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Obama & McCain Conflicting On Net Neutrality 427

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the of-course-they-do dept.
longacre writes "For all their incessant bickering in the first two presidential debates over conflicts of interest and government regulation, PopMech columnist Glenn Derene is puzzled that the candidates have yet to be challenged on a vital issue directly related to both those topics: Net neutrality. John McCain and Barack Obama have stated elsewhere their opposing views on the issue, with McCain being opposed to Net neutrality and favoring light regulation of the Internet, while Obama is in favor of neutrality and seeks Government involvement. In any case, since there is no standard accepted definition of 'network neutrality,' until the candidates elaborate on their positions (which they both declined to do for this piece, nor anywhere else so far, for that matter), 'both sides can make a credible case that they're the ones defending freedom of innovation and open communication.'"
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Obama & McCain Conflicting On Net Neutrality

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  • Both sides... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sasayaki (1096761) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:08AM (#25313201)

    Obviously. Both sides refuse to clearly state their positions so that they can define them... after the election.

    "Of course we mean X. We always meant X. Why, did we ever say otherwise?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by iplayfast (166447)

      Obama has already started changing his position on the topic.
      Then denied it.
      http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/09/techies-keep-an.html [wired.com]
      Keep a close eye on this one.

      • Re:Both sides... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:34AM (#25313641) Homepage Journal

        Oh, you meant "that one" [google.com]. Or did you mean the other McCain slur, "The One" [youtube.com]? More Slashdotty.

        We do have to keep our eyes on all these politicians. They will all change their terms after getting power if we can help it. It's pretty clear that with McCain, he doesn't even have to "spend any political capital" to side with the telcos against Net Neutrality: he's already against it, and fully lobbyist compliant.

        Obama has made a couple of statements on his website that only support Net Neutrality, which is the position he's taken all the times he's mentioned it in public. If he'd made a simple statement, then changed to the more detailed one, people would say "he's just changing an easily identified opposition to a load of complicated doubletalk so he can weasel out later". That article you linked to is complaining about "changes", when it's the same policy, just stated in under 50 words as the website's traffic grows heavy with the mass of people who tune in late in the campaign to the more easily understood message, rather than the wonky details the earlier audience of more political consumers wanted. The campaign, when asked, confirmed that the policy hasn't changed. The activists for Net Neutrality of course have the earlier rendition of the policy in full detail, and aren't complaining. Because it hasn't changed, it's just being communicated to a wider audience.

        By all means keep a close eye on both of them. But with Obama, you can actually watch him support Net Neutrality. Especially if you actually vote for him for president. With McCain, all you'll get is the short end of the stick: he's never even offered anything else.

        • Re:Both sides... (Score:4, Informative)

          by mccoma (64578) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:48AM (#25313903)
          The selection of Biden with his Hollywood lobbyists doesn't bode well. Look up the kinds of net / technology bills Binden favors and get a taste of the future.
          • therefore obama > biden. just like how JFK was, when he got the candidacy. the top guy.

            policies and vision will be held by obama.
        • Re:Both sides... (Score:5, Informative)

          by AmaDaden (794446) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:50AM (#25313947)
          I agree. That link iplayfast has given is basically FUD started by a FUD article here on /. http://news.slashdot.org/news/08/09/22/0526237.shtml [slashdot.org]. Notice that the original /. story was updated to say that while the main page for Obama's plans has been cut down the original information remains unchanged and is in PDF form.
          • by KGIII (973947) *

            I have to wonder how much longer people are going to insist on calling Obama "liberal."

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by wclacy (870064)

              Obama will always be called a liberal because he is.

              McCain should never be called a conservative because he is not.

              • Re:Both sides... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by compro01 (777531) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:17AM (#25314457)

                Obama is "US liberal". From his views, he would seem to be a bit right of the Canadian conservative party. Our liberal party probably falls into "pinko commies" on the US spectrum and the NDP likely falls clear off the left edge.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by wclacy (870064)

                  True,

                  I do believe however that Obama is trying to play towards the middle ground knowing that if he is to far to the left he will lose votes.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by KGIII (973947) *

                I'm not sure if you're using the word right. cfi Libertarian Party

                EVERY law RESTRICTS a FREEDOM. As does every regulation, "suggestion," edict, mandate, statute, etc...

