If the FCC had regulated the Internet from the beginning …

posted at 8:59 am on December 28, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

If the FCC had been given the authority to regulate the Internet from its commercial inception along the same lines demanded by its current commissioners, what would it look like today?  Jack Shafer at Slate gives us a Potterville version of It’s A Wonderful Internet, with Cass Sunstein as a digital-age Potter, demanding that the denizens of his town kowtow to his will.  How would the Internet, which has been an engine of economic expansion for almost two decades, have developed under the kind of top-down “fairness” rules demanded by Net Neutrality advocates today?

The FCC immediately determines that the lack of interoperability among the online systems harms consumers and orders that each company submit a technical framework by January 1994 under which all online companies will unify to one shared technology in the near future. The precedent for this are the technical standards that the FCC has been setting for decades for AM and FM, and for television. The online services threaten legal action again, and again Congress passes new legislation authorizing the FCC to do as it wishes. The online companies hustle to submit a technical framework. Microsoft wants in on the game, so it persuades the FCC to extend the framework deadline to July 1995. …

In late 1993, AOL and Delphi become the first online services to offer the Internet. The FCC orders both to drop the feature until the FCC’s labs approve it.

“We can’t have the online industry pushing out beta software on unsuspecting customers willy-nilly. Such software could compromise the users’ computers, interfere with other users’ computers, or crash the whole online world,” the FCC chairman says. …

In September 1996, Microsoft, whose biggest individual stockholders are Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer, who are raising millions for the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign, wins the FCC’s online design shootout.

Microsoft calls its online-unifier “Bob.”

“This award is made purely on the technical merits,” the FCC chairman remarks.

The FCC is particularly enamored of the “back door” that Microsoft has built into Bob, making it easier for police to monitor communications in real time. The commission also applauds Microsoft’s forward thinking because it has incorporated a virtual “V-chip” in Bob. The censoring software is analogous to the V-chip the FCC wants TV manufacturers to build into their sets to block violent and mature TV programming from being viewed by children.

The regulators also love Bob because it has created more “Channels” for police, fire, libraries, city councils, legislatures, courts, and public service messages than the other proposed systems. Bob testers complain that these channels leave little space for the data, information, and communications they expect to find on an online system. One compares Bob to a government designed version of the Yellow Pages, only duller. Another pines for the Wild West days of the unregulated online world when you didn’t have to pay virtual “parking” to your local municipality before you went shopping inside the online mall.

For those who don’t recall, or who have blocked the memory, “Bob” was an unmitigated failure by Microsoft for an operating system (really just an overlay for Windows) that gave novice users a supposedly friendly, safe interface.  It did that by restricting how the computer could be used, while giving owners a treacly “smiley-face” character and other animated characters to shepherd users through a virtual house that opened applications such as a word processor and calender.  Shortcuts to the program appeared in picture frames on the walls.  The only thing missing was padding on the walls and a straitjacket for the user.

Jack has two things right about why the FCC would love Bob.  It put you in your place, and it treated you like a child.

Be sure to read all of Shafer’s dark, dystopian vision.  The moral of the story: someone will lead innovation and expansion on the Internet.  Either we can maintain our leadership by maintaining the private property rights of those who build networks and create the applications and content that make it interesting and worthwhile to consumers, or we can watch as others take the leadership and build for the new online economy.  The Internet in 20 years will bear as much relation to today as the 1993 version does for us now, and top-down regulation simply cannot plan well enough to allow us to realize its full potential in any circumstance, and certainly not if the government is focused on imposing a certain top-down, academic ideal of fairness as its primary purpose.

Barron’s takes a different direction, using a restaurant metaphor in its editorial blast against the FCC:

Last week, the FCC decided that the owners cannot operate their property to make as much money as they can for their investors, and to provide the services they think are demanded in the marketplace. Instead, the FCC says the owners of Internet property must protect the privilege of users to consume as much bandwidth as they please, transmitting any lawful content they please. They cannot limit access to their property by “bandwidth hogs” without asking for permission. Higher fees and traffic restrictions for heavy users must be “reasonable” in the eyes of the commission. We’d like to see FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski run a restaurant with all menu prices and quantities so regulated.

Laughably, the commission calls this a “pro-investment, pro-competition” policy. Others call it a policy to strengthen free speech, but they are using the wrong definition of free. The Internet isn’t provided free of charge; it’s property, built to return a profit by satisfying customers. That’s why it works so well. It doesn’t need a referee.

The FCC’s idea of “net neutrality” regulation threatens to confiscate that property, inch by inch. That will choke off investment, limit speech and reduce consumer choices.

The restaurant police may well be coming — in fact, to a certain extent they’re already here — but the point is well taken.

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We would still be using rotary dial phones.

Tommy_G on December 28, 2010 at 9:03 AM

crr6 call yer office.

Akzed on December 28, 2010 at 9:06 AM

FWIW: During the mid 90′s when there was talk of regulating the Internet, a common response was, “This is a system designed to survive a nuclear attack. It can probably handle a couple of misguided lawmakers.”

apostic on December 28, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Not sure I understand any of this. I read that article couple of times and decided I don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about and why it is or is not a bad thing. Could someone please tell me(and I bet others)in simple declarative sentences just what this regulation is designed to do–or not do…and why it is bad or not. Yes, yes, I know I’m stupid about it but help anyway please. it is the Christmas season for a while longer. Thanks.

jeanie on December 28, 2010 at 9:08 AM

Abolish the FCC and investigate every tool that works there; past and present.

Keemo on December 28, 2010 at 9:09 AM

Or, as the phrase went, “the internet views censorship as damage and routes around it.” It would be harder to regulate the net than they think — happily, they don’t know it.

I’ve been there since DARPAnet. Funny that a military project was built deliberately to be so freewheeling.

The military: government that doesn’t suck.

S. Weasel on December 28, 2010 at 9:11 AM

The Bell Telephone monopoly stifled innovation and restricted new applications. It wasn’t until FCC regulations were relaxed that cell phones and desktop internet became possible.

Returning to the days of Federal regulation makes innovation impossible to justify as well connected political special interests use their influence to stifle new ideas.

The same thing happened with interstate trucking. It was hard on the trucking companies who were forced to compete with a horde of hungry new companies, but it was cheaper freight rates that benefited consumers, producers, and suppliers.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 9:13 AM

jeanie on December 28, 2010 at 9:08 AM

This whole thing is a ploy to get people to accept the idea that the FCC, and the federal government SHOULD REGULATE ‘the internet’ and those companies that provide the service.

That’s the whole thing. Once that idea is acceptable, then the FCC can proceed to write regulations that control who, what, where, when, and how.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 9:17 AM

I don’t care what you say, I thought MS Bob was clever & fun. Plus, billg liked it so much, he married its Product Manager!

KS Rex on December 28, 2010 at 9:19 AM

The interesting thing here is Jack Shafer in no way, shape or form can be classified as a “conservative”, and there are other liberals out there also who love the freedom of the Internet more than they love the idea of government control of the Internet, because (surprise!) they don’t want the government interfering in something the love to have and love to do.

jon1979 on December 28, 2010 at 9:22 AM

That will choke off investment, limit speech and reduce consumer choices.

Well, that sounds to me like what this administration, and Leftists, have always wanted, ie. total control of everything.

oldleprechaun on December 28, 2010 at 9:22 AM

I think that government, that master innovator, should just control everything!

/libs

search4truth on December 28, 2010 at 9:24 AM

We would still be using rotary dial phones.

Tommy_G on December 28, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Rotary dial phones, nothing!

