Democrat fights fascism

Here’s the statement issued by Democrat Charlie Gonzales of San Antonio, TX, on the fascist “net-neutrality” nonsense:

“On its face, the Markey amendments seems fair, but the more you look at the implications of this legislation, the less fair it seems. Its most immediate consequence would be to exempt highly profitable companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google from having to pay to use another company’s cable
network. In essence, this would allow Internet giants to reap the benefits of operating a cable network with none of the risks or costs. Forcing cable providers to give a free-ride to companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google will ultimately work against consumers by undermining the financial incentive to develop the next generation of network technologies. It would also subsidize the efforts of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google to expand their dominance of most Internet commerce and to use their brain power to force smaller companies to partner rather than compete against them.”

Excellent, at least one Democrat has his head on straight.

UPDATE: Let’s go over the issues again, as this post has been linked by Google’s people and it doesn’t have any context. The telcos are presently disadvantaged relative to their biggest competitor in the broadband market, the cable companies, on two counts: the cable companies have a technically superior cable plant (coax instead of telephone wire) and they’re less regulated. Cable companies don’t have to share ISP revenue with third parties if they don’t want to.

The telcos therefore would like to upgrade their cable plants to something better, most likely optical fiber, but they don’t want to do that until they’re on a level playing field with cable. You’ll notice the cable companies are pretty quiet on this debate, leaving Google, Yahoo, and the net Luddites to carry the water for them.

Cable companies have been able to install their wiring because they have several service offerings with which to pay for it, mainly analog and digital TV, but also voice services and cable Internet. Internet is basically a free-rider on this system, because it was paid for by TV.

So the approach that the telcos want to take to paying for their optical network is to offer television as well as voice and Internet, and that’s why they sought the COPE bill that the Congress just passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. It grants federal video franchises to companies operating in areas where a cable TV franchise already exists. Are you with me so far? Google’s Save the Internet Coalition is butting into a debate over cable TV.

Now there are couple of things that could really sour the deal for the telcos where this financing plan is concerned, VoIP and Internet video. That is to say that it will be practical for people to drop their traditional phone service in favor of something like Skype or Vonage if everybody as a 100 Mb/s fiber going into their home, and it will also be practical for them to drop cable TV and just download TV shows off the Internet. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft want to be in the business to providing these services.

As the Telcos aren’t sure how much they’re going to be hurt by all this competition, they’d like to have the flexibility to ensure that their voice and video services work better than those provided by Google and Yahoo, the free-riders who didn’t have to pay for the network. It’s not clear that consumers are going to stand for that, so another option is to let the free-riders subsidize the users’ broadband bill out their ample advertising revenue.

One thing that is clear is that we aren’t going to get optical fiber installed all over America for free. Traditionally, the costs of television have been born partially by consumers and partially by advertisers. The plans that the telcos have for fiber simply continue that model, and they don’t really have any effect on the kind of web-surfing, blogging, and e-mailing that you’re doing today.

I know these things because I’m a network protocol engineer who’s been working in the area of video, the Internet, and local area networks for a long time (I designed the cable system Ethernet uses today, for example.) I’m not being paid by any telephone company, and in fact I’ve never worked for one or consulted with one. This is the straight scoop and I think you have the right to hear it from somebody who knows the issues and doesn’t have an ax to grind.

18 thoughts on “Democrat fights fascism”

  1. As the late Nicholas Monsarrat so delicately put it in his great novel of WW2, The Cruel Sea, “Bulldust baffles brains.”

    The Net Neutrality Amendment doesn’t say that it wouldn’t be legal to recoup R&D and installation expenses. That is a completely separate question. Nowhere does it say that services wouldn’t have to pay for using another’s network — it says that the network providers cannot give preference to one service over another.

    What it does say is that on either existing or future systems, it would be illegal to give preferential treatment to any service over another, be it the net owner’s own or any other.

    The near-monopoly telcos and cable companies are looking back thirty or so years at the history of the long-distance business and of free competition in local phone service. With the clarity of hindsight, they see the process which has cost them so much in those areas.

    And through their bought-and-paid for Congresscritters the near-monopoly telcos and cable companies are attempting to smother internet competition in its crib, as they failed to have the foresight to do to MCI and Sprint.

    Speaking of “bought and paid for” — guess who Rep. Gonzalez’s #1 campaign contributor is?

    Why, it’s SBC Communications!

    Again i find myself sympathising with that great philosopher, Iago the parrot: “I am so not surprised I could just moult.”