                We already have too many laws. Obama is quite pleased to create more while we need fewer.

                For every law that grants a freedom there is an opposite side that is restricted. There are some important freedoms, those we've already outlined. We don't need any more.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Doc Ruby (173196)

                  Yes, but since many laws protect freedom by interfering with someone else's freedom to interfere with another's freedom, it's not so simple.

                  Yes, there are too many laws, but it's their quality - not primarily their quantity - that is the real problem. In our system, even striking down a law requires a new law, so there are two, though the effect is zero (or somewhere between 0-1, if only a reform or partial strikedown). However, we also have judges to throw out laws that are successfully challenged in court

      • Re:Both sides... (Score:5, Informative)

        by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:50AM (#25313959) Homepage

        maybe you should have read the entire article (including the PDF link at the end). i agree that removing the detailed tech plan from the web page was a questionable decision, and supporters were very right to be concerned. however, upon closer inspection it seems that Obama's web staff simply trimmed down on the text displayed directly on the page, but the original tech plan remains available for viewing. and if you look at the Versionista Page comparison and the PDF still linked to on the web page, all of the text discussing Net Neutrality are indeed still intact.

        it's more likely that Obama's campaign staff simply decided to cut down on the amount of text on the website while making updates to the content. perhaps it's meant to make the site more accessible to people too impatient to read the entire text, who knows? but even the new page directs people to a PDF link of the full tech plan at the bottom.

      • Jeez. If politians are going to get involved in defining the IP protocols and traffic management algorithms. Maybe they should talk to the inventor of the "Information Superhighway" as Al Gore would know all the technical details.

        Put it simply "net neutrality" is an idealogical battle between engineers, who would like to define a workable scheme for traffic management, and idealogs, who think the internet is a wonderful tool for freedom but have no idea how it works.
         

        • by compro01 (777531)

          Put it simply "net neutrality" is an ideological battle between engineers, who would like to define a workable scheme for traffic management, and idealogs, who think the internet is a wonderful tool for freedom but have no idea how it works.

          Don't forget the ISP execs who want to make as much profit as possible for as little input as possible.

          Defining it as a 2-sided debate is misleading at best.

        • Re:Both sides... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hey! (33014) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:24AM (#25314613) Homepage Journal

          Well, if I put Al Gore in charge of defining traffic management algorithms, I expect he'd do a pretty good job of it. He's not a communications engineer, but he's interested in that kind of thing and he understands the public stake in these things, so I think he'd be much better than some PHB at, say, Sun.

          This is not an ideological battle between engineers -- not unless people like Lawrence Lessig are "engineers". In fact, law professors are probably much better qualified to lead this discussion than engineers, because they understand that what is at issue is not controlling congestion, it is controlling markets.

          Just think what life will be like when the entire Internet is like Verizon or Sprint's mobile services.

        • Re:Both sides... (Score:4, Informative)

          by electrictroy (912290) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:25AM (#25314651)

          >>>engineers who would like to define a workable scheme for traffic management

          (1) Do what they've been doing since the 80s and 90s: Install fatter or more lines to handle the increasing load. The internet is not like a road with finite space. It keeps growing wider-and-wider-and-wider as technology advances.

          (2) Another effective means of managing traffic is by charging for it - use more, pay more. Use less, pay less. This method encourages users to conserve bandwidth via the feedback of reduced billing costs. It also provides extra funds to buy additional wires.

    • Well Obama's a lawyer that took the RIAA's "free money" [consumerist.com] while senator.

      He's a lawyer people. The RIAA regularly gives him a couple grand "for the kids". Let's not kid ourselves on his real positions. He's an enemy of fair use, an enemy of free speech on the web.

      While McCain has Lawrence Lessig's blessing [lessig.org] and has worked to enhance fair use in the past according to Lessig, he's probably not a candidate that will make fair use a government priority either. But he may try and improve the situation a little.

      Heh g

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        Of course he backtracked those statements, the war is going ... better, don't want to use "well" because it's a war.
      • by Retric (704075)
        If you really think politicians can be bought for 9k try it some time. Please step back and think about spending 200,000k on an election and then see how much it takes to be "bought".