We would still be using that old boxy wall phone with the crank on the side you used to get the operator’s attention and call out the number you were trying to reach!

pilamaye on December 28, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Keemo: Thanks. It shed some light on the matter and makes me feel that my gut reaction against it(however mis-informed)was the correct and most popular one. I still do not know what ‘net neutrality’ means exactly though. If it’s even remotely connected to the Fairness Doctrine it must be fought tooth and nail. Since I no longer trust my own government and probably never will again, I’m convinced that any idea they come up with must automatically have partisan interests at heart and NEVER EVER mine as a citizen.

jeanie on December 28, 2010 at 9:25 AM

If the DOJ hadn’t restrained Microsoft, Bob might be a reality today. Minimally, they’d have used IE dominance to control Internet standards. Instead of HTML 5 and JavaScript we’d all have to run some alternate version of WPF/Sliverlight and pay hefty licensing fees for the compatible Microsoft server technology.

dedalus on December 28, 2010 at 9:27 AM

As I wrote that earlier comment thanking those of you who shed some light on this issue for me(Keemo, skandia)–I realized that I had identified my problem quite accidentally. I actually do not trust my government and never will again. “It” has become a power hungry behemoth interested only in it’s own feeding and growth(like The Blob) no matter who’s in charge. I wonder if it can ever be stopped unless and until it topples of it’s own weight. I’m scaring myself to death.

jeanie on December 28, 2010 at 9:33 AM

It’s in the Good and Megabyte Clause.

The Mega Independent on December 28, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Right to Privacy and separation of Church and State.

Inanemergencydial on December 28, 2010 at 9:39 AM

While I find Shafer’s comments to be witty and to the point his slam at Microsoft was way off the mark. Microsoft and Intel are responsible for the digital revolution. Had Apple won the battle, development of computer systems and capabilities would have been greatly retarded. Why do you think that Jobs switched from Motorola to Intel for its microprocessors? Intel and AMD simply ran away from him. Apple remains a propriatary system and if it dominated the market place the digital world would look a lot like the AT&T phone monopoly.

Actually Steve Jobs would have acted more like the characterization of Gates in the satire. The success of Microsoft and Intel is a product of the wild west digital world. It’s Apple that lives and survives in the hot house.

jerryofva on December 28, 2010 at 9:41 AM

So they’re saying the original design of the internet was faulty, which explains why nobody uses it anymore.

I think thats because the Goracle was involved.

BobMbx on December 28, 2010 at 9:47 AM

That’s the whole thing. Once that idea is acceptable, then the FCC can proceed to write regulations that control who, what, where, when, and how.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Camel, nose, tent, etc.

iurockhead on December 28, 2010 at 9:49 AM

I still do not know what ‘net neutrality’ means exactly though. If it’s even remotely connected to the Fairness Doctrine it must be fought tooth and nail.

jeanie on December 28, 2010 at 9:25 AM

As with all things with the left (and sadly the Democrat party) it safe to initially assume it means exactly the opposite of what the name or title implies.

whbates on December 28, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Off Topic:

dedalus on December 28, 2010 at 9:27 AM

If the DoJ during the Boooooosh years would have done their job, dealing with Micro$oft. There would be a lot more choices for the consumers. Micro$oft is still unlawfully bundling applications in its Windows OS and forcing consumers to pay for things they don’t want. Your gubmint representatives have sold their votes and souls to micro$oft to look the other way.

belad on December 28, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Online gamers could be particulary hard hit. I ain’t talking about poker but rather those who play games like World of Warcraft or even the Wii or Playstation games which use an online connection. Watch tv or movies online? Pay up chump. Leave your computer on connected to the internet while you run a few errands? Wait till you see that bill sucker.

While they wrap this in fairness it is really a way for the feds to tap into the commerce stream through fees, taxes, etc.

Just A Grunt on December 28, 2010 at 10:04 AM

A fun read from Mr. Shafer.

The true revolution in digital affairs was predicted in the 1960′s by Gordon Moore (who would help found Intel) and the power of networks seen by Robert Metcalf (at Xerox PARC, which would utilize his Ethernet with computer workstations with a Graphical User Interface copied by others). By utilizing an open-architecture concept for Project Chess in its Boca Raton,FL office, IBM had, unwittingly, set up the reason for its downfall as a dominant player in the IT industry. Project Chess created the architecture that set the beginning of the explosion of computing devices seen today.

By the early 1990′s there was the intertwining of Microsoft and Intel, the latter of which would be challenged by AMD. The ubiquitous networking concept was made possible by some Stanford University grads back in the 1970′s who wanted to let disparate systems utilize an architecture neutral messaging system so that messages could be passed over the existing DARPA networking schema. They made something called ‘routers’ and would go from having them produced on a livingroom floor to a large warehouse in less than a decade… the company was called ‘Cisco’.

Today the ‘internet’ is still a network of networks that reaches out to every cellphone on the planet, via wired and wireless means across Nations, and has been expanded so that asynchronous comms with spacecraft now can form an integral part of the routing structure. It was mostly created in the US with military funded TCP/IP which was part of a wireless HI network in the ’60s, pioneering work on user interfaces in the ’60s, cellphones invented in the ’60′s, integrated circuits invented in the ’60s, UNIX created in the ’70s, routers technology from the ’70s, ethernet invented in the ’70s, CPU designs invented in the ’70s, open architecture created in the ’80s, advanced GUIs created in the ’70s to ’80s, and the ever falling price of semiconductors predicted in the ’60s along with the power of networks seen in the ’70s.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other wireless protocols are of more recent vintage, but the idea of a Bluetooth Mesh Network amongst friends creates the possibilty for sharing messages without going through a centralized router or server. China has found out about that with their cellphone network and the ease of messages passed P2P… much to their dismay. Add in cameras and teen dating and the backwards regimes based in KSA and other areas are set to see their cultures liquidated in a generation as kids just want to do face-to-face and rock’n'roll. Iran has found out it can’t stop garage band parties and no longer even tries… they are having power paying the natural gas and gasoline bills.

Try to stop this at any point along the way and ask yourself if the next decade was not better off for having the technology unregulated? This idea that people have the inalienable right to communicate as human beings is now being given a much fuller reign, and yet it is just an expression of our positive natural liberties made manifest. Every cellphone is now a printing press, every laptop a video production house… and the next generation will make this one seem weak in comparison.

Progressives are about wanting to fix the last generation of technology in place so they have a world they can rule. Thus they pass up the benefits of new technology… not just in IT but in medicine, as well. If you push for ‘fixing’ the present, you miss out on the future fixing those problems and giving us newer and more different problems to deal with, for good and ill, but the old ones are made obsolete. Our problems are not in the cost of health care or IT, but in trying to ‘fix’ the system to make it ‘fair’. As soon as there is no more advantage to do better, you don’t get a better system with more capability.

ajacksonian on December 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Just think. We could all be looking forward to the benefits that Compuserve, Prodigy, and especially AOL can deliver to us. That is, as soon as the latest rules revision gets sent up the chain of command for final approval, in 2014.

MNHawk on December 28, 2010 at 10:19 AM

We would still be using rotary dial phones.

Tommy_G on December 28, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Rotary dial phones, nothing!

We would still be using that old boxy wall phone with the crank on the side you used to get the operator’s attention and call out the number you were trying to reach!

pilamaye on December 28, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Smoke Signals

mizflame98 on December 28, 2010 at 10:21 AM

The military: government that doesn’t suck.
S. Weasel on December 28, 2010 at 9:11 AM

In other words: coersion, death and destruction are the only things that any government in the history of planet earth has ever been good at.