  2. No one telephone company collects more than 10% of the spending on communications in the US; the market is spread out among cellphones, regular phones, cable TV, satellite, and broadband. But Google and Microsoft are effectively monopolies; MS was found to be one in courts of law in the US and in Europe, and Google has patents that stifle competition. So let’s not fool ourselves about who the monopolists really are, or about the fact that Microsoft and Google spend more money on politicians than SBC does.

    Beating up on the phone company is a great American tradition but in this case it’s simply nostalgic.

  3. As the Telcos aren’t sure how much they’re going to be hurt by all this competition, they’d like to have the flexibility to ensure that their voice and video services work better than those provided by Google and Yahoo, the free-riders who didn’t have to pay for the network.

    I.e., they’d like to have the ability to stifle competition. As i say, charge everyone who uses your network — including your own internal units — for New Stuff, equally. Fine.

    Don’t try to push others who might — otherwise — provide a better service than you down.

    I would hardly argue that MS is not a monopoly — but it’s not anywhere near a monopoly in the field under discussion. (Nice straw man, BTW.)

    If the telcos want to try to suppress something that’s hurting them they should go after cable. Then they would, again, be a total monopoly, instead of their shared monopoly with cable providers (which, BTW, are one of the few business classes with lower customer satisfaction ratings than telcos)

    Until i have/can get more than one (or even two) data connection into my home, whoever owns that last mile of wire/fider/rf link IS a monopoly.

    There are reasons that the US has a much lower broadband penetration at much higher prices than Europe, and they’re called telcos and cable companies and their bought and paid for legislators and regulators.

  4. Call it stifling competition if you must, but until Google builds its own network it seems like a bizarre way of looking at the issue. The bottom line is that networks are a business, not a charity, and one way or another somebody has to pay for them.

    For most of its history the Internet has been a free rider on voice or cable tv networks, but that’s come to an end now.

  5. Fascist? bull crap! A back door effort to grease the wheels of censorship and turn the net into canned propaganda and another profit maker for the telecoms. Tell the WHOLE truth! America will lose the ONLY place to get REAL NEWS, unedited, instead of the pablum that now passes as news on cable and broadcast channels.
    You’re going to need a much better spin doctor to make this one fly!

  6. This article conflates two separate issues:
    1) optical fiber
    2) net neutrality

    The telcommunications bill lets companies such as AT&T install otpical fibers and sell TV service over them regardless of the Net Neutrality amendment. The companies would make money off retail customers who choose to get TV service through otpical fibers instead of cable/satellite.

    The Net Neutrality issue is whether AT&T can create its own search-engine, and then make Google slower for all AT&T customers to force them to use the AT&T search engine.

    Please contact Congress for Net Neurtality at:

  7. The bottom line is that networks are a business, not a charity, and one way or another somebody has to pay for them.

    Last time I checked, I pay for my net connection. $50 a month actually. I also recall that compaines like Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Digg, Vonage, etc. pay very large sums of money in bandwidth cost as well. The telco’s are already getting paid.

  8. Yes Adam, you pay a fee and Google pays a higher fee. Now why is that? The fee you pay is low because you essentially have a contract with the company for a certain amount of bandwidth, as does Google.

    So the issue before the house is whether you should be entitled to unlimited bandwidth for the lowest possible fee, or whether the company that wires your house to the Internet is entitled to offer multiple service plans.

    Let’s assume you’re OK with the concept of paying for bandwidth, because if you aren’t you’re a moron and shouldn’t be commenting on this blog. Now is it acceptable for you to get extra bandwidth – above your contracted amount – through a subsidy paid for by Google’s advertisers?

    That’s all that this controversy is about, flexibile pricing plans for high-bandwidth, low-delay premium connections. Any smart person is for it.

  9. No, Eric, the issue isn’t about search engines, Google’s monopoly there is safe. The issue is whether Google and Apple and Microsoft should be able to get into the cable TV business without the expenditure of stringing cable to every home in America. In essence, these companies want a free ride on a network that somebody else has to pay for, and they’re looking to the regulatory power of the FCC to make that happen. Ask Howard Stern how that works out.

  10. Wouldn’t Google/Microsoft/Apple have to pay more money for the extra bandwidth used to provide these services? Isn’t that where the telcos can make up their revenue, rather than by giving preferential treatment to their services? I’m not against charging google more for extra bandwidth, but I am against giving control over the neutrality of bits to the telcos. They should charge $x/mbit regardless of what content is coming up and down the line.

    And the telcos are able to offer tiered services now. 764k DSL/1.5mbit DSL/verizon fios. They’re all different prices. This is about whether the telcos can control how much of the bandwidth is used for non telco services.

