail address, but my point stands. People on the street get to see my face and my clothes, but I don’t wear a namebadge to the bank.

    • Jarenth says:

      I personally feel that the combination of screen name and visual avatar is a stronger identifier than just name alone, but otherwise I second this notion. I’ve been Jarenth on the internet for about six years now, and I found myself using that name (and currently associated picture) pretty much everywhere. It’s not just a handle, it’s my online identity: a safe and easy way to communicate with other, similarly-hidden people across the world, talking to and sharing with them in much the same way I interact with my real-world friends. It’s not that I don’t want to share my real-world information, per sé, but it’s really not necessary for this kind of online interaction. Knowing my real name and adress or similar information isn’t going to make me anymore real; I’ll still be a name and a picture of a blue guy with glowy eyes, just with some extraneous real-world data attached that doesn’t serve any (constructive, healthy, safe) purpose.

      Forcibly linking real-world information to internet handles is a prime example of missing the point of internet communication entirely.

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

        Even better example to me about missing the point is when someone claims your words have no weight unless you’re using your real name. Which is often carried with an undercurrent of “say that to my face” and a definite “might makes right” -feel.

        Yeah, I’ll use my real name just so you can come beat me up so you can keep up your illusion of the world up. I’ll get right on it.

        Worst example I’ve ran was in one Finnish magazine’s site, where some of the workers put up blog-like pieces. There was argument about an internet censorship law and since it was marketed to and by politicians as an “anti-child pornography” law, it was somewhat heated. Not as much as could be expected, but still. One person basically claimed the another’s valid points were irrelevant because he didn’t use his real name. With a subtext of “if you’re not ready to risk getting beaten up for your opinion, no-one should listen to you”.

        Somewhat amusingly, the guy noted that his pseudonym leads to a blog of his where he has personal info therefore calling the douche’s bluff. In true troll fashion he responded with “you might be over 20, but you’re still just a kid so you can’t understand anything”. Naturally leaving out why he was “just a kid”.

        Though most worrying is that I’ve met people like the douche in person, and they really do believe that if they can either beat you up or are physically stronger than you they’re right. Of course doesn’t work the other way around, and they’ve ignored anyone they think is beneath them some way (younger, less/no kids, female, “foreign” etc.). So he might not have been trolling, just reminding me why I haven’t been proud of being Finnish for almost 15 years and running.

  30. Michael says:

    Is this the project you were talking about in “A Pet Project, Euthanized”?

    ( http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=2005 )

  31. Blanko2 says:

    i like this video more than the last, not due to content (both were good in that regard) but due to timing, the higher speed of the drawings was much better than the other one, which seemed to drag on a bit.
    looking forward to more of this series.

    its like the best of both worlds, shamus words on lots of things AND videos.

  32. thebigJ_A says:

    I want to play an RPG that takes place on that world map in the video.

  33. Warden says:

    I envy your ablity to do so much at once.

  34. Turgid Bolk says:

    This is off topic, but nobody has mentioned for this video or the last one. The style of your video is very reminiscent of the RSA Animate videos, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

    They are made for the RSA by a group called Cognitive Media. I was just curious if you had seen these. Maybe you can pick up some tips.

  35. albval says:

    Since nobody seems to have commented this yet: In the end you write Creative Commons on the screen, as to indicate a free license. I have to nitpick though. CC is not a license, but just the organisation behind the licenses. If you actually want to license the videos more freely, then you need to actually choose one of the licenses. (Like CC-BY-SA: video needs to be attributed to you and shared alike). At the moment, your video is still fully copyrighted, since you do not do so.

    Since becoming an adminstrator in my language Wikipedia, this has been a pet peeve of mine. Sorry to inflict it on you.

  36. X2-Eliah says:

    Since has not been said yet, and is of the utmost importance and revelence to the continued existence of the Internet itself:

    Shamus, you ought to go back to the white-on-green scheme, it was much more pleasing to the eye. This crumpled paper background really looks a bit.. shoddy and unappealing.

    • Kdansky says:

      I agree. Can we have black blackboards? That would remind me much more of blackboards, since ours generally are not green.

      • Shamus says:

        Yes, I will have a blackboard one of these times. I have a few other styles that I’ll rotate through, assuming I decide to stick with this.

        • AGrey says:

          Please decide to stick with this.

          And since I can’t resist a comment on the video itself: I don’t think this is going to happen the way you seem to say it will. The first break in the current model will come when a major studio (Paramount, for example) launches a streaming video site with their entire video library that is only accessible to customers of one tier 1 provider (comcast, for example) Maybe with some tie-in to their on-demand cable channel, but nonetheless restricted to only their customers. For this service, the provider would pay the studio a metric crapton of money, and both of them get to make lots of ads about it (“We’re releasing all our movies for free! aren’t we the greatest company ever!” and “Pay for our service and you get a bajillion free movies streamed right to you!”) Paramount can stick it to netflix (and the pirates), comcast can stick it to at&t, and all of it is not only legal, but extremely profitable. And boom- the first rock that brings down the net-neutrality avalanche is fired.

          not long after that, you get a competing studio/provider matchup to compete, and before you know it, every provider has their own private internet, cordoned off from the competition.

  37. Rob Lundeen says:

    Another great video Shamus! I posted it to reddit to spread the word: http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/elmgo/drawn_to_knowledge_net_neutrality/

  38. Nate Shandy says:

    Well-put together and narrated. Also easy-to-understand for the computer layman such as myself. Thank you. :)

  39. usc says:

    That was a great video…but it left out a very important piece of information…the “Network” doesn’t OWN anything and thus has no “say” in anything. Simply put the Tier 1 companies put cable in the ground and equipment in racks. They pay for IP licenses. They pay employees to maintenance all of this equipment. They pay employees to answer stupid questions from people who think a computer is on par with a toaster. It’s their piece of the “Network”. And since it’s theirs, they should get to make the rules on their networks. Period. You don’t have to like it. You can always take your business some where else.

