Net Neutrality: FCC Hack is a Speed Bump on the Internet Fast Lane

Highway at Night

Net neutrality is one of those topics we’ve been hearing more and more about in recent years. The basic idea of net neutrality is that all Internet traffic should be treated equally no matter what. It shouldn’t matter if it’s email, web sites, or streaming video. It shouldn’t matter if the traffic is coming from Wikipedia, Netflix, Youtube, etc. It shouldn’t matter which Internet Service Provider you choose. This is the way the Internet has worked since it’s inception. Of course, not everyone agrees that this is how things should stay. We didn’t always have the technology to filter and classify traffic. Now that it’s here, some believe that we should be able to classify internet traffic and treat it differently based on that classification.

It seems like much of the tech savvy community argues that net neutrality is a “given right” of the Internet. They believe that it’s the way the Internet has always been, and always should be. The other side of the argument is generally lobbied by Internet service providers. They argue that ISP’s have the right to classify Internet traffic that flows through their equipment and treat it differently if they so choose. As for everyone else, just about everyone these days relies on the Internet for business, banking, and entertainment but many of those people have no idea how the Internet works, nor do they really care. It’s like the electricity in their home or the engine in their car. As long as it’s working properly that’s all that matters to them. If they can check Facebook on their phone while watching Breaking Bad on Netflix in full HD, why should they care how that stuff gets prioritized? It work’s doesn’t it?

The Internet backbone

Why is this even a topic for discussion? If the “open Internet” has been working fine since it’s inception, why are we even discussing this now? To understand the problem, it helps to first understand the basic concept of the “Internet backbone”. The Internet is roughly made up of three different tiers of service provider. Consumers purchase their Internet service from a tier 3 provider such as Comcast or Verizon. These tier 3 providers in turn purchase their Internet service from a tier 1 provider such as Level 3. The tier 1 providers are connected to each other and make up the Internet backbone.

Peering arrangements

While you might pay your ISP $55 per month for a 30Mbps connection, your ISP is “peered” with some tier 1 provider for a much, much faster connection. Their connection has to handle all of the Internet traffic for all of its users at the same time. These peering arrangements vary based on the particular situation, but often times neither company pays the other as long as the traffic getting sent back and forth is roughly equal. If one company was sending much more information than they were receiving, that company would likely pay the other a fee.

Other service companies, such as Netflix, pay an ISP for access to the Internet just like we do as consumers. They would pay a tier 1 or 2 provider for a bigger and more stable connection than your average home user has, though. A company like Netflix would have to purchase their own Internet connection that is fast enough to stream video to all of its users at the same time. The home user just needs a connection fast enough to stream their one video at a time.

The key thing to remember is that everybody pays some kind of ISP for access to this global entity we called “The Internet”. If you pay an ISP, you get online and you can talk to everyone else.

Comcast vs. Netflix

comcast-v-netflix

With Internet speeds getting faster and faster all the time, consumers are demanding more and more content. Some ISP’s claim to be struggling to keep up with the demand. A good example of this can be seen with the recent Comcast vs. Netflix battle. Comcast is a major cable television and Internet provider in the United States. For many people, it’s the only realistic option for Internet access in their area. Satellite is too unreliable for them, 4G is not fast enough, etc. It’s also important to note that in the United States, most people only have access to one cable provider in their region. If they decide that cable is the best option for Internet access, they are stuck with whichever provider happens to be in their region. Thus, many people find themselves “stuck” as Comcast customers.

Last year, many Comcast customers noticed a quality reduction in their streaming Netflix video content. This didn’t start happening until just last year. So what changed? Was Comcast slowing down Netflix on purpose? According to Comcast, that was not the case. Comcast has stated that they had a peering arrangement with their ISP, Level 3. Level 3 was sending roughly twice as much traffic into Comcast’s network as Comcast was sending back. Up until recently, the two companies considered this fair and neither was paying the other any fees

Content Delivery Networks

Then something changed that somehow caused Netflix to start working slowly on Comcast’s network. Netflix used to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service through a company called Akamai. Akamai has distributed centers all over the world that can more easily send the large quantities of data that Netflix users demand. Since Akamai was sending so much data into Comcast’s network, they had their own peering arrangement with Comcast where they paid Comcast a fee to handle the large traffic load. This is a standard Internet practice. The diagram below helps illustrate what this might look like. The wider arrows represent more bandwidth.

Netflix with Akamai

This is where things get interesting. Level 3 (Comcast’s ISP) is not only an ISP, but they also offer CDN services that compete with Akamai. Last year, Level 3 won the contract with Netflix to start hosting and distributing Netflix’s content. As a result, Akamai no longer hosts Netflix content and therefore does not have to pay Comcast the same high fees that it used to have to pay. At the same time, the connection that Comcast already had with Level 3 became overloaded with Netflix traffic. Suddenly the reality of the network connection no longer matched the terms of the Comcast/Level 3 peering agreement.

Netflix with Level 3

The only way to fix this problem is for Comcast to upgrade their infrastructure to support the new load coming from Level 3. This of course costs a lot of money. Normal industry practice would be for Comcast to change the peering agreement so that Level 3 would now pay a fee to Comcast, which would help support the cost of the new infrastructure changes. This is the equivalent of Comcast charging Akamai. However the two couldn’t come to an agreement, and Level 3 claimed that Comcast was singling out Netflix traffic and was therefore violating principles of Net neutrality.

Netflix eventually got tired of waiting around and purchased new connections directly from Comcast. These network connections give Netflix a direct connection to Comcast customers, bypassing Level 3 all together. In essence, Netflix is now paying Comcast directly to handle their large traffic load.

Netflix direct connections

Shortly after the new direct connections were setup, Comcast customers unsurprisingly noticed a great increase in video quality coming from Netflix. The below graph illustrates how Netflix speed dropped suddenly for Comcast customers around October 2013, and then spiked back up significantly after January 2014 once Netflix purchased direct connections to Comcast.

Netflix speed graph

How this relates to Net Neutrality

On the surface, it looks like Comcast is requiring Netflix to pay for faster access to Comcast subscribers. That is the distilled essence of the current net neutrality debate. Should ISP’s be allowed to offer priority access to certain types of traffic, people, or companies? Comcast argues that this is not a net neutrality issue because they are not actively throttling Netflix traffic. In their eyes, Netflix was clogging up the connection and the backbone provider was violating the peering arrangement. They just wanted to work out a new agreement that was reasonable.

One might argue that Comcast customers pay for access to the Internet as a single entity. Therefore, they should be able to stream Netflix all day, every day if that’s how they choose to use their connection. If Comcast offers every single subscriber a 30Mbps connection, shouldn’t their customers be able to use that connection however they see fit? Does it really matter if all the data is flowing in or out?

The other side of the argument is also clear. Peering arrangements were agreed upon and then changed. These arrangements have always worked a certain way, and now it seems as though companies are questioning that practice.

Life in the fast lane

The most recent entry in the net neutrality saga involves what people are calling the “Internet Fast Lane”. This United States’ FCC proposal would allow for broadband ISP’s to offer up faster connections for companies willing to pay more. This is very similar to what is happening with Netflix. On the surface, it sounds like maybe it’s a win-win situation. Companies get to pay more money to have faster access to the customers of various ISPs, and the ISP doesn’t have to continually pay to upgrade their infrastructure to support all this different content.

