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Businesses Communications Government The Almighty Buck The Internet Wireless Networking Politics

No Matter What Happens With Net Neutrality, an Open Internet Isn't Going Anywhere, Says Former FCC Chairman (recode.net) 177

Michael K. Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, writing for Recode: With an ounce of reflection, one knows that none of this will come to pass, and the imagined doom will join the failed catastrophic predictions of Y2K and massive snow storms that fizzle to mere dustings -- all too common in Washington, D.C. Sadly, rational debate, like Elvis, has left the building. The vibrant and open internet that Americans cherish isn't going anywhere. In the days, weeks and years following this vote, Americans will be merrily shopping online for the holidays, posting pictures on Instagram, vigorously voicing political views on Facebook and asking Alexa the score of the game. Startups and small business will continue to hatch and flourish, and students will be online, studiously taking courses. Time will prove that the FCC did not destroy the internet, and our digital lives will go on just as they have for years. This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet and the principles of net neutrality, much more than some animated activists would have you think. Why? For one, because it's a better way of making money than a closed internet.
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No Matter What Happens With Net Neutrality, an Open Internet Isn't Going Anywhere, Says Former FCC Chairman

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  • better way for who (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:09AM (#55731267)

    the ecommerce sites or the ISPs, I would think a closed internet is better for the ISPs

    • A closed Internet is only better for ISPs and (possibly just in the short term) manufacturers of network equipment, nobody else. That's why all other businesses are pro-net-neutrality.

      And the only difference it will make at the ISPs is the size of the CEO's next megayacht.

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:43AM (#55731467)

      I would think a closed internet is better for the ISPs

      Evidently they think so too, in spite of this guy, because they seem to be willing to buy a government official and motivate him to completely ignore the majority voice repeatedly, and just happen to have a president who is favorable to the whole fiasco. Usually you don't try to kill a thing that you value significantly.

      What he's not saying about this future, and maybe doesn't see, is that yeah, probably the "open internet" isn't going anywhere. But its price structure certainly will change. And yeah, some people will pay, but many will be unable to. And we'll be deciding which of those activities he lists up there that we will pay for, and which we will not in favor of other less good options that ISPs push for us. They absolutely will push for their own broadcast TV options, it makes technical sense (for them) to be able to better utilize their network without investing in it. I don't see any way they won't do that. Similarly, anything that becomes a significant fraction of their network usage, they're going to try to price out.

      The irony is that the argument they use is net neutrality is hurting investment...but they actually don't want investment anyway. It makes business sense, but most of us do not care at all about their profitability and would happily replace their business with something else that delivers what we want.

      Not to mention public reaction to these pricing schemes is going to be increased usage of VPNs, to the point where that is our default network. This will either end up driving internet prices way up, or beget a lot of ISP induced regulation to forbid us from doing this. THe net result is we can expect a higher latency, more expensive, less functional network than we had before.

      • I'm sorry if some people only have one ISP to choose from, but it is a local governance issue. Your local government should be able to solve this, either by paying for their own wires or allowing competition. It is not the federal government that is granting monopolies on your internet access.

        • by thaylin ( 555395 )

          How does that work with the ISPs lobby the state government to prevent those things. It is not an issue of the local players, it is of the cost to deploy.

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:11AM (#55731279)

    In the run up to a very large shopping season, wouldn't it be terrible if all of a sudden Amazon was slow?

    People also usually have time off, and Netflix is entertainment, it would really suck if that was slow to.

    Good thing you can purchase the special ISP provided "holiday package" to make sure that your surfing of Amazon and Netflix doesn't slow down over the holidays.

    And hey, Amazon, Netflix, i'm afraid before we can offer this package to our serf's You're going to have to pay us, "benevolent ISP" about a billion dollars a month.

    • I am less concerned about the likes of Amazon or even Netflix. But the new "disruptive" internet companies that come out, like Amazon or Netflix was decade(s) ago.

      A small company out of nowhere makes a product that people likes, and soon gets popular, its popularity is starting to make a noticeable blip on the ISP bandwidth. So the ISP will throttle it down, unless it pays them. Or worse will keep them throttled down because it is in competition of its parents companies services. While gaining popularity

      • I was just gonna say this.

        Imagine what's going to happen when the first non-spying smart assistant comes out, one that rivals Echo and Siri and whatever the others are called. Amazon, Google, FB, and Apple will all be happy to pay the ISPs to throttle or block the relevant webpages and then deny them a place on the marketplaces of Amazon, Google, and Apple. Much like in China, you won't even get to the market unless the "party" approves of you first.

