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NCTA

May 9, 2014


Public Policy

No Potholes on the Internet

May 9, 2014

In recent weeks, as the FCC prepares to take comment on new Open Internet rules to replace those struck down by the courts, DC has borne witness to a steady drumbeat of misinformation and scare tactics designed to bully regulators into adopting a radical and unwarranted shift in Internet regulation.

With headlines screaming everything from “The Internet is [Screwed]” to “The FCC Just Killed the Internet as We Know It!” the discussion about how we can ensure the Internet remains a platform for openness and innovation has turned nasty, personal and irrational.

As we’ve said repeatedly, cable broadband providers are unequivocally committed to building and maintaining an open Internet experience.  Consumers value this experience, and we value their business. That will not change.  That’s why we’ve supported the FCC’s efforts to ensure consumers have basic protections — from the Four Freedoms first annunciated in 2005 to the Open Internet Order that was approved in 2010. Cable companies did not appeal the 2010 order and we still support its principles today – whether or not it’s law.

But in spite of these facts, professional advocates have sought to create public panic in the hopes that the FCC will throw out 15 years of growth and success by reclassifying Internet networks as common carriers and regulating the Internet as a public utility.

But pursuing that course ignores the lessons of history.

Just look our nation’s crumbling public utilities. One in three major U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks a year. And in 2011, our electric grid blacked out 307 times, up from 76 in 2007.

Today’s Internet doesn’t suffer these kinds of chronic problems because broadband isn’t regulated like a public utility. It grows and thrives through private investment and a light regulatory touch.

Today’s Internet does not depend on the political process for its growth. And it does not suffer when we experience extended droughts of public funding that can last for years.  Instead, the Internet lives, grows, and thrives based on the needs of millions of consumers that use it every day. One way we can ensure this remains true is to dismiss a common carrier solution.

Even regulators overseas have begun to take notice of the U.S. private investment model. Neelie Kroes, the European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner has said, “The writing is on the wall. And many E.U. leaders are abandoning their approach and looking to the American broadband model of infrastructure based competition and private investment.”

In the 1996 Communications Act, Congress stated clearly: “It is the policy of the United States…to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by federal or state regulation.”

What we need to do as a nation is to encourage innovation and vibrant marketplaces. Classifying the most technologically advanced communications network in human history as a common carrier is a terrible mistake. Rather than completely dismantling broadband deployment through common carrier regulation, we should be freely discussing solutions and working towards a rational end that both encourages growth and supports an open Internet experience for all.

  • John Doezer

    Comcast only cares about Net Neutrality because of a condition that stemmed from the NBCUniversal merger. Comcast gets around having to create a “fast lane” by doing just that. Comcast’s main free peering points are unbelievably congested (NANOG would agree) and unable to pass any significant amount of streaming data therefore bottlenecking the connection which forced Netflix into a paid peering agreement to have a direct connection to Comcast’s network. Is $10B in profit not enough to upgrade the hardware at the Comcast’s main peering points? The issue lies with the congestion and it really needs to be fixed.

  • MT

    I agree with the pretext of this article: broadband internet access should not be funded by local sales or gasoline taxes, like roads are. Instead, we should pay a monthly fee to receive these services, which should be regulated like all other utilities: phone, water, etc.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/compuaid/index.htm Ather

    Make the Internet whatever keeps it from being a tiered service, and more speed for more money. Contrary to greedy belief, we do not want a tiered service. Nor do we want to pay more for the luxury of faster service. We want it faster for no extra charge.

  • Mortified_By_You

    I love how the isp’s lobbying against FCC regulation leave out one very important factor in all this. We, the consumers, pay for internet access. Companies like Netflix shouldn’t have to pay anything extra to connect to us better because we already pay for that service. If Comcast and the like want to make more money they can just raise their rates. Their entire argument is just a cover for a money grab. All this talk about investment and the future growth of the internet is a bunch of malarkey. They merely want to gouge more people and businesses for more money without having to actually improve their product. Way to take a page out of the music industry’s book.

    • pat

      if the power co charges you for power you did not get someone pays if the water co charges you for water you did not get someone pays if the gas co charges you for gas you did not get someone pays. but if you pay for a agreed speed on the internet and dont get it they will tell you that is the way it is and there is nothing you can do about it. I payed for 258 and got about 100 than raised it to 768 and got about 250 for a lot more money so it is not imposable to get 250 but to charge for 768 and only give 250 is stealing and there is nothing I have found to do about it. regulating it like a utility might not be a bad idea

      • RubenCLeon

        HaHaHa
        If you like your internet service you can keep your internet service.

        Why would anyone with the IQ above a Chimp want to get the government involved in regulating the internet?

        Are the Big Government morons so myopic that they haven’t seen what happens when the internet is regulated?

        Hasn’t China, Iran, Egypt and all the other regulated service providers shown what happens when you get the government, any government, involved?

