Reply To: Net Neutrality

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The whole issue can be quite complex to understand. For example, there may be individuals who notice their favorite site or service seems to have a slow connection, and it could have absolutely nothing to do with their ISP deprioritizing traffic for that site. That site may be a victim of bufferbloat and any interconnect between the site and the user. The site may have an interconnect (again, anywhere between the site and the user) which has been allowed to saturate. Granted, the latter can be a sort of extortion from one ISP to another to demand payment for additional links or link capacity. And that brings up another issue, that people do not understand what “settlement free peering” means (that the traffic in each direction must be statistically equal). If traffic volume is not symmetrical, an ISP is perfectly entitled to treat the imbalance with that interconnected ISP like a customer link and not a link to a peer (because, duh, they’re not really peers). This is also not to mention some smart cookie will probably pipe up and use the reasoning that since an ISP offers customers a connection at (for example) 500 Mbps, customers who have only 25 Mbps and are paying a whole lot less could say hey, you’re charging more for higher speed, I want my 500 Mbps for the same price as the customers paying for only 25.

The truth to me is, ever since the Kingsbury Commitment, big telecomms have had regulators in a wringer. The deception was, many, many companies couldn’t POSSIBLY cooperatively build a national network. If on a widespread scale more companies than just the telco and the cableco were allowed right-of-way access, we’d have some true competition. Only in a very few cases, like Sonic and Google Fiber, are there more than just the two choices. Anyone who tries to compare cellular or satellite with telco or cableco Internet service is deluded; those aren’t competition as currently sold. (plus technically, satellite is inferior due to long delay up and long delay down; some LEO alternatives are beginning to emerge though)

It is this lack of last kilometer competition that leads me to conclude, despite my libertarian views, ISPs need to be regulated because their demand is basically inelastic. The price point at which people will do without Internet access is quite high, like it would be if power or gas were unregulated. ISPs will continue to have questionable practices such as DNS redirection and Web page ad injection because people have very little alternative. Their choices are basically pay several times more for satellite or LTE Internet access, put up with ISPs nefarious practices, or do without. Predatory pricing happens in close to 100% of monopolistic or oligopolistic environments.