The downsides are not as obvious to most people. For one, there are ethical issues at play. Comcast is not only an ISP, they are also a cable television provider. They also own NBC Universal, which produces television content. Comcast also is part owner of Hulu, a streaming media service. Clearly Comcast is, to some degree, a competitor of Netflix. So now how does this look? One might think that Comcast took advantage of the situation in order to hurt their competitor. Why should Comcast care if Netflix is slow? This would give more incentive for Netflix customers to purchase cable TV service through Comcast, or use a different Comcast service such as Hulu. There isn’t any clear evidence that this was happening, but you can’t help but wonder. Even if this was not actually an attempt to attack a competitor, what’s stopping other companies from doing exactly that? An “Internet fast lane” may unintentionally permit ISP’s to hurt their competitors in a similar manner.

This also may be bad for competition. This deal with Netflix and Comcast has set a precedence for others to follow suit. Once the Comcast deal went through, Verizon stepped up to the plate and the two companies signed a similar deal. If this trend continues, we may find that only some ISP’s will carry high quality Netflix content whereas others without these special deals will not. The result is that consumers may have to choose their ISP not only based on which has the best quality Internet connection, but also which has the best quality Netflix connection. You can bet that it’s the smaller ISP’s that will suffer, resulting in less competition in a market where competition is already severely lacking. A “fast lane” law may end up supporting this type of Internet.

There’s another way in which the “fast lane” can be bad for competition. A giant company like Netflix might be able to afford to pay for “fast lane” service, but what about a new start-up? Imagine if a new Netflix competitor wanted to start-up but couldn’t afford to pay for all of these fast lane fees to all of the various ISP’s? They might never even get off the ground. Competition is good for the consumer, so we need to make sure the rules foster competition and not hinder it.

How is this a hack?

This is where [Kyledrake] comes in. He sits proudly on the pro net neutrality side of the argument. Rather than simply add more complaints to the ever growing pile, he decided to make a more powerful statement. [Kyledrake] wrote a custom Nginx script that throttles certain users visiting his own web server down to a crawl at 28.8kbps. The catch? His web server only throttles traffic coming from known FCC IP addresses. The desired result is that users browsing his website from FCC networks will experience a slow connection. Nobody else will notice a difference.

Now, [Kyledrake] is a reasonable man. He just wants to ensure that the FCC is paying for their share of [Kyledrake's] bandwidth. Therefore he is offering to put the FCC into their own “fast lane” service for a nominal fee of $1000 per year. He is calling this “The Ferengi Plan“.

[Kyledrake] hopes that more Internet users will start using the script and follow suit. It’s obvious what [Kyledrake] is doing here. He’s trying to show the FCC the downsides of this “fast lane” proposal in a very direct way. It obviously can be abused, but the question is will it be? Will there be protections in place to prevent this abuse? Will those protections actually be enforced?

Lingering questions

We’re curious to hear what Hackaday readers think about this whole net neutrality thing. There are many questions here and not all of them have obvious right and wrong answers. There’s a lot of hypothetical grey areas that muddy the waters. Here are some questions to get everyone thinking.

  • Should ISP’s be allowed to throttle web traffic as they see fit?
  • Should ISP’s just pay for their own infrastructure upgrades to support their own subscribers?
  • Is this “fast lane” proposal a good idea? A bad one?
  • Do you have any other ideas on how to keep things fair for everyone?
  • The Internet is an international entity. Should government just stay out of it?

You also may want to check out the FCC’s comments system. You can leave them a comment in regards to many FCC proposals. Feel free to leave them a comment letting them know how you feel about this issue.

Comments

  1. Anybodysguess says:

    So, when will HaD integrate this script?

  2. Mike Lu says:

    Storage and computing power advance much more quickly than networking, so why not make every consumer (at least for fixed connections) a cache node?

    • Mike Szczys says:

      As far as I know, the majority of residential connections (in this country) have a capped upstream that is not capable of streaming at HD speeds.

      • Torque says:

        Hooray for ADSL.

        Seriously though, this should be a wake-up call for why SDSL, or even better, a variable type of DSL is needed for homes
        .
        Plus I’m pretty damn sure there already exists media streaming services designed on the same principle of bit-torrent file transfers.

        • Dax says:

          The basic ADSL supports upstream speeds up to 1.8 Mbps but the ISPs quickly noticed that people were sending loads of data through programs like Napster, DC++ and FTP, so the maximum upstream rates they ever sold were 256 or 512k for the slower connections and 1 Mbps for the 8 Mbps lines (since downloading at full speed would saturate the upstream with ACKs)

          This was by design, because the ISPs didn’t want to pay the peering from people sending each other files. They wanted their networks to operate more like cable television.

          • Mike Lu says:

            Back when I had Alltel (now Windstream) ADSL, I had a 1.5M/384k connection but the cap only applies to access outside the local office. Within the local office (to another user), it would do quite a bit more than that – about 6M/1M, limited by the capabilities of the line. It costs the ISP basically nothing for traffic from one user to another on the same local office, but it does cost a lot to upgrade connections to the backbone. Hence why it makes sense to use topology-aware P2P for content caching.

        • Jbb says:

          Hi all.

          I’m not an expert, but I understand that the whole ‘asymmetrical’ bit of ADSL is also partially caused by some genuine physics.

          When you have a whole lot of ADSL gear in a telephone exchange (or roadside cabinet) (doing all kinds of OFDM trickery) there is cross-talk between the channels. It’s not so bad on the customer end because your receiver electronics are far away from anyone else’s transmitter – high speeds are possible. In the cabinet, the receiver connected to your house (by a long, low quality cable never intended to operate above 10kHz) has to receive signals from you (at around 1 MHz, I think, orders of magnitude above what the phone line was designed to handle in the first place) even while being bombarded with noise from all the other channels in the exchange. It’s hard and an engineering compromise was made.

          That being said, ISPs do find it convenient to throttle the hell out of your uplink.

      • Mr. Fosi says:

        That is certainly the case on my home connection. I am limited to 0.9 Mbits/s up and that’s on a good day.

        This was a crushing blow to the idea of having my own cloud server.

    • That’s just begging for trouble.

    • Slegiar says:

      While differences between the technologies growth may be a factor, I’m willing to bet a large part of it also is the companies not wanting to spend that much money when they can still force people to take crap service and have to take it with a forced smile, no ketchup. I’ll admit I don’t know all the logistics behind something like this, but I’d be interested if, a reclassification did occur, if the goverment could than require a level of upgraded capability. That is to say, if internet was a utility, could the ISP’s be required to upgrade the infrastructure that could surely use the boost? food for thought, a bit outta my area though, but still.

      • Rick Osgood says:

        I think there is something to this. I’ve seen multiple instances from others online who received large free upgrades from Comcast once Google Fiber became available in their area. It’s interesting to see that their infrastructure was able to support that at no cost to the consumer once they had some actual competition. I mentioned in the article that in the USA there is little real competition between ISPs. This goes to show that competition is good for the consumer.

        • Slegiar says:

          I do agree, the US, despite its touting of “FREE MARKET HURPADUR”…could use a HECKUVA lot more in the way of competition when it comes to its internet. The problem then becomes the barrier to entry is becoming more and more untenable for much beyond small companies here and there to dig into the larger market and actually supply that very much needed competition. First and foremost though I think the infrastructure takes precedence. more competition won’t help if the cabling can’t support it all.

          • Rick Osgood says:

            I’ve often wondered if it would be a good idea to make the “last mile” of cable/fiber/whatever owned by the local government as a utility. Then they can lease it out to smaller companies so there is more competition. I don’t know enough to really know if this would be a good or bad idea, but it intrigues me nonetheless.

          • GZ says:

            The competition issue often comes down to local government. Many cable companies negotiated exclusive service contracts as a way of guaranteeing their original build-out costs.