  • Jonathan Gahan

    Hilarious astro-turfing. They’re drawing comparisons to the electrical grid and highway system, while carefully avoiding mention of the other public utility (the phone system) that actually operates as a common carrier. Highways are “falling apart” because gas tax revenues are in steady decline as economic conditions cause people to drive less, and new cars consistently get better fuel economy then the cars they replace. The electric grid, highways and water/sewer services also suffer in that capacity upgrades, however necessary, are met with public resistence due to NIMBY syndrome, as well as the fact that such upgrades are nigh-impossible to implement without significant service disruptions during the upgrade.
    The phone system, in comparison, operates with utter disregard for the data (or voice) that flows across their networks. Networks which operate with 99.999% reliability across every component. This is actually very simple. Any network upgrades that increase per-customer performance direcly benefit the customer experience for Internet video, such as Netflix or Hulu. These services compete with, and ultimately undermine the value of the legacy cable TV services these companies are also selling to the same customer base.

    • RubenCLeon

      The biggest technological breakthrough from 1922 to 1972 when Ma Bell was the “common carrier” for phone service in the US was the Princess phone. You could even get one in color.

  • Greg Bulmash

    The Cable Companies making Netflix pay more to ensure I get decent download speeds is like the power company making Sears pay more to ensure the Kenmore refrigerator I bought keeps my food cold.

    I’m paying for the electricity. I’m paying for the bandwidth. There should be no discrimination or service degradations based on HOW I’m using them. And since Comcast and Verizon have already proved they will not regulate themselves and cannot be trusted to behave responsibly, they need to be hit with common carrier provisions.

    Furthermore, I’m about to start a WhiteHouse petition demanding the Justice Department pursue RICO prosecutions against Comcast and Verizon for their shakedown of Netflix, with criminal fines in the 9-10 figures for the corporations and criminal racketeering charges against individual executives.

    • RubenCLeon

      Maybe I’m missing something, but unless the Big Government Nazis have already mandated that you have to do business with Comcast or Verizon why should you care what they do?

      Other than yourself, who do you want to decide if a company is behaving responsibly, the Big Government Nazis or the paid off politicians? What are you going to do, as a consumer, if you don’t like the decision? You’re going to “vote” with your dollars, aren’t you?

      So please explain why you don’t “vote” with your dollars now and avoid getting the government involved. You’ve already admitted that getting the government involved will only be punitive with “they need to be
      HIT with common carrier provisions”.

      Why do you want the internet to turn into another Amtrak?

      Why do you want the internet to turn into another Need Another Seven Astronauts?

      Why do you want the internet to turn into another No Secrets Anywhere?

      The internet has done just fine without the corrupt bureaucrats getting their sticky hands on it. Let’s keep it that way.

      • Francis B

        The internet has done just fine because laws were in place to ensure net neutrality.

        Now internet carriers can decide what you view, and how you view it, regardless of whether you are paying for that service or not.

        The internet is more than a cool toy, it is fast becoming a regular part of our lives.

        Did you know you can’t even apply at most fast food joints without an internet connection anymore? That’s the most “entry” or entry-level positions. What happens when a service provider or two realizes that and decides to block or degrade connections on a major employer’s application pages simply because they can. It’s the same technique they used on Netflix…but used on a different battlefront.

        The room for abuse of this new digital landscape is both profound and frightening, and if they aren’t going to return to net neutrality (the internet is doing fine in most other western countries, with faster speeds at less cost I might add) then they need to at least provide clauses to keep these companies from disrupting the ability of other companies to contribute to the american economy.

        • RubenCLeon

          Why do so many people want to “force” everyone else to do whatever “they” think is best for everyone else?

          Is anyone “forcing” the fast food joints to use a slower carrier? Are their no other carriers available? Why is it so difficult for otherwise intelligent people to understand that the ISP’s with less bandwidth will lose customers to those that offer more bandqidth for less money?

          Why is it so difficult for otherwise intelligent people to understand that getting the government involved is a bad idea because the bureaucrats ALWAYS get corrupted…eventually, and then the problem is even worse.

          • Greg Bulmash

            Why do whackjobs think that the “free market” even exists, much less is a magical self-regulating fairy? Nice picture of Steve Jobs… who forced other tech giants into a collusion to suppress the free market on developer wages.

            Corporations do not act in the interests of freedom or the free market. They act in the interests of profit. They tend toward concentration and monopoly. And let’s not forget that besides engaging in price-fixing schemes on employee wages, Apple also engaged in price-fixing on electronic books. Apple is a poster child for why government regulation is needed.

            No system is without its abuses or issues. But for every author but Ayn Rand, a future of unregulated corporations and/or government is the setting for dystopian sci-fi.

          • RubenCLeon

            Politics is nothing more than two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner.

            Every bureaucratic regulatory agency is eventually co-opted by the industry it is supposed to regulate, so why bother getting the government involved?

      • Greg Bulmash

        It’s a strange coincidence, but a HUUUGE part of the nation has one telephone company that serves their home and one cable company. And only in a couple of cities are there public or private competitors rolling out even a third option.