The only difference between “good” government and “bad” government is how LIMITED its scope is. And the only difference between liberals and real Communists is that Communists treat every human endeavor like war; while liberals treat every human endeavor like a war — except for actual war itself.

logis on December 28, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Actually Steve Jobs would have acted more like the characterization of Gates in the satire. The success of Microsoft and Intel is a product of the wild west digital world. It’s Apple that lives and survives in the hot house.

jerryofva on December 28, 2010 at 9:41 AM

What a crock! But that’s another story.

With the power government exercises over companies, it’s no surprise companies do their utmost to seek favors and handicap their competitors where they can. Government has assumed powers it was never meant to have, replacing the free market with a rigged market. This diminishes the benefits of the market so the government can grow by skimming more off the top.

cartooner on December 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM

If the DoJ during the Boooooosh years would have done their job, dealing with Micro$oft. There would be a lot more choices for the consumers. Micro$oft is still unlawfully bundling applications in its Windows OS and forcing consumers to pay for things they don’t want. Your gubmint representatives have sold their votes and souls to micro$oft to look the other way.

belad on December 28, 2010 at 9:59 AM

No one is forcing you to buy a Microsoft product you know.

mizflame98 on December 28, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Not sure if the FCC has the legal authority for what they did buy given the consolidation of power in broadband it was totally necessary.

Who disagrees with this and why?

Transparency: Broadband providers for both wired and wireless Internet must disclose their network management policies.

No Blocking: Wired broadband providers may not block any lawful content, applications or services. Wireless broadband providers are not required to allow all applications and services, but may not block any lawful Websites applications that compete with its telephony or video service. This is all subject to “reasonable network management.”

No Discrimination: Wired broadband providers may not speed up or slow down individual types of lawful traffic, with exceptions for reasonable network management. No such rules apply to wireless broadband.

TheBigOldDog on December 28, 2010 at 10:27 AM

DOTUS Check List, Item # 24:

Bring down the Internet, make it a “utility“.

PappyD61 on December 28, 2010 at 10:33 AM

Just think. We could all be looking forward to the benefits that Compuserve, Prodigy, and especially AOL can deliver to us. That is, as soon as the latest rules revision gets sent up the chain of command for final approval, in 2014.

MNHawk on December 28, 2010 at 10:19 AM

And don’t forget to consult the leadership of the United Online Workers union. They’re very protective of their pension plans.

Blacklake on December 28, 2010 at 10:43 AM

MNHawk on December 28, 2010 at 10:19 AM

I was a CompuServe subscriber when they were resisting customer demand to open an internet gateway. When they finally opened that door, it was the end of CompuServe, and they had just built a brand new, large, and expensive headquarters building.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Great article. I facebooked it. The thing I hardly hear mentioned in debates on “Net Neutrality” is SPAM. The biggest things ISPs do to choke off traffic is either in response to bandwidth hogging or to foil spammers. If they have to play “Mother, may I” with the FCC, subscribers wouldn’t be able to open their mailboxes from all the SPAM.

Seriously, ISPs lose more money from the perception that they don’t protect subscribers from SPAM than they ever lose letting subscribers read advertisements from a rival company.

Sekhmet on December 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Cartooner aka apple fanboy:

A crock? really? A vertically integrated monopoly has always been the Apple mans of operation. When Apple was using Motorola processors they only had fleeting moments of superior performance over Wintel machines. Within in months WINTEL performance would regain and extend their performance advantage until the next leap several years down the road. Apple machines are nothing more then PCs with propriatary hardware and softwear. There is nothing special about them.

jerryofva on December 28, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Progressives are about wanting to fix the last generation of technology in place so they have a world they can rule.

ajacksonian on December 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Right, they have corrupted the traditional concepts of fairness and justice and put them in the service of totalitarianism.

petefrt on December 28, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Jerryofva, which Microsoft facility do you work at? Because such fanninshness had better come with a paycheck. I used to work for Apple, and I don’t dis Microsoft that much. Although, I’d have to wonder about a company named for the founder’s “todger.” Okay, I couldn’t resist…

Sekhmet on December 28, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Regulating the Internet will be an unmitigated disaster. Anything the government touches turns to crap and the FCC will do nothing but stifle innovation and find a way to tax consumers to help fill government coffers.

Having said that, something needs to be done. Our access to the Internet is far from a free market. In most markets consumers have a monopoly or duopoly where access is concerned. ISPs tend to be telcos or cable companies and both have vested interests in keeping the status quo. Telcos want keep their lucrative landline phone services while cable companies want to prevent competition from the internet with their TV and pay per view services.

The reason net neutrality has gained a foothold is that the large ISPs have made moves to restrict consumers access. I’ve seen a presentation given to Verizon and Comcast demonstrating the capability to charge consumers based on what websites or online services they use. An example was given that customers could be charged a few dollars per month to access YouTube or a certain amount per megabyte for Facebook.

ISPs have argued that they never foresaw the internet being used to stream TV, movies and other bandwidth intensive media. They imply that their networks will have to be built up to handle this type of demand and force them to loose money. The problem with this is that ISPs have long sold unlimited bandwidth to consumers and now face a marketing problem in charging for actual bandwidth consumed.

In the end, both FCC and lack of a free market is stifling internet progress in America. ISPs want to prevent the loss of traditional services and becoming a commodity “pipe” for internet access. They want to prevent consumers from get phone and TV service from any other source and they will do anything including charging extra for data from certain sites and/or degrading service from those sites to make them unusable. Government regulation is no better. It will not drive down prices, increase performance or give consumers more choice. It will only pick the winners and losers.

The only answer to this problem is for the government to allow a more competitive market.

ReaganWasRight on December 28, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM

When people like me figured out how to make that new fangled thing called Internet Explorer work with the AOL, is when the death of AOL was ordained.

Of course, taking off those training wheels, skipping the pre-approved AOL content, and going straight to the wild wild west of the unregulated interwebs was a dangerous thing. It’s a wonder we didn’t hurt ourselves, without the loving, guiding hand of Julius, keeping us away from dangerous things such as mp3s, poker and Chris Christie pr0n.

MNHawk on December 28, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Missed the part about Linux and BSD users being rounded up and sent to re-education camps.

I R A Darth Aggie on December 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM

“This is a system designed to survive a nuclear attack. It can probably handle a couple of misguided lawmakers.”

It can. That’s what makes Shafer’s piece so tone-deaf. The fatal problem with his argument is that he incorrectly assumes the computer on your desk is a dumb terminal, that can be fully controlled via edicts from Washington just like an old Western Electric phone.

It’s not. Unlike an old landline, computers run software. And the moment the FCC or anyone else in Washington started attempting to regulate what could and could not be online, someone would simply write some software to get around it. DC could certainly have slowed down innovation, but they couldn’t have stopped it. Anyone who truly wanted full online access could get it with a little bit of work.

Just like is currently the actual reality for everything the Ruling Class has tried to block online. These idiots can’t even stop online gambling; what makes you think they’d be able to successfully force tracking devices into your PC?

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Another data point: AOL and Delphi in 1993 were dial-up-only services. And they were already starting to get competition from small ISPs. If the Feds wanted to hogtie AOL and Delphi, good! More room for us smart people on the Net, without the idiots from AOL messing things up, and a nice lengthy delay for The September That Never Ended. (Look it up.)

