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February 5th, 2015

Is Net Neutrality Now a Done Deal?

Does FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement on Wired yesterday mean that a level Internet playing field is now a done deal? Probably, but not necessarily. There are still hurdles to be overcome.

In care you missed the news, Wheeler yesterday wrote that he’s putting the whole force of his agency behind reclassifying broadband providers as Title II services and creating sweeping new Net Neutrality rules, which will also bring wireless providers into the fold.

The first hurdle to his proposal comes on February 26, the date on which the FCC is expected to vote on the new rules. This is probably already a done deal, as it’s unlikely that Wheeler would’ve penned yesterday’s piece for Wired if he wasn’t confident that he already has the support of his fellow commissioners.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

So, the question is, what happens next?

Most likely a slew of legal challenges, from both the cable operators and from the major wireless providers. Although we have no idea on what grounds the cable companies will challenge the new rules, as lawyers like to keep their playbook to themselves until game day, we do know that the FCC seems to be prepared for this eventuality.

In an interview published today on TechCrunch, Gigi Sohn, the FCC chairman’s special counsel for external affairs, says that the agency’s legal team is ready for the legal fight that’s sure to ensue. “It’s been over a ten-year slog to get these rules right,” she said. “We really feel confident that we are on the strongest possible grounds. We will win the inevitable legal challenge.”

If she’s right and the providers legal challenges are shot down in court, there will still be the Republican controlled Congress with which to contend. Without picking a winner, Sohn admits this is an inevitability: “This is what Congress does. Congress legislates. They do what they do, we do what we do. Obviously there’s already been an effort and we think efforts will continue, but we need to move ahead with what we’re doing.”

Even a successful congressional challenge might not kill Net Neutrality, although it would be sure to weaken it.

Although the Republicans have long been opposed to Net Neutrality on the grounds that it “stifle’s innovation,” with Ted Cruz going so far as to call the concept “Obamacare for the Internet,” CBS News is today reporting that there’s been something of a softening of the GOP’s stance.

“Yet in spite of their record of blunt opposition to any enforceable net neutrality rules,” Stephanie Condon writes on the CBS News website, “Republicans in the House and Senate last month rolled out legislation embracing the core principles of net neutrality — for instance, it bars the prioritization of certain content based on payment, and it regulates wireless practices. ”

Kevin Werbach, a former FCC counsel and an associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, agrees and said that congress isn’t likely to attempt to do away with Net Neutrality at this stage of the game, mainly due to public support. He said that the GOP legislation “is a recognition of how the environment has changed. There is no chance of legislation forbidding net neutrality rules or authorizing certain types of discrimination…. The extraordinary intensity of the support for net neutrality rules is something that Congress has to take into account.”

In other words, it looks as if some kind of Net Neutrality is now a certainty. What remains to be seen is how much teeth the new rules will have.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

35 comments to Is Net Neutrality Now a Done Deal?

  • Fargo

    Be carefull of what you wish for. You just might get it. Net neutrality will do the exact opposite of what it proclaims to do. What the net netrality law will do is put a huge tax on the internet, so your fees will go up. Then, since companies can’t offer faster speeds to higher paying subscribers, everyone will get the slower speed. So for everyone who thinks they are suddenly going to get cheap and fast internet because of this law, be prepared for a surprise. This law does nothing for the consumer. This laws only purpose is to give big government more controll. For those people who still have a landline phone, go take a look at your bill. You will see that half of your expenses are taxes. That is what you will soon see in your internet bill if Net Neutrality passes. This is a bad law. If you like this law because you think it will ‘stick it’ to the internet companies you are a fool and deserve what you get. Anything that causes an increase in cost to a company is going to bring about an increase cost to the consumer. Those companies will pass that cost along. This is a concept that most liberals just don’t understand. Nothing is free. If it cost a company more, its going to cost YOU more.

  • @Fargo Actually, Net Neutrality will allow ISPs to offer higher speeds to subscribers who pay more. What it forbids is for high bandwidth content providers to be throttled. In other words, Netflix passes at the same speed as a low bandwidth site such as FOSS Force. However, your provider will still be able to offer tiered pricing and even set bandwidth limits if they wish — which will affect the speed at which you receive Netflix or YouTube.

    Net Neutrality has nothing to do with taxes. BTW, I still have a land line and looking at my bill, less than 20% of my bill is taxes and surcharges.