            It’s then followed on by the interruption of service argument where adding a competing service would risk frequent wide spread outages of the incumbent service due to line-cuts via construction or limited “pole space” if it’s an above ground install.

            The only way in most cases to make a change is to alter the local regulations. Once that happens, competition will prevent most of the shenanigans that go on.

            One thinking is wiring local neighborhoods as a single customer in order to purchase connectivity farther up the food chain.

        • John says:

          Comcast’s days as a bully are numbered. In many big US cities, such as Seattle where I live, fast symmetric metro ethernet is offered by a dozen small ISP’s. I pay $60/mo for symmetric 100mbps service, and could upgrade to gigabit for $20 more. Of course, no throttling, download caps, or traffic shaping. Comcast can’t even begin to compete and everyone knows it. The first thing many people ask when shopping for a new apartment is “Do you have Condo Internet?”.

    • Marty Lawson says:

      At this point I think the big problem is licensing. (i.e. netflix would need a new “rental” license…) Technically it’ll also require streaming from multiple sources (BitTorrent has experimented with this) and some predictive caching. (i.e. you watched episode 1 and 2 of “some tv show” so cache episodes 3-4 overnight, etc) Should be able to make a large dent in traffic volume that way.

    • Johan G says:

      Question is: Has part of the world stopped trying to invest to advance and improve while maybe making a buck out of it? Does it instead not invest unless they know for sure that they can make a buck and invest only for the buck?

      • Slegiar says:

        That indeed is a good question……and somehow it wouldn’t surprise me it does actually strikes a ring of truth =/ not saying I know for certain but…..tis a greedy world we live in XP

    • Bill Stewart says:

      That’s called “Bit Torrent” for large file transfers; there have been people working on streaming video equivalents, though I don’t know the current status. The biggest obstacle isn’t the limited upstream (DSL and cable protocols are both asymmetric), it’s the policies of some consumer ISPs, like most cable and many DSL companies, against running servers at home. Leftover paranoia from the early days.

    • static says:

      …”why not make every consumer”. The problem there is the word make. Make the consumer make “improvements” to the network owned by the company we are purchasing a product from? No thanks, I don’t want to share my 0.5 upload speed for corporate profit. Fix the shit right, charge us a reasonable charge for doing so. Be unreasonable risk pushing the consumers to the breaking point. Last I knew Netflix still delivered optical disk. I drop my roku Netflix free trial when it turned out the movies I wanted to watch weren’t available for streaming, but where on CD. CD or streaming I don’t miss Netflix plenty of free content available.

  3. Lyle says:

    Hah!! Now this is an article!! And yes, I hope HaD integrates this code. And not just for the FCC, I hope they do it to companies lobbying for killing Net Neutrality.

  4. John says:

    Educate people more. There is no need for real time streaming and surely no one is that desperate that they have to see things as soon as they are available.

    My personal view (will probably get me lots of stick) is that the Internet should be text based only, if you want the info then learn to read. If there were nothing but text based pages and simple HTML links and files to download then the internet would be twice as fast as everyone needs it to be. It does not need all the sparkle and crud that is associated with all that sparkle. Real time streaming of HD video is an unbelievable waste of technology, some people need to get out more.

    Regards
    Mr A. Dinosaur

    • Torque says:

      While we’re at it, lets go back to terminal-only based user interfaces for operating systems.
      Little junior and old granny better learn the bash syntax or no e-mail & wikipedia for them.

      On a serious note, I DO agree with that websites nowadays are too much fluff and glitter, but going full-retard text only is the exact opposite, instead of finding a lean&mean middle ground that is easy to use and still not loaded with shiny shit and fancy pancy scripts that cripples even slightly old smartphones.

      • Ino-kol says:

        “While we’re at it, lets go back to terminal-only based user interfaces for operating systems.”
        +1
        I’m game for it most of the systems I use I end up pulling up the terminal in the end, gotta love lynx. Most modern GUIs seem to be more interested in slowing down the user anyway… Just a personal observation.

        • crystalclaw says:

          +1 as well.
          I often find myself browsing my computer with cd, ls and cat.
          i like the look of fancy interfaces, but the simplicity of terminals is usually enough.
          also, terminal makes me feel a lot cooler

        • jagop says:

          I prefer window 8 tiles because i don’t have to think what i click. Grow up you old piece of shit.

        • K says:

          Pretttty sure he was being sarcastic. While I do love me my command line, browsing web in text-only is a complete waste of time.

          • Torque says:

            Poe’s law in effect.

            That said, at times the command line can be more efficient.
            HOWEVER forget anything about using only that nowadays without having to resort to hacky solutions.
            And that is ALSO while excluding viewing or editing videos & photos at all.

            As usual (and as I also mentioned) finding a balance is the crux.

          • Ino-kol says:

            Sorry I’m assuming you are directed at me. You are right, however Because of my work I am personally in really poor bandwidth areas a lot of the times and found it a necessity.
            Sorry to everyone else as well I messed up the discussion by continuing a branch topic, well at least in this part of the thread.

      • Johan G says:

        It is interesting that we have computers the size of 70’s keyboards running faster than most 80’s supercomputers and still have 90’s lag in the user experience. ;-)

        It is interesting that all that raw CPU (and GPU) power seems to be used on “glittery glamorous” user interfaces.

        (Though admittedly the comparison between todays computers and 80’s supercomputers is a bit flawed due to differences in purpose and architecture, as well as that there are *a lot* going on in the background these days.)

    • Blob says:

      No. A text based internet won’t do, and here’s why: Retrotechtacular!

      If I couldn’t curl up on the couch with some chips and a laptop to instantly stream videos of the pioneers who toiled endlessly amid the grease and grime to achieve seemingly impossible feats of advancement with only what we’d consider rudimentary technology at their disposal, then I just don’t know what I’d do.

    • static says:

      I agree with comedian Dinosaur in part without real time streaming we wouldn’t have been able to watch team hakaday in the Red Bull competition. CD via the mail is the more sensible way to get movie content, of course that requires the consumer think in advance. Also I noticed the remaing video rental places an the Redbox stations seem to always have shoppers.

  5. eldorel says:

    One thing that I think a lot of people aren’t aware of is how these peering connections have changed over the past few decades.

    20 years ago, an internet uplink had a per-hour cost in place. 1 hour of use == 1 hour of telephone line usage. Even with ISDN services, there was a correlation of one user==one line.

    When a user on COX wanted to communicate with users on Comcast, both ISP’s were paying for a connection to the ISP that was between them.

    That link could handle up to 10 users traffic, More users == more lines.

    In order to save money, Tier-3 Isp’s (like cox+comcast) started setting up direct connections between each other. This meant that both companies bought additional lines to dedicate to these connections, but it was cheaper than paying for more capacity from the tier-1 providers.

    Those peering agreements still had to pay the telephone company for lines, but they were paying for the actual interconnect, and not the data itself.

    The result of this was that the peered ISP’s were now paying for the Line Capacity and throughput for that traffic, and not for the data crossing the line.

    It doesn’t matter whether that peered line is sitting at 0% utilization or 100%, the line is still up, running, and connected. Once the line is run and the equipment installed, there is no additional cost other than basic maintenance.

    Meanwhile, users were still using connections that were billed per-hour, and only some traffic was being passed to the tier-1 ISP’s.

    As broadband services became more common, this has changed.

    Now, one user == one hard line to the door. these connections are up 24/7.
    In other words, every single broadband user has the equivalent of a Peered connection to their ISP.