        I might vote for McCain if he showed some maverick ideas or even a few new ideas. So far he wants to cut 18billion from the 3,000 billion budget, but it's looking like the democrats are going to spend less money which is what I really care about. Obviously it's congress who controls the budget, however I still think the p
        • Democrats ... spending less ? This is new.

          Do you seriously believe their government health "insurance" (if it's govt. it's not an insurance at all) will lower costs ? They tend to call it "spending" but in reality for a working person it's a cost.

          Most estimates of this atrocity's cost are somewhere between "more money than the entire U.S. is worth" and "even God would have trouble paying for this". And that's assuming zero corruption (zero earmarks especially).

          And, as another poster indicates, they're going

      • by AmaDaden (794446)

        While McCain has Lawrence Lessig's blessing

        So does Obama. http://www.lessig.org/blog/2007/11/4barack.html [lessig.org]
        Additionally Obama has long supported Net Neutrality.

        We can't have a situation in which the corporate duopoly dictates the future of the internet and that's why I'm supporting what is called net neutrality.

        That is a quote from Obama's podcast he was doing while he was a senator. http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/060608-network_neutral/ [senate.gov]

      • Re:Both sides... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dak RIT (556128) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:46AM (#25314995) Homepage

        You are aware that campaign donations from "organizations" is actually based on individuals who donate to that candidate and then self-identify with a specific organization, right? The information comes from what you list as your employer when you donate.

        Looking at the actual data available, it shows Obama receiving $2,000 from the RIAA. OMG, the sky is falling, $2000? That's probably a single individual. There's no way you can possibly draw conclusions based on that... a single individual has far too many possible extraneous reasons for choosing who to donate money to.

        If you actually did a little bit of research though, by going to a free site like opensecrets.org, you could actually get some more substantial donor information for both candidates. For example, Obama's 5th largest donor is Google, 8th is Microsoft, and 12th is Time Warner. He also has a number of universities showing up near the top, including Cal at #2 and Harvard at #3.

        Comparatively, 7 of McCain's top 8 donors, and all of his top 5, are financial institutions. AT&T is mixed in there at 6. There's no other computer/technology/communications company showing up on McCain's top 20.

        So what conclusions do you want to draw from that? Google is pretty invested in net neutrality, and its employees seem to be voting with their dollars pretty heavily for Obama. Should we conclude instead that Obama is really better for net neutrality? AT&T was also one of the biggest opponents of net neutrality, and its employees seem to favor McCain a lot more strongly than Obama.

        The thing with data like this, is you can prove just about anything you damn want. That's why I always do my own research on issues that matter to me instead of reading a random blog. If you care about net neutrality, do research about donors at sites like opensecrets.org, and check out voting records and interest group ratings at votesmart.org. And also just read the positions of the candidates themselves.

  • come on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:09AM (#25313219) Homepage
    This is a minor issue, not a vital one. I'm glad they don't waste debate time talking about it.
    • Re:come on (Score:5, Insightful)

      by megamerican (1073936) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:17AM (#25313329)

      This is a minor issue, not a vital one. I'm glad they don't waste debate time talking about it.

      Debates are for people who think that watching them will somehow make them informed. I personally would like them to talk about net neutrality, just to get a good laugh about it. However, the audience of the debate probably doesn't know what net neutrality is, let alone the candidates.

      Who ever gets into office will be told what to do about net neutrality by some unelected person behind the scenes. Their stances on net neutrality are vague for a reason, so they can change their minds at a moments notice.

      • Re:come on (Score:5, Insightful)

        by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:21AM (#25313415) Journal
        The debates would matter more if they didn't ask the same questions in all of them. I'm getting really tired of hearing about their healthcare plans, taxes, and Iraq/Iran/Pakistan over and over. There are so many other issues they could hit, if they refuse to answer questions on those issues them move on for god's sake!
      • Who ever gets into office will be told what to do about net neutrality by some unelected person behind the scenes

        This is true for McCain, but Obama seems to have a better grasp of technology. Anyway, his daughters are coming to an age over the next 8 years where they will have significant input into internet issues. McCain's daughter is a major in art history at Columbia, she might have some insight.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          If you're in a world where a President's daughters have more influence on him than the MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR TELECOM LOBBYISTS, stay there. I'm sure its a happy, happy place.