  • Duncan

    It has been a long time coming, but it’s time. =:^)

    For US readers/voters (and those with US friends), the Mozilla blog has an invitation to sign a petition backing the FCC, to be delivered to our congress-people. I’ve already signed it.

    https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2015/02/04/victory-for-net-neutrality-lets-take-it-across-the-finish-line/

    It’s nice to see internet /finally/ being recognized as the vital utility it is. Considering my provider regularly cuts internet service for hours at a time overnight, sometimes several times a month, while going to great lengths to keep its branded VoIP voice phone service served from the same cabinents and coming in over the same lines up and running, because were it to cut the voice service it’d be subject to uptime requirements penalties, while the voice service with those uptime requirements still costs less than half what the more vital to many people internet service costs, it really /is/ about time!

  • Fargo

    I’m looking at my phone bill right now. My basic charge is $21.76. After taxes and Federal access and recovery charges and other Federal service fees it is $34.00. So technically taxes are 36% of my bill. I didn’t have a bill in my hand when I made that statement. But paying $34 for a $21 service, sure feels like half the bill are taxes. The net neutrality bill will indeed impose taxes on the internet. If the internet is regulated like the phone service it will also be taxed like the phone service. Don’t fall for the big government tricks.

  • CFWhitman

    There are several misconceptions in Fargo’s post.

    Net Neutrality has little to do with taxes. It’s not that the government can’t tax Internet connections. It’s just that they can tax them either way, with or without Net Neutrality. The two things aren’t really related.

    Also, there seems to be an idea that Net Neutrality is something new. That’s not really the case. Up until recently the Internet has been neutral. It’s only since people started trying to change this that it’s come to our attention.

    Net Neutrality has nothing to do with bandwidth. Companies can still offer different bandwidths at different prices. Net Neutrality has to do with packet prioritization. That is, if Net Neutrality is in place, packets cannot be prioritized on the basis of who is sending them or receiving them and how much money they are paying. If you can upload or download packets faster because you have more bandwidth, then you will get the benefit of that bandwidth.

    Basically, Net Neutrality is designed to prevent two things.

    First it’s designed to prevent anyone from getting charged twice for the same packets. That is, it makes it so you get charged for bandwidth and bandwidth alone. You don’t also get charged for how fast packets get delivered from particular places or services.

    Second, it’s designed to prevent ISP’s from cordoning off the Internet and providing limited access to different places. In theory now an ISP could start crafting the Internet to resemble cable television. It could offer packages that Included email, Facebook and YouTube only, or other such nonsense.

    As far as it goes, Net Neutrality encourages low prices for Internet because it preserves competition to some extent. However, to really encourage the lowest pricing, competition has to exist for connections to your home as well. There needs to be a way for more than one company to connect you to the Internet. Otherwise it becomes like cable television where only one cable company is permitted to operate in any specific area.

    The very fact that companies that function primarily as ISPs are opposed to Net Neutrality basically proves that it’s an advantage for the ISP subsciber. Of course, companies/people who make money with the content of the Internet, either through advertising, sales, or service subscriptions (like Netflix) are in favor of Net Neutrality.

  • Zeno of Elea

    This proposal on its face may sound nice however the unintended effect of any meddling in the marketplace both of ideas and commerce can be devestating in unforseen ways. Even though the big ISP’s suck at customer service they can currently be bypassed by a new company if it was willing and profitable to lay down line. Any regulation add restrictions on a systems and those restriction can be used as a sword by the larger companies to stop the small from growing or ever being created. A good example of this is the healthy hungerfree kids act. The regulations are so burdensome on schools it is costing them a fortune on food that is wasted due to students disinterest due to the “creative” cooking that’s required to meet the standards such as a taco with a tablespoon of meat or a hot dog in a taco she because the bun can’t meet the requirements. Another example of government restrictions or policy that does the exact opposite of its intended name is no child left behind which caused struggling schools to spend more time on test prep than on actual education or find creative loopholes to get by screwing the students in the process. Lastly this is the same government that brought you NSA spying, warrantless wiretapping, no knock raids, the Patriot act, and so much more.

  • Mike

    @Zeno > “Even though the big ISP’s suck at customer service they can currently be bypassed by a new company if it was willing and profitable to lay down line”

    BS. Do you have any idea what it would take to ‘lay down line’ to any sizable number of houses while the big telco’s and cable providers are fighting anyone who even attempts such a thing? Even Google has had to fight hard to get Google Fiber in places and they have entire buildings full of cash to burn. Meanwhile the mobile phone companies have a stranglehold on the wireless spectrum.