    • by atrex ( 4811433 )
      It won't be Amazon that's slow, Amazon will pay not only for speed but they'll pay to have other sites slowed.
      • Having Amazon paying a big ISP (it seems it's only the big players who are in favour of killing Net Neutrality, local DSL re-sellers are against it) is quite likely. As others have said, Comcast has always proven itself more than willing to engage in "traffic shaping" in order to extort still more money from its subscribers. In most areas, I get the impression that the big ISPs are already getting about as much money out of their customer base as can be had. Going after the deep pockets of Aamazon, Netflix
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Amazon will have the ability to pay extra. They just charge their customers one cent more and it will even out.
      For the small store that has an online order system, this won't be the case. They need to increase their price with 100cent or even more to have a fast website. That is from the stores.
      Amazon can easily pay and many smaller hosting providers won't be able to do that, so instead of hosting at a local ISP, people are driven to Amazon.com

      Sure they moan now as nobody likes increases, but as long as the

  • This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet and the principles of net neutrality, much more than some animated activists would have you think. Why? For one, because it's a better way of making money than a closed internet.

    I didn't know the former chairman of the FCC was Gary Busey.

  • Are these the same ISPs who have been quoted as saying they would absolutely love to limit things and do the horrible things that Net Neutrality prevents - if only it weren't for those meddling kids and their stupid Net Neutrality rules keeping them from doing so?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What they describe sounds an *awful* lot like a common carrier. This is all madness, and maddening. You know they are desperate and this is a hugely important matter by the level of their deceit. They are mistaken if they believe our intelligence is down there in the gutter as well.

  • Most Americans have a choice of ISPs. The choice is between Bell (Verizon, AT&T, etc) or Cable.

    Neither's culture reflects goodwill towards the concept of NN. The telcos might once have done that pre-divestiture, but virtually all phone companies spend most of their time trying to figure out "innovative" ways to complicate your bill while making it look simple. And the cable companies are notorious for restricting access to what you can have in opaque "packages" and inventing new charges to cover it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Most Americans have a choice of ISPs. The choice is between Bell (Verizon, AT&T, etc) or Cable.

      No, they don't. Most Americans have NO choice for high speed internet. 256kbps DSL from Verizon doesn't count as "high speed"

    • I had no idea Comcast and Verizon have such rabid fans among moderators today.
    • Most Americans have a choice of ISPs. The choice is between Bell (Verizon, AT&T, etc) or Cable.

      It is obvious, you dont live in America, or you are a paid shill.

      You can not even say "a lot" have a choice. Most have NO CHOICE.

      please go troll elsewhere.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:20AM (#55731331) Journal
    That is the fundamental flaw in his argument. He is thinking about what is good for the ISPs in the long term, and naively believes they will act in their long term interest.

    No ISPs are managed by MBAs. They compete with other ISPs. It is so very tempting to squeeze 1$ more revenue this quarter, even if it means losing 3$ next year or 30 $ over the next decade. The managers know their stock options, the vesting schedule, the exercise price and bonus trigger stock price. Meeting that is of paramount importance for the C?O crowd. Getting 1$ more in their personal pay is a lot more important to them than causing 50$ worth of damage to the company and its long term assets. These managers have an average tenure of about 3 years. There are very very few managers who stick with the same company for decades.

    If by chance one company decides to go for the long term play, Wall Street will immediately punish it. Its stock will plunge, its revenue will be compared to its competitors. The pressure is relentless and there is no way for a public company to recover. Moderate size companies will manipulate their stock price downwards, and make it attractive enough for Private Equity. Usually by dumping their insiders' stock and negative guidance in the quarterly calls. The true viability and strength will be disclosed to private investors, and once the public stock holders are paid off at the fire sale prices, the private equity firms will richly reward the executives who got them the plum. But these ISPs are too big for private equity. Even at fire sale prices, the market valuation would be so high it is off limits for private equity. Making them bankrupt intentionally would help them take it private, but bankruptcy is a public court managed affair, not the hush hush under the table dealings with private equity. So it is not likely to happen.

    So it will be a race to the bottom. So they will race to the bottom. Some eagerly, some reluctantly, but it is to the bottom they will race.

    • And this is why there is hardly any infrastructure build-out or aggressive replacement of copper with fiber in rural areas. Of course part of that is because they know their (current) competitors won't do it either, so they'll still be on a level playing field for less money.

      • And this is why there is hardly any infrastructure build-out or aggressive replacement of copper with fiber in rural areas.

        And certainly not because that build-out would cost millions of dollars in exchange for $5/month margins from the 37 customers that both want and can afford fiber. Nah....

        • Afford fiber? It's cheaper than copper - it really is. And it seems better than losing customers to greater competition from cellular.

          • Afford fiber? It's cheaper than copper - it really is.

            I'd be fairly surprised if that's true across the board. If you're looking at a densely-populated metro area where the customer base more readily balances out the installation cost, that may well be the case. But in a sparsely-populated rural area, by definition rates are going to have to be higher unless the ISP improbably signs up to take a loss.

