Law in the Internet Society
I found Eben's lecture last class on the basics of what comprises the internet helpful, as well as his discussion of why the phrase "network neutrality" doesn't capture well the relevant technical and legal dynamics.

Further on those points, there's an interesting Q and A on reddit by a "networking expert" involved in exposing Comcast's blocking of bittorrent traffic.

"IAmA networking expert named Robb Topolski. I'm the guy who caught Comcast's blocking of Peer-to-Peer (P2P? , like Bittorrent) and ignited the debate about Net Neutrality and 'Net freedoms. AMA. (self.IAmA)

submitted 4 hours ago by funchords

Through this journey, I published my results, had cancer and recovered from it, my testing was the subject of major articles by the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an FCC investigation which we won on its merits (then lost on jurisdiction), a class-action lawsuit that netted users up to $16 million (which I ultimately bailed out on because it didn't win users nearly enough), and an exciting feature film that documented it.

Barbershop Punk is a documentary that examines the subject commonly called "Network Neutrality" and documents part of my own story where I discovered and documented Comcast's interference with my (and our) peer-to-peer uploads. In an era of media consolidation and lack of competitive choices, individual voices were (and still can be) censored by bad policies and practices of our Internet providers.

I do this today because the producers and directors of Barbershop Punk are in their final 10 days of their Kickstarter campaign to promote their film, which "features discussions with Ian MacKaye? , Damian Kulash of OK Go, Henry Rollins, Janeane Garofalo, EFF's John Perry Barlow, U.S. Congressmen Chip Pickering, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, Free Form DJ Jim Ladd, Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry? , Michelle Combs of the Christian Coalition, Songwriters Guild President Rick Carnes, NARAL's Ted Miller, lobbyist Jack Burkman, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, among others." This ASK ME ANYTHING was brought to life with the assistance of The Open Source Democracy Foundation ( Check out Barbershop Punk on Google, YouTube? , imdb, Bing, Ask, Answers -- and of course, Reddit!"

-- DevinMcDougall - 21 Sep 2011

This is somewhat related to that and maybe somewhat unrelated. But Verizon recently made it clear that they are going to throttle data speeds for mobile phone users who use to much data, despite having an "unlimited" plan. If you use too much data, even though you've paid for it, they will slow down your network speeds. AT&T i believe has discussed doing the same thing but I'm not sure if they have actually implemented it yet. Seems ridiculous. I don't know much about that kind of stuff so I could be oversimplifying it, but it seems similar to Comcast slowing down network speeds for certain uses of the networks

-- AustinKlar - 21 Sep 2011

-- AustinKlar - 21 Sep 2011


I disagree with your opinion regarding the data speed limit in the cases of "unlimited plans" on the basis of the technological nature of a mobile telecom network. Please let my try to explain my conclusion through the following arguments.

Before a mobile telecommunications network is deployed, the engineers need to identify the necessary equipment considering the common data and voice traffic of the city, for example, in order to provide an adequate service to the consumers.

Afterwards, the company settles the rates to the consumers on the ground of the investment in the infrastructure, the expecting return of that amount, the interconnection charges and the regulatory regulations, among others.

In that order of ideas, imagine that a mobile telecom company "A" had dimensioned its network considering a “reasonable use of data” by consumers and established a data rate of $20.00. If the “reasonable use of data” changes dramatically, the company has two possibilities to maintain the quality of the service: 1. Invest more in infrastructure to increase the company’s data capacity and therefore, as any other business, increase the rates to avoid economic looses. 2. Limit the speed in the data plans strictly to the abnormal consumers so (i) the company is not required to deploy more infrastructure and (ii) the rest of the consumers are not affected by the rare conduct.

Even though I agree with you that an "unlimited data plan" is supposed to provide unlimited data service, it is not true in the reality because the rate of that particular service is created by diverse aspects and if one of that aspects changes in a considerable way, it is presumed the rate is going to change in the same proportion as well or that the company needs to stop that change immediately.

A good way to avoid conflicts with the consumers is that the mobile telecom companies inform their consumers about the correct usage of the network and for instance, send text messages to the consumers that are going to exceed the corresponding normal use of the service and prevent the reduction of the data speed.

-- DiegodelaPuente - 22 Sep 2011

Verizon is the one who made estimates and set their data speeds based on those estimates. The consumer entered into their agreements with Verizon on the assumption that they would be able to fully utilize their device. The abnormal consumers are those who constantly stream pandora, netflix, and youtube all day on their phones, and probably a lot of other stuff that I don't even know how to do. (I stream a lot on my phone, and I use maybe 1/3 of my "allotted usage" under my "unlimited plan" with AT&T.

Verizon is treating these consumers in a discriminatory manner as compared to other customers who maybe even pay less or use their service less. If anything, the abnormal consumers are in the bracket of their customer base who pay the most for the service, and that is who Verizon should be most loyal too.

And I understand your argument about investment in infrastructure, but I think its unclear whether investing in infrastructure, or throttling these customers' data speeds will result in more loss. These customers need the data speed to handle whatever it is they are doing on their phones. So, assuming that customers won't leave as a result of Verizon doing this to them, then yes, investing in infrastructure is certain to cost more than throttling data speeds. But, if some of these customers leave, which is highly likely after they are informed of what's going on, Verizon might in the long run suffer more loss than they would have had they invested more in their infrastructure.

-- AustinKlar - 22 Sep 2011

Reading about Verizon and its attempt to regulate data usage, I wonder whether it's true that was a primary concern for AT&T's attempted merger with T-Mobile. After all, T-Mobile controls many cell towers and AT&T would benefit immensely through more wireless options for their customers. Rather than upgrade the infrastructure, AT&T is trying to acquire more. If that be the case, what do you think would be the effects on data usage and availability for AT&T customers? Certainly the Justice Department is wary of the effect on the market as a whole, but I welcome insights, esp. from other economists and antitrust people, on this. Perhaps this will cause Verizon to backtrack on efforts to rein in their own customers.

-- ThomasHou - 22 Sep 2011

I think youre right about ATT and T-Mobile's merger. T-mobile has the cell towers, and ATT has the customers. Also, in theory, T-mobile competes with ATT (and Verizon). Practically speaking, I don't think T-mobile competes at all. They are well behind in the handset department. We all know how their sidekick venture worked out. Further, lets say ATT raised their phone plan prices by 10 a month. Are people going to leave for T-mobile? No, probably not. They won't want to pay a penalty fee of 170+ for breaking their contract, buy a new device, and sign a new contract. Plus, T-mobile has a reputation of having service thats not the best, and far from it. So, practically speaking, I really don't think anyone is going to leave the big 2 for T-mobile. However, it is theoretically possible while T-mobile still exists. The justice department might be worried that if the merger happens, the practical reality will become actual reality. It might make ATT customers happier in the beginning when their service becomes immensely better. But that will open the door for ATT to hike up prices. Especially with new Android and iOS devices coming out, people will be ready and willing to stick it out with Verizon and ATT. Sprint is not in the picture as they dont have the iPhone....yet....but they will. But, its tough to say Sprint, like T-mobile, is going to have a huge effect on the big 2

-- AustinKlar - 23 Sep 2011



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r6 - 23 Sep 2011 - 12:20:11 - AustinKlar
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