    They (the current providers) are abusive monopolies and need to be FORCED to share their infrastructure. One set of lines to everyone’s home or business – regulated as a utility and for use by ANY AND ALL potential providers. That is the only real solution. Anything less is broken.

  • Fargo

    @Mike “They (the current providers) are abusive monopolies and need to be FORCED to share their infrastructure.”

    Really? This is how we do business in this country now. We demand big government to “FORCE a company to share THEIR infrastructure”. This sounds way to much like Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ speach. We’ll yeah, they did build that. It wasn’t the governement. These companies put their own money and work into building that infrastructure. You stated yourself that infrastructure is THEIR infrastructure. The entitement attitude currently spreading through this country makes me sick. When the government taking control of your business is your reward for all your hard work, you can be sure that real inovation will surely come to a halt. Net neutrality will surely hamper innovation and freedom. The internet might have started as a military idea, but it was the free market and capitalism that made it what it is today. Not government regulation.

  • Mike

    @Fargo

    Yes, forced.

    This is not an example of a free market where competition is healthy (or even possible!) and they are some poor mom and pop shop, but rather they are some of the largest media conglomerates in the world with powerful political connections. That infrastructure they built is protected by piles of red tape and regulations those poor, poor companies have spent immeasurable dollars on lobbying to get implemented to protect their monopoly positions. These companies have a complete lock on their customers and they know it. Don’t like your cable provider and want to switch? Well, tough. You can’t, unless you are ready to pick up and move your entire family. The nature of the last mile connections ensure that will continue to be the case and these companies know it and abuse their privileged positions to extort money from their customers and now from companies like Netflix. They don’t take those profits and reinvest in infrastructure either. They let the infrastructure rot as long as they possibly can and upgrade the bare minimum while advertising speeds no one actually gets (at least consistently) and if you actually try to use what is promised, they call you a bandwidth hog. Then they throttle you or cut you off so they can continue to pocket the money they are making from both ends (just like how the phone companies love to double charge people for both the sending and receiving end of calls and text messages).

    Net neutrality is absolutely needed to ensure that the next big idea in information exchange on the internet (the next Facebook, or Netflix, etc.) has a chance to get started without the spectre of the the cable/phone companies being in a position to strangle them. Without net neutrality, the big cable/telco providers will become the gatekeepers of what we can and can not do on the internet…especially if it threatens those companies self same business models.

    Here’s an interesting video about data caps, but it makes a great observation about who owns the pipes and what their motivations might be: http://gizmodo.com/5976217/why-youre-totally-justified-in-hating-data-caps

  • Mike

    It’s also extremely interesting to note that before cable companies and telcos got involved in the ISP business, things were progressing quite quickly and with a greater democratization of the internet than exists now. For example you could host your own server on a residential connection. Then the big media companies got involved by leveraging their EXISTING infrastructure to force out smaller ISP’s. Suddenly prices, which had been falling for years stagnated and began rising. They’ve been rising steadily ever since, while user’s are subjected to ever more restrictive terms: can’t run a server, restrictions on sharing, asymmetric bandwidth, etc. All in the name of keeping control of their monolithic dinosaur-age monopolies.

  • Good video and they make good points about data caps. But I think there are better ways to regulate the industry than to reclassif it as Title II. I’m afraid classifying broadband providers under Title II is going to open a huge can of worms of unintended consequences. As you mentioned previously, the other big issue is all the lobbying money. That is always a big issue with any political debate no matter which side of the isle you are on. Big companies really don’t care if you have a D or an R after your name. All they care is if they can sway your vote with a little $$$.

  • Zeno of Elea

    So in the name of openness and freedom we need to force a company give up control on line it put down or openly purchased? That sounds like a contradiction of ideas forcing a company to do anything as a government is fascism. If we give into this line of thought what prevents the government from nationalizing all ISP companies and seizing the whole system. NSA spying, Internet censorship, and hidden taxes in arcane regulations. T

  • Fargo

    Hopefully people will soon wake up and realize that NetNeutrality will do the exact opposite of what they want. Its a 332 page monster of a bill. People have no idea whats in there. Its just like Obamacare. You won’t know whats in it until they pass it. Even then its going to take years until all the regulations get worked out. By the time the average joe realizes how bad this law is, it will be too late. The Fed Govt will have complete control and power over everything. Once the government has that kind of power they will never relinquish it.