    I repeat: There are no additional costs related to that connection that increase as you use more of it.

    With that in mind,
    I think most people would agree that If you have paid for a line that can handle 100Mb/s, then users assume that they should be able to connect at 100Mb/s 24/7.

    The problem is that until recently, users with 100Mb/s connections were only using that capacity 20% of the time. Because of this, the Tier-3 isp’s have been oversubscribing areas (nodes) and selling 100 people 100Mb connections, but only running 200Mb into that node.

    Now, the users are starting to use their connections closer to 100% of the time, and the 200Mb lines run into the local node is not large enough to handle the 1000Mb of lines that the Isp sold on that node.

    Instead of upgrading the node, the ISP’s are trying to claim that companies like netflix need to be paying them for the data sent along the lines.

    As for the right for an ISP to prioritize traffic, this is a separate issue that has been used to confuse the above.

    If there is enough capacity to handle the sold connections, then prioritization (aka: QOS or quality of service) is used to insure that certain types of traffic have a lower trip time (latency). However, when there isn’t enough capacity, the result of QOS is that non-prioritized traffic is heavily degraded.

    Allowing the ISP’s to prioritize paid or premium traffic without upgrading the capacity to support the actual traffic on a node only results in non-premium traffic being artificially slowed.

    • Rick Osgood says:

      Well put! I didn’t know about the history of peering connections. Honestly it took me a while to actually discover that the paid peering was the source of the Comcast vs. Netflix issue. I completely agree that net neutrality is being used to confuse the real problem here.

    • also says:

      +1
      also let us not forget that in the ’90s the American taxpayers gave the ISPs something like $200 Billion to upgrade their infrastructures to fiber. They never did.

  6. drew says:

    Wait… so Netflix used to use Akami as their CDN to Comcast networks, and then switched to Level 3. This unbalanced L3 and Comcast’s peering agreement so Netflix decided to become a CDN themselves and directly connect to Comcast? That’s a detail that I haven’t heard before – if true, how is this a Net Neutrality issue?

    If Netflix is still using L3 as the CDN then this is still definitely a Net Neutrality issue because Comcast is charging someone they’re not directly connected with.

    The story above implies that cables were swapped around (at least virtually) at datacenters across the country, rather than the more widely repeated “Comcast unilaterally started throttliing Netflix”

    The plot thickens…

    • Rick Osgood says:

      My understanding is that Netflix data was going to Comcast through Level 3’s CDN. This saturated the Level 3 -> Comcast connection and neither of the two companies wants to pay the other for the upgrade. Netflix got tired of waiting around and now routes their traffic directly to Comcast, paying Comcast for that service just like they would likely pay any other company for a direct connection.

      In my opinion, this is not a net neutrality issue at heart. The root problem is with these peering agreements and companies not playing well together. I believe the only reason net neutrality is associated with this is because Level 3 is using it as a way to try and push the blame to Comcast. They are claiming that Comcast was “throttling” Netflix traffic and then forced Netflix to pay Comcast to get the speeds back up. In truth, Level 3 doubled the usual traffic to Comcast and Comcast suddenly had to deal with it. Normally Level 3 would start paying Comcast since they were sending much more data than they were receiving back. Instead, they started screaming “Net Neutrality!” in order to push blame.

      That doesn’t change the fact that Comcast has likely oversold bandwidth to its subscribers, and in my opinion they should pay for whatever upgrades are necessary to support the bandwidth they have sold. It’s all just a big mess really.

      • sf says:

        settlement-free peering is more or less the “default” option, the idea is “our customers pay us to transmit traffic between us, so we both have an interest in doing so”. Some of the biggest Internet Exchanges in the world rely on this principle.

        The big north-american ISPs just have a lot of customers that can’t really change to an alternative, so they gain the power to demand money from both sides. (Telekom in Germany here is another disgusting example, ignoring the exchanges and demanding money from everybody, and then doing big campaigns of “saving the Germans data” by not having traffic leave Germany when not necessary. Which it already never would if they would follow the customs and participate in the existing exchanges)

      • Dax says:

        It is in a net neutrality issue in a sense, because Comcast refuses to pay because they know they can negotiate a better price by having Netflix as a direct customer instead.

        The peering agreement between the two network operators is being used as a leverage here. In essence, Comcast is “throttling” traffic from other ISPs by intentionally having insufficient capacity, so data-heavy and timing critical services like Netflix are better served by going directly to them to pay higher rates than the bulk rates they’d have to agree with Level 3.

        • Dax says:

          Essentially, in a neutral network, the cost of sending traffic into a network (having bandwith to it) is the same whether it comes through third parties or directly. Without net neutrality, the ISP is in the power of charging different amounts based on who the data comes from – as long as they are directly connected to the ISP in question.

          When the data is going through intermediate ISPs, Comcast cannot differentiate between customers and has to treat all data the same, so they can’t for example ask for n^2 pricing where n is the amount of bandwidth provided.

          The fundamental reason for the differentiation is to shift more of the cost of infrastructure to the content providers instead of the broadband customers to keep the broadband end user prices low, to retain a competitive edge against smaller competing ISPs who can’t make direct peering agreements with the content providers. In the extreme case, Comcast could for example make Netflix pay everything and their broadband customers nothing in order to keep other ISPs out of their turf, because you can’t compete with what is given for free.

          This leads to balkanization of the internet where all tier 3 ISPs are trying to force the service and content providers into exclusive contracts with themselves by severing connections with the internet backbone ISPs in order to keep their regional monopolies, essentially turning the internet into cable TV.

        • assdf says:

          Was traffic actually throttled or did Level3 simply cap it’s link to Comcast when all Netflix traffic ran through them?

          • Jacob Lambda says:

            Well I believe it is a little of both. QoS throttled HD streaming between Comcast and the customers to handle the load from overselling the data lines which albeit a problem is not the issue at hand. The controversy comes in when L3 capped Netflix’s data to Comcast and blamed it on Comcast. This led to disagreements about who should be responsible for the increased load on these lines, Comcast for receiving the traffic or L3 for taking the bandwidth that akamai was handling and loading all of it onto the L3-Comcast line. The net neutrality part of it is essentially L3 attempting to offload the blame onto Comcast and the FCC and the media are dealing with the false net neutrality issue instead of the actual issue which is 2 companies whining and crying at each other about who should have to pay for the internet because one of them broke it.

            P.S. If the FCC changes do go through, then there is an actual net neutrality issue. For that essentially blame Verizon.

          • davidelang says:

            All the links between Layer3 and Comcast were saturated, the engineering answer to this is to plug in more links between the two, but Comcast was unwilling to do so.

          • davidelang says:

            do you have any evidence that Layer3 capped traffic to Comcast? So far, the only evidence that I’ve seen is that Comcast refused to upgrade the links (by plugging more cables between existing routers) until they were paid by Netflix.

            I don’t see any reason that Layer3 would cap traffic at anything below the max that the links could handle, and given how much they’ve been complaining about this, if there was any evidence that Layer3 was actually imposing the cap, I would have expected it to be publicized widely and the whole situation would have blown up in Layer3’s face.

          • assdf says:

            So does this mean that all traffic from Level3 was effected and not just Netflix? Is Level3 the only connection Comcast has to the ‘internet backbone’? If yes, and the download link was saturated.. wouldn’t Comcast end-users experience slower download speeds for all of their traffic? Some were claiming they only experienced this issue when streaming Netflix content.