        So when Verizon (phone company) and Comcast (cable company) are both opposing net neutrality, spending millions on lawyers and lobbyists to weaken the FCC’s ability to regulate them, and strongarming Netflix into peering deals, where is the consumer power to choose?

        Those common carrier provisions haven’t turned telecom into NASA or Amtrak. They’ve made it so your friends’ calls get through to you, no matter which telco they’re using to place the call. There’s no discrimination of traffic.

        Imagine if you had to pay extra for your calls to a friend across town to get special “clearline” service and you had to pay that money to the company he was buying telephone service from.

        But I did misspeak. The telcos and cable providers should have common carrier provisions *applied* (not be hit with them). They should be *hit* with criminal charges under RICO.

  • RubenCLeon

    HaHaHa
    If you like your internet service you can keep your internet service.

    Why would anyone with the IQ above a Chimp want to get the government involved in regulating the internet?

    Are the Big Government morons so myopic that they haven’t seen what happens when the internet is regulated?

    Hasn’t China, Iran, Egypt and all the other regulated service providers shown what happens when you get the government, any government, involved?

    The biggest technological breakthrough from 1922 to 1972 when Ma Bell was the “common carrier” for phone service in the US was the Princess phone. You could even get one in color.

    It amazes me that so many people can be so uneducated as to the simple economic facts of life.

    Amazon’s cloud is forcing Google to cut cloud access prices.

    What will happen when Amazon & Google shareholders decide to merge? Don’t think it won’t happen. All they have to do is move their HQ’s to Singapore or Bahrain.

    Reminds me of Butch & Sundance worrying about getting ambushed on the way down the mountain.

    • Jonathan Gahan

      While I won’t try to state that the speed of technological progress was faster under the Bell system, I would refute your claim that the Princess phone was the only advancement from 1922 to 1972. After all, there was the Model 500 (the archtypical “phone”) introduced in the 1950’s. And don’t forget the Trimline phone, introduced in 1965.

      IN all seriousness, over that time period, Bell spread phone service to virtually every home in America, while rolling out automated dialing, as well as wireless microwave, and satellite-based long distance links.

      The Bell system also operated with a level of reliability far higher than any other system since introduced. I can literally not think of any time I’ve taken a POTS home phone off-hook and NOT heard dial tone or NOT been able to make a call. And the pre-divestiture Bell phones were, quite literally, the most robust devices most Americans interacted with at the time, remaining in service for decades with no maintenance. No phone, heck, no consumer electronics made since divestiture come close.

      • RubenCLeon

        How do you know the Post Office is hiring?
        The flag is at half mast.
        And yet, you can find people who will extoll the virtues of working at the Post Office.

        I’ll
        bet you can find plenty of people who will swear that the VA is the best medical service too…the ones who haven’t died waiting for an appointment.

        Water runs downhill.
        The sun rises in the east,
        and competition is the only thing that keeps the consumer getting the best service at the lowest cost/price…just ask the Kodak stockholders.

        The cost of a long distance call was outrageously expensive when Ma Bell had her monopoly and now they’re practically free. Why is it so difficult to understand that allowing thieving politicians into any economic matrix only encourages corruption and inefficiency and the consumer always pays more and gets less.

        • Jonathan Gahan

          You realize you’re undermining your own argument. Ma Bell built the most reliable phone system in history by using revenue from high profit margin long distance service and equipment leasing to, in effect, subsidize the cost of local phone service. This practice was ruled, in United States vs. AT&T, to be a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which in turn drove Ma Bell’s divesturture.

          Kodak is similarly not a good example. They failed to respond to the shift from film to digital photography. Digital photography was catastrophic to their business model, which was predicated on recurring sales of film and processing, which digital completely undermined. The irony is that Kodak invented the digital camera in the 1970’s.
          I concede the VA is a hot mess. The USPS is, as I understand it, a fairly cushy place to work if you can get in. At any rate, they’re fantastic from a customer perspective. Get this letter anywhere in the country for one low price. Their downfall is Congress’s insistence that they fully fund their pension for the next 75 years. Which is a requirement far more stringent than any private company is subject to.
          The irony there is that, for all the GOP Free-marketers attempts to kill USPS, it is a Constitutionally mandated government service.

          • RubenCLeon

            You make some good points, but unfortunately the argument is not about the examples we can posit to make the discussion more interesting, it’s about how much more bureaucratic intrusion we want in our daily lives.

            The NSA isn’t doing anything that every direct marketing firm isn’t doing with every phone call, email and internet visit, and since every government regulatory agency is eventually hijacked by the industry it’s supposed to regulate, do you really want former Verizon & Comcast executives regulating the internet?

      • firewalker25b

        Till the Government stepped in and Fooooked it up.

  • firewalker25b

    I know that if it gets worst the HACKERS WILL SHUT IT DOWN till their DEMANDS for NET NEUTRALITY RETURNS.