      • Re:come on (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:50AM (#25315053) Homepage

        Their stances on net neutrality are vague for a reason, so they can change their minds at a moments notice.

        I think even more likely is that their stances are vague because they don't understand the issues very thoroughly. Hell, I worked in IT for over a decade, and I don't feel confident that I could talk about net neutrality in any depth without saying something stupid.

        At this point in the campaign, both candidates are trying not to say anything stupid, while hoping that their opponents do.

    • Agreed. With everything else going on only a tiny portion of the public would care to hear about this issue.

      "Glenn Derene is puzzled"? Really?

    • Re:come on (Score:5, Funny)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:24AM (#25313483)

      This has huge repercussions on my ability to torrent porn. I would not call this a minor issue.

      • by rishistar (662278)

        This has huge repercussions on my ability to torrent porn. I would not call this a minor issue.

        Yes, I believe that both candidates are agreed that porn and minors are a no-no.

    • by fractic (1178341)
      While it may be a minor issue, it is an issue that most people here find important. If we don't weigh this topic more heavily then the average voter then who will?
    • by longacre (1090157) *
      The next administration will make decisions that directly shape the next several decades of how Americans communicate. The effects of these decisions will be more long-term than those made in regard to the economy or Iraq, but they are no less "vital."
    • by Sloppy (14984)
      They spend time talking about offshore drilling. Why not this?
      • by pcolaman (1208838)
        Because energy independence is a tad more important than anything relating to the internet. Grow up.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sloppy (14984)

          Because energy independence is a tad more important than anything relating to the internet. Grow up.

          Internet policies will effect your life. A 2% (number admittedly pulled out of my ass) increase in oil production will not. If they spent more time talking about repealing the the nuclear fuel reprocessing ban, fine, that would be discussion actually pertaining to energy independence. Things as minor as a few more oil rigs, are nearly off-topic in the energy independence discussion.

    • one of the founding principles of the entire internet, the principle which allowed grad students to set up multibillion $ companies everywhere around the world, is a 'minor' matter ?

      it is not. it is a foundation of the future. future is digital.

      your vision is minor in contrast, apparently.
    • by pcolaman (1208838)
      Yeah i know some of the people on Slashdot think that issues about the internet and technology are the most vital issues, but some of us care more about if our 401k plans are going to survive and if the price of gas and goods is going to keep increasing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by demachina (71715)

      "I'm glad they don't waste debate time talking about it."

      Right you are. Net neutrality doesn't really rate at a time when the global economy is collapsing and governments around the country, led by the U.S., are seizing control of their economies, turning them in to Fascist or Socialist states overnight without consent from their peoples.

      Of course judged by the debate earlier this week I don't think they are actually managing to debate anything of substance at all. McCain-Palin have returned to the tried a

  • On the fence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bencoder (1197139) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:10AM (#25313239)
    I personally am on the fence on this issue. As a libertarian, I am against government regulation and pro-free market and net neutrality seems to me to be a regulation against the telecom providers to do what they want with their lines. But on the other hand freedom of communication and open networks are definitely positive things, so I do wonder how an unregulated free market would handle this issue. It's somewhat off topic, but would be interested in your thoughts, especially if you also consider yourself libertarian.
    • by Arthur B. (806360)

      Routers are private property, back off. Debating whether to commit a crime or not is almost immoral in itself.

    • Re:On the fence (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trahloc (842734) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:15AM (#25313305) Homepage
      Free market, to me, gives me the impression that I have a choice among many competitors. Unfortunately where I live this isn't true. DSL doesn't work and I have only one cable provider to choose from. If this happens to be one of the ones that decides net neutrality is evil then I'm screwed. So the government needs to force a standard. I guess to me, as a self described libertarian, I see the government as a sort of ISO standard body with military backing. Perhaps I'm off my rocker with that idea.
      • ...I see the government as a sort of ISO standard body with military backing. Perhaps I'm off my rocker with that idea.