          • davidelang says:

            Yes, this means that all traffic between Comcast and Level3 was affected

            There is no “Internet Backbone” as such to connect to. What people refer to as the “Internet Backbone” is companies like Level3. The Internet Backbone is a mesh of a bunch of different companies, Level3 is one of them. Comcast has connections to a bunch of them (as does Level3

            All of these companies connect to each other, and agree to pass traffic for each other (this is what these peering points are)

  7. Bob says:

    We should split the neutrality debate in two: 1) should ISPs be able to discriminate between different websites, e.g. favor Netflix over Amazon Video?, and 2) should ISPs be able to discriminate between different types of data, e.g. prioritize streaming video differently from text?

    I would say “no” to #1. The ISP’s customers (us) are choosing which web sites to go to, and the ISP has a responsibility to give us the access we paid for.

    I would say “yes” to #2. Text and video clearly put different demands on the network. I don’t care if my e-mail comes this minute or the next, but my video better not pause for even 1/4 second. It seems to me that when the source of some data (e.g. Netflix) and the recipient (e.g. me) both consider the data to be high priority, it’s both reasonable and helpful for the intermediary (the ISP) to treat it that way. And if that treatment requires more resources, it’s reasonable to charge for it.

    • CJ says:

      I don’t comment much, but I wanted to point something out. Most text and email and high important traffic is TCP, while streaming audio and video (aka Netflix) is UDP. The connectionless protocol of UDP allows for frames to be dropped real time in order to keep the stream playing in sync. The rate at which most video’s play, including HD video, displays more frames per second than the human eye can see. Dropping a few frames because of a slower connection is usually not noticed. It’s the same with audio too. With UDP, packages are received in no particular order as they are streamed, but if say an older packet (frame, in the case of video) arrives after a newer packet, it get’s dropped and never get’s noticed.

      TCP, however, sends a handshake, establishes a connection, and then keep sending individual packets until it gets the ACK confirmation for each and puts it all together and then drops the connection. If something bumps a TCP packet to where it doesn’t get through, no ACK is sent and it keeps repeating that packet until it goes in.

      ” Text and video clearly put different demands on the network. I don’t care if my e-mail comes this minute or the next, but my video better not pause for even 1/4 second.”

      ^^ This issue has been addressed already and has been in use for a while.

      • nsayu says:

        Yes, it is one of those things where honest ignorance of the everyday is shown. QoS is a thing and it is very important. It does not matter if a website takes twice as long to load. It is still the same content. If, however, a VoIP call’s packets arrive in the wrong order then that portion of the communication is fully corrupted, leading to annoyances at best and garbled nonsense at worse.

        As Bob said, where traffic comes from doesn’t matter, but what kind of traffic it is does matter. We even use that same philosophy for city streets. Everybody gets to use it equally, but emergency traffic gets the right-of-way. There is no emergency packets per se, but streaming content is impacted heavily by stutter, delay, or reduced throughput while other content does not.

        • davidelang says:

          In theory you are correct, but in practice things don’t work that way.

          The whole thing that Bufferbloat has shown is that the current method of handling traffic in routers is bad for latency sensitive traffic, Even if they enable Qos (which almost nobody actually does)

          the tests of routers test throughput with long-lived latency-insensitive connections and they optimize for that, Then they run low-throughput latency-sensitive traffic through in a different test and see that there are no problems.

          What they don’t do is measure latency at the same time that they send high-throughput tests through the devices, and that is where things break down.

          It’s not just that they are testing wrong, they don’t even acknowledge that there is a problem, “that’s just the way IP works”, in spite of people showing how to solve things (unfortunately, the people showing the solutions aren’t doing it at ISP level speeds, because that equipment is too expensive for people to buy out of their own pockets)

  8. RandyKC says:

    Best article on the issue of net neutrality that I’ve seen.
    Finally a link I can point to to educate others about its importance,
    Thank You

  9. cHRIS says:

    I’ve been wondering, ever since this came into the news how this can affect the rest of the world. FCC has jurisdiction over the USA and its networks, but i’m in Canada. Our service providers (the big three) _are_ the Tier ones, and they sell to the homeowners, and also sell to secondary providers, who also sell to homeowners for competitively prices, but exactly the same speeds. I don’t see this affecting our networks at all, and unless i’m visiting a US based website, I shouldn’t see any issue. I do agree that neutrality should be enshrined and the standard and should not be any fast or slow lanes, but for the rest of the world – how is this and the FCC’s “plans” going to make any difference?

    • Dodo says:

      They required Net Neutrality by law in the Netherlands… Also banned QoS. Internet got more expensive and a bit slower. Also many providers started using data caps.

      Something like that may also happen in non-us countries.

      • Torque says:

        Sounds more like ISP’s now having a scapegoat for acting dickish in another way instead of politicians continuing to call them out on their BS.

        • Dax says:

          The internet getting more expensive is a real result of net neturality because the ISP has to divide the cost of their infrastructure evenly in proportion to the bandwidth provided to each customer, since they can no longer treat different customers differently. (i.e. ask Netflix more per Mbps of bandwith than domestic users)

          The slowness and data caps however are just the ISPs being dicks.

    • Rick Osgood says:

      I think there are two things. For one, the Unites States decision may set a precedence for the rest of the world. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s a possibility. I personally think we should be setting the best example we can, in all things. Of course not everyone agrees what’s the “best”.

      Second is what you said about visiting US based websites. If there are companies based in the US that you visit online, your service may be affected. For something as big as Netflix or YouTube, you might be OK if they have CDN nodes outside of the US that won’t get put into different “lanes”. I agree, though, that it likely won’t be very impactful to countries that don’t follow suit.

  10. Geoff says:

    When it comes to who pays for equipment at peering points to ensure a sufficient pipe, the residential ISPs have an unfair advantage due to their monopoly position. The “backbone” providers are at risk of losing their content-providing customers if they can’t make a deal. However, the same is not true of the residential ISPs.

    Most residential customers aren’t able to leave their ISP when they are getting poor performance because there simply aren’t any other options. Last mile connections are extremely expensive and as such, more often than not, there is only one provider and they have a monopoly. Even when there is competition, it tends to be somewhat ersatz as there may be only one provider that can provide a given level of bandwidth. Competition is further discouraged by bundling practices that make it economically unfeasible for customers to move.

    So when it comes to peering disagreements, residential ISPs are at a tremendous advantage in negotiations because they know that no matter what happens, they can’t lose customers. The end result is that it gives residential ISPs the ability to drive extremely hard bargains that basically put the “backbone providers” in the position of paying for the privilege of connecting to the residential network. The problem with this is the lingering suspicion that the residential ISPs are double-dipping. Given the costs of residential cable service, it is not hard to imagine that a good chunk of that cost is to cover building and maintain connections to the “backbone.” Yet, if at the same time residential ISPs are able to get the “backbone providers” to pay for the development and maintenance of that infrastructure then effectively residential ISPs would be in a position to print money. Meanwhile, the consumers end up paying double for the cost of their service; once when they write the check to the ISP every month and then a second time in the form of increased content prices that the content provider has to charge because their own costs for internet access went up.

    Avoiding this kind of “double-dipping” is really the heart of the issue. The fact that the outcome of the Level 3 / Comcast dispute resulted in Netflix paying Comcast for preferential treatment of their traffic seems to suggest that there is a problem.

    In reality, residential ISPs need good connections to the backbone as much as “backbone providers” need good connections to the residential networks. Content providers want to sell content, and end-user residential customers want to buy it. Perhaps the simplest solution is to recognize that this is the case and force residential ISPs to pay for half the cost on a level of connection that would be required to meet the bandwidth obligations of the residential contracts that they have sold. This would involve a minor government intervention that would go a long way towards correcting a major market imbalance.

