Happy Internet Slowdown Day

SparkFun joins a slew of websites across the net protesting the FCC's plans to gut Net Neutrality

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Today SparkFun joins websites across the internet great and small in the Internet Slowdown. You should find a widget on SparkFun.com sites displaying the iconic "spinning wheel of death" and linking to battleforthenet.com. There you'll find the latest updates on the FCC, Net Neutrality, and the future of the fairness of the internet.

That unsuspecting puppy is about to get hit by a laser

Not three weeks ago on the SparkFun blog I discussed this very same game of internet preservation. It's been an eventful summer and the end of the FCC's open comment period on Proceeding 14-28: Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet came up awfully fast! After a monumental public outcry about the proposed plan allowing ISPs to charge for "Internet Fast Lanes," the body announced a set of public, round-table discussions in Washington, D.C., today, September 10. In response, the Internet Slowdown was launched to raise awareness.

Defend the Open Internet

Today we join Netflix, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Reddit, and lots of other sites with widgets and images and icons all aimed at helping internet users understand what's at stake. Please take some time today to learn about the issue and contact the FCC and your representatives in Congress!

NOTE: Yesterday the FCC's agenda was announced and the actual round-table talks are now September 16th. When those happen, you can expect to see them here.


Comments 32 comments

  • Net neutrality should be the same as protected free speech. I should be free to download whatever I want at the speeds I am buying from my ISP (well so long as the content is legal.

  • Peer-to-peer mesh networks are a pipe dream for now, but if the FCC keeps messing with the internet, maybe it'll generate enough demand for an alternative.

    I've set up small line of site WAN's in the past using microwaves, light and radio. Technology available today can be used to form a new continental backbone for a different type of net. Security and speed would be an issue, but who says it'd be used for everything. It could start off in parallel to the conventional internet and improve over time.

    Some phones are already able to run in "walkie-talkie" mode when the carrier is unavailable. If wi-fi routers did that, we'd be set.

  • Why is a company like SparkFun supporting creating new laws to further restrict and regulate the internet? The internet as we know it today only exists because of the lack of restrictions and regulations.

    • The internet as we know it today only exists because of the lack of restrictions and regulations.

      At issue is the restrictions that could be imposed by ISPs if given free reign to discriminate content, geographical regions, or really any group for any reason by way of throttling and upcharging for speed. Pushing the FCC to classify ISPs at Title II Common Carriers effectively prevents them from concocting extremely limiting restrictions to pad out their already healthy profits at the expense of the internet's users and content creators. In other words: regulating the ISPs is not the same as regulating the internet.

      • Why shouldn't I be able to discriminate traffic on my network? I've been packet-shaping for over 20 years now. Another side-effect of "Net Neutrality" is that the FCC will be able to decide what content is "lawful" or not, instead of our elected representatives.

        I want an open internet, not a neutral internet. These are not the same thing.

        • The problem is that the big telcos are taking advantage as if they are utilities through right-of-way (rights to public and private property access for infrastructure) and taxpayer funded improvement projects. But they also want control over the content going over their infrastructure. That's like your water utility offering potable water only if cities pay for filtration, or your electric utility charging less for power consumed by Samsung TVs.

          Lobbying aside, the big telcos are (literally) entrenched throughout the US which makes it impossible for an upstart to compete. There is no free market.

        • You shouldn't be able to discriminate as a retail ISP if - as is the case for most of the country - your service is at best a duopoly.

          If I could choose someone other than either Comcast or AT&T, then making an argument for market force constraint of their (mis)behavior would be other than laughable.

          The FCC regulates such things largely because the players involved have such market power that ordinary market forces are no longer effective.

        • Another side-effect of “Net Neutrality” is that the FCC will be able to decide what content is “lawful” or not, instead of our elected representatives.

          No aspect of the FCC reclassifying ISPs as common carriers, a move well within the FCC's established jurisdiction and a guarantor of Net Neutrality in terms of what the ISPs can do, has any bearing on the lawfulness of certain content. It only mandates that ISPs cannot discriminate between different types of content. Without that classification they can, and then instead of governmental body determining the lawfulness of content you effectively vest that same overreach of power in the hands of a few very powerful corporations.