You can’t regulate what goes on with dialup, because it’s just a phone call between two private entities. You might see a bunch of kids in towns along the Candian border getting rich selling dialup accounts on their BBSes, which were hooked up to Canadian cable modems. It’d be slow, but it’d work.

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 12:09 PM

It wasn’t until FCC regulations were relaxed that cell phones and desktop internet became possible.

I have to disagree. You can make an argument that FCC regulations caused some small-but-measurable amount of delay in getting cell phones off the ground, but the net evolved pretty much as fast as was technologically possible.

(And the delays for cell phones were largely the result of the FCC doing one of the few things it actually ought to exist for: regulating frequency allocations. Allowing cell companies to put their transceivers on whatever frequency they felt like would have been, well, suboptimal.

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 12:17 PM

We’d like to see FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski run a restaurant with all menu prices and quantities so regulated.

We should make all of these bastards run a business for a period of time (a year perhaps? and presumably into the ground) to demonstrate the “efficacy” of their ideas, before unleashing them on the public at large.

disa on December 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM

I have only two words, AM Stereo! What a unmitigated failure that was. When ever the government is involved in making a choice, then the wrong one will be made and the whole thing will end in a piece of crap. The new FCC regulations for the Emergency Alert Systems are just as bad. They are requiring radio stations to buy completely new equipment, the second time in 5 years, to receive a national system that won’t be operational for several years, but the equipment must be purchased by October of 2011. There of course will be several changes, several extensions and eventually everyone will have to buy more new equipment, because the old stuff doesn’t work with the latest FCC system that is made by some relative of an FCC member. We need to get rid of the FCC or at least defund this self profligating organization.

flytier on December 28, 2010 at 12:49 PM

If the DOJ hadn’t restrained Microsoft, Bob might be a reality today. Minimally, they’d have used IE dominance to control Internet standards. Instead of HTML 5 and JavaScript we’d all have to run some alternate version of WPF/Sliverlight and pay hefty licensing fees for the compatible Microsoft server technology.

dedalus on December 28, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Microsoft would never have developed WPF or Silverlight if not for the competition. Instead, the scripting language at best would have been Visual Basic — not even VBScript, which was invented to compete with Javascript. PCs would have been forced to use proprietary software to access the internet. There would have been no web servers in the modern sense, just programs you ran from file and print servers in the greater WAN. And frankly, there would probably not even be Microsoft Active Directory, since it depended on the rise of standards such as Kerberos, LDAP, DNS, and DHCP.

The Microsoft products of today are far better because they had competition. Even the biggest Microsoft fan should be thankful for Linux, Unix, DNS, Kerberos, Macintoshes, and the World Wide Web.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Ed, for the first time I’m actually ashamed of you. As an ex-IT professional, you ought to have some idea of how the Internet works — the peering arrangements, how packets transit the net between two endpoints, how someone deliberately limiting traffic of any type can cause harm not only in their own AS block but in peered ones as well.

What we have right now is Net Neutrality. The Internet developed under the rules of Net Neutrality — even if we didn’t call it that before. Every packet you sent or received was subject to the same rules as any other — no matter what the source, and no matter what the destination. Your google, hotair, gaming, bittorrent, e-mail, and voip (to name just a few) packets all were transferred using the same rules. There are no rules based on the content of the packets. That’s what the FCC wants to maintain. As to why they want to maintain it — one merely has to examine how various ISPs (some owning major portions of the physical network) have reacted to the explosion of data transiting the network.

Comcast was the first to limit traffic based on content, in violation of their stated contract terms with customers — Comcast slowed or even turned off bittorrent packets on some of their network segments. See http://www.zeropaid.com/news/9267/comcast_to_fcc_yes_we_throttle_bittorrent_traffic_but_so_what/

Notice the FCC claim — that Comcast interfered with the traffic not just by throttling it (making it run at a lower speed) but by deliberately inserting reset packets which destroyed the active TCP session. In other words, they were trying to deny their users access to bittorrent services by making the use of said services so onerous that users would give up.

Comcast is a cable provider, and bittorrent type delivery services (used, for example, by Hulu) compete with their own products.

Now, if your provider is AT&T or Verizon, the lack of official Net Neutrality rules (or, rather, the ones in place as a result of Comcast’s actions) say that these providers could interfere with your VOIP (e.g., Skype) sessions in the interests of managing their local portion of the Internet (and forcing you to use their phone services).

What Net Neutrality says is that providers cannot discriminate on the basis of content or perceived content. They can limit your bandwidth (the instantaneous rate of all packets you emit or receive) based on the contract you have with them, but they cannot single out any of the content you uplink or downlink for special treatment.

I’m all for Net Neutrality. I can’t even see why this is an issue at all.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Just like is currently the actual reality for everything the Ruling Class has tried to block online. These idiots can’t even stop online gambling; what makes you think they’d be able to successfully force tracking devices into your PC?

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Uh, because it’s been done?

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Great article. I facebooked it. The thing I hardly hear mentioned in debates on “Net Neutrality” is SPAM. The biggest things ISPs do to choke off traffic is either in response to bandwidth hogging or to foil spammers. If they have to play “Mother, may I” with the FCC, subscribers wouldn’t be able to open their mailboxes from all the SPAM.

Seriously, ISPs lose more money from the perception that they don’t protect subscribers from SPAM than they ever lose letting subscribers read advertisements from a rival company.

Sekhmet on December 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM

SPAM services are voluntary. You can opt out. You cannot opt out of traffic shaping done by your ISP or one of their peers — in which packets sent to you or sent by you are either silently dropped or changed into reset packets. One behavior is protecting you from nasty people, whilst the other is to protect them in some way from consensual transactions agreed to both by you and the owner of the other endpoint.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:02 PM

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:02 PM

Spam is not voluntary by its very definition. Do you think you opt in to every piece of junk mail you get in your physical mailbox too? Moron.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:06 PM

I’m all for Net Neutrality. I can’t even see why this is an issue at all.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Which speaks to your grasp of the situation more than it does the merits of the issue.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:06 PM

The only answer to this problem is for the government to allow a more competitive market.

ReaganWasRight on December 28, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Given the way government has been trending since 1969 (the year packet switching made nationwide computer networking a reality), we’re not going to get a more competitive market until we storm the bastion with pitchforks and torches.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:10 PM

ajacksonian on December 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM

There is nothing in Net Neutrality which precludes a mesh network. I’m running one at home (using OpenWRT) and it’s great. What I am doing is not illegal, and even if I and my neighbors all joined into a giant mesh, that still wouldn’t be illegal.

Not even this is illegal:

Flickering ceiling lights are usually a nuisance, but in city offices in St. Cloud, they will actually be a pathway to the Internet.

The lights will transmit data to specially equipped computers on desks below by flickering faster than the eye can see. Ultimately, the technique could ease wireless congestion by opening up new expressways for short-range communications.

The first few light fixtures built by LVX System, a local startup, will be installed Wednesday in six municipal buildings in this city of 66,000 in the snowy farm fields of central Minnesota.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:14 PM

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Of course mesh networks wouldn’t be illegal. That’s not what worries me. Right now, there are seven server racks in America that serve as the backbone for all internet traffic. At some level, all computers connected to “the internet” route their traffic through one of these server clusters. In theory, any computer could connect to any other computer and share any information between the two of them. Net neutrality deals specifically with a certain set of inter-connected networks, whose backbone is wholly owned by five different private organizations which the federal government wants to dictate terms to. That scares the ever-living s**t out of me given the FCC’s track record.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM

While I find Shafer’s comments to be witty and to the point his slam at Microsoft was way off the mark.