            And it seems better than losing customers to greater competition from cellular.

            A customer whose business likely will never recoup the capex required to keep that customer may not be a customer you want to try to keep.

          • The long pole in the tent is not the cost of copper over glass. It's in the cost to run the lines. The profit-motive to run fiber to single-family homes out in the middle of nowhere just does not exist. And there are often political struggles in running the fiber along existing utility-poles, forcing quite a bit of the fiber to buried, which raises costs even more. This is worth it when you are hooking up a wealthy suburban community, or better yet, a large apartment complex. But to run it out to the farmho
        • by Calydor ( 739835 )

          Remember when the American ISPs and telecoms were given billions of taxpayer dollars to build out the infrastructure?

          Yeah.

          They already GOT their money and they squandered it.

          • Remember when the American ISPs and telecoms were given billions of taxpayer dollars to build out the infrastructure?

            Copper? They did.

            Fiber? No, I can't say I remember that one on a national scale -- there have been some deals with local municipalities, but of course that's not what you're talking about in a thread about rural coverage, right?

  • This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet and the principles of net neutrality, much more than some animated activists would have you think. Why? For one, because it's a better way of making money than a closed internet.

    Unfortunately, corporations can't be trusted to do the right thing, even when it is in their own best interest. CEOs are so focused on short-term gains that they will frequently do things that hurt their own long-term money making ability. A closed interne

  • Americans will be merrily shopping online for the holidays, posting pictures on Instagram, vigorously voicing political views on Facebook and asking Alexa the score of the game.

    Consequences of getting rid of net neutrality in a nutshell.

  • This is really a fight over advertising revenue. Google, Facebook get it now, the content providers and ISPs get nothing. The FCC has listened to the ISPs, and ignored the content providers. Very soon each consumer ISP will have a favored search engine, and will split the advertising revenue with that engine. Other engines won't be available. The preferred engine won't necessarily be the largest. Google is likely to assume it is too good to share, and the ISPs will turn to specialized firms that are willin

  • They are trying to give us hope !!! We are doomed !!!!
  • The issue was never, "this is going to bring the internet to it's knees" it was "this is going to allow ISPs to exploit and block services they compete with". You need only look at the past to see the services they have blocked and slowed in the past to know what the future holds.

  • We already know what Comcast wants to do: charge the sites, such as Netflix for access to Comcast's customers.

    The net result is not higher Internet bills, but higher Netflix and other bills.

  • Open Internet = You will always be able to make purchases from vendors approved by your service provider.

    Others will not be so open....

    We're on our way back to AOL's walled garden?

    • With the difference being that you'll live in that walled garden, whether you like it or not. There will be no alternative allowed, even if you knew one.

  • as Mr Aijt. So why should he say differently? Why should he even address the real issues of Net Neutrality, instead of the strawman issue he creates? Even in the light of evidence that ISPs are already changing their strategies as they salivate over the removal of Net Neutrality requirements, Mr Powell is trying to divert attention away to his bogus issue.
  • The open internet where everyone can create, publish and share, even if he can't afford throwing more money than a honest person can make in a lifetime at ISPs, that will be lost.

    But then, who needs that, right? As long as we still have Facebook and Instagram and the other bullshit for the masses to keep them entertained, who needs anything else?

    • part of me thinks that the whole debate is really about the "legacy" media companies trying to find a way to regain their status as "gatekeepers of culture"
      • This is no debate. A debate is two people trying to find a solution either side can work with. There is no debate going on, it's already decided.

        This said, the reason is simply that most ISPs are also content providers, i.e. cable TV providers, and they see this very lucrative portion of their portfolio become obsolete. And they fight this tooth and nail. Let's be honest here, cable TV is the license for printing money. Once the cables are in place, once the customer is set up, there is near zero maintenanc

  • Horse Shit. (Score:5, Informative)

    by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @10:49AM (#55731507) Journal

    This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet

    I had no idea that Michael Powell was a comedic writer.

    ISPs highly value the ability to extort content providers that aren't fully owned subsidiaries of the ISP, or aren't other ISPs that can extort their fully owned subsidiary content provider.

    ISPs highly value the idea of being able to charge other companies money for access to your eyeballs and ears, while also charging you money for access to content that the ISP doesn't actually own.

    What a load of horse shit.

    • by sad_ ( 7868 )

      This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet

      I had no idea that Michael Powell was a comedic writer.

      ISP's are companies, and companies value only one thing - profit.
      why would an open internet be part of that, when getting rid of net neutrality almost centrainly guarantees more profit (get from money from both customers and web sites).
      maybe his post was pure sarcasm?