    Don’t forget that Title II was created for the Federal Government to control a monopoly. By adopting Net Neutrality that is exactly what we will get. A federal goverment controlled monopoly. And, much like Sauron, the government doesn’t share control with anyone. Performance will be restricted, taxes will be imposed, and innovations will stop. The internet will be just another tool for a big government to extract revenue and control its citizens.

  • Mike

    I disagree.

    The internet flourished most during the dial-up era operating over lines controlled by Title II, because it forces them to be just dumb pipes for data. That is exactly what we need. We do not need ISP’s who are also major content holder trying to force their worldview on us through ‘offerings’, while simultaneously hindering competing content.

    > “force a company give up control on line it put down or openly purchased”

    Yes. Or if you prefer, remove ALL barriers to ANYONE setting up lines of their own, or perhaps community/state/shared ownership lines that anyone can use. The point is the lines must be for connection only, with no regard to content or usage…something the big providers vehemently oppose. That is the essence of net neutrality.

  • Zeno of Elea

    I am for removing all barriers in this context and the greater market in general. I just do not see how putting up governmental barriers removes all barriers. If a non profit / local community group / new company wants to lay down line and sets the rules for usage to be Round Robin packet delivery then they should be able to just as they should be able to prioritize.

    Also on a side note you mentioned earlier that the major ISP companies have become conglomerates with political connections. How is anyone to expect the governmental regulations not to benefit the big donors and connections. People used to be able to broadcast low powered radio stations in their house but due to governmental regulation that is not possible any more.

  • Mike

    > “I just do not see how putting up governmental barriers removes all barriers”

    In this case, it’s the lesser of two evils. The current situation with the big ISP’s can not be allowed to stand. They have far too much power and control. Unfortunately, government regulations are about the only weapon left to use against them. Competitors can not come in and start laying down new lines. In many jurisdictions, they’ve seen to that through extensive lobbying for laws favorable to maintaining their stranglehold on both the physical lines and the wireless spectrum.

    Personally I think internet access needs to be classified as a basic utility and dealt with the same way as water and electric. No prioritization of data based on origin, destination or content.

  • Zeno of Elea

    You say governmental regulation is the lesser of two evils but you also admit that laws are lobbyed for and past by government. It’s the government’s intrusion into the market place that causes the imbalances and de facto oligarchies. If there was no governmental barriers the free market would fix the imbalance. In a truly free system a conglomerate that treats you like crap would collapse under its own myopic weight.

  • Mike

    > ” It’s the government’s intrusion into the market place that causes the imbalances and de facto oligarchies. If there was no governmental barriers the free market would fix the imbalance.”

    That’s an over-simplistic view. There are plenty of real-world influences that prevent market forces from being self-balancing. Market forces can drive prices low in some cases, but have little effect on quality and safety in any product beyond trivial complexity. Without an FDA, would food production companies self-regulate to produce safe food? Would they even attempt to list what goes into their products? No, they wouldn’t, and countless people would have to die to offset media spin before market forces could even come into play. The FDA may be massively underfunded and not do a particularly great job, but look at countries that have no equaivalent to see something truly scary.
    Government regulation plays a critical role in certain industries. It’s important to keep in mind that government is a tool, which can be used by the populace, corporations, and people in power, often at cross purposes, and like any tool, can be used for both the benefit and detriment of society.
    I’m always mystified why people who are suspicious of government (because it a collection of people with lots of power) are so confident corporations (which are collections of people with lots of power) would obey any kind of self-regulating behavior. That’s nonsense. They will abuse the power they have to gain ever more control and the market will never have the information required to balance anything significant.
    Working against those natural trends requires intervention. While it can be abused, government at leats provides a bit of control and transparency by the people, whereas private coporations are completely opaue and can act with impunity.

  • Timon19

    Just an interloper here, but I’m not very certain how competition can be fostered in an industry that has consolidated precisely because of monopoly-granting (at local/regional levels) and the concomitant rent-seeking (read: lobbying) to maintain that position.

    Government power and oversight helped create TimeWarner and Comcast, et. al. as they currently exist, and helped push out smaller providers less able or willing to compete in the lobbying sphere. How is *more* government oversight and power going to solve a problem (that scarcely even has started to sort of exist)?