    • Rick Osgood says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this. You are exactly right that (in the USA at least) there is very little real competition between ISPs. I personally use Comcast and they can treat me like crap (they haven’t really) but I’ll likely still keep my service simply because it’s the cost/speed ratio is the best available. Like you said, they know they likely won’t lose subscribers.

      I think you are totally correct that if there is to be some kind of regulation, it should mainly discuss who’s responsibility it is to pay for these peered connections. I also agree that the peered connections are mutually beneficial and a 50/50 split is fair.

  11. NoJustNo says:

    From a tech perspective this article really changes the perspective on what happened.
    From an economic perspective, the whole Netflix incident is irrelevant to the argument.
    If a monopoly is granted the power to use price discrimination, how will this affect average Joe.
    The answer is that with increased barriers to entry, Joe will never benefit from 1000s of startups efforts. Instead of startups, those people will have to go work for the companies that can afford the connection speeds. Providers will make more money.
    Is price discrimination more efficient? YES.
    Is allowing a monopoly the power to use price discrimination a good idea. NO.
    We have a price ceiling on internet essentially. With price discrimination that ceiling will disappear and we will pay higher prices in the form of less new content, more for pay content, less quality of content.
    Allowing Comcast the ability to throttle internet even more is only going to create monopolies among the content creators. We, the consumer, have less surplus. We get less, the end.

  12. pcf11 says:

    As George Bush once asked, “Will the highways on the Internet become more few?” He also said, “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”, so I’m not sure just how much stock I should put into anything that junior said. In conclusion let us not forget, “It’s important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It’s not only life of babies, but it’s life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet.” “We don’t believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans.” “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” and finally “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” That I think is the real issue here. Now sit still so I can balance this roast on your head!

  13. Crawl at 28.8kb/sec… Faster than my home Internet :p

  14. assdf says:

    Possible typo:
    Quote: “These tier 3 providers in turn purchase their Internet service from a tier 1 provider such as Level 3. The tier 1 providers are connected to each other and make up the Internet backbone.”
    Maybe it’s just me, but this is confusing. So where does the tier 2 providers come into play?

    • Rick Osgood says:

      My understanding is that tier 2 providers generally provide larger, more stable connections to business. They are like a tier 3 provider, except more expensive and not designed for home users. I think the definitions are a bit loose though.

      • nsayu says:

        You are right. The proper definition for Tier 2 is rather vague with some overlap. It is best to think of it as:

        Tier 1 connect mostly between each other but also to tier 2.
        Tier 2 connects big things together, large businesses and tiers.
        Tier 3 are the ISPs. They connect to home users, small companies, and mobile phone networks (really, as far as networking goes, mobile traffic is small beans).

  15. shellster says:

    I am so sick of idiots or blatant liars making statements like, “The internet has been neutral since its inception.” That statement could not be farther from the truth, and has served to completely skew the debate. For as long as there have been networks, there have been QoS and packet shaping. There has always been more demand than the backbone could handle. To deal with this overload, ISPs have had to shape and limit traffic since day one. Net Neutrality, would prevent them from doing this. If you want SLA’s like web service providers have, then expect to pay the prices that you typically see for Colo hosting. At a normal user’s internet requirements that is around $1000 a month. There is no way the average user can support this. Meanwhile, demand keeps increasing, as companies like Netflix and Hulu become more popular. It is impossible, given the size of a country like the US, to keep up with the demand, and until the backbone can be significantly upgraded (taking time and extreme amounts of money), we all have to live with a little packet shaping and inconsistent services.

    • nsayu says:

      “For as long as there have been networks, there have been QoS and packet shaping. There has always been more demand than the backbone could handle. To deal with this overload, ISPs have had to shape and limit traffic since day one.”

      Well, no. All of those things are relatively new. Once upon a time not too long ago, about 20% back in communication network history, people weren’t sure what digital networks were even good for yet. It was then that people like Tim Berners-Lee started finding stuff to use this new network for. Traffic shaping was a bad first attempt at what is now called QoS. Traffic shaping as a general term is bad ‘mkay. That is what leads to the dreaded buffer bloat. Sure Many ISPs use it massively today and have for many years, but shaping causes more problems than it solves.

      “It is impossible, given the size of a country like the US, to keep up with the demand”

      I guess you don’t know that telecommunications profit margins have been skyrocketing for some time, or how low hardware and install prices have gotten. The only thing that is stopping some municipalities from providing wide area Ethernet (who doesn’t want LAN speeds on their internet connection?) for a fist full of dollars tacked on to property taxes are incumbent favoring laws.

    • John XX says:

      I don’t think people here are asking for a five nines SLA. And without that kind of availability guarantee colo pricing isn’t “around $1000 a month” for the ~300GB that even “heavy” home Internet users transfer. If I’m wrong find me a quote or a listed price on a colo providers site that proves it.

  16. David Lang says:

    I disagree with the statement that it would cost comcast “a lot of money” to upgrade their equipment. Adding several 10GB links would cost them a few thousand dollars, so it’s not no cost, but in the budgets the size of Comcast’s, that’s noise.

    The fact that the performance of Netflix increased within a day of them signing the deal shows that the equipment to support it was already in place, they were just refusing to connect the wires without getting paid.

    Comcast has a monopoly on it’s customers, but Netflix has a monopoly on it’s service, how would people feel if the huge data providers started telling the various ISPs that they had to pay the data provider money (in addition to the money that the users are already paying the ISP and paying the data provider) to get good performance? everyone would be up in arms about the data providers double dipping.

    so why is it that when Comcast charges it’s users to access the Internet, and then wants to charge the websites that they connect to (who are already paying their own ISP), people consider it reasonable?

    And the issue of the volume of traffic in each direction is just a red herring.

    The reality of large data connections is that they are symmetrical, you get the same speed in both directions, so Netflix has their incoming capacity almost unused compared to their outgoing capacity. They could change the netflix client apps to send almost as much data back to netflix as they receive, and it wouldn’t cost netflix any noticable amount (it’s cheap to have a computer receive data and throw it away), and the traffic between the ISPs would then be ‘balanced’

    but this extra data to move around would be a huge additional load on Comcast’s network, and customers with adsl lines would really suffer.

    When Layer 3 points this out to the various ISPs in private conversations, they don’t ask that Netflix does this, they just get quiet for a bit and try to avoid the subject.

    • anon says:

      Really? Do you think a few 10G links would make a differance? More like 50+ 100G links at the peering site to make an improvement plus adding 100G cards to backbone routers in every city. When was the last time you considered getting a 100G cards for a CRS16? We (in the US) live in a free market if everyone really hates Comca$t so much boycot the company and get DSL or some other service. Money talks bull shit walks!

      • davidelang says:

        Given that Level3 says their peering ranges from 1-148 10G ports, and that they only have congestion on 6 of their ~250 peering connections, yes, I do think that a few 10G ports would make a significant difference. 50+ 100G ports would be more than 3x their current largest peering location. In fact, that is more than 1/3 of their total peering capacity worldwide

        Yes, the cards sound expensive (a few thousand dollars each, but when you consider that Comcast’s lobbying budget is 18+ Million Dollars, it’s peanuts.

        Remember that Comcast solved the problem within a day of signing the deal, that’s not enough time to install lots of new equipment (it’s not even time to install new cards and test them), but it’s plenty of time to hook up a few existing ports. Also remember that Level3 would have had to install the exact same capacity, so if it’s so insanely expensive, Level3 would have faced the same problem.