        No, you are absolutely right: Standards for sale to the highest bidder.

      • by SBacks (1286786)

        Free market, to me, gives me the impression that I have a choice among many competitors. Unfortunately where I live this isn't true. DSL doesn't work and I have only one cable provider to choose from.

        You have plenty of other companies to choose from. However, they have deemed that your market isn't profitable enough for them to get in to. The market is still free and open, you just live in an area without enough people/net users to be profitable for competition.

        The free market only means companies fighting for your money when your money is enough to be worth fighting fore.

        To really get the free market to support net neutrality, you have to convince the consumer that net neutrality is something they shou

      • If you think there are no good ISPs in your area, then you are in a prime location to start up your own ISP.

        • Three Words: (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:21PM (#25315719) Journal

          Barriers To Entry

          (that's assuming anyone is motivated enough to start an ISP so they can get a good Internet connection)

          But you libertarians (I'm judging you by your response) say "But we'd remove the barriers to entry by doing away with all regulations!"

          The problem is that when you turn the market into a free-for-all, the bigger and better-established companies rapidly outcompete the smaller ones, monopolies or cartels form, and they use their newly found free reign on everything to create new barriers to entry (say, heavily throttling inter-ISP traffic) which can't be broken down because there are no laws or regulations...and you're worse off than ever before.

          Honestly one of the few political ideologies I just can't wrap my head around is libertarianism. One basic premise is good - minimize market regulations - but it's like you guys just want to do away with them all willy-nilly and you either don't think through the ramifications or have an incredibly simple and naive idea of what they will be.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)

        To me, the free market doesn't necessarily mean that I have any particular number of competitors to choose from (though admittedly, it's hard to call it a "free market" when there's only one business in the market). Instead, I would say that it has to do with how free I am to choose between those competitors, and just as importantly, how possible it is for a new competitor to enter the market.

        To my mind, you could have 5 or 50 businesses competing in the market, but if it's difficult or impossible for a s

    • Re:On the fence (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:19AM (#25313383) Homepage Journal

      the telecom providers to do what they want with their lines

      Than stop worrying about it. Those lines are built on public land, and many of them became entrenched in their position due to government-granted monopolies. We have every right to tell them how to prioritize our packets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iplayfast (166447)

      What makes you think that the lines are the property of the telecom providers?

      I don't know myself, but I think I've heard that they were built with public money, and not owned by the telecoms.

      • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
        Actually, in the USA, a lot of ISPs pay money to the telecoms that own the lines. Where I'm from (Michigan) it's AT&T. That's who owns the lines. When you have a problem with your DSL, even if it's not through AT&T, chances are an AT&T tech will come out to fix it (if it's a line problem).
    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      I am split on this as well. I am generally opposed to government involvement in a lot of these things as well. But aren't the companies that are pushing for priority routing, etc also subsidized, or given land by federal and state governments for the lines that this stuff is run over? I know the big telcos that grant access direct to the consumer. I'm not sure about the guys in the middle. Regardless, there is a price to pay for being a government granted monopoly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TypoNAM (695420)

      That's the flaw in your logic, it isn't their lines! It is our lines, the public's, because they laid them with our tax dollars. Just what the hell did you think the billions of dollars were meant to be used for? Just because they control the lines doesn't mean they actually own or much less actually paid for them.

      The really sad part is that we've been taxed twice for those lines. The first time the tax dollars the government gave them (or was it loaned, but we apparently haven't collected on that) and the

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Jaysyn (203771)

        Silly analogy. Just because the military buys a jet with your tax money doesn't mean it's your jet. Or even better, just because the government subsidizes a farm, it doesn't mean you own the farm either.

        The telcos did in fact pay for the glass & copper that they put in the ground. They do pay for the easements granted by whatever municipality they are running through in the form of taxes. The government giving the telcos a blank check to purchase this stuff is not relevant to this discussion (if it's

    • by Kohath (38547)

      Just read the arguments. It should be an easy choice for a true libertarian.

      The net neutrality people argue for nationalized/socialized/government ownership and control of the telecommunications infrastructure. That should be all a libertarian needs to hear to take the opposite position.