  11. Where does this fantasy about “neutrality of bits” come from? Any e-mail service that blocks spam is negating the “neutrality of bits” and so is any ISP that blocks Denial of Service attacks. Bits are not created equal, discrimination is the essence of network design, and anybody who tells you otherwise is a fool.

    The question before the Congress is whether bandwidth companies should be able to sell bandwidth-on-demand and QoS-on-demand in addition to their various fixed-rate, no QoS pricing plans. I say they should.

  12. Spam filters don’t violate the ‘neutrality of bits.’ They’re blocking bits that have been shown to be harmful. Skype and Vonage bits are not harmful and are, in fact, requested by the users. Also, users don’t have to use spam filters if they don’t want to. This takes the control out of the hands of the customers and puts it in the hands of the companies.

    I say the Internet is the same as the highways. They should be freely available to all citizens and companies. Nationalize it!

    Another thing you’re missing is the impact this will have on small businesses. I work for a small web development firm. If this passes, hosting rates will go through the roof as they’re forced not only to pay for bandwidth, but also QoS. (Because if you can’t guarantee that your site isn’t visible by everyone, why bother with that hosting company?) An end to a flat Internet could cost me my job. It could cost the jobs of my coworkers.

    So tell me why I should be in favor of the Baby Huey Bells forcing a company to pay for QoS?

    If the telcos want to roll out a brand new network, I am willing, as a citizen, to foot the bill. So long as the same standards of neutrality exist. Of course, the last time they were paid to deploy high-speed Internet, they failed miserably and still made off like bandits. Not to mention the fact that they’ve been given concessions by states like Pennsylvania that prevent communities from serving themselves without permission from the ISPs.

  13. So the whole “all bits are created equal” thing means “but some bits are more equal than others?” I see.

    Voice packets that want less delay than normal packets, so they put a load on network resources that affects every other user on the Net, Paul. The Internet is a packet-switched network where links are shared, not a circuit-switched one like the actual telephone network. And that’s why their handling is a big deal for the network’s architecture.

    Allowing Skype to use high-priority service is like letting people with carts full of groceries into the “10 items or less” line.

  14. Mr. Bennett,

    You seem to be ignorant of the fact that using products for which others have had to pay fixed input costs in the past is standard practice in our society. Consider, for example, the invention and evolution of the laptop computer. Before reaching its current state, the modern PC had to be evolved from older computers, which in turn had to be evolved from the old ENIAC (I don’t mean that literally, so don’t try pulling a straw-man based on the wording there). Now, we have laptops that use circuit boards and microchips that somebody else had once spent time and money inventing.

    This is true in most technological markets. Why? Simple–that’s what technology IS. Technology is the result of the continual building/tinkering of innovative entrepreneurs on machines and existing technical capabilities. It’s happened in the past and will continue to happen.

    If companies wish to have another data pipe added, sure, charge them. That’s the current system, is it not? But don’t turn the Internet into a perpetual auction. Doing so would be a violation of the American spirit of business, which (you should hopefully remember) originated as a realization of the ideals of low or no barriers to entry, everyone getting a fair shake, et cetera.

    Also, if people are really “stealing” the use of data pipes and you find that unethical while you are able to type on a computer whose manufacturer utilized similar practices in its production, there is some hypocrisy in your argument.

    Finally, consider the importance of innovation in our world. The Internet has been demonstrated to be a great wellspring of innovation and is arguably the main reason for the economic boom of the mid-90’s. Unless you wish to let this amendment pass, which turns the Internet into a monopolistic market and is economically inefficient and may stifle the national economy into a near-permanent recession, just a little bit of thought would lead you to realize that your current line of thinking is horribly illogical at very best. (At very worst, it’s intentionally collusional to possibly the worst tyranny our country can really experience–that of undermining the fair-shake nature of the Internet.

  15. Oh. Also?

    How in the nine circles of hell is net neutrality–or, hell, free markets in general–FASCIST!? I can see you perhaps making a legitimate and respectable argument if you weren’t so bloody sensationalist. Such improper knowingly incorrect usage of random -isms is far more fascist (i.e. propaganda) than net neutrality will ever be.

  16. “Net neutrality” — understood to mean that all packets flow through the Internet at the same priority — is fascist because it would completely stifle innovation in network design. It would like having a law that said all cars, trucks, and buses must use the same engine. Stifling innovation is un-American, of course.

    And K. P., when we incorporate other people’s ideas into our inventions we have pay license fees for doing so; the patent system ensures that creative work of genuine value is fairly compensated.

    Stealing is wrong.

Comments are closed.