        And no, the home ISP space in the US is not a free market, it’s a monopoly, or if you are lucky, a choice between the Cable TV monopoly and the Phone Company monopoly (if the two choose to actually compete rather than one conceding one market in exchange for the other conceding another market)

        There’s a reason that Comcast has a lower approval rating than the IRS, but is still making record profits, it’s because people don’t have a real choice.

  17. assdf says:

    Could someone clarify a few points of confusion starting in the “Comcast vs Netflix” paragraph and ending before the Net Neutrality topic?

    Comcast and “Level 3″ are both Tier 3 ISPs, correct?
    Netflix was transmitting data to a ‘CDN’ which is like a server in close geographical distance to each Tier3 ISP. This allows a distribution of data stored across many CDN servers which allows them to service a large number of Tier3 requests without sending ALL requests over a bottle-necked higher tier service, correct?

    At the start, did Netflix utilize a CDN like Akamai for Level3 ISPs or did Level3 end-users require data to be ‘peered’ from Comcast?

    It reads like the reversal happened when Level3 started ‘hosting’ Netflix content. Level3 CDNs only served Level3 ISPs and Comcast’s end-users got all their content through a Level3 peered connection that couldn’t handle the volume. Thus a slower service for Level3 requests only (Netflix mainly) and not the rest of the internet requests, which come from other Tier3/2/1 providers. Is this correct or was there some ACTUAL ‘throttling’? If yes, was the throttling limited to Level3 or down to Netflix content?

    Essentially Netflix paid to service one group of customers (Comcast), then a different group of users (Level3)?

    When Netflix paid to send data directly to Comcast, did they continue their contract with Level3? Are they now paying to service both groups of users? Is this ‘direct connection’ similar to a Tier2 or did Netflix create it’s own CDN? How is it getting data from its servers to each Tier3?

    The article says “The only way to fix the problem…”, but wouldn’t Netflix paying a CDN for each Tier3 ISP be the most realistic way for them to fix the problem? Down the road, if we hit a limit to the amount of data we can send/receive, when no amount of money can “upgrade the infrastructure”, and this topic comes back up…then what?

    Under “How this relates to Net Neutrality”, the author is essentially saying the two sides are talking about two different things, right? Pro-Net Neutrality advocates think ISPs throttle traffic (do they, evidence?) and don’t want the FCC to pass laws which allow/encourage the practice. ISPs are saying they aren’t throttling based on content and they are lobbying the FCC to fix the infrastructure.

  18. Haku says:

  19. Link Satonaka says:

    This article certainly shares Comcast’s POV… but had you done an article on Verizon, you wouldn’t have had any POV to represent aside from greedy business is greedy.

    I’m thankful for now knowing that this might actually have potential minor inconveniences for ISPs (though if they actually bothered expanding their networks instead of gobbling up profits this would never be an issue), however you keep mentioning “potential for abuse”.

    Verizon is abusing it, right here, right now, verizon FiOS is a clear competitor, and netflix has issued statements detailing how Verizon just refuses to work with netflix engineers *even though netflix is already paying verizon for a ‘fast lane’*. This is the reasoning behind the messages netflix has been giving their customers that effectively say “I noticed you’re using Verizon, it’s their fault the connection is slow”, which Verizon is threatening to start a lawsuit over.

    • Jordan says:

      And Netflix is all like, “really, you want all of that on record in the public domain for everyone to see how crappy you’re being to us – BRING IT.”

  20. David says:

    Forget “Fast Lanes” Why not give customers the speed tier that they pay for? 30Mbs should be just that, for all content. If I want to upgrade to the 1Gbs service, I should be getting just that, 1Gbs. Who cares were it comes from, or where it’s going. This is all the beginning of a big brothers putting a choke hold on content that’s not ‘in the best interest of the company’.

    • Slanderer says:

      You *can* buy dedicated commercial connections like that, but it costs ways more than you can afford.

      • Johan G says:

        Well think again. Many municipalities in Sweden (and probably other parts of the world) have built up fiber networks. The maintenance is outsourced and the bandwidth is sold to commercial customers and to ISP:s. The ISP:s then sell bandwidth to households. I had a cheap 10 MB connection (that when tested always had a 9.7-9.9 MB bandwidth and an amazing 3-4 ms response time when pinging google.se). In my *slow* area you could get up to 300 MB (which I bet would hold for 300 MB when tested). In some municipalities with more students you can get up to 4 GB. In addition some municipalities (though unfortunately not all of them) have a limit of a one month lock-in time (take a quick guess on the effect of that on the provided support).

        Here is 28 min talk on how that is possible (first and last few minutes is in Swedish, but the rest is in English), Fiber to all – Jonas Birgersson:

  21. Braneman says:

    Ok, ok ok its not a question of “will it be abused?” there is NO DOUBT that this will be abused. We are dealing with companies like Comcast here, companies that are a monopoly in a huge part of the US. Companies with worse customer satisfaction than the Internal Revenue Service. That’s right people are more happy with the government agency that collects taxes, than they are with their cable provider. Companies which have agreed not to compete with each-other in order to keep prices high. They don’t care about their image, they don’t need to because its either Comcast for these people or nothing.

    The sad thing here, the really sad thing is that the legislation doesn’t define what a slow lane is. Is it 50% of what the customer is paying for? 25%? dial up speeds? The legislation is so unclear about it Comcast could easily put it to just 1 byte per second, and there would be nothing the customers who are paying for internet service could do because they can’t pay anybody else for internet. They could set hack a day into the slow lane for writing slanderous articles about them, and who could prove its even happening? How would “this company is putting my traffic in the slow lane” hold up in court?

    I think the legislation leaves far too much in a grey area where it can be abused and used against both customers and CDNs. The only clear winner here is the ISP, which already has some of the slowest rates and highest prices in the world. And its very clear this is exactly what these ISP’s want because in 2013 Comcast lobbied more money than any defense aerospace contractors and any pharmaceutical companies, any insurance company, they actually put more money into lobbying than Exxon Mobil. Heck they put more money into Washington than BP and ConocoPhillips combined.

    And yet with a total monopoly of service in some places, over 18 million dollars going into Washington last year(from Comcast alone). and yet they do nothing to improve their service, their customer service, or their infrastructure. Because they don’t need to, because they could probably just put CDNs in the slow lane until they pay up after this reformation goes through.

  22. bob says:

    Make net neutrality a law everywhere.

  23. Almost_There says:

    I have no problem giving High Priority to Time-Sensitive Data where you would notice the difference like
    * Live TV/Movies
    * On-Line Games
    * Voice

    Medium Priority to
    * Web Pages
    * File Downloads

    and Low Priority to
    * E-Mail
    * Cloud Backup Services that run in the background.

    However, history has shown that if it can be abused, it will be. Businesses have no ethics, the people behind the business might (or might not,) but Businesses are there to make money.

  24. twdarkflame says:

    Good explanation, but for me it comes down quite simple;
    “If Comcast offers every single subscriber a 30Mbps connection, shouldn’t their customers be able to use that connection however they see fit? Does it really matter if all the data is flowing in or out?”

    Yes, it shouldn’t matter at all.
    Making the route issue effectively false advertising of speeds and capacities. People were promised something that cant be delivered, and now the fight is over who should pay for it.
    Imho, it was the people that made that false promise.

    I first thought to liken it to a casino having reserve cash to pay out everyone if they won…but in this case bandwidth increase follows a much more predictable path.

  25. twdarkflame says:

    oh, and hows this idea;

    Your only allowed to discriminate as a ISP if zero of your shares are owned by a company delivering media on your system. ?