He was overly harsh about Microsoft, but the part about Microsoft Bob being foisted on the public, and being produced 4-7 years too late was pretty much on the mark.

Microsoft and Intel are responsible for the digital revolution.

Wrong. The primary credit for the digital revolution goes to the end-over-end speed of the development of microprocessors, and to IBM for the de facto standards for PC-compatible software. If not for the rush to create IBM-compatible PCs, then Intel would not have been only one source for many different microprocessors. At one time, for example, there were at least 4 or 5 computers developed for the 6502 processor, and 3 or 4 for the Motorola 6809 and related processors. Intel triumphed over the others not due to superior design but due to the fact that IBM-compatible computers required Intel processors.

Yet IBM lost control of the very standards they developed. So the real credit for the PC revolution goes not to Microsoft, Intel, or even IBM, but to the open market.

Had Apple won the battle, development of computer systems and capabilities would have been greatly retarded.

Apple is just as proprietary as Microsoft, though they generally produce higher quality products. But the argument should not be, “Apple should have controlled the market.” The argument should be, “No one needs to control the market.”

Why do you think that Jobs switched from Motorola to Intel for its microprocessors? Intel and AMD simply ran away from him. Apple remains a propriatary system and if it dominated the market place the digital world would look a lot like the AT&T phone monopoly.

Apple made the mistake of trying to control what became an increasingly niche market. The Apple hardware was equivalent or superior to IBM-compatibles, but it couldn’t match the price. Eventually, the far larger PC market just outran what Apple could put together.

The real battle is between proprietary systems and open systems. The Microsoft world is based on an open system for hardware, which allows people to make money in the free market, but it’s closed and semi-proprietary when it comes to software. That is, other software companies could compete with Microsoft, but their control of the OS allowed them to control distribution of software through contracts with the hardware manufacturers. In the early days of the PC, it was possible to compete with Microsoft in the PC software marketplace. Later on, virtually all software written for the PC had to compete with software produced by the same company that produced the OS, often bundled with the OS — see Internet Explorer, for example — and the non-Microsoft software marker basically dried up.

Which is why development shifted to the web. If you’re an ambitious and smart software developer with innovative ideas, you want to compete in an area that is not controlled by Microsoft.

Actually Steve Jobs would have acted more like the characterization of Gates in the satire. The success of Microsoft and Intel is a product of the wild west digital world. It’s Apple that lives and survives in the hot house.

jerryofva on December 28, 2010 at 9:41 AM

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 1:23 PM

And about the mesh computing with flickering lights? That will play havoc on epileptics’ and autistics’ nervous systems…You want to be responsible for someone having to quit their job over physical pain, or worse yet, epileptic seizures?

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Which speaks to your grasp of the situation more than it does the merits of the issue.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:06 PM

As one of the guys responsible for the Internet you have today, I certainly think it does speak worlds about my grasp of the situation. Sometimes the Government is not our enemy, and it’s important to realize those times.

Spam is not voluntary by its very definition. Do you think you opt in to every piece of junk mail you get in your physical mailbox too? Moron.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:06 PM

With my physical mailbox, the “spammers” pay the price of sending the mail into the mailbox — with e-mail SPAM, your mail ISP normally pays the price. In the old days, you paid the price too — because when your mailbox quota was exceeded, messages you really wanted to see were held off indefinitely until you got around to deleting the SPAM.

SPAM is personally involuntary — your ISP is not the final judge as to what is or is not SPAM for you — although they are usually pretty good guessers. That said, there’s a reason why SPAM services are voluntary, and there’s a reason why gmail, for example, puts all identified SPAM into a folder where you can review it and occasionally pull out that e-mail which they thought was SPAM but which you wanted.

I think I have a far better understanding of what SPAM is than you do — as well as the kinds of technology used to combat it.

That’s my patent, by the way. Notice that the inbound mail is held on the mailserver of the sender via legal application of the SMTP protocol 4xx class messages, until the receiver approves reception. The receiver can approve reception of all future e-mails via the given channel [sender, sender's mailserver, recipient] or just the current one. I run this system at home, and we get zero spams — and the spammers’ e-mails don’t even get stored on my servers until the decision is made. The only mailservers it has trouble with are Microsoft ones — which retry once every 5 seconds forever rather than backing off by power-of-two intervals to a four hour limit like every other mailserver.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:37 PM

I’m all for Net Neutrality. I can’t even see why this is an issue at all.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Net neutrality as a concept is fine. We should aim for basic net neutrality in general.

Government-enforced net neutrality is worrisome. Hard and fast legal guidelines that prevent an ISP from prioritizing, say, VOIP traffic could be very bad news.

But the real problem is this: the FCC has no authority to impose net neutrality. It doesn’t matter how good the intention is. Any regulation imposing net neutrality has to be done by Congress, not by a well-intentioned set of bureaucrats. Not that Congress is any smarter than the bureaucrats, but at least the opponents of the new measure could have their say.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 1:46 PM

And about the mesh computing with flickering lights? That will play havoc on epileptics’ and autistics’ nervous systems…You want to be responsible for someone having to quit their job over physical pain, or worse yet, epileptic seizures?

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM

The flickering happens at such a low level of intensity, and happens so fast, that epileptic seizures are not an issue. They use LEDs because they can turn off/on so rapidly that it’s not visible to the naked eye. To understand this, look, for example, at the common incandescent light bulb, which flickers at a rate of 60 times per second, or an old NTSC TV signal, which flickers at (about) 30 times per second (and has been shown to cause seizures). The announced data rate for this Minnesota system is 3Mbps — but there are research systems using blue LEDs only which are capable of 250Mbps. I can imagine that they will eventually build systems using multiple color channels (including low-end UV) which extend above 1Gbps.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:48 PM

The flickering happens at such a low level of intensity, and happens so fast, that epileptic seizures are not an issue. They use LEDs because they can turn off/on so rapidly that it’s not visible to the naked eye. To understand this, look, for example, at the common incandescent light bulb, which flickers at a rate of 60 times per second, or an old NTSC TV signal, which flickers at (about) 30 times per second (and has been shown to cause seizures). The announced data rate for this Minnesota system is 3Mbps — but there are research systems using blue LEDs only which are capable of 250Mbps. I can imagine that they will eventually build systems using multiple color channels (including low-end UV) which extend above 1Gbps.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Normally, the flicker of fluorescent lighting isn’t supposed to be visible to the naked eye, either. But it can still trigger extreme discomfort in autistics and seizures in epileptics. What makes flicker mesh computing any different?

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:56 PM

I think I have a far better understanding of what SPAM is than you do — as well as the kinds of technology used to combat it.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Apparently not, if you think that Spam is voluntary by its definition.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Uh, because it’s been done?

The FBI using a zero-day exploit to literally hack their way into some guy’s account is not at all the same thing.

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Government-enforced net neutrality is worrisome. Hard and fast legal guidelines that prevent an ISP from prioritizing, say, VOIP traffic could be very bad news.

But the real problem is this: the FCC has no authority to impose net neutrality. It doesn’t matter how good the intention is. Any regulation imposing net neutrality has to be done by Congress, not by a well-intentioned set of bureaucrats. Not that Congress is any smarter than the bureaucrats, but at least the opponents of the new measure could have their say.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 1:46 PM

It is unclear to me whether the FCC does not have the right to regulate IP traffic. Not being a lawyer, that’s for the lawyers to figure out. As for the ISPs, the big ones are the telecoms (I put Comcast into this realm because they provide phone service). I submit that all electrical or radio communications fall within the realm of the FCC.