          • This is where you are incorrect. Net Neutrality means that the FCC gets to decide what content is considered "lawful" or not. Remember, you can't curse on broadcast TV without paying a hefty fine.

            Without that classification, we can continue to experience the same open internet that we have for the last 20+ years.

  • The real issue is with government regulations that makes it difficult for new players to enter the market (do any of you know the amount of onerous data reporting Verizon has to do every month to comply with regulations?). If incumbents are dominating the market, the government already has anti-trust capabilities. Giving the FCC or any other agency new powers is never a good idea. Ultimately it is this kind of power that creates lobbyists and corruption. So SparkFun, be careful what you wish for.

    • I worked for a major telecommunications company back when the internet was just starting. I overheard a discussion between some of the big muckety-mucks about a presentation we'd all just watched, where the presenter talked about the new technology of voice over IP. One of the execs first comment was "We have to get it outlawed, it will cut into our profits." Quite a few of the execs felt the same way. They would have outlawed the whole internet, if it had been up to them, in order to protect high long distance rates.

      Regulations aren't necessarily evil. Without regulations, thousands of more lives would be lost in auto accidents every year. We wouldn't be able to trust our food supply or implanted medical devices, if there were no regulations that helped insure proper testing is done and proper safety equipment is in place. On the other hand, there are out-dated regulations and ones that simply don't work. All too often, regulations are written by some interested party. For instance, GTE wrote most of one major telecommunications bill.

      The Internet is one of the great inventions. We need to keep it as open and accessible as possible. For once, we should work for the common good, rather than simply helping rich telecomms become even richer, without regard for the potential problems that will cause.

    • Not sure that defending Net Neutrality is giving FCC or any agency more power, but to keep the current regulations there and make sure that the Internet stays open and out of the hands of people who would use it to harm innovation.

      Now I don't know what regulation requirements you're talking about with Verizon, but they're a public company, so they have to abide by more rules/regulations than a private company.

      Lobbying has been in governments since idea of giving leaders power, which mean corruption is always going to be there. Don't get me wrong not all lobbyist groups are bad/evil, but the majority from public companies tend to be.

      • Not sure that defending Net Neutrality is giving FCC or any agency more power, but to keep the current regulations there and make sure that the Internet stays open and out of the hands of people who would use it to harm innovation.

        This is indeed the case. The FCC already has the power to regulate internet service providers by classifying them differently. Pushing on the FCC to classify them as Title II Common Carriers is not an extension of the FCC's power but a reasonable use of the power they've held for decades.

        • The carriers are not going to innovate if they are "forced" by the government to remain neutral. My point is simply that current regulatory hurdles prevent new companies from entering the space as much as capital costs.

          • Any company that provides telecom would be expensive to start anyways. This is regardless of regulations.

            I don't think being "neutral" really determines the cost of starting a company. All the common courier language means is that the company itself cannot regulate the traffic they are hosting because it has become a utility. (Sort of like a local municipality providing water to the residents. They cannot regulate individuals on how much water they use).

            The innovation that comes with telecom is not really on the ISPs, but with the hardware manufacturers that they use. Cisco develops products that allow them to handle higher bandwidth. They use chip manufacturers who constantly innovate (that's why chip manufacturers tend to be in the top 50 of most innovative companies). By letting ISPs dictate things, they will most likely choose NOT to upgrade their infrastructure to handle the insatiable bandwidth. Why? Cause the majority will be in the "slow lane".

            All this Net Neutrality argument over is making sure that ISPs don't control something that is like freedom of speech.

          • What is there to innovate as it concerns carrying IP traffic? Connectivity standards are developed by the ITU. The last-mile providers are pulling in billions in profit every year with the existing Open Internet Order, so I find it hard to believe they would cease any existing R&D just because the FCC won't let them hold their customers hostage.