    Ïd guess that rules out all present big ISPs.
    (yeah, ok, in practice it would need a more fuzzy-logic to the rule, but the principle of “ban if theres a possiblity of anti-competitive bias” should work)

  26. JohnD says:

    I think the biggest problem here is that Comcast (and probably others) are both content creators and ISP’s. This is a definite conflict of interest and should not be allowed unless they agree to be treated as a “Regulated Monopoly” as utilities used to be. In addition, the internet should be classified as an essential service as electricity, phone and mail service are currently classified. This would help to eliminate the “net neutrality” concerns to some extend and allow the internet users to be assured of getting at least a basic level of service. As an aside, I did not have a wired internet connection other than the phone line until two years ago. We could not get Comcast to bring coax up our road (and still can’t unless we chip in $55k to get the wires run) and did not have access to DSL. Forget about fiber.

  27. chudsosoft says:

    Netlix is not arbitrarily pumping bits into Comcast’s network. Comcast subscribers, and therefore Comcast itself, is asking for those bits. This was a play by Comcast to extort money from other service providers and it’s disgusting. Comcast pretended not to be able to handle the traffic their customers paid for so that they could double charge for the service they provide poorly and without competition.

  28. rasz_pl says:

    There is a simple solution to unbalanced Peering that Netflix could implement – just setup their clients to upload dummy garbage data at 70% max uplink speed whenever their client software is running. All of a sudden traffic will go both ways and they will be able to peer as an equal party. Now THAT would be a nice global hack.

    This alone proves Peering agreements based on traffic amounts are a joke.

  29. Andrew says:

    For the love of God, please learn how to use the apostrophe.

  30. static says:

    First a great article, please follow up with describing the proposals the FCC have on the table individually are. My comments are US centric, because, the topic is. I’m starting out political because it reveals what shapes my opinions on a lot of things. The American revolution was started by merchants and land own the constitution written by the same. They addressed commerce before unalienable rights. Replace the words people in the Gettysburg Address with merchant you have better sense of how government in the US is. The deregulatory climate foster by Ronald Reagan only made things worse for the US consumer Even if a large part the DIY community at large is more technically aware, don’t ignore that when it comes to issues as we are no different the average consumer, we will continue to consume the product. Where I live when it comes to wireless devices unlimited bandwidth went the way of the dodo bird, a lot of grumbling by many, I’m not aware of anyone who said they are going to reduce the amount of time they spend using them or drop their data when the renew their contract, much of the hacker community will be doing likewise. About any government involvement. The government speed up the development of the internet. Who knows how long the general public would have waited for access if the legislation invented by Al Gore failed? While it may sound Marxist, but it true. Labor is the one purchasing access at home, but this going to be another area where labor will be conned out of flexing it’s considerable muscle, if history is a guide.. President Lincoln wasn’t anti- business, but he recognized that labor precedes capital, and without labor there would be no capital. I certainly will write my legislators, but I expect them to continue to support those who already made it,even if it affects those struggling to make it adversely. As this script goes, will the FCC be using the services of those who use it to even notice anything? Not that I’m saying not use it, unless it meets the definition of denial of service, but I don’t think it does, my opinion wouldn’t matter on that anyway.

  31. assdf says:

    This topic is begging for a video from C.P.Grey.

  32. R. keller says:

    You opened a can of worms with this one.

    First, let me say your opening definition of net Neutrality is correct. However, the FCC came up with their own plan and they called it “Net Neutrality”. That’s right, it’s got the same name, and they did that to fool you into believing they are supporting the original definition. But it’s quite different, and it results in the FCC getting authority and control over your Internet, and your personal data. Complete with warrantless searches of your data, via your ISP, which will be required to keep your data.

    Don’t be fooled by any of this. ISP’s have been providing Internet access, with vendor specific hardware and software, and they have upgraded as they need. It’s the cost of doing business.

    In any business, it comes down to WHO is paying for it, and in the end, it’s You and I that are paying for it. We pay the ISP and we expect them to honor the agreement and not slow it down. If I pay for 3 Megabit traffic, then I expect that to be the bandwidth, otherwise the ISP is selling a fraud..

    Their idea of a fast lane, is to slow down everybody else, and we already see evidence of it happening.

    When I can’t get my content to load as well, I start hammering the reload. It will result in more traffic for the ISP.

    It’s hammer time.

    * Should ISP’s be allowed to throttle web traffic as they see fit?

    NO! I am the one that pays for it.

    * Should ISP’s just pay for their own infrastructure upgrades to support their own subscribers?

    YES! It has worked so far.

    * Is this “fast lane” proposal a good idea? A bad one?

    A VERY bad idea!

    * Do you have any other ideas on how to keep things fair for everyone?

    Yes! But the current administration (like the last one) have proven to not be working in our interest, so I am witholding that technology until we get an administration that starts acting reasonable again. My technology can be abused as a dreadful weapon.

    * The Internet is an international entity. Should government just stay out of it?

    Yes! All governments need to stay out of it.

  33. Nothing in this article recognizes

    1) that the Comcasts of the world are MONOPOLIES and that internet service is already the most profitable product that they sell–by far. Even considering the relatively small fees they pay to the backbones. Those ISP profits are demonstrably -not- being used properly. The equipment used to provide internet service is cheap commodity stuff. Upgrading it is relatively cheap. We are ALL paying $500-$700 a year for internet service. The service should be better and it’s not.

    It is a fact of history that monopolies are incented to create and maintain artificial scarcity to allow them to ever increase revenue and profit.

    2) that the monopoly cable systems got into the internet business by accident. They were never franchised to provide “metered” internet service, yet that is exactly what they intend to do. Price gouging by monopolies.

    There is -no- logic to treating Comcast as though any aspect of this is ruled by normal competitive considerations. Comcast is currently a nearly unregulated monopoly. The only danger they face is truly outrageous abuse. They’re not stupid, they’ll get right up to the edge of being outrageous: $200-$300 a month for internet service within 3-5 years. They are actually publicly predicting this.

    Is this what we want?

  34. NATO says:

    Neutrality?
    For everything that MATTERS, yes – Things like non-entertainment services (think:Your banking website), anything educational, anything news related that is not streaming video.
    For everything else – porn, streaming video, etc (which makes up a VAST MAJORITY of internet traffic) – REGULATE THE HELL OUT OF IT.
    Get these LOSERS off of their dead asses and back out into the real world where they should be looking for a JOB.
    Remember what your grandparents said? TV will rot your brain? It is TRUE. For the dumb ones out there – TV equates to video streaming online. This, plus social media and all the porn you morons watch, is making you STUPID. This younger generation’s standardized test scores show that you all are going to be, by far, the dumbest generation ever. Regulating the hell out of the internet, especially streaming video and social media, could have a hand in fixing this problem!!!

    • Andrew says:

      Concern troll is concerned.

      That aside, how do you tell the difference? A byte is byte. The carrier’s job is to get bytes from A to B as fast as possible. It’s really that simple.

  35. RP says:

    Fix bandwidth to levels networks can sustain, abolish FAP’s, caps, data limits, and get the hell out of my packets.

    If that means wait for video to load (however long at some sustainable rate), I’m absolutely fine with that – there are other avenues that work well for video – cable, satellite, broadcast. The Internet was never intended to be a “video on demand” service, so for those that stream, I’m sorry, but what you want is not sustainable today.

    ISP’s, throttle back bandwidth to a fixed level for all customers, a level that can sustain constant load.

    Customers wanting to stream video, get in line and wait, or get your video fix elsewhere.

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