    I like your “mail truck” analogy…but it also falls flat. The “mail” truck is owned by the USPS. A quasi government parcel service that by law can not have competition. And by law already owns your mail. Doesn’t need your approval to open it. Hell…they own your mail box. And by “law” you subsidize when they fail to make a profit. 3.3 billion dollar deficit last year that you paid for, by the way.

    There is nothing neutral about net neutrality. You want the free flow of data or others want government control and protection…but what about the fact that there is neither nothing free in this world or anything that can be regulated and controlled? Your both wrong. Your quasi anarchy and the government regulators are both wrong.

    The free market has an answer for this. Tier 1 companies spend the money to develop and provide the networks and now they want to make money providing that service. That service includes traffic delivery. They can no longer afford to allow the “free flow” of data. Your “free flow” network is starting to crumble under the weight of all that unlimited data plans…look at AT&T. They make their choices about how THEIR networks operate best according to THEIR business models and the market place. Customers either agree and pay…or don’t and Tier 1 company shrivels away or morphs into something more competitive. Simple.

    I run a network for living…there is absolutely nothing free about it. You MUST control the flow of data and provide for priority of data. You MUST decide what is more important. You must ration bandwidth. Because it’s neither free or endless. In the “real” world where people have to pay to get other people to work and do things…you always have to make decisions about that.

    And in the real world competition is vital. It’s what separates good players in the market space from bad. If you aren’t allowed to be a stupid Tier 1 company…then no one will know where to get the best bang for their buck.

    Sadly…this generation is ate up with the idea that everything can or should be “free”. Try paying your light bill with “free”.


    • Abnaxis says:

      First, I don’t see anyone here saying the service should be free, or even suggesting it. We just don’t want tier 1 companies to actively try to sabbotage our service for their gains. If I pay for 3G service, I want 3G service, regardless of what I am connecting to or why I am connecting. If they need to charge more to do that, by all means, go ahead, but they shouldn’t get to pick and choose when they want to give me what I paid for. I paid for it.

      Second, you are assuming there’s competition. For a large number of customers these providers are selling service to, they do not have the choice to change to a different provider if theirs gives them a bum deal. There is no other provider. This is bad, in and of itself. It gets progressively worse as we give the companies more tools to milk their captive users and to lock out competitors.

      For example, Comcast is the only high speed internet provider in my area, and I have yet to see anyone who doesn’t loathe dealing with them. Their service is unreliable, they don’t answer calls, if you manage to get ahold of a human they’re always unhelpful and acerbic, and they charge ludicrous amounts of money. People go to Comcast because Comcast is the only guy on the block; if they want internet, they have no choice but to deal with subpar service. Comcast gets away with unbelievable crap because they have a monopoly in my area. This would be even worse if they could filter packets–I mean, who do they have to answer to? Clearly not customers, and not government…who?

      Free market would be a wonderful answer, if there was a market to speak of. However, what there really are a handful of companies that carry a monopoly on sevice in many areas. If they filter packets, they can completely screw the inhabitants of said area and use their technology and influence to ensure no other provider can ever compete in their monopoly.

      No one has any power, economic or legal, to affect Tier 1 company practices; net neutrality exists today only thanks to market momentum. That’s kinda the crux of the problem.

  40. Rosseloh says:

    On Net Neutrality:
    I definitely see the need for providers to not selectively provide their services. But I don’t like the idea of government involvement either. So chalk me up as undecided; it would take more thought and a lot more research.

    But the semi-anarchist cynic in me wonders if the ISPs (tier 1 or otherwise) realize just how much processing overhead could be used examining all this traffic. You’d have to deencapsulate up to at least layer 3 if you’re filtering based on destinations outside your own network, and further if you want to selectively deny (say) voice traffic. Then you’d have to actually do the filtering, and encapsulate the traffic again before sending it on its way.
    Whether you have that running on all the routers across your little slice of the net, or have one central machine that handles all traffic at some point, there will be some sort of slowdown (at least, with tier 1 volumes of traffic).

    Perhaps I’m just uninformed about current WAN technology (my specialization is internal networking) but I feel even the ISPs would think twice about putting that much stress on their machines (or spending millions on better ones).

  41. seodoth says:

    great video :D these are really educational!

  42. Adalore says:


    I could have been playing TF2 instead.

  43. Abnaxis says:

    Yay for late comments!

    Talking about monopoly stuff got me thinking…didn’t we do this regulation thing in communication once already? The Bell Company was a regulated monopoly for almost a century…what’s so different between now and then? Why can’t we treat Tier 1’s now like we treated Bell then–put a cap on their profits and regulate them as appropriate?

    Surely the government isn’t any less competent now than they were then, so what says they can’t do it today?

  44. Zombie Pete says:

    Was this series an inspiration for your series?


    They’re really well done, and I’ve only scratched the surface of their content.

  45. […] autor es Shamus y para aquellos que quieran profundizar, les recomiendo visitar su página web donde algunos de los comentarios aportados por los lectores no tienen […]

  46. Nathon says:

    Well, it’s forever later, but I finally got around to watching this. Way to enlighten the masses with a clear description of the issue and problems related to regulation.

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  1. […] autor es Shamus y para aquellos que quieran profundizar, les recomiendo visitar su página web donde algunos de los comentarios aportados por los lectores no tienen […]

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