      • Well, the argument could be made that the reason why these ISPs aren't still just trying to shovel Pay-per-view garbage down people's throats, and actually big enough to buy movie studios is because of the existence of the open Internet to begin with.

        If the Internet wasn't open to begin with, AOL would still be king of the hill, and Comcast / Spectrum / Verizon / AT&T would still be trying to make their own AOL clones (or buying them) and trying to get people to switch. They'd still be paying loads of

  • He was also a terrible FCC chairman, with views not far away from Ajit Pai.

    Of course the Internet will continue, new businesses will flourish, etc. with the removal of Net Neutrality. However, it will slowly degrade over time until customers are so fed up with bad performance and availability outages that they will be clamoring for premium packages that miraculously remove all of the delays and outages to certain popular sites.

    Powell and Pai are both morons.

  • "This confidence rests on the fact that ISPs highly value the open internet and the principles of net neutrality"

    Well there's a huge steaming pile of bullshit if ever I saw one.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Considering your name, I'd have to defer to you as the subject matter expert.

  • I know it was a small thing, but it was a thing that frustrated me for quite some time:

    http://forums.xfinity.com/t5/Stream-TV-App/HBO-Go-on-PlayStation-3-amp-PlayStation-4/td-p/2838840

    For a while, Comcast was blocking access to HBO Go on Playstations. They were very clear on that being a business decision. So I paid Comcast, I paid HBO, and I paid Sony, but I wasn't able to use the services I was paying for the way they were intended. A quote from Comcast on the matter:

    All - Thanks for your patience while this deal was worked.

    As mentioned earlier, we want to bring our content to as many platforms as we can, but these are business deals that need to be negotiated and sometimes it can take time to come to agreeable terms.

    In other words, they won't offer the s

  • Yes, but I'd prefer to have it writing rather than to trust your crystal ball.
  • Peace in our time! Says former UK Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain

  • Then why do it?

    Why push so hard and expensively lobby for years and years on end if it's no change at all?

  • all we have to do is vote for people who are going to be pro-NN. Yes, this means many of us will have to hold our noses and vote for candidates we otherwise do not like. This is what it means to win in politics. The question is, how bad do you actually want NN?
  • I am sure there will be legal challenges to this and active efforts to make it hard for ISPs to prioritize and throttle traffic. We will not go silently into the night.
  • What he doesn't apparently get is that while yes, all of those activities will continue to happen. But, now the ISPs will be maximizing profits (as all good businesses should), by increasing prices as much as they believe they can, and coming out with a variety of tiered services that cost more. They'll also be double charging...not just the consumer, but the providers as well, on the same bits.

    These are local monopolies, and need to be treated as public utilities. There is NO competition.

  • Michael Powell, former FCC Chairman and now current president and CEO of National Cable & Telecommunications Association, claims we shouldn't be concerned at all by the current FCC Chairman's plan to completely abolish all regulatory oversight of the Internet. In other words, fox claims hen house perfectly safe under his supervision.

    As to Michael Powell clairvoyance, remember when he claimed there would be more choice once the 1996 Telecommunication act line sharing provisions were repealed? [arstechnica.com] That cert

  • The service providers (Verizon, ATT, L3,etc) pushed for this because now they have a massively captive corporate office who have been sold on the false song of cloud based workflows.

    Once this vote goes through, we may see a massive halt in cloud adoptions as businesses have to reconsider the costs associated with transmission fees.

  • Look moron, no one is saying the Internet will self implode, stop existing altogether, or be completely subverted the moment Net Neutrality passes. This bullshit that Pai and gang is trying to pass as truth is not what is at stake here, and anyone trying to pass this impression is apparently lacking the nuance of the message.

    It's obvious, given how shrewd ISPs are, that the changes for the worse will get implemented slowly - as they were before.
    Remember people, the Internet didn't start out right away with

  • I don't care if he was a former chairman of the FCC (and by the way, he's not the _previous_ chairman; he's not the chairman that was in place under Obama). He is presently speaking as a lobbyist for the telecom industry. He's being paid massive ammounts of money to express this position. And as with Pai's arguments, he's failing to make any decent arguments. His claim is that Title II is overbearing. It isn't. His claim is that Title II prevents technology advancement. It doesn't. And his tired old claim t
  • This was fine 20 years ago when we were dialup. It does not apply in the era of pro-Monopoly. They can make more money selling us busted internet becauae many of us have no other options.
  • Y2K didn't become a disaster because the problem was recognized and a shitload of work happened to verify that it wasn't a problem, and where it would be a problem, mitigation strategies, software patches and other work happened. I don't know where this guy was or if he's got a shitty memory, but we certainly devoted a pile of time and resources to it, both for our internal systems (applying patches to all systems, checking/updating critical software) as well as the software we ship.

    I'm also all for ratio

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