      Of course "libertarian" seems to be a label you can buy at a discount these days. Lots of people say they're libertarians but really want the government to force people and companies to do things their way. To them, "lib

    • Re:On the fence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:31AM (#25313597)

      I personally am on the fence on this issue. As a libertarian, I am against government regulation and pro-free market and net neutrality seems to me to be a regulation against the telecom providers to do what they want with their lines.

      I condider myself a libertarian, and am against regulation where truly free markets (or close approximations thereto) exist. However, in many cases, they don't, and this is an example. What you have is a very small number of players with a very high barrier to entry to the market. In that case, the equilibrium required for the operation of a free market simply doesn't exist. Because of the barrier to market entry, the actors can create a situation where a free market would demand competition to meet consumers' needs, but that no one can fill that need in any efficient manner because of the market barrier. In cases where such huge barriers exist and the actors seems to be colluding (explicitly or implicitly), I do think regulation is needed.

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Given the relatively frivolous "consumers' needs" in question, you seem to be selling out your libertarian ideals for a discount.

        I don't "consider myself a libertarian" in the same way. But I'm for freedom for these companies unless it causes a huge problem. All the Internet whining doesn't rise to the level of a "huge problem" yet.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341)

        When did "truly free markets" come to mean anything other than "each individual is free to do whatever he or she wants provided his or her actions cause no direct harm to others"?

        So-called "barriers to entry", the number of "players", the existence of (unattainable) equilibrium -- these are all irrelevant. The market is free if and only if there is no systemic aggression (initiation of coercion; violation of others' property rights, including personal rights, or threats thereof).

        The libertarian stance isn't

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by physicsphairy (720718)

        As yet another not-quite-sure libertarian, I am receptive to the argument with one big reservation: it seems to be getting ahead of ourselves.

        So far none of the theoretical problems with the free market version have developed yet. And at this point no one can truly say anything definite about how it may wind up sorting itself out.

        I don't think it would be such a problem to sit on the issue for a while until it *actually* needs addressing, rather than trying to pre-empt it. It would be much mor

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jaysyn (203771)

      I'm a libertarian too (card-carrying) & I'd vehemently agree with you if the telcos weren't given a government mandated monopoly. Don't say "Oh you can just go put your own fiber down", because *you cannot* do this if the municipality in question will not permit you to do so due to municipal franchises & or kickbacks. The easements that communication fiber (& power, gas, water, etc) is placed in is granted by the city / county & some of it is still privately owned property. The whole syst

  • Constitutionality? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rinisari (521266) * on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:21AM (#25313417) Homepage Journal

    What's the Constitutionality of network neutrality legislation?

    IANAL, but I think it would be a hard sell to Constitution-following legislators (oh, how scant their numbers are these days). I think there could be some applicability for the Interstate Commerce clause (Art. 1, Sec. 8: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes), however intrastate networks would and should be unfettered by Federal law. It would be up to the several states themselves to enact neutrality legislation if they so desire.

    Personally, I'm against Federal legislation for network neutrality, partially on principle, partially on the the grounds that I fear/know that the Federal government listens to lobbyists and corporations more than citizens who designed and currently use the thing.

    I would prefer to see an easily-joinable coalition of Internet-based companies and ISPs which democratically--one vote per entity--chooses regulations in an RFC-like manner and punishes with disconnection/shunning any entity which violate these regulations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      What's the Constitutionality of network neutrality legislation?

      I fail to see how it doesn't *clearly* fall into the realm of interstate commerce.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      It's perfectly constitutional: Nearly all telecoms operate across state lines, and thus this falls under Interstate Commerce, specifically under the purview of the FCC.

      Also, government money was spent to help build the telecom infrastructure, and telecom infrastructure frequently makes use of government right-of-way agreements, so the Feds have a certain amount of power of the purse and power of contracts at their disposal.

    • If the Supreme Court thinks that growing wheat [wikipedia.org] on your own land for your own consumption is interstate commerce, then just about anything is.

    • however intrastate networks would and should be unfettered by Federal law.

      Except nobody's talking about 'intrastate networks', but about the Internet. The Commerce Clause clearly applies here.