Now, you mention VOIP traffic, which implies a quality of service issue — you want certain packets to transit the network at a higher priority than other packets. That’s a slightly different issue than not allowing any VOIP packets at all, or allowing certain VOIP packets (such as the ones generated by the ISP’s own customers) to transit their network faster than VOIP packets generated by their competitors or their competitor’s customers. That kind of behavior would be the equivalent of AT&T not allowing phone calls between GTE (i.e., Verizon) customers where any portion of said call transits AT&T trunkage.

For cable and DSL customers, their access is underpinned by a monopoly — the cable provider is the only one allowed to do business in a particular city, and, since DSL relies on a POTS network, DSL is monopolized by the phone company serving a particular area. If you don’t think so, try getting Verizon FIOS service (arguably the fastest consumer internet service on the planet) when your landline phone service is provided by AT&T.

Since these people have a monopoly, they cannot abuse their customers (as Comcast did) and not expect someone to try to fix things. Since Comcast already deals with the FCC for its cable service in general, the FCC seems the right place for Internet regulation to reside.

I hope the Republicans in Congress will see this and change their position on the matter. This should have been a totally nonpolitical thing, but, as gryphon202 points out, I am in error for thinking that. He may be right — I just can’t see Comcast, AT&T, Google, or Verizon chopping up the Internet for their own gain, but since corporations are legally people, this is indeed politics.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:06 PM

The FBI using a zero-day exploit to literally hack their way into some guy’s account is not at all the same thing.

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 2:05 PM

It isn’t? It met all the criteria, and the FBI was able to monitor the subject’s computer activities….

I can run Wireshark on my Linux firewall and watch all the interior traffic going to and fro — and I have no doubt the FBI could do nearly the same with my ISP’s router just upstream of my firewall. They can know every IP address with which I do business if they care to find that out. I also have no doubt that they could, with a bit of analysis, reverse-engineer the NAT structure of my interior network, to the point where they knew which machines were generating which traffic. Now, that’s not quite the same as keylogging, but it’s close enough for Government work…

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Having said that, something needs to be done. Our access to the Internet is far from a free market. In most markets consumers have a monopoly or duopoly where access is concerned. ISPs tend to be telcos or cable companies and both have vested interests in keeping the status quo. Telcos want keep their lucrative landline phone services while cable companies want to prevent competition from the internet with their TV and pay per view services.

The only answer to this problem is for the government to allow a more competitive market.

ReaganWasRight on December 28, 2010 at 11:45 AM

government to allow a more competitive market

Well, right there’s your problem pal! So, the government “allows” freedom. That’s the misconcept that way too many Americans labor ubder, that rights come from the government.

Plus, when we have wireless 4G cards, and can access Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or some other wireless wi-fi adios to the cable and satellite area monopoly.

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Apparently not, if you think that Spam is voluntary by its definition.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:57 PM

One man’s spam is another man’s essential communications. That’s how spammers stay in business — finding the guys who want what the rest of us would call SPAM, and exploiting that finding. For those people willingly transacting business with the “bulk mailers”, it isn’t SPAM.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM

Oh, plus, haven’t we just experienced what regulators and bureaucrats can do with the re-imposition of the death panels into OwamaCare?

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM

Well, right there’s your problem pal! So, the government “allows” freedom. That’s the misconcept that way too many Americans labor ubder, that rights come from the government.

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 2:13 PM

No, the Government guarantees freedom — in this case, your freedom to run any type of service or client you care to run to communicate with like-minded individuals elsewhere, without having your ISP drop your packets on the floor or deliberately slow them down because your service competes with one of theirs.

Those monopolies you mention were given to said companies by governments. Hence, in return for the monopoly, said companies have an obligation to act in the public interest.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:21 PM

Oh, plus, haven’t we just experienced what regulators and bureaucrats can do with the re-imposition of the death panels into OwamaCare?

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM

The death panels and OwamaCare [sic] are the result of a philosophy diametrically opposed to that associated with Net Neutrality. In the once case (Obamacare), the government limits your individual expression, and, in the other (Net Neutrality), the government guarantees it.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:24 PM

Your spam blocker sounds like a good one, unclesmrgol. Is it available to the public anywhere?

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 2:34 PM

It is unclear to me whether the FCC does not have the right to regulate IP traffic. Not being a lawyer, that’s for the lawyers to figure out. As for the ISPs, the big ones are the telecoms (I put Comcast into this realm because they provide phone service). I submit that all electrical or radio communications fall within the realm of the FCC.

I believe the courts already spoke to that and rebuked the FCC for trying to regulate where they lacked authority.

Now, you mention VOIP traffic, which implies a quality of service issue — you want certain packets to transit the network at a higher priority than other packets. That’s a slightly different issue than not allowing any VOIP packets at all, or allowing certain VOIP packets (such as the ones generated by the ISP’s own customers) to transit their network faster than VOIP packets generated by their competitors or their competitor’s customers. That kind of behavior would be the equivalent of AT&T not allowing phone calls between GTE (i.e., Verizon) customers where any portion of said call transits AT&T trunkage.

All very true, and that’s exactly the sort of distinction that’s critical if Congress tries to legislate in this area. Based on the SCOTUS ruling, I don’t believe the FCC has the authority to regulate in this area, unless Congress specifically extends their authority.

For cable and DSL customers, their access is underpinned by a monopoly — the cable provider is the only one allowed to do business in a particular city, and, since DSL relies on a POTS network, DSL is monopolized by the phone company serving a particular area. If you don’t think so, try getting Verizon FIOS service (arguably the fastest consumer internet service on the planet) when your landline phone service is provided by AT&T.

Since these people have a monopoly, they cannot abuse their customers (as Comcast did) and not expect someone to try to fix things. Since Comcast already deals with the FCC for its cable service in general, the FCC seems the right place for Internet regulation to reside.

The cable company has a monopoly on cable TV, and the phone company has a monopoly on phone service. Yet the cable company is now providing phone service, and the phone company is partnering with other companies to “bundle” — loosely speaking — TV with their phone service (I’m thinking of AT&T and DirectTV). And both are acting as ISPs. In addition you have wireless companies selling wireless internet, cell phone services selling cellular internet, and even satellite companies selling internet services. The cable and phone companies still have too many advantages against their competitors for my liking, but their monopoly does not really extend to being an ISP. What I’d like to see is more competition, not more regulation. The free market can prevent abuse better than the FCC anyway.

If we’re going to have regulation, it needs to be aimed at specific abuses rather than a wholesale enforcement of someone’s subjective interpretation of net neutrality, and it needs to be done by a group answerable to the public, such as Congress

I hope the Republicans in Congress will see this and change their position on the matter. This should have been a totally nonpolitical thing, but, as gryphon202 points out, I am in error for thinking that. He may be right — I just can’t see Comcast, AT&T, Google, or Verizon chopping up the Internet for their own gain, but since corporations are legally people, this is indeed politics.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 2:06 PM

I absolutely agree that there are way too many kneejerk reactions to net neutrality. It appears that the term is just too all-inclusive, and therefore poorly understood. Reasonable limitations on abuses by ISPs could be implemented, but just handing power off to the FCC where they don’t appear to have been given that power already is a bad idea.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Normally, the flicker of fluorescent lighting isn’t supposed to be visible to the naked eye, either. But it can still trigger extreme discomfort in autistics and seizures in epileptics. What makes flicker mesh computing any different?