            If it were about innovation, then the Tier 1 network providers like Level 3, Cogent, and XO would be against net neutrality when, in fact, they are for net neutrality. The three of them are in the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis's top ten list of organizations based on degree of interconnectivity. You know who's not on that list? The last-mile providers.

            The last-mile providers control the last leg for all IP traffic destined for consumption by the public. AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable alone account for 50 million American households. They control a powerful media outlet to millions of American consumers and they are attempting to leverage it in order to squeeze money out of anyone who wants priority access to their customers.

            If you think this is anything but extortion, I invite you to read Level 3's 2014-03-21 filing with the FCC on "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet". There are some damning mentions of last-mile carriers demanding fees from Level 3 for access to their customers, with at least one unnamed ISP allowing their connection with Level 3 to become saturated for over twelve hours a day because Level 3 declined to pay an interconnection fee that was more than Level 3 charged its customers (e.g., Netflix) for access to the entire Internet.

            We're talking about Tier 1 backbone providers operating in a cutthroat market versus last-mile carriers like Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable that never compete in the same markets, giving them local monopolies and all of the price gouging, high margins, and excessive profits that goes along with them. There's a reason why Comcast and Time Warner Cable are the two most hated companies in America. That's not hyperbole, either -- the two of them are the only two companies to score below a 60 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

            By the way, here's a list of the 2013 net income (e.g., profit) numbers for Level 3, Cogent, Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable:

            • Level 3: -$109M
            • Cogent: $56M
            • Comcast: $6.8B
            • AT&T: $18B
            • Time Warner Cable: $2B

             

            Americans pay far more for slower Internet access than most of the developed world. The last-mile providers have no competition and little incentive to upgrade their networks. Killing off net neutrality would further reduce any incentives they do have, as they would then be permitted to shift the burden of service levels from the network owners to the content providers. With a tiered Internet, last-mile providers can skirt any obligation for providing decent service to their customers by telling their customers it's the content provider's fault for not paying for fast lane access. This is akin to paying the regular toll to get on the interstate but having your vehicle governor kick in at 20 mph because you're not driving a Nissan.

            Every country and regulatory authority that has met the net neutrality issue head on has upheld it. Brazil, Chile, Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel, and Japan have all passed legislation upholding net neutrality. The European Parliament voted for net neutrality in an extremely lopsided vote of 534-25 with 58 abstentions.

            Granting last-mile providers the latitude to discriminate against IP traffic whom their customers pay good money for metered but comprehensive and impartial access to is tantamount to the destruction of the core design principles of the Internet that have made it so successful. The current FCC chairman is none other than Tom Wheeler, a prominent long-time lobbyist for the cable and telecom industries. If net neutrality is killed off, it will be difficult to construe it as anything other than the unequivocal corruption of government by corporate special interests.

  • Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.

    I am more in favor of neutrality than I am against it, but realize that under net neutrality, massive content providers (like Netflix) can dump huge volumes of traffic onto the network and shift the cost of delivering it to their customers' ISPs.

    Net neutrality will result in metered service and higher bills. You can absolutely count on it. Personally, I think it's worth it, but it's the elephant in the room.

    • Netflix doesn't dump traffic onto the network; customers are requesting that traffic from them in the form of poking buttons on their remotes/computers.
      If the ISPs then tell the customer "it's fine and dandy that you'd like to watch all these shows in UHD, but with your 200GiB monthly data cap on your current plan, you'll blow through that pretty quickly - why not upgrade to our 500GiB plans?", I'm okay with that.
      Or rather, I'm more okay with that than "It looks like you're trying to watch Netflix in UHD. Unfortunately Netflix in UHD (determined by throughput) is only available in our upper tier plans. Why not watch the UHD offerings from Amazon - an official MegaBig ISP Partner - offerings instead?" with Amazon increasing their subscription prices in order to afford such deals - or worse, have the cable/fiber companies also be the content companies and giving themselves free reign.

      Realistically, one or the other is going to happen - and I'd certainly vote for the lesser of two evils while continuing to work making other options available.