  • Freedom vs freedom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandersen (462034) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:25AM (#25313509)

    This issue is difficult because it is about the freedom of people to exchange information vs the freedom of the market. But in the current situation I think it is one of the very minor points; ensuring that not too many people lose their livelyhoods is the big issue now and will be so for some years.

    • by ScentCone (795499)
      This issue is difficult

      Not really.

      the freedom of people to exchange information

      See, there's your problem. You're confusing freedom of speech with some sort of entitlement that forces private companies to provide some specific grade of tool to other people so that they can communicate in an easy way. You can walk right up to me and exchange all the information you want. Or you could build (or lease or buy, etc) any number of technologies that allow you to do it from across the street, or around the
  • conundrum (Score:5, Informative)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:26AM (#25313521) Homepage Journal

    both sides can make a credible case that they're the ones defending freedom of innovation and open communication

    Typical...article going too far to look "balanced"...unfortunately, our standards for journalistic objectivity now require MSM to throw out all analysis and simply ask dimwitted questions and repeat the candidates talking points.

    In this case, the article is really bending over backwards to make the false point that:

    both sides can make a credible case that they're the ones defending freedom of innovation and open communication

    by saying that:

    there is no standard accepted definition of "network neutrality,"

    That statement is simply false [wikipedia.org]. Of course anyone could quibble over the definition of any word ad infinitum, but the general idea is no tiered service [wikipedia.org].

    This is where everyone who is in favor of John McCain flames me with how my links and definition of 'net neutrality' isn't exactly right..blah blah blah...I used to work in IT, and everyone...I mean everyone I worked with in our rather large company had the exact same basic understanding of 'net neutrality'...the wiki definition is as good as any and represents the general idea as it is understood in common usage

    It's blatantly obvious that when it comes to net neutrality issues, Obama is the one who favors an internet unfettered by tiered service "packages" that do nothing more than deliver less for the same or more $$$. Why do we have to pretend that "net neutrality" is some nebulous, undefined thing that the candidates haven't talked about in enough detail...if you want more specifics, just look at the list of laws [wikipedia.org] that have tried to promote net neutrality and failed, then look who voted for or against them [votesmart.org]

    Obama is best for net neutrality by a mile...

    • Re:conundrum (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:50AM (#25313965)

      That statement is simply false. Of course anyone could quibble over the definition of any word ad infinitum, but the general idea is no tiered service.

      I think it is more important for networks not to discriminate based on who sends the data, rather than how much they pay. It is certainly possible to have network neutrality even with tiered service.

      In the real world, the post office is regarded as a common carrier but has still varying classes of mail (standard, priority post, next day service, etc). It is regarded as a neutral carrier because it doesn't discriminate based on who is sending the material. My letter being sent by priority post is treated no worse than one being sent by a major corporation.

    • Sorry, but you are over-simplifying the argument. There is not just one definition of Network Neutrality, but three commonly-held definitions.

      The main topic link to Network Neutrality on Wikipedia is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality#Definitions_of_network_neutrality [wikipedia.org] The links you provided are to the sub-topic of Network Neutrality in the United States.

      The three definitions are:

      1. Network neutrality is the principle that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, s
  • Considering that most voters don't even know what net neutrality is, and considering the other major issues that do make the headlines, it's very unlikely that either of them will spend any time on the issue now.

    There are other serious issues of a technical regulatory nature that also deserve attention.
    Decisions made by the Federal Communications Commission affect such things as diversity and competition in ISPs, cellular providers, and broadcast stations.

    The ownership consolidation that has taken place in

  • Come on, please. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slasho81 (455509) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:29AM (#25313573)
    While it's interesting to know where they stand on the NN issue, do you really wanna tell me *that's* what will determine to whom you're voting?
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:31AM (#25313605)

    because that might give something for an undecided voter to hold against them. And the news media is aiding an abetting - they can get more words out of a vague question than one that can be answered.