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Standard lighting (flourescent and incandescent) flickers at twice the 50/60 Hz rate of AC power. That’s a 120Hz flicker rate — which is certainly at the upper bound of what can be perceived by the human eye. That flicker rate is continuous — meaning it does not vary with time.

The flicker rate of the LED lights described is in a different class (in this early implementation, at 3Mbps); that implies that the carrier flicker rate is orders of magnitude faster — 3,000,000 times per second, as opposed to the 120 times per second of standard lighting.

So, one of two things will happen. Either we have a guaranteed seizure situation for epileptics, or a situation which will be humanly imperceptible. I’m thinking it will be the latter.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 3:01 PM

BOB?

Shouldn’t that be BOOB or at least BYOB?

patch on December 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Your spam blocker sounds like a good one, unclesmrgol. Is it available to the public anywhere?

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Not yet, but I’m working on it, and the price will be irresistable (free). I filed the patent application to prevent others from preventing me from using my idea; lucky I did — about a year later, IBM filed for the same idea.

The backend database is not ready for prime time since it requires a full-up postgresql server to run. I’m converting to sqlite for the next step — porting to Windows.

Current implementation is as a milter (sendmail filter), so it only runs on Linux. I’m implementing a full featured mailserver to replace sendmail — mine will take the milter idea to the extreme — everything (authentication, address resolution, encoding) will be plugin modules. I’d steal the milter interface from sendmail directly, but it has shortcomings (like not knowing what other modules have decided) which make it unattractive.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Dear unclesmrgol: These is nothing “diametrically” in opposition here.
It all comports to the accumulation of power.
Oh, and btw, how’s that “guarantee’ of freedom working for you?

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Of course mesh networks wouldn’t be illegal. That’s not what worries me. Right now, there are seven server racks in America that serve as the backbone for all internet traffic. At some level, all computers connected to “the internet” route their traffic through one of these server clusters. In theory, any computer could connect to any other computer and share any information between the two of them. Net neutrality deals specifically with a certain set of inter-connected networks, whose backbone is wholly owned by five different private organizations which the federal government wants to dictate terms to. That scares the ever-living s**t out of me given the FCC’s track record.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM

No, there are not seven server racks serving as the backbone — there are literally thousands of server racks serving as the backbone of the United States’ Internet. The scarce resource you are thinking about are the DNS Root Servers, which were indeed DOS’d a few years ago, leading to increased backbone capacity capable of defeating even the strongest DOS attempts to date.

As for those five corporations, I’d rather have at least three of them which are monopolies acting in the public interest rather than in their own. These are billion-dollar companies who got that way by playing nice and doing Net Neutrality, and I’d rather they continue to play nice using the same rule sets as previously. They are welcome to innovate, they are even welcome to increase capacity and speed and to charge for same, but they cannot prevent you or me from doing our own innovation using our contracted-for data rates and quotas.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Oh, and btw, how’s that “guarantee’ of freedom working for you?

Amendment X on December 28, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Right now, it’s working out just fine. I terminated my relationship with Comcast and bought a SOHO DSL plan from a third party ISP (ExtremeDSL, out of Utah) who offer a better service plan than AT&T (thank heavens that some far-sighted legislators require AT&T to rent space in the CO to third party ISPs) — I get 6Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up, and 8 static IPs. The most AT&T will do for me is 3Mbps down and .78Mbps up, and zero static IPs, so I’m in hog heaven here. If I grow bigger, I can get up to 15Mbps down and 3Mbps up, so my growth path is assured — at least until I need rackspace at which point I’ll do like hotair/townhall/salemweb and go that rackspace.com route.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Microsoft and Intel are responsible for the digital revolution. Had Apple won the battle, development of computer systems and capabilities would have been greatly retarded.

This can’t be emphasized enough. While it’s always been “hip” to bash MS, were it not for Windows making powerful PC’s that actually had affordable software written for them accessable to the home user beyond the tech head )PC) and graphics/music geek (Mac), the tech boom never would’ve happened.

That said, Microsoft Bob was a horrendous idea and a horrible interface, to the point that it was a joke almost from the get-go. You need to make PC’s easy to understand, not dumb them down so far that the user is afraid to do anything.

I had (still do) a friend back during those days who’s name was Robert, was a Mac zealot, and wore glasses. I called him “Microsoft Bob” many times, just because. ;)

crazy_legs on December 28, 2010 at 4:40 PM

If the DOJ hadn’t restrained Microsoft, Bob might be a reality today. Minimally, they’d have used IE dominance to control Internet standards. Instead of HTML 5 and JavaScript we’d all have to run some alternate version of WPF/Sliverlight and pay hefty licensing fees for the compatible Microsoft server technology.

Nope. What restrained Microsoft was good ole competition in the form of Linux. Enough people hated MS attempt to control everything, and the crappy products, that they started doing their own thing. And why did it make inroads? Because other people also hated MS’ crap and control.

And there would be no way that IE could “control internet standards.” In an unregulated net, other people will invent whatever protocols they want, and if others want to use them, they will. And this is exactly what happened. People who hated IE went to Netscape, with IIRC became Mozilla/Firefox.

Now, Apple also played a role here, although its market share wasn’t so great then. But what did Apple do? Innovated and gave new customers an easy way to switch from Windows to Apple. Went into media products as well as computers. iPod vs Zune. So if you have an iPod you might be more open to buying a Mac even if it’s more expensive? Why? Because Windows is crap and in the long run is more expensive what with all the man-hours to troubleshoot the damn things. Does Windows still run the world? Yes. With Apple and Linux? Not as much, and only because there are so many Windows legacy systems.

I know DOJ did restrain MS but I don’t think it was necessary, or even that effective.

Oh, and why did MS finally get rid of “Bob”? Because customers hated it. Even MS had to eventually listen to the customer.

YehuditTX on December 28, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Micro$oft is still unlawfully bundling applications in its Windows OS and forcing consumers to pay for things they don’t want.

Right. Like how I get Safari shoved down my throat on my Mac at work and every time I upgrade iTunes on my PC. Oh wait…

crazy_legs on December 28, 2010 at 4:43 PM

That said, Microsoft Bob was a horrendous idea and a horrible interface, to the point that it was a joke almost from the get-go. You need to make PC’s easy to understand, not dumb them down so far that the user is afraid to do anything.

Trying not to get into a Mac/PC war here but …..”You need to make PC’s easy to understand, not dumb them down so far that the user is afraid to do anything.” Is exactly what Macs do. And that’s why people buy them even though they’re more expensive.

YehuditTX on December 28, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Apple machines are nothing more then PCs with propriatary hardware and softwear. There is nothing special about them.

Actually, they’re really nothing more than Unix workstations with a snappy GUI.

crazy_legs on December 28, 2010 at 4:52 PM

While they wrap this in fairness it is really a way for the feds to tap into the commerce stream through fees, taxes, etc.

Just A Grunt on December 28, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Exactly.

Kenosha Kid on December 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM

“This is a system designed to survive a nuclear attack. It can probably handle a couple of misguided lawmakers.”

Nuclear weapons are a lot less destructive than lawmakers.

Slowburn on December 28, 2010 at 5:09 PM

They are welcome to innovate, they are even welcome to increase capacity and speed and to charge for same, but they cannot prevent you or me from doing our own innovation using our contracted-for data rates and quotas.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 4:16 PM

So where does government figure into this? The “scarcity of bandwidth” argument that the FCC was founded upon is complete and utter bullcrap now. You know as well as any of us that there are always unintended consequences to government intrusion. Always. I pity the poor fool that thinks otherwise.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Current implementation is as a milter (sendmail filter), so it only runs on Linux. I’m implementing a full featured mailserver to replace sendmail — mine will take the milter idea to the extreme — everything (authentication, address resolution, encoding) will be plugin modules. I’d steal the milter interface from sendmail directly, but it has shortcomings (like not knowing what other modules have decided) which make it unattractive.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM

That sounds rather similar to the approach taken by Postfix. Your mail server would be even more modular?