      • Netflix (p.s. I used to work there) "dumps" the traffic in the sense that they send it and pay only for the costs associated with the first (or first few) hops.

        All I'm saying is that net neutrality absolutely will result in metered pricing for consumers. I'm fine with it, you've said you're fine with it, but it is absolutely absent from all of the pro-neutrality rhetoric plastered all over the net today. As I said before, it's the elephant in the room.

        • Netflix pays to host content servers at relatively local datacenters around the world. They are cutting the hop count down to not bog the big pipe holders (Level 3 as an example). The ISPs really control the "last mile" of bandwidth. Just because someone requests data for Netflix at a relatively close data center doesn't means the ISP should ask money from both ends.

          if an ISP were to ask money from everyone that connects through them, they do a few things:

          1. They now can dictate what content can be viewed. So you want to watch that show on Netflix? Oh they'll bog you down until you go to Hulu (partially owned by Comcast NBC), where they will speed it up.
          2. Drive up the cost of operating anything on the Internet. Let's say you own a VPS on Linode. By the fast/slow lanes being divided, Linode, to maintain their service, have to increase prices to maintain their bottom level, but wait, you can't afford their new pricing cause it is just too high. You already pay for the fast lane for your house, why should you pay it for your VPS?
          3. Innovation. Dividing people into fast lane/slow lane doesn't do it justice. It allows ISPs to keep their old equipment in service longer (which is good for them), but it provides no benefits. So with Verizon, they don't need to upgrade their 4G LTE towers, and as 4G LTE adoption grows higher and higher, and they don't provide towers that can handle more bandwidth, it'll turn into 3G! Cisco knows this (and their chip manufacturers) to push to upgrade.

          Let's reclassify ISPs as common couriers so they don't do this.

          • Then be prepared for the retail ISPs to increase subscriber fees or impose traffic caps. That's what will happen when you deny them the ability to charge content providers for the traffic they're sending.

            And again - I'm in favor of ISPs being classified as common carriers. And I am fine with the caps and higher prices as a result. But it's incredibly naive to say that there are no negative repercussions possible as a result of net neutrality.

            • What negative repercussions would this have? If it's increasing fees in order to better their service, I'm fine with this, but that's all I can see.

              This makes me glad that I live in a city that will be offering their own fiber optic in a couple years for $50/month.

            • I use Comcast and I already have traffic caps. Comcast, by the way, reported a $7B profit last year.

    • "Cost of delivering" is already paid for by the customer requesting said "huge volumes of traffic". ISPs just want to double dip instead of innovating.

  • I am trying to fight this fight with you all. Every post you put up I re-post to my Facebook. The scary thing is I don't get that many shares. Maybe I need to title it something a lit more shocking something out of my character.

  • Nothing good can come of this. If they FCC decides to impose more regulations on the internet they will likely just screw it up worse, make it more expensive, and add limits on my free speech. If they decide to do nothing then the big companies will see it as a free pass to screw things up themselves (instead of the FCC). Either way, us small guys are screwed. THANKS A LOT ALL YOU NOT NEUTRALITY GOOBERS!

    • Always, always be sure to blame people agitating for democratic process for the problems they hope to solve by way of the democratic process.

      • Huh? Last time I checked, there was nothing democratic about a government agency like the FCC. They might pretend to listen to input, but that is about it. They are not elected but appointed (at best -- most are just long term employees that are able to wait out any administration that they don't agree with). They do not even act like they work for us the people; to any impartial observer it would appear that we work to work for them.

        Oh , and let me know when the popular vote on Net Neutrality is scheduled. What? There is no vote! Really, maybe there should be?

        • The public providing comment to the FCC is a very democratic way of doing things. We have been pressuring Congress, our representatives, to basically make sure FCC doesn't do anything to harm the Open Internet.

          Voicing your opinion to your elected representatives is the most democratic thing you can do. Yes we don't vote for FCC commission, but Congress has the power to override the FCC.

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