    Remember that the monster that is AT&T in the voice realm became Ma Bell precisely due to this sort of regulation and treatment by the FCC. The government then broke up their creation into Baby Bells, who then re-consolidated by playing by the rules set up by their very creator.

    It’s a vicious cycle, and I’m not clear on how more involvement is going to do anything but further entrench the big players to the exclusion of anyone else.

  • Zeno of Elea

    “I’m always mystified why people who are suspicious of government (because it a collection of people with lots of power) are so confident corporations (which are collections of people with lots of power) would obey any kind of self-regulating behavior.”

    This is an example of an misunderstanding of the position of people that distrust the government. Corporations do not have to be self regulating the market regulates them. If a corporation acts in a way the market does not need or want the market penalizes the company by not doing business or members of the marketplace actively boycotting the corporation.
    Government on the other hand has threat of force to back up its malfeasance. That is the critical difference. No insurance company can say you must buy our product or else. The government can say you must buy from one of these insurance companies and choose a plan according to what we think you need not what you think you need or else. If you don’t your fined/taxes 1% of your pretax net income (soon to grow to 2.5% after 2 years) or else. If you do not do that or else guys with guns show up to make you do so or else. Eventually that or else leads to confinement.
    As a side note the FDA while it sounds like something that might be good and the inspecting of the food might also seem needed if obsolete but the FDA has killed more people than saved by withholding possible life saving medicine from the market due to companies lobbying to block competition. The rational sounds good to protect people but if you have some debilitating or deadly disease that argument is moot. A non approved theoretical drug has the chance of extending a cancer patients life by 5 – 10 years or killing the patient in a week while the cancer has a certainty of killing the patient in 6 months to a year. Why should anyone tell the patient they can not choose to try the medication.

  • Mike

    > “If a corporation acts in a way the market does not need or want the market penalizes the company by not doing business or members of the marketplace actively boycotting the corporation.”

    That sounds nice, but pretty much never happens when the players involved get big enough. They can squash any and all competition before it starts and can collude to keep the market ignorant.

    > “As a side note the FDA while it sounds like something that might be good and the inspecting of the food might also seem needed if obsolete but the FDA has killed more people than saved by withholding possible life saving medicine from the market due to companies lobbying to block competition.”

    I dislike the FDA’s dual role and agree with regard to the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies, but there’s absolutely no way unregulated and uninspected corporations would keep food even close to as safe as what we have (and that’s not great, but far better than the alternative). Obsolete? Hardly. The market would drive towards the lowest cost, surely, but even more so to lower quality. The transparency you imagine would regulate the market doesn’t, and can’t, exist.

  • Timon19

    Mike,

    The “players involved get big enough” due to rent-seeking behavior that is incentivized by, among other government policies, regulation of the industry. They can squash any and all competition PRECISELY because they’ve grown big enough under the regulatory regime *meant* to “rein them in”. The regulatory regime *is* what allows them to grow and keep out competition.

    The FDA – as noted – is far, far too plodding in the realm of experimental drugs and treatments. Its imposed delays have cost many lives and quality-of-life of many others. In this way, our European brethren make the US look like backward pikers – because at least their regime allows some experimentation.

    The FDA in the *food* realm, along with the ridiculous USDA, has given us such greatness as a mass agriculture industry that resides in only a few huge companies, mostly in California, able to cope with the provision of – for example – cheap bagged lettuce and other leafy greens. It’s almost like a monoculture for the production side. These huge companies exist because they are best able to cope with the regulatory morass by, in part, employing very cheap labor, and can thus lobby to keep out competition. The worst recent foodborne illnesses have come under such a regime that has been encouraged by the regulatory state as it is. An entire restaurant chain eventually went bankrupt due to it, and there were extensive e. coli outbreaks from grocery stores as well. A similar thing exists in the chicken industry. Far more people in terms of raw numbers have been sickened precisely because of FDA and USDA regulations, than in slightly less-regulated areas.

    NO company ever got sustainably rich by poisoning its customers – that is, unless they are protected by the very regulatory regime meant to *keep* them from poisoning people.

  • Zeno of Elea

    “That sounds nice, but pretty much never happens when the players involved get big enough. They can squash any and all competition before it starts and can collude to keep the market ignorant.”

    That cannot truly happen unless there is a governmental regulations to allow that to happen. UBER thrived over yellow cab and other cab companies even thought the other traditional companies were entrenched in the market. Same could be said for Amazon when it started up versus Barnes and Noble or Borders book store.

    “Hardly. The market would drive towards the lowest cost, surely, but even more so to lower quality. The transparency you imagine would regulate the market doesn’t, and can’t, exist.”
    The market is not driven to lower quality. Quite the opposite in fact cell phones used to be the size of bricks now they can be the size of a candy bar, In the 1980 1mb of ram for a mini computer would be in the 5 figure range now 1mb is maybe a penny, “Gourmet” specialty food are affordable to the average person although inflation is making that statement less true, lower end new cars are incorporating features that were in luxury cars 15 years ago like radio glass, seat warmers, rear view cameras. Yes cheap low cost stuff also is in demand by the market because the cheaper made stuff helps anyone with a low income shop and still keep a budget. There is nothing wrong with that.
    Transperancy to help corporations self regulate already exist and is being put into practice. A lady just recently accidentally sent her rent check to Comcast and they cashed it. She went to the local news and they did a story on it. That story went viral and people were up in arms and Comcast reversed it’s decision. NBC news anchor Brian Williams recently got caught in a bold face lie about being on a helicopter in Iraq that was forced to land due to attack, someone that really was on that helicopter used social media to dispute the claim and again a viral firestorm. Those are more or less examples of the market place correcting the actions of actors within that market place; Comcast for its horrible customer service and NBC for not vetting their stories from their lead anchor. These examples of market place self-regulations are only amplified by social media and the non regulated Internet. Twitter was used in 2011 by citizens of Egypt to take down the governmental regime. The government of turkey used it’s power over the Internet in its country to shut down social media because things critical to the president came to light. China uses its Internet regulation and control to jail bloggers who do or say something against the regime. While these last two examples are rather extreme they are possibility in today’s world.

  • Fargo

    Zena of Elea wrote
    “… Corporations do not have to be self regulating the market regulates them. If a corporation acts in a way the market does not need or want the market penalizes the company by not doing business or members of the marketplace actively boycotting the corporation.
    Government on the other hand has threat of force to back up its malfeasance. That is the critical difference.”

    This is 100% correct. Not only that, but if company is doing something illegal or corrupt, you can turn to the government and hope they will provide some justice. However, when it is the government who is doing the illegal action or who is currupt, who do you turn to? You are a slave to whatever the government demands.

    I’m not completely against rules and order. I think there is a place for some government regulations. But taking over control of the internet is not one of those places.

    If Net Neutrality passes and braodband is regulated under Title II, you WILL see additional taxes and fees on your internet service and you will see a decrease in service.

    Those in goverment will lie to gain power and control. I’d give recent examples that are in the news, but I don’t want to get off topic and start additional arguments. If your aware of what is happening in the country, you will see that there was a big government take over of another industry recently. Now at tax time people are just waking up to what its going to cost them. The government lied to them. The service wasn’t free and it didn’t improve anything. Net Neutrality will create far more problems than it will ever solve. It is the product of a big goverment looking for more control.

  • Timon19

    It should also not be forgotten that Wheeler was being disingenuous in his disclosure to Wired. He held up wireless data as THE example of thriving innovation under a Title II regime. Except that wireless data has been explicitly EXEMPT from Title II over that entire, highly innovative time.

    Wireless VOICE has been under Title II for some time. Wireless voice has been slightly less innovative than a couple of cavemen sitting around a fire roasting mammoth steaks.

    Wheeler basically built his justification upon a lie.

  • Mike

    > “NO company ever got sustainably rich by poisoning its customers – that is, unless they are protected by the very regulatory regime meant to *keep* them from poisoning people.”

    Funny. They do it all around the world in lightly regulated areas. They poison water, ground, and air and feed known carcinogens to people and animals simply because they can save a buck or two by doing it. By the time anyone can do anything about it (if they can even prove it), and the company has been stopped or slowed, the people responsible have walked away laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Mike

    …and Wheeler is just a front man for the cable companies. He’s only favoring net neutrality now because he’s being pushed.

  • Timon19

    Huge difference between here and the places you describe: strong rule of law.

    Where companies keep it up, there is little to no rule of law. To posit that corporations would wantonly poison their customers if only they were allowed to perhaps says more about your ethics and morals than their desire to stay in business. To the extent that bad actions don’t affect the legal status of a corporation in a particular jurisdiction you will find poor rule of law and protection by local officials of the bad actor.

    Wheeler is being pushed by this administration AND the industry, now that they feel they can play a part in writing the rules. If they get in on it now, they can ensure the rules will raise barriers to entry so high, no one will be able to compete. They’ll whine about it to put up a front, but if they feel they can start helping to write the rules so as to further entrench, they will. And reclassification will have bought you the exact opposite of what you claim to want.

    None of this changes that Wheeler used an outright lie as justification.

  • Miek

    @Timon19 > “To posit that corporations would wantonly poison their customers if only they were allowed to perhaps says more about your ethics and morals than their desire to stay in business.”

    You have no right to question my ethics. You just crossed a line between polite discussion and warrantless insults. I don’t speak to assholes, so this discussion is over.

  • Timon19

    I’m sorry you feel that way.

  • Zeno of Elea

    Timon19 is incorrect stating a place where there is little to no law is a place where a corporation might dump intentional pollutants it is a place with too much governmental control and little justice in the law. A dictator can easily say company a give me 10 million USD and you can build your processing plant to dump your toxic waste in city b due to city b’s large amount of agitators. In a civilized country with a simple just framework of laws that are clearly written and defined issues such as that will not crop up as much. If a company wants to dump toxic waste or build an industrial building / factory it would first have to purchase the land, if it can do so then the people can use free speech and assembly if they choose to petition to have the construction stopped and the land purchased back from the corporation while using free speech and press to put pressure on the company to reconsider its actions, finally if enough people petition the local government, and the key is LOCAL as in the closest to the people to write an ordinance to prohibit that activity locally and either have the company repurpose the land or buy it and sell the land back to the people. This model of government allows for freedom and flexibility so the town 20 miles down the road can allow the structure to be build and if a minority does not like that then it is their job to either persuade their fellow citizens or vote with their feet.

    As a sidebar my definition of intentionally dumped pollutants is known and concentrated amount of toxic waste that serve no purpose, incidental pollutants such as biproducts that are give off during the creation or production of what ever a company does and not concentrated into waste without purpose can eventually be factored out of the discussion as innovation in methodology eventually corrects this. It does not take a business genius to realize that if a pound of input produces 10oz of product and 6oz of waste then that 6oz of waste is lost profit unless innovation finds new uses for it.

  • Timon19

    Zeno,

    I’m not sure you understood my comment. Places where intentional or negligent dumping of chemicals happens tend to be places where *rule of law* is weak. This is not the same thing as *no laws*, and in fact, as you mention, there might be a vast number of very strongly-written laws. Think of the Niger delta in Nigeria – there are many strong laws regulating the oil industry in Nigeria (and they may even have a quasi-nationalized situation there), but Nigeria – because rule of law is so weak – is famous for having what amounts to the largest continuous oil spill in the world.

    Rule of law is in contrast to rule of man (or men, or politician, or whatever). In a place with many laws, but no rule of law, the opportunities for bribery and malfeasance is at a maximum.

    It’s almost axiomatic that places that have had heavy-handed regulatory states have had such eroded rule of law, that they were environmental disaster areas many times worse than the worst the US has ever been – namely the Soviet Union and Maoist China.

  • Zeno of Elea

    Ah I did misinterpret your meaning of weak rules of law to the exact opposite end of the spectrum meaning a near anarchy state instead of a near totalitarian state with the ruling of man and the cult of personalities over a simple clear defining structure of law with equal justice for pauper or prince.

  • Timon19

    No worries. Discussions like this rarely ever get to the point where that interplay can be even elucidated, let alone understood and explained. More’s the pity, because those who advocate for strong regulations need to hear what the likely eventual consequences of their advocacy will lead to.

    It’s not necessarily an easy or intuitive set of concepts to think about if your mind is set some way.

    I’d even go so far as to say that there tends to be an inverse relationship between strength of laws and regulations and actual rule of law. More power vested in a given structure, whether it be government, corporation, or monarch opens the floodgates to rent-seeking behavior and the erosion of rule of law.

  • Zeno of Elea

    “It’s not necessarily an easy or intuitive set of concepts to think about if your mind is set some way.”

    It’s not intuitive because we have been trained to think complex is equivalent to better. In reality it is quite the opposite the strongest structures and designs are the ones that are flexible and easy to understand and simultaneously terse in definition.