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Oh, and why did MS finally get rid of “Bob”? Because customers hated it. Even MS had to eventually listen to the customer.

YehuditTX on December 28, 2010 at 4:42 PM

That should have been the first and only paragraph you needed to write.

Linux did not drive the Internet — there were many operating systems (mainly Unix-based) which, as endpoint nodes, drove the development of the Internet. The biggest contribution was the development of the IP (Internet Protocol) — which has survived many changes of physical architecture — from the BBN TIP through Ethernet through wireless, satellite, cable, telephony. Linux’ success was that it imitated slavishly the Unix systems of its day, including the IP stack.

Windows, on the other hand, tied its networking success to NETBUI — Microsoft’s attempt to outflank Novell’s NetWare product and its IPX protocol. Bill was initially dismissive of the Internet — to the point that users who wanted the Internet experience has to install the third party Trumpet WinSock library (based on the BSD Unix sockets() code) in order to run such program-of-the-year hits as Netscape Navigator. It was Navigator that woke Bill up to the fact that the Internet was winning over his MSN offering and he had to change or his company would die.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 5:43 PM

That sounds rather similar to the approach taken by Postfix. Your mail server would be even more modular?

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 28, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Yes. I’ve looked over postfix and I need something that allows loadable modules to either load as .so’s or as separately networked objects and to have both thunk identically to the core. The transport protocol is where I’m working now.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 5:45 PM

So where does government figure into this? The “scarcity of bandwidth” argument that the FCC was founded upon is complete and utter bullcrap now. You know as well as any of us that there are always unintended consequences to government intrusion. Always. I pity the poor fool that thinks otherwise.

gryphon202 on December 28, 2010 at 5:23 PM

My position: the worst threat to the correct functioning of society is the libertarian. The libertarian always does everything the law says he can do, thus resulting in more laws when his extended personal freedom impacts everyone else’s personal freedoms and the affronted “everyone else” reacts in that unique way that a democracy allows. Comcast was the libertarian here, trying to hit up Level 3 (Netflix’s ISP) for more money in apparent violation of the peering arrangement between the two. Given that Comcast’s own customers were driving the Netflix traffic onto Comcast’s network, it was sort of disingenuous of them to demand more money or the traffic out of Netflix would be completely cut off.

So, as much as I pity the consequences, I pity further the consequences of the Government not acting to assure that all Internet traffic flows unimpeded by any artificial barriers.

unclesmrgol on December 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM

The Lone Platypus on December 28, 2010 at 12:17 PM

Pretty late in a dead thread for this, but …

The point I was making (poorly) was that ‘cell phone technology wasn’t even possible until the FCC relaxed telecom regulations that the Bell system was using to hamper or outright prevent non-Bell technology to interconnect with the Bell System. It wasn’t until the courts broke up the Bell monopoly that cell phone and the necessary interconnect to the wired land line system became possible.

You couldn’t even hook up a 300 baud modem without calling the ‘phone company and registering your equipment with them and giving them the FCC ringer equivalence number. Before that, if you wanted to hook up remote data applications you had to purchase a dedicated line from the ‘phone company at great monthly cost and with a long lead time, and it would only connect those two points, nothing else, using only approved Bell technology.

That was the time of the great debate between the Bell heads and their circuit switched engineering, and the new net heads with their digital data packet (tcp/ip) switching virtual circuits. That was in the late ’70s, early ’80s, and 6-7 years later ‘cell phones were the new hotness.

If you want to make the point that the new ‘cell phone technology wasn’t yet developed, that is the point. There was no reason to develop the technology until it could actually be used, and it couldn’t be used until the Bell monopoly was broken up. Once the opportunity existed, the engineers jumped on it.

That was also the time of the great world wide cable laying operations like Global Crossing making news every day. All because of deregulation of the ‘phone system.

Skandia Recluse on December 28, 2010 at 8:26 PM

France.

If you don’t get it, don’t vote on it.

uncle, like a lot of very adept technical people, you have a GIGANTIC blind spot WRT to regulation and regulators. These people are not your friends and they’re not here to help you get what you want.

The rest of us have figured that out.

Also, the “economic curve” of the Internet has been such that it makes people feel like they’ve had a huge free ride, and when it looks like that ride won’t continue, they freak out. Sorry, folks, free ride is over, the only question now is *how* it’s going to be paid for. I can only return you to France at this point.

Merovign on December 28, 2010 at 11:42 PM

Unfortunately, he gets it wrong with Net Neutrality. What is forgotten is that he is dealing with political entities all around, except the individual subscribers. It’s easy to stifle speech when you allow for preferred destination/protocols.

Compuserve was bad enough the first time around, the second time around will be worse. That’s what you get without NN instead of the Wild West that we have now. Unless you like paying for an arm and a leg in the same way you did in the 1980′s.

sethstorm on December 29, 2010 at 6:02 AM

Compuserve was bad enough the first time around, the second time around will be worse. That’s what you get without NN instead of the Wild West that we have now. Unless you like paying for an arm and a leg in the same way you did in the 1980′s.

sethstorm on December 29, 2010 at 6:02 AM

NN is the Wild West. It lets individuals innovate without worry that their particular port numbers will be firewalled or their packets deliberately slowed down because they are competing with the organization which provides their Internet service.

unclesmrgol on December 29, 2010 at 1:13 PM

uncle, like a lot of very adept technical people, you have a GIGANTIC blind spot WRT to regulation and regulators. These people are not your friends and they’re not here to help you get what you want.

The rest of us have figured that out.

Merovign on December 28, 2010 at 11:42 PM

No, there is no blind spot. Regulators occur when libertarians attempt to take more than their fair share of freedom. In this case, the libertarians are Comcast, AT&T, Google, and Verizon. They want to curtail or, barring curtailment, to charge extra for packets associated with competing technologies to cross their portion of the internet. The Internet as a whole is not immune to the technological problems which would result — the endpoints can suffer several hours of bad service until they discover the correct route (if any) which overcomes the artificial blockages these companies might impose. And the companies, using the border protocols, can screw up any attempts by endpoints to negotiate a good path — to see how this works, notice how China’s largest ISP (China Telecom) somehow managed to have a huge hunk of the world’s Internet traffic (15% of all external IP routes) routed through China a few weeks back, because they screwed up BGP.

I’m going to be frank — the Government developed the technology associated with the Internet, it refined that technology, and then (here’s where Al Gore comes in), transferred all that technology, as well as the operating network, to private industry to be operated as a public utility. Now we see private industry screwing up how the Internet operates. The protocols might be self-healing, but they are not immune to human interferance — the Internet was designed to be operated by a cooperative group, not an adversarial group (which is how China was able to do what it did).

So, if we truly want Comcast and AT&T and Verizon and Google to do whatever they want with their segments of the network, we’re going to need a whole new kind of Internet — and I’m not sure anyone will like the result. I know I won’t.

unclesmrgol on December 29, 2010 at 1:30 PM

unclesmrgol on December 29, 2010 at 1:30 PM

you are making the very same argument that justified the creation of the Bell System monopoly.

Skandia Recluse on December 29, 2010 at 3:23 PM

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