    For instance, one of the topics where the candidates differ greatly is on firearms and 2A issues. But it has flat-out been ignored in this campaign. The liberal interpretation of this is that guns just aren't all that important with everything else going on; the conservative interpretation is that gun issues can only hurt Obama - there's a lot of pickup trucks out there with gun racks and union stickers - so the debate moderators aren't bringing it up. The more realistic interpretation is that guns have become like abortion - folks on both sides have hardened and are sure votes, and the general public has settled on a "fundamental right with restrictions" stance and just don't really care right now. They may care on an individual basis later, when Susie gets knocked up or Johnnie gets mugged, but as a whole the populace has reached equilibrium.

    Or Net Neutrality is just too obscure for Jane "I just captioned my first lolcat!" Doe.
    (Yes, that's an actual quote from my daughter. I died a little bit inside.)

  • by DevanJedi (892762) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:37AM (#25313725) Homepage Journal
    This is what it says in his tech policy: "Barack Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others." Go read it yourself: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/technology/Fact_Sheet_Innovation_and_Technology.pdf [barackobama.com]
  • Puzzled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:48AM (#25313905)

    PopMech columnist Glenn Derene is puzzled that the candidates have yet to be challenged on a vital issue directly related to both those topics: Net neutrality.

    Hm, what a coincidence, I'm puzzled that they have yet to be substantively challenged on any vital issue.

  • McCain (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:52AM (#25313991) Homepage Journal

    His website echos what I've seen him state several times, that like most other issues, he isn't a fan of government regulation in business. I've yet to see him say he is anti-net-neutrality, or that he wants government regulation.

    Obama was very pro-net-neutrality, so he gets points for that, except the stance disappeared from his website, so the promise is less clear. This is also a guy who promised to vote against the FISA bill over and over again, even the day before the vote, and then voted for it.

    • http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/technology/Fact_Sheet_Innovation_and_Technology.pdf [barackobama.com]

      Check it out. Page 2.

      First portion:

      Protect the Openness of the Internet: A key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the
      most open network in history. It needs to stay that way. Barack Obama strongly supports the principle of
      network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet

    • Re:McCain (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @11:50AM (#25315067) Homepage

      I've yet to see him say he is anti-net-neutrality, or that he wants government regulation.

      Well those are really opposites, or at least orthogonal. In this case, it is government regulation that would theoretically enforce net neutrality by making it illegal for ISPs to throttle packets based on their source and charge said source extra to get better service. By saying that he doesn't want government regulation, he's at best saying he trusts private businesses not to do this, and at worst saying he thinks it's fine if they do whatever they want, and either way he doesn't support taking action to stop them from doing it. While not exactly anti-neutrality, it is definitely not a pro-neutrality stance.

      Obama was very pro-net-neutrality, so he gets points for that, except the stance disappeared from his website, so the promise is less clear. This is also a guy who promised to vote against the FISA bill over and over again, even the day before the vote, and then voted for it.

      Obama's stance has not change, it only became described in simpler terms on the website (and the old lengthy description is still available there). His vote for FISA was extremely disappointing. I don't think it means his position has changed, I think it means he's a politician (with all the negative connotations) running for office and he needed to deny ammunition to his opponent. Sad, but on the other hand, I'm sick of the kind of idealist who thinks the first thing you need to do is throw all practical considerations in the name of sticking to principles and thus ends up failing to accomplish anything. "Change I can believe in" to me means "Change that can win", even if that change isn't as awe-inspiring as my hypothetical ideal.

  • by hessian (467078) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @10:54AM (#25314023) Homepage Journal

    By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET's Technology Voters' Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html

  • McCain favored such de-regulation that lead to the collapse of our financial markets. Now he favors the least regulation possible of the internet. Already the telecom companies have too much power and control. They can arbitrarily declare what content we can and cannot get to. They can arbitrarily throttle competitors. The internet should remain neutral and such laws need to be passed to ensure this. Sorry, Ma Bell, you cannot get an extra million out of us for a tiered service.
  • I think that the theory of allowing an unregulated free market to operate a public service has been pretty much tossed into the dustbin. "Run it like a business" is not really a positive thing to say at the moment.
  • by aero6dof (415422) <aero6dof@yahoo.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:31PM (#25315931) Homepage

    Glenn Derene is puzzled that the candidates have yet to be challenged on a vital issue directly related to both those topics

    Perhaps the candidates and their supporters are distracted by their retirement investments disappearing in the post-free/